Guitar Technique Tip of the Month

Your Personal Guitar Lesson

Douglas Niedt




This month I describe how to use hinge bars as guide fingers. It is a technique seldom mentioned or discussed in detail. But it is a relatively easy technique to learn and will pay big dividends. It will help you play difficult passages containing consecutive full bars more securely and accurately. Plus, you will be able to play them with less hand fatigue and less string noise.

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HOW TO USE A HINGE BAR AS A GUIDE FINGER

By Douglas Niedt

Copyright Douglas Niedt. All Rights Reserved. This article may be reprinted, but please be considerate and give credit to Douglas Niedt.

A few years ago I wrote a lengthy technique tip about guide fingers. You can read it here. One technique I touched upon in the article was using hinge bars as guide fingers. I would like to explain the technique in more detail in this technique tip.

Let’s look at a difficult chord change in the famous anonymous Romanza (also known as Romance or Romance de Amor).





It is usually not a good idea to use a full bar as a guide finger. Moving any bar up or down the neck with full or even reduced pressure creates heavy friction or drag. Freedom of movement is impaired. Usually, loud bass-string squeaks are produced.

In this example, it isn’t a good idea to slide the full bar from the second fret to the seventh fret. The correct way to make the change in Romanza is to turn the full bar into a hinge bar at the moment of the shift, slide up, and then resume with a flat, full bar at the seventh fret. In other words, at the moment of the shift, lift only the tip of the bar finger off the bass strings. Keep holding the first string with the inner part of the bar finger. You now have a hinge bar. Slide this hinge bar along the edge of the fretboard to the seventh fret. As you reach the seventh fret, place the tip of the bar finger back onto the bass strings. You now have a full bar again. During the slide up the neck, the inner part of the bar finger should not lift off the first string. Maintain constant and secure contact with the edge of the neck. Using the hinge bar as a guide finger allows total mobility, creates very little drag, promotes speed of movement, and is very stable.

Watch me demonstrate.

Be sure to watch the video on full screen. Click the symbol to the right of "HD" in the lower right-hand corner after the video begins playing. Hit escape "ESC" on your keyboard to return to normal viewing.

The technique is relatively simple. Watch me demonstrate the basics and how to practice it.

Many examples can be found in the repertoire where hinge bars serve as guide fingers. Following are some examples of ascending shifts.






Watch me demonstrate this shift.

Be sure to watch the video on full screen. Click the symbol to the right of "HD" in the lower right-hand corner after the video begins playing. Hit escape "ESC" on your keyboard to return to normal viewing.

This next example from Francisco Tarrega’s famous Recuerdos de la Alhambra is particularly important. Sliding the entire bar from the second to the fourth fret produces a loud squeak that is distracting and can ruin the mood of the piece. Using the hinge bar as a guide eliminates the squeak, preserving the magic.






Watch me demonstrate the hinge bar shift on “Recuerdos”.

Be sure to watch the video on full screen. Click the symbol to the right of "HD" in the lower right-hand corner after the video begins playing. Hit escape "ESC" on your keyboard to return to normal viewing.

Hinge bars are also used as guide fingers in descending shifts. Here are some examples:






Watch me play this passage from “Jesu”.

Be sure to watch the video on full screen. Click the symbol to the right of "HD" in the lower right-hand corner after the video begins playing. Hit escape "ESC" on your keyboard to return to normal viewing.






Watch me play the passage.

Be sure to watch the video on full screen. Click the symbol to the right of "HD" in the lower right-hand corner after the video begins playing. Hit escape "ESC" on your keyboard to return to normal viewing.

Summary

In general, when you come across a passage with consecutive full bars, shift from one to the other using a hinge bar. It doesn’t matter whether the shift is up or down the neck. It will sound smoother and will make less noise. Also, the technique requires far less hand strength than sliding full bars up and down the neck. For that reason, in pieces with many bar chord changes, using hinge bars tires the hand much less, promoting greater left-hand stamina.

Download the PDF

The PDF Version

We have a PDF version of this article with the video embedded in the document so you can save the entire article to your computer, video included!

IMPORTANT:

The PDF version of this article contains an embedded video. It will not play well unless you save this PDF to your computer first. Then, open the file you just saved and the video will play smoothly. The PDF is 122.8 MB so it may take a while to download.

Note: You must have Adobe Reader 10 or later installed on your computer to play the videos contained in the PDF. Download Adobe Reader here.


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