Online Courses

Acoustic Guitar Techniques

Authored by Abigail Aronson Zocher

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Course Code: OGUIT-350

Next Term Starts January 8

Level 3

Level 3

3-Credit Tuition

$1,479

Non-Credit Tuition

$1,229

Become a more effective player and learn to better express yourself on the acoustic guitar in Berklee Online's Acoustic Guitar Techniques. You'll learn to strengthen your rhythmic strumming, use of alternate tunings, and fingerstyle playing. This course features in-depth exercise techniques directed at improving your fluency, tone, dynamics, and control.

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You'll start by learning to play sparse and partially improvised strumming textures, in addition to ones that are dense, regular, and groove-based or ones that are unusual such as offbeat triplets. You'll then cover topics related to alternate tunings, including how to play and write with open major triad tunings, how to play modal sounds in open tunings, and how to use a variety of more complex tunings beyond major triads.

The course also explores how to practice techniques for fingerstyle melodies and arpeggios, and how to organize and track your fingerstyle technique workout. You'll learn how to include a melodic line in a Travis pick guitar part, and how to play variations and increase the fluency and groove of your Travis picking. You will also learn how to play a contrapuntal piece - one with several melodic lines happening simultaneously.

Acoustic Guitar Techniques uses a multi-faceted approach, combining video demonstrations, listening to recorded music, analysis, practice with play-along tracks, and access to several different notational and pictorial systems, so that each student can assimilate the material in a comfortable and effective way. Artists featured in the course include Joni Mitchell, The Black Crowes, Nick Drake, the Rolling Stones, Crosby Stills and Nash, Elizabeth Cotton, Fleetwood Mac, Simon and Garfunkel, Indigo Girls, James Taylor, Leo Kottke, Dan Fogelberg, the Grateful Dead, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and the Allman Brothers.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Play and compose in a variety of non-standard tunings, know what each sounds like, and understand why they sound the way they do
  • Use a variety of practice techniques to refine your fingerstyle playing and strumming technique
  • Employ increased control, evenness, and fluency in your playing
  • Understand how to phrase a multi-voiced fingerstyle piece
  • Refine your right-hand position and be able to make educated decisions about it through knowledge of the pros and cons of various positions
  • Connect your technique and position with the tone you get from the instrument
  • Play and compose using a variety of rhythmic and contrapuntal devices, from offbeat triplets in strumming to Travis picking in fingerstyle
  • Integrate melodic lines into a strumming or a fingerstyle accompaniment
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Syllabus

Lesson 1: Open Triad Tunings

  • Introduction to Open Tunings
  • Open D Triad Tuning
  • Chord Shapes Native to Open D Tuning
  • Fretboard Theory
  • Meet the Neighbor: Open G Triad Tuning

Lesson 2: Building on Travis Picking 

  • Building a Basic Travis Pick
  • Practicing Travis Technique and Interpretation
  • Evenness of PulseEndurance and Consistency
  • Feeling It in One or in Four
  • Kickin' the Bass Line
  • Dynamic Gestures
  • Descending Bass Lines

Lesson 3: Open Tunings Beyond Major: Going Modal

  • Thinking Modally in DADF#AD
  • Playing Mixolydian All the Way Up the Neck in DADF#AD
  • Playing Lydian All the Way Up the Neck in DADF#AD
  • Playing Dorian All the Way Up the Neck in DADF#AD
  • Juxtaposing Different Modal Sounds within the Same Song

Lesson 4: "In the Grid" Strumming Techniques

  • The Eighth Note Strumming Grid Concept
  • Developing Familiarity with the Grid Points
  • Fully Articulated Strumming Grids

Lesson 5: Fingerstyle Fundamentals

  • Arpeggio Technique
  • Scalar Technique
  • Nails or No Nails?
  • Right-Hand Position
  • Position, Technique, and Tone

Lesson 6: Strum Possibilities

  • Your Strumming Sound
  • Tone, Touch, and Technique
  • Playing Different Registers to Orchestrate a Strumming Part
  • Bringing Out a Single Note Melody
  • Integrating a Bass Figure

Lesson 7: Exclusive Advantages of Fingerstyle 

  • Notation Systems for Guitar
  • Many Fingers, Many Voices
  • Cross String Textures
  • The Drone or Pedal Note
  • Fingerstyle Solo Sections

