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Blues Guitar Lessons: Snap, Slap and Rake

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All right,
we're going to talk about
some techniques for
adding a little pizzazz to your phrasing.
Snap, slap and rake.
Sounds kinda racy, but these are all
actual techniques that players use,
some use as,
as kind of the core of their sound.
And it's not about the notes,
it's about how you play the notes.
And these are all very valuable
techniques, and they add dimension,
they really give you a different quality.
First of all, let's talk about snapping.
We've already been doing these,
by the way.
I've done each of these techniques and
mentioned them In passing, but
now we're gonna focus on them.
Snapping literally means getting
up under the string with
your bare finger [SOUND] and
lifting it up.
And I'm actually, like with my index
finger here, I get under the string, lift
it up, and [SOUND] snap it back against
the string, high string, for example.
Right, now those are all
done with the bare fingers,
as opposed to with the pick, but
I can do them as part of
the hybrid picking technique
by using my middle or third finger
Now, these are especially
effective on the low strings,
cuz when you get lower down
it brings out the definition.
So, even though we haven't really
concentrated on the lower octave,
that'll be coming up soon.
That's a way of expressing those
notes a little bit more clearly.
Now, players that use that technique,
because they use their bare fingers,
would be like Albert Collins.
And these are players you
should all be familiar with.
If you listen to blues, find these guys,
listen to recordings by these guys.
It almost doesn't matter which ones but
the more you listen the more
you sorta search them out.
And I can also give you tips on that,
what to listen to.
I should mention I do have a list
of songs, and I'll give you links.
Things that you wanna check out.
It's a huge part of learning the style,
you got to listen,
you can't just think of it as a playing
thing, it's a listening thing.
So Albert Collins played
with his bare thumb and
the index finger using open tuning.
And he would snap
the strings all the time.
And it just made every note so,
like, important.
One of his most famous songs
[SOUND] called The Freeze.
And it really consists
of basically four licks.
And he just hits each one of them over and
over and
over again with such intensity,
it's captivating.
So as simple as that thing is,
it's a classic.
Gatemouth Brown,
his official first name was Clarence,
and Gatemouth was a disciple
of T-Bone Walker.
Now T-Bone played in a more
conventional style by our standards.
He used a flat pick but
Gatemouth played with bare fingers and
used a capo, snapped the strings.
Listen to Boogie Uproar by
Gatemouth Brown, just fantastic,
wild stuff and all built off of that
string snapping kind of a style.
Johnny Guitar Watson was kind
of a disciple of Gatemouth and
he also played with his bare fingers and
did some fantastic, wild stuff.
Three hours past midnight,
he's playing on the low strings.
And just, it's so distinctive that it
doesn't matter whether
the technique is proper or
efficient, it just sounds great.
And I've mentioned Albert King
a number of times.
Albert played with his bare finger,
thumb and finger.
And so when he played the high string.
We're gonna look in detail
at Albert's style very shortly here.
I didn't realize for a long time
that a lot of that sound came from
that snap that happened when
the string hit the fret.
So lifting it up, snapping it back, and
it just makes the note zing,
puts a little bit more energy
into the front of the amp so
that the note stands out more.
So those are all examples of snapping
strings using bare fingers, and
we can use that in the context of hybrid
technique as I've demonstrated already.
Now slapping we've also
done a little while back.
We did something about
playing bass riffs and
we played something that sounded like Cold
Shot, right, the Stevie Ray Vaughn song?
Now the idea there is that it is
a pick thing, it's a flat pick thing.
And in this case, rather than developing
the sound with my picking hand by
picking out a single note, isolating it
and snapping it, I'm actually hitting all
the strings with the pick and I'm using
my fretting hand to isolate the strings.
So you can make this into an exercise,
of sorts.
It's actually tricky to
play as an exercise but
it's a good way to teach
yourself the technique.
Play the minor pentatonic scale,
we start on the fourth string, and
play your way through the scale while
slapping all six strings as hard
as you can with the pick, just a flat out
down stroke, just smash into the strings.
And if you've done the muting
properly all you're gonna
hear is that one note but it'll sound like
the most important note in the universe.
So what I've done here is
hang my thumb over the top so
I'm isolating the sixth string,
or muting it, rather.
With the tip of my third finger I'm muting
the fifth string deliberately, right?
That's not an accident.
