Prepared Guitar and Extended Guitar Techniques

The world around us is constantly changing and music-and other art forms-is not immune to this change as well.Throughout times musicians have explored new avenues of making music.

Towards the end of the 19th Century composers like Bartok and Stravinsky experimented with elements of Folk music to enhance and enrich the sound of their own compositions.
The new experiments of composers lead to changes in the role of traditional harmony in classical music whilst the function of rhythmic structures within the music became more prominent.

In the 20th Century new technological advancements opened up new possibilities for musicians to work with: Improved microphone technology made it possible to create detailed, close-up recordings of instruments in orchestras. This meant that instruments like harps could now now be heard whereas before advancement of close up recording, their sound was simply lost among the sound of other instruments.
New improvements in amplification, magnetic pick-ups and loudspeaker systems opened up different roles for guitar players in orchestras: Guitarist, in larger orchestras in the early 20th Century, where usually asked to play chords and simply be part of the rhythm section. Before the advancement of amplification the sound of a single note on a guitar string could not be heard among the sound of Trumpets and Saxophones. The use of magnetic pick-ups and amplifiers made it now possible for guitar players to improvise solos with single notes, arpeggios and small partial chordal embellishments.

The new technological changes were not only responsible for changing the way musicians approached their instruments, they also gave birth to new styles of music such as Serialism, Minimalism, Avnt-Farde and Rock Music.

The nature of this article is simply too short to explore in full the history, and impact of changes-on the music of the 20th and 21st century. However, we can have a look at what musicians can do for themselves to embrace change. This brings us to the term of “Prepared Technique”

What is “Prepared Technique” you may wonder? It is simply a technique to achieve sounds which can normally not be explored through traditional ways of playing the instrument.
One way to achieve different sounds is to attach a device (any day to day object will do!) to your instrument. In our case, we take the strings of the guitar and attach a object to it. The object can be in the form of a cork, a elastic band or a Capo with released tension. Using your Capo in this manner means your strings will not be clear in sound. They will sound muted and dull. The high, melody strings will sound metallic and muffled.

Why would you want your strings to sound this way, since you can no longer play what you are used to play? Now here lies your answer: You will find new ways to play the guitar since the traditional ways will no longer work. Through experimentation you will discover what kind of sounds are now available. The rewards of your experimentation will be greeted by the emergence of a new kind of music. A form of music you may not have been aware of before. You will soon start to play with elements of music such as pitch and timbre (the tonal quality of your notes). These elements may now become more important compared to playing traditional chord structures. Your standard chord shapes may no longer work because of how you have treated your strings. No a problem since you have discovered a new way to explore the sounds of those strings.

Check out video at the bottom of this page.It will give you a idea of what kind of sounds you can get with a little experimentation with a Capo and a elastic band.

On the same video you will notice that I pull of a string of the Fretboard. I will write about this technique in a next article.
Stay tuned for now and keep on playing.
Cheers,
Eddie