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Home Position (Guitar Lesson)

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Dan Sugarman

Home Position

Now that we've spent a good deal of time on the fretting hand, it's time to turn our attention to the picking hand. Dan starts with examining how to get the best tone from our instrument, using what he calls the Home Position.

Taught by Dan Sugarman in Sugarman's Shredding Revolution seriesLength: 11:43Difficulty: 2.0 of 5

Home Position

Moving onto the picking hand part of the equation, I want to introduce you to what I call the “Home Position” concept and its application.

You could have amazing fretting hand technique, but completely destroy it with a bad picking hand technique. Now that we’ve taken a good look at the fretting hand, I want to set you up for success with a concept and technique I came up with several years ago. The premise of this technique is that every string has an exact sweet spot, and there is a very specific way of getting to them that is extremely efficient, all with economy of motion and the anatomy of the hand as the starting of my discovery.

In the last lesson, we got into some true legato lines to help engrain our new Finger IQ deeply into our minds before adding any real picking hand work including in the equation. That’s because my method of operating with my picking hand needed to be fully opened up so you can understand my approach to this. My concept is designed so that I can set it and forget it so-to-speak. I’ve standardized the way my hand operates so I don’t have to worry about it… how did I do that? I had to design a system to set it in place, and once I did that, I was golden.

First, I need to show you a discovery I made when looking for the sweet spot on my guitar - try it with me. Play along the low E string as close as you can to the bridge and play all along the string up to the neck and back to the bridge — that's your full spectrum. Now find the sweet spot on that string. What that is, is the spot that isn’t too bassy or bright - right at the upper inside corner edge of my bridge pickup. Now, repeat this for all strings.

Notice the 45 degree angle between the pickups: a line from corner to corner. That is also the same exact angle that your arm is ALREADY sitting on… and its ALSO the angle that your pick should be sitting on! Weird… maybe there is something to this? Let’s see if we can’t run with it and use the anatomy of our body correctly to glide along that path.

Let me point out the 3 POINTS OF CONTACT on your guitar, and we will build from there. The first point of contact is your forearm at the top of the guitar. The second point of contact is your picking hand-butt, as it keeps contact with the strings most of the time in one way or another. The third point of contact is your pick itself, as it moves in and out of contact.

Let’s take the imagery of a boat gliding across the water to help solidify the concept. First off, the boat isn’t hovering over the water, it’s gliding and floating ON it.

  1. The boat is the picking hand - we’ll call that your first point of contact, and the water is your strings…
  2. Boats usually have rudders too though… check this out, your forearm is the rudder! It will remain in contact with the upper part of your guitar body as it glides along with the wrist, guiding you along its path. This is the only point of contact that truly remains constant, as there are times where the boat will hover, but its for a dynamic effect.
  3. There is one other point of contact, but this one is in and out of contact, and its your pick - acting as the oar that propels you through the water.

This system is where your control and stability comes from; these 3 points of contact with the surface. Another good way to look at it is like the forearm and hand-butt are the two axels on a car, and the picking motion is the engine driving everything forward along this road or track.

Application Exercise

Using this information, let’s apply it to the guitar starting with a static shape that we will shift up. This exercise is broken up into 4 sections - with the first getting 4 picked notes per string, with only one note being fretted. We will be shifting through the rhythm ladder a little bit once again to get more out of this exercise — Make sure you use the recycled energy as you shift from finger 1, fret 1 on the low E string to finger 2 (fret 2) by putting finger 1 in a rest position, thus muting it so it doesn’t bleed over note 2. Continue the same idea as you hit fret 3 on the D string, with the lower fingers in rest position, and then finger 4 on fret 4 on the G string. We then continue that shape on the next set of 4 strings… We’ll play this shape right off of the fretboard, and then descend right back down.

Make sure that the downstroke accent of your string change is what’s driving your home position car forward along its 45 degree angle path that the whole mechanism sits on. The moment of your down stroke on the following string is what will shift your pick to the proper home position. The action of using the picking arm/hand properly is more like pulling back and releasing a bow and arrow, rather than yo-hoing your arm like a pirate.

