Letter to a Young Musician – 6

02010-08-17 | Letters to a Young Musician | 4 comments

The fine art of dampening strings, or specifically stopping particular notes from ringing and thereby colliding with the other notes that you do want. I learned much about this by watching Jon play bass. The fingers of both of his hands are constantly refining the sound that comes forth from his instrument, adding a slow vibrato here and dampening a string that would otherwise clash with the next harmony.
You can observe this constant vigilance in classical guitarists like Julian Bream. While one finger of the left hand goes to a fret to define the next note, another finger is poised to dampen the string that rang the last note.

I recommend renting a DVD of Bream playing guitar as it is most interesting and educational. (((You might also observe how he bends certain notes to create harmonies that are in tune… the well-tempered scale is a compromise, especially on a guitar, and you will notice when you play an E major chord followed by a C major chord that the G-string, if tuned for the E chord, will sound off when playing the C chord and vice versa.)))

And the faces he makes while playing guitar are very entertaining, also.

This, of course, is most important when changing keys, but is always a good idea because even strings you haven’t plucked or struck with the right hand will ring sympathetically. By dampening those strings you focus more attention to the notes you are playing. Things become clearer, as if a fog has been lifted.


  1. Adam Solomon

    Speaking of Bream, I always found this video amusing:


    :) it’s all in good fun, of course, Bream’s obviously a world class guitarist. The guy who posted that video, incidentally, is one of the best flamenco guitarists in the States (actually, maybe even the best by my book – up there with Jason McGuire etc.), Ricardo Marlow. His ot

    Thanks for the post, though, this is something I’d personally not thought much about. But then there are also times when you’d want the previous notes ringing, no, when you’re playing around within or around a particular chord?

  2. Adam Solomon

    Hm, my Mac decided to submit that comment in the middle of typing a sentence. I was saying that Ricardo’s other videos (the ones of him playing) are phenomenal. I know you’d enjoy them, OL.

  3. Adam Solomon

    Okay, I just saw this video and I think it fits in pretty well with the theme of letters to a young musician:


    Ricardo Marlow, the aforementioned guitarist, learning a Tomatito falseta in eight minutes, using his foot for rhythm, by taking small phrases played at speed and just adding on. Brilliant practice technique.

  4. ottmar

    True, Bream’s rasguado is pretty lame, but did you compare the way he plays the melody with Paco’s playing? I’d say Bream’s melodic playing with the orchestra is as superior to Paco’s, as Paco’s rhythmic playing is to Bream’s. Thus, the Concierto de Aranjuez has not been recorded perfectly yet. Unless you want to mashup their performances.

    At least Bream uses his fingers. Many classical guitarists will play those rhythmic parts with a pick they have hidden somewhere.


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