Volume 2, Issue 4, March, 2005


by Stacy Hobbs

In this workshop letís discuss right hand/arm technique.  What Iím talking about here is the need to stop the sub basses from ringing out all the time.  Here are a couple of ways to go about this.

First, you can apply the rest stroke technique with your right hand fingers to stop the sub bass strings from ringing.  This practice is very common among classical players and the late Michael Hedges was a master at it.

Another approach, though somewhat unconventional, is to work your right arm over the sub basses for a damping effect.

Hereís how I approach this method.

While lightly resting my right arm on the top bass strings, I'll play a sub bass string.  For an open string sound I'll lift my right arm completely off the basses.  I'll then use my right arm to dampen the basses as needed.  

Depending on the music, I'll tend to lift my wrist off the sub basses, hit a bass note, then bring the arm/wrist back down for a ďstaccatoĒ like effect.  Iíll use this technique while working in conjunction with my right hand thumb, to produce the desired sound(s).  Experimentation is key here.

I use this technique a lot when playing an ascending bass line on the sub basses to keep things tight sounding.

When going in the opposite direction - a descending bass line, itís easy enough to dampen the previous bass string with your right hand thumb.

Simply hit the bass note, go to the next one down, strike it and let your thumb follow through to dampen the previous bass note.

As an exercise, try playing the sub-basses, 12th through 7th. 

Let them ring out without dampening at first. Next, lay your arm on the sub basses as you play through them.  Get a feel for what you can and canít get away with, i.e. too much pressure or too little?  The amount of pressure you use will affect the sustain/decay of the bass note.

It seems as if this would be an all or nothing situation as far as sound goes, however, I have found you can control the sustain by barely touching the ringing bass note with your arm as a starting point and going from there.

Let's reverse the pattern and go from 7th to 12th, dampening the previous bass note played with your right hand thumb as described above.

This is fun stuff to experiment with and will serve you well musically too!!         

So let it ring, or not!!  


Stacy Hobbs has been performing, recording, and teaching music for the past 22 years. He purchased his first Harp Guitar in 1998, which proved to be his true calling. Visit www.stacyhobbs.net for more!

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