Cool technique

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    Karen Johns

    This may have already been posted here before- it is not a new video. Has anyone else used this strumming technique? If so, how difficult was it to learn?



    Yes. I forget the technical name for it, but there is a notation for it and everything. I have been learning Deborah Henson-Conant’s piece Baroque Flamenco and this technique is a very significant and necessary aspect of the piece because part of the goal of the pieces is a contrast between a Baroque minuet and the strumming of the guitar in Flamenco music.

    You basically dampen the strings not in the chord you want to play with the left hand leaving the strings for the notes in the chord open, and then strum back and forth using the backs of the fingers on the downward strum and the back of the thumb on the upward strum. You can get different effects by strumming at different heights on the strings, although it seems to me the best and most guitar-like sound comes from strumming lower on the strings. You can get an interesting percussive like sound by playing up higher on the strings almost just below the neck of the harp.

    It takes some care. At least on a concert strung harp. A couple of times I ended practice with bloody fingernails.

    Karen Johns


    Thanks for your quick reply :-) I see what you’re saying. I tried to duplicate this technique just by what I saw on the video but with little success. When I read through the comments, I saw that he referred to using the pentatonic scale. It doesn’t appear in the video (unless I missed it) that he is damping any strings with his left hand, which leads me to think he may have his harp tuned to the pentatonic scale. Or am I just misunderstanding this technique?

    Misty Harrison

    The technique described here would work, it’s a Salzedo thing actually, but that’s not what is happening in the video because he is clearly not muffling some notes while playing the rest.

    Also in the Seguidilla from Salzedo’s Suite of 8 Dances there is a similar technique where you do gushing chords (very fast glisses in the span of a chord) on specific notes first with the second finger and then with the third finger (going up) and using the thumb to go down. This is also in Chanson dans la Nuit. Again not in this video.

    The technique used in the video, as far as I can tell, is actually just glissing rapidly (like the gushing chords) up with 2nd finger and down with the thumb, so you’re actually doing a turn-around gliss very, very fast.

    Do you know what I mean? Do a short turn-around gliss going up with the second finger and then back down with the thumb, no space between the sound going up and the sound going down. Then just keep doing it faster until it sounds like strumming.


    OK, I looked again, without the sound just to focus on his hands. I think he is actually doing both. When he is in the lower octaves he is dampening some strings, but also reaching out with the last finger to play bass notes. But he is strumming over a much larger area of the harp as well.

    If he is using a pentatonic scale that makes sense. The five note scale is so common because it is next to impossible to hit a bad sounding note. That is why blues players use pentatonic “boxes” when playing blues solos. Well, actually they use a blues scale with is a pentatonic scale but where the “blue”notes are sometimes thrown in to give that bluesy sound.

    So tuned to a pentatonic scale you could strum without having any “bad” notes sound so you don’t really need to dampen except to get a specific chord, which is what I think he is doing in the lower octave. He is dampening certain notes so that when the strum reaches that low it is playing a specific chord with the occasional bass note for emphasis played with the left hand 4 finger, but up above that he is primarily playing a series of rhythmic glisses.

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