6 tips on playing percussive electric guitar with Manuel Gardner Fernandes

Unprocessed's Manuel Gardner Fernandes is one of the most exciting contemporary players we've heard in some time – and a huge part of that is his forward-thinking approach to percussive electric guitar technique and the synergy between his left and right hands.

Manuel was happy to offer us some tips on how to get started with this world of technique and what to keep in mind with tone choices.

1. Think about your guitar pickup choice

(Image credit: Press)

"We use DiMarzio split-coil pickups. The split coils [where one coil from a humbucker pickup circuit is cut] are the best way to get a precise attack without the body of the note overlapping with the percussiveness. Also the twangy character of the single coil helps with the distinct sound."

2. Learn to play along with drums and syncopate

"It's definitely a useful thing to get your head around. If the drums are playing syncopated patterns, the guitar and bass can either pick-up on the subdivisions filled with beats or the ones where drums take a rest, to fill them with dead notes or percussive noises."

3. Choose the right effects 

"Be careful with noisegates, they need to be set on a threshold that would still let through the little nuances. 

"Compression is important in percussive playing, and EQ wise we boost guitars around 3.000 and 9.000 kHz for maximum attack and for bass 700/800  to get the slaps in the mids, and then another High Shelf where guitars are cut down (depending on individual recordings)."

4. Avoid these

(Image credit: Press)

"High gain, low end rumble too many overlapping frequencies.

"Also, people tend to think the sound comes all from the gear, while it really is in the fingers and the playing. A really good percussive player can reach the same amount of clarity with or without amplification."

5. Try these exercises and learn this song 

"For an exercise try to practice groups 3,5 or 7 over a 4/4 click and utilise slaps, left hand muted and pops in different combinations, say S/L/P (slap left popp) for three, S/L/S/L/P for 5 and S/L/S/L/P/S/L for seven. Mess around with the combinations and you'll be apply it to your riffs super quick.

"I’d also recommend learning our song Ruins, it has slapping on guitar and bass!"

6. Check out these players for inspiration 

Tim Henson (Polyphia) 

Tosin Abasi (Animal As Leaders)

Acle Kahney (Tesseract)

Victor Wooten

For more info on Unprocessed visit unprocessed.band

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.