Lesson 8: Fun with Triplets 

  • Shuffle/Swing Eighth-Note Grid"
  • On the Beat" and "Off the Beat" Triplets
  • Right-Hand Technique
  • Nuance/Feel of the Upbeat

Lesson 9: Tying Up Travis and Beyond

  • Travis Picking Melodic Variations
  • A Variation of the 1+ Melody
  • Integrating a Strum Hit into a Travis Texture
  • Integrating a Slur into a Travis Pattern

Lesson 10: Tunings Gone Wild

  • Using the Open Triad as a Chord Other Than the Tonic
  • Triad Tunings, Give or Take
  • The Sparsely Articulated Grid

Lesson 11: Fingerstyle Fine Points

  • Practice Method: Bias Eliminator
  • Practice Technique for Consistency and Fluency
  • Using Arpeggios to Create Polyrhythmic Interest

Lesson 12: Mixing It Up, Scratching, and Hitting

  • Combining Individual Fingers with Up-Strums
  • Adding Percussion: The Scratch
  • More Percussion: Hitting the Guitar

Requirements

Prerequisites

Completion of Guitar Scales 101 and Guitar Chords 101 or equivalent knowledge and/or experience is required in addition to:

  • An understanding of how a triad is built, what makes a seventh chord, what makes a suspended chord, and how to play a I, IV, V progression
  • Knowledge of the different structures and sounds of the seven modes derived from the major scale
  • Ability to read (or to figure out if given some time) staff notation playable in the first position in standard tuning

No Required Textbooks


General Requirements

  • Acoustic guitar
  • Microphone with an XLR or 1/4" to 1/8" adapter for recording directly into the computer
  • USB microphone or guitar pickup with 1/4" out cable
  • Capo
  • Ability to tune the guitar to other tunings than the standard EADGBE—a chromatic tuner may be helpful for this

Software Requirements

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Windows Users

  • Windows 7 or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Students are required to record video for assignments. You can use your smartphone, digital camera, or webcam to do this. If you do not already have a preferred video software, you can use the built-in recorder tool within your assignment post. You can play the backing track through your speakers as you record and the microphone will pick up both the guitar (acoustic or through an amp) and the track as you play along.


Hardware Requirements

  • A built-in microphone or an external microphone plugged directly into your computer (via built-in ports or an external audio interface)
  • 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
  • 500 MB hard drive space
  • Speakers or headphone
  • Webcam
  • Internet connection with at least 4 Mbps download speed ( http://www.speedtest.net to verify or download the Speedtest by Ookla app from your mobile app store)

Instructors

Author

Abigail Aronson Zocher is an associate professor in the Guitar department at Berklee College of Music, where she teaches the Joni Mitchell ensemble, classes in classical guitar performance, and lessons in singer/songwriter/guitar, jazz, and classical styles. She earned her bachelor's degree in classical guitar performance from the New England Conservatory of Music, where she studied with David Leisner and received the G.W. Chadwick medal as the outstanding performer of her graduating class. She then earned her master's degree in jazz studies at the conservatory, studying with Mick Goodrick.

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In addition to guitar, Zocher records and performs as a vocalist and electric bassist. Her recordings with the Abby and Norm Group, with husband Norman Zocher who also teaches at Berklee, have received favorable reviews in DownBeat magazine, Jazz Times, 20th Century Guitar, Bass Player, and others. Read Less


Instructor

Originally from Chicago, Illinois, and referred to as "a guitar legend in the making" as well as being one of "Boston's best composers" through his work with the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra, Norman Zocher is a long-time New England Conservatory and Berklee College of Music faculty member. He has performed with and recorded a broad range of artists, including Maria Schneider, Muhal Richard Abrams, Oliver Lake, John Medeski, Steve Lacy, Bob Brookmeyer, Esperanza Spalding, Bob Moses, Paul Bley, and Dave Holland. The recordings of the Abby and Norm Group with his wife, fellow Berklee guitar professor Abigail Aronson Zocher, gained him international recognition as a composer and an instrumentalist. Other critically acclaimed albums have featured Zocher with Jerry Bergonzi, George Garzone, John Patitucci, and Joey Calderazzo. He is a resident composer and guitarist/pedal steel guitarist for the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra.

What's Next?

When taken for credit, Acoustic Guitar Techniques can be applied towards these associated programs:

Associated Degree Major

Questions?

Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at advisors@online.berklee.edu.

We can also answer basic questions in the comments below. Please note that all comments are public.

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