The below steps will give you detailed checklists and action items to play Indian Raga or Film Songs Solo Lead on the guitar (Acoustic or Electric). These detailed steps will help you transform your playing to be fluent and efficient, as if your guitar is singing the song.
THe lists go through the steps starting from the basic moves, slowly building up the phrases and finally removing delays to play songs as they are sung. As you may know by now, being able to play Indian raga and film songs in detail, smooth and connected, fluent and efficient is our core interest when it comes to playing solo or lead on the guitar.
Let us begin…
The three moves
Any Indian style solo on the guitar, the way i play it, is played using only three moves – even the seemingly most complicated of them. These three moves when taken care of and internalized, makes your job easier to smoothly move to the next levels of physical skill level of playing:
- hammer ons (HO)
- pull offs (PO)
Why not just slides?
Pulloffs serve as boosters to long passages without hitting
This is directly related to the decision making of when to hit and when to slide/ho/po.
Better planned phrases for accuracy and ease
PO and HO helps divide longer passages to well planned phrase executions, helping you play indian raga phrases
- with lesser worry of mistakes
- better planned for efficiency and ease and therefore elegance – being able to strategize and order the playing in a way that allows ease and flow is part of the learning – getting to the analysis and adaptation and synthesis parts of learning.
- like mentioned in the previous point, elegance… This is a matter of taste.
- I (and most of my students) just like solving these musical puzzles for criteria of lesser effort.
- We like the sound of the hammer on and pull off – and at times, that is the right thing to do – fast vocal fluctuations are closer to HO PO pair finger move than to a full arm slide move
- and in general make phrases that play and connect better with other phrases that come before and after while… making sure that finger resources are used efficiently without running out.
How to play Indian guitar slides, hammer ons and pull offs
How to play Indian Guitar Slides
A slide involves a hit and a move of the finger to a different fret while maintaining the pressure on the string, without breaks.
Check: a slide is executed correctly when the destination note still sustains or rings after you have finished.
- you have your index finger on the 2nd string 1st fret
- you hit the string
- you slide the finter to the 3rd fret
- the note on the 3rd fret should sustain after you have finished. it should not die off. it has to be heard – the final note you end with after the slide. (this is important also, for the continuous sound of the song and also because this could be a part of the phrase, or connection to the next phrase – the phrases don’t exist alone)
Slides: Usual problems and corrections
the final note doesn’t sustain
- if you are trying for the first time, be patient, it will work in a few tries
- remember your thumb the opposable thumb, behind the fretboard, is giving the pressure for the fingers on the fretboard to press the string hard enough on to the fretboard as you glide, making sure the pressure is consistent enough for the final note and slide to sustain. just an awareness of this mechanism and the needed pressure usually makes the final execution also clearer leading to a better slide.
- finger more perpendicular to the fretboard over time i have noticed this one thing – that beginners tend to touch more of the fretboard with their playing finger, while as we progress and the playing becomes more automatic, our fingers adopt the right posture: the finger becomes more and more perpendicular to the fretboard. This is useful because, then the finger is gliding on the smooth surface of the string, without touching the fretboard wood and metal so much, thereby reducing friction.
- watch your slide playing finger – is the pad of the finger touching the fretboard?
- can you position your finger so that the tip is mainly touching the string, the pad not so much on the fretboard?
- remember your thumb to assist for more pressure if needed
- of course when playing a slide with the little finger (which is not so often as with the other fingers), you may have to use the pad of the little finger… which is ok. but still, there too, with practice, you will be able to reduce friction.
other notes sound
If the slide is written as 3/5 (any string), then the 4th fret note should not sound conspicuously while doing the slide.
yes, we need to glide over the string whle maintaining pressure, we can’t let go of the string once you start the slide fro the origin note, till you reach the destination fret and make sure the final note is sustained.
But, the speed of the slide should be such that after the origin note sounds on the first hit, the finger moves on the string, pressed and moves to the destination note, the inbetween fret notes don’t sound promintently as if it is part of the slide.
Let us exaggerate the slide to make it easier:
Try the slide on the first string 3/8.
meaning, hit on the 3rd fret, slide till 8, while keeping the pressure on the string, making the sound ring till the 8th note and sustain.
Now, in order to do the slide over the 5 frets, you had to be fast enough. That is right. Just make sure that none of the in between frets (4,5,6,7) separately sound prominently.
Additional good practice: minimal thumb movement
Especially when playing a slide like 5/8\5 or 5/8\7/8\5, where the finger comes back to the beginning, and the slide spans over 4 or less frets, it is a good idea to try keep the thumb stationary, letting the wrist and thumb connection do the work of moving and coming back.
It has the following advantages:
- much less physical movement. When the thumb is stationary, the movement has its center somewhere on your forearm as opposed to the whole arm machinery moving up and down and shaking, if you let the thumb and therefore the whole arm to move.
- kind of acts like a brake. when moving up and coming back the fretboard doing a slide, the chances of overshooting are reduced when you have the thumb stationary. Anyway, as you do a slide like 8/13\12/13, it is better to keep your eye on the 13th fret vicinity since that is usually the mistake area, needing more precision consciousness.
- serves our overall efficiency philosophy and brings satisfaction, having applied awareness to our playing, moving towards a higher learning level.
Indian Guitar Slide Exercises
- 2nd string 1/3 slide. Index finger. Hit on the 1st fret note. Keep pressure, slide to 3rd fret. Make sure the sound sustains after the slide is complete.
- Keep note of the best practices:
- sustaining at the destination note? the 3rd fret?
- aware of your thumb doing the pressing?
- any in between note sounding? in this case the 2 shouldn’t sound prominent. Else, if the 2 also sounds then you are playing a 1/2/3 slide
- 1st string 3/8 slide. Observe the above given best practices:
- no in between notes sound.
- the note at 8th fret sounds after completion of slide.
- Finger doing the slide relatively perpendicular to the fretboard, reducing friction by rubbing unnecessarily on the fretboard surface.
How to pull off pull offs and more…