For the final instalment of this series, we'll be looking at various ways to combine string bending with picking-hand tapping techniques, with some surprising results…
Guthrie Govan's string-bending masterclass (part 1)
Guthrie Govan's string-bending masterclass (part 2): seven-note scale bends
Guthrie Govan's string-bending masterclass (part 3): major scale bends
Guthrie Govan's string-bending masterclass (part 4): country-flavoured bending licks
Some of the following licks are decidedly unconventional and there is much to explain so, without further ado, let's just dive straight in and have a look at Ex. 1.
The core of this lick is a simple repeating three-note pattern that can be executed using the following steps:
- Tap the third string at the 12th fret
- Pull-off to the 7th fret and immediately bend the string up one tone (preferably by bending downwards towards the floor - in this particular instance, I find that bending in this way facilitates a little extra speed)
- Simultaneously release the bend and hammer on at the 9th fret
This is essentially a fancier version of the Jan Hammer-esque idea, which we first encountered several months ago. The new developments here are the addition of the tapped note and also the fact that the lick is played as a series of 16th notes: this fournotes- per-beat spacing effectively displaces the feel of the basic three-note pattern each time it recurs, adding more rhythmic interest.
To execute the notes in the second bar, you would start by pulling off from the tapped note to the third-finger note at the 9th fret. Then, slide up to the 14th while bending the string up a tone (this time in the direction of the ceiling rather than floorwards) and finally tap the bent string at the 19th fret, taking care to avoid colliding with the neighbouring strings. (You should be able to use part of whichever fretting-hand fingertip you're using for the bend, to maintain a certain distance between the third and fourth strings…)
Ex. 1 tab (right-click to download)
You'll see a few square 'hammer on from nowhere' markings in the tab for the next example, EX . 2: your picking hand will largely be occupied by its tapping duties, so you'll need another approach to make sure that the first note on each new string rings out properly.
Simply hammering on should elicit the desired effect, as long as you perform the movement with enough force and conviction - this should come naturally once the lick is in mid-flow - but when playing the very first note of the lick, you might want to try flicking the string using your tapping finger.
It can be hard to notate stuff like this clearly in tab form, but hopefully, the markings in the music will provide sufficient clarity in terms of exactly where the pre-bent string needs to be tapped in order to produce the required pitches.
(The third note of the lick, for instance, is tapped at the 18th fret, but the perceived pitch sounds like the 20th fret as the string has already been bent upwards by one whole tone…)
The underlying concept of this lick is to illustrate how you can evoke certain countrystyle inflections with the use of a decidedly atypical technique (ie, tapping.) It's good to mix things up sometimes!
Ex. 2 tab (right-click to download)
To continue our theme of mixing things up, Ex. 3 starts out like a typical fluid-sounding tapped run, but then it throws in a few bends that are intended to evoke the sound of a keyboard player's pitch wheel.
You'll need to use two different fingers on your tapping hand for this one: this admittedly makes things a little more technically involved than the well-worn Eruption-style triad clichés that we all know and love, but… it's still significantly easier than full-on eight-finger tapping, so there's really nothing to be scared of here!
Fun though it may be to indulge in the occasional tapping lick, it's always comforting to know that you can revert to a more conventional playing style at a moment's notice: for this reason, I would recommend storing your pick somewhere that's easily accessible when you're playing licks of this nature.
My own pick always seems to find its way into the crook of my slightly-bent picking-hand first finger, so I personally find that it feels most natural to use the second and fourth fingers of my tapping hand for the 14th and 16th fret notes on the third string. (This whole arrangement would simply shift one fret higher for the final few second-string notes at the end of the lick.)
For this kind of lick, my personal preference is for the fingers of the tapping hand to pull off towards the inside of the palm (rather like a mirror image of what your regular fretting hand would do), but there's really no 'right' or 'wrong' approach here: some other players prefer to execute their picking-hand pull-offs by flicking their tapping fingers outwards, towards the floor. I would urge you simply to figure out what feels easiest (and sounds cleanest) for you.
