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Play DADGAD - Simon Fox

4(a) Left Hand Ornaments

Most guitarists are familiar with the use of left-hand techniques such as hammers, pull offs and slides. These basic ideas can be used in certain ways to recreate the sounds of Celtic instruments such as pipes and fiddles. In this context the techniques are often called “ornaments”. The timing of plucked notes in conjunction with the hammers and pull offs is a key factor in producing these effects.

The first set of exercises shows how a fast triplet can be played with very rapid pull offs, ending on the open top D string. This could also be described as a roll and is often notated as a double grace note. These are the smaller notes embedded in the notation and the tab. Grace note notation is used to indicate that the notes are played very rapidly, nearly coinciding with the note following, often at 1/64th note values.

In exercise 4.1 each measure begins with two hammer ons. Then the roll ornament is prepared by plucking the 4th note. After a pause, the roll then begins with the two grace notes. In the first measure this consists of the hammer-on at the 5th fret, followed rapidly by a pull off back to the 4th fret as the second grace note, and then a pull off to the open D string. The same riff is moved up and down the major scale on the top D string, with some increasing stretches for the left hand.

Exercise 4.1. Left hand ornamentation - Tuning DADGAD

The next example shows exactly the same principle on the open A string. The key here is to make sure that adjacent strings are not disturbed during the exercise. This helps keep the pull offs sounding clean. It is more difficult to play this exercise on lower strings, which is a good exercise for building strength in the left hand.

Exercise 4.2. Left hand ornamentation - A string - Tuning DADGAD

The pinky finger is very useful in these riffs, though a little stretching is needed. It also helps to build up calluses on the left hand fingers, as this reduces the amount of energy needed to cleanly fret a note or execute hammers and pull offs. Spongy finger tips require more muscular effort to sound the notes properly.

This example shows the same roll technique played in 2/4 producing a more striking rhythm.

Exercise 4.3. Left hand ornamentation in 2/4 - Tuning DADGAD

The next example demonstrates a different ornament achieved with a single grace note. The key here is the snapping action of each grace note. The note previous to each grace note is the same as the grace note itself. For example in the first measure, the first note is played at the 4th fret of the top string. This note is plucked with the right hand. Next, the grace note is played, by again plucking the note at the 4th fret of the top string. An instant later the left hand snaps the pull off down to the 2nd fret. Timing and co ordination between the two hands is the key here. As the exercise goes up the neck, again the left hand pinky will be required to perform the pull off. The wide stretch from the 7th fret to the 2nd fret pull off creates a broad interval which can be effective in emulating bagpipe sounds.

Exercise 4.4. Left hand ornamentation - Tuning DADGAD

As an example of left hand ornaments in a melody, here is an extract from “The Ullapool Decision” which makes extensive use of the hammer and pull off techniques.

Exercise 4.5. Excerpt from “The Ullapool Decision” - Tuning DADGAD - Capo 3rd fret

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