And then with the side
of my index finger and
the other fingers they just sort of
lay lightly across the top strings.
[SOUND] I take care of those,
so there's my A.
[SOUND] Now, same thing on whew!
I'm playing C on the third string.
Now, this is tricky,
because I'm getting higher on the neck, or
higher in the strings and so I've got
more room to cover there, more to mute.
The thumb is hanging over now and
covering the sixth and the fifth strings.
The tip of my finger is
covering the fourth string.
[SOUND] And the side is covering
[SOUND] the high strings.
Now, it's okay to cheat and aim the pick
a little bit more toward the high end.
You don't have to hit all six strings.
But the idea is you wanna have the freedom
where you don't have to think about
it, right?
Same thing with the [SOUND] third finger.
[SOUND] Tip of the finger
isolates the fourth string.
Thumb gets those.
[SOUND] Side of the finger covers
the top one [SOUND] right?
So those three notes.
All right?
Second string.
now, there's no way I'm gonna get my thumb
all the way over there so I'm gonna aim
the pick a little bit more toward
the high strings, mute the third string.
Same thing here,
muting the third string
with the tip of my finger.
Then finally, the high string, the high E.
I have to be careful, as much as I can,
to hit just the top two strings.
That's how you make that guitar sound
bigger than it really is.
It's just intensity.
One thing I noticed listening
to blues players and
especially watching blues players,
It's a violent sport.
It's a violent sport.
You can be gentle, and if you play in
a slow blues, for example, we'll talk
about that, hitting the notes very soft,
being kind of romantic, in fact.
But you get that groove going.
Can't hold back,
can't be afraid to hit the note.
And that's something I've noticed,
again, in a lot of students is
that they're kind of a little bit
afraid to hit that note too hard.
In your mind you're saying, I don't
know if it's the right note or not so
if I don't hit it so
hard maybe they won't notice.
Well, unfortunately, yes, they will notice
and they'll also notice that you're not
committed and it'll just be like yeah,
you're not, it's not really happening.
So it's better to be strong and
wrong in a blues sense and
really commit yourself to the note.
And these are ways of kind
of ramping up the intensity.
Now along with slapping and
snapping, how about the rake?
Well, we've done the rake
a couple of times.
I've done stuff like this
Now, what I'm doing there is
I'm muting the strings with any
finger that's available.
It doesn't really matter
which finger you use but
I'm aiming toward a certain note and
this is an upward rake, in other words,
I'm dragging the pick
up toward the ceiling.
And so I'm muting the higher strings and
I'm aiming toward a target which is
in this case E on the fifth string.
So I'm thinking about, you know.
I'm using that as, it sounds like I'm
taking a breath before I hit the note.
[SOUND] And so the upward rake
is a rhythmic little accent.
I use it all the time in my rhythm parts.
It just adds a little snap to the sound.
But the technique is actually,
technically, very simple.
It's just being able to apply it in the
context of the rhythm and not at all cost,
right, let any of those open strings
come through cuz it'll just destroy it.
So they have to be muted, and aim at the
specific note that you're trying to reach.
That's the upward rake.
You hear that
in the playing of guys
like Otis Rush
Right, big influence on Stevie Ray Vaughan
as well as everybody else in the world,
fantastic guitar player.
Left-handed upside down.
Now, there's another version of
the rake which you've also heard,
which is this
You definitely, if you've heard BB King,
you've heard [SOUND] right, that.
Now what that is is isolating a high note,
high string, and
then using the other fingers
to mute the lower strings,
raking the pick across and
all you hear is that high note.
So that's his trademark, right there.
[SOUND] If you ever do that,
you owe that to BB King,
but you can expand on that a little bit.
Right, so
what I'm doing there is I'm just saying
I want that high note to stand out.
[SOUND] So I kinda set it up so that
when I hit it it seems to zing, it pops.
Again, like I'm taking a breath.
Now this is in my right hand.
I got my hand laying down on the strings
so I combine that with the
with the slap and with the
with the pop, and
pretty much got it going on.
I sound like a bowl of Rice Krispies.
[SOUND] Well you can have
fun with those techniques.
This is not technical stuff, you just
incorporate that into your playing and
if you hear the sound you like,
you just work on it a little bit.
Just pick a note and see how much
energy can you put into that note.
And then listen to the guys that I've
mentioned, and you'll hear the results.
It's spectacular.
All right, I'll see you the next time.