Ex. 3 tab (right-click to download)
Ex. 4 is one of those licks that I think will probably make much more sense on the accompanying video lesson than it does in tablature or music!
Essentially, we're using tapped trills in conjunction with bent notes to emulate the sound of a blues-harmonica lick - which, of course, means that a gnarly overdriven sound will probably yield the most satisfying results, particularly if you use the bridge pickup of your guitar with the tone control wound down slightly…
Beat 1 sets things up by pre-bending a B note from the 11th fret and then briefly visiting the unbent Bb before returning to the bent pitch. During beat 2, hold that semitone bend and trill between a tapped note at the 14th fret and the original bent note at the 11th. (This pair of notes should sound like B and D.)
To lead into beat 3, release the bend and slide your fretting finger down to the 10th fret, continuing to trill your tapping finger at the 14th. (This should now yield the notes A and C#.) The rest of the lick should look normal enough! Note that the little bend between the Bb and the B is what makes this lick sound like a blues-harp lick, rather than just a simple series of trills…
Ex. 4 tab (right-click to download)
Ex. 5 marks our return to more pedal-steelflavoured territory: it should sound somewhat reminiscent of the ideas we explored in last month's column, even though the technical approach is rather less orthodox this time.
The main new technique introduced in this example is the idea of using two picking-hand fingers to tap (and subsequently pull off from) a doublestop.
We're using the fretting hand to execute all the bends here: that means whenever one of the notes within a tapped doublestop is being bent, the fretting hand should actually be doing all the hard work while the tapping finger 'goes with the flow', simply trying to maintain its contact with the string as it moves.
Some additional fingering notes: during the first tapped doublestop shape (beat 1), you should have the third and fourth fingers of your fretting hand stationed on the second and first strings, behind the tapped notes, so the fretting-hand third finger (perhaps backed up by the second) will be responsible for the bend on the second string: this will all be revealed in beat 2, after the double-string pull-off.
Less immediately apparent is what happens during the second doublestop shape: at this stage in the lick, I find it easiest to use my fretting-hand second and third fingers to fret the third and second strings respectively, so the second finger is tackling the bend there. Oh, and one other thing: note how the fretting hand repositions itself during the first half of beat 4, so it can sneakily 'reveal' that new 7th-fret doublestop when the tapping hand pulls off…
Ex. 5 tab (right-click to download)
Well, all good things must come to an end and, alas, Ex. 6 will be our final lick for this whole series, so naturally, I wanted it to be something bizarre!
Once again, this one illustrates how tapping and bending can be combined to create quirky pedal-steel effects and in some ways, it's reminiscent of Ex. 5, but with one key difference: this time, the two notes in each tapped doublestop are both hammered and pulled off individually.
This might feel counter-intuitive at first, but hopefully the unusual sound of the end result will prove worthwhile. In general, you should aim to let the notes ring into each other as much as possible for maximum effect. The accompanying video breakdown should make everything suitably clear, but it probably couldn't hurt to break down the first few notes in detail here.
Bar 1, beat 1: start with third and fourth fingers of your fretting hand silently positioned at the 10th fret, on the second and first strings respectively. Now tap the first note with your picking-hand first finger, use the fretting-hand third finger to bend it up a tone and then hold that bend.
Beat 2: tap the high G note on the first string with your picking-hand second finger and then pull off to reveal the D (which your fretting hand will have had in position even before you tapped the first note. (Weirdly enough, I seem to prefer executing the pull-offs in this lick with a floorward flicking motion, rather than the palmward curl we discussed in the notes for Ex. 3.)
Beat 3: while continuing to hold the bend, you can now (finally) pull off from that tapped note on the second string, to reveal the bent note held by the fretting hand at the 10th fret. Then release the bend… and revel briefly in the fact that the rest of the notes in this bar are played relatively conventionally! The rest of this lick uses essentially the same movements in different parts of the fingerboard. Happy string bending!
Ex. 6 tab (right-click to download)
On The Road: The Aristocrats' Guthrie Govan