Next up is 3’s, without playing off of the fretboard, this will force us to have an opposite stroke as our first down stroke on every new string… When ascending, that upstroke is what will move up across the strings. Think of a rock climber grabbing his next rock hold and then moving into it from there - he shifts his body by staking his claim first and then moving from into it and then from there for his next move. When you descend, the downstroke on every other string is what picks you back up!

Up Next will be 2’s which will force us to change strings more rapidly which will result in less time to perfect our position change… At first we’ll start with 8th notes but shift through the time ladder a little bit to get more out of this exercise.

Last up is 1’s which is by far the most difficult - there is also some position shifting, so be aware of that! We’ll take it slow with 8th notes, then descending in 8th note triplets, then descending straight back down with position shifting in 16th notes.

Key Notes:

  • 3 points of contact.
  • Pick leads way as the engine of the machine, with the forearm as the rudder guiding it, and the hand-butt balancing it out and giving it stable contact.
  • There is little to no downward pressure on your guitar, so as not to get your forearm stuck on the upper part of the guitar.
  • 45 degree angle.
  • Sweet spots between the inside upper pickup corner to the bottom inside picking corner.
  • Move along the arm-track.
  • Take the imagery of a boat gliding across the water to help solidify the concept. Remember, the boat isn’t hovering over the water, it’s gliding and floating ON it.
  • The action of using the picking arm/hand properly is more like pulling back and releasing a bow and arrow, rather than yo-hoing your arm like a pirate.
  • When changing home positions, remember, even numbered patterns that are alternate picked, every string change will occur on a down stroke - use that momentum to shift your hand into the next home position for that string.
  • For odd numbers on the other hand, use the UPSTROKE’S momentum to shift your hand into the next home position. Much like a rock climber grabbing a rock above his head and then pull his body towards it. The string is the rock, your pick stroke is your hand, and the rock climbers body is your picking hand shifting into home position.
  • By now, my approach to how the picking hand should interface with the guitar should be perfectly clear. You should be getting better tone out of your guitar as you play, and the action should be comfortable, as we’re following the anatomy of the body on this one… It make take a little bit of time to get used to it, so review this lesson if needed!



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    Sugarman's Shredding Revolution

    Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

    Sugarman's Shredding Revolution is all about discovering and creating ways to develop a new and unique level of understanding of two-hand synchronization, which is one of the core foundations of clean playing.



    Series IntroductionLesson 1

    Series Introduction

    Dan Sugarman gives us an introduction and preview to his series - Sugarman's Shredding Revolution.

    Length: 5:13 Difficulty: 0.0 FREE
    The Speed of LightLesson 2

    The Speed of Light

    Dan begins his series by revolutionizing the way we approach our instrument. In this lesson, Dan shares a concept he calls The Speed of "Light".

    Length: 10:27 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
    The PulseLesson 3

    The Pulse

    Finding the "Goldilocks" zone is key to getting your hands in the best position possible to shred, by finding the right amount of pressure to apply to the strings. Dan helps us find the touch that's "just...

    Length: 12:21 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
    Speed of Light Application ExerciseLesson 4

    Speed of Light Application Exercise

    In this lesson, we put into practice what we've talked about so far in this series. This exercise is designed to help you find your Goldilocks Zone, and practice it enough to put it on auto pilot!

    Length: 7:49 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
    Perfect Practice PostureLesson 5

    Perfect Practice Posture

    Contrary to what some say, good posture feeds into good technique, which feeds into great guitar playing. In this lesson Dan gives us examples of good posture for two different ways of holding the guitar.

    Length: 5:21 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
    50/50 Finger FrenzyLesson 6

    50/50 Finger Frenzy

    Distributing the right amount of pressure throughout your hand is a key foundation to achieving two hand sync. In this lesson, Dan analyzes this concept and helps to get us on the right track.

    Length: 12:11 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
    Chromatic Finger CrawlLesson 7

    Chromatic Finger Crawl

    This lesson is designed to work on the hand to brain connection during the string change, and to help you "fall" into position as opposed to "flail" into position.

    Length: 2:56 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
    Finger IQ: Hammer-OnsLesson 8

    Finger IQ: Hammer-Ons

    Now it's time to sprinkle some legato playing into the proceedings. Starting with hammer ons, Dan shows us how to use "weight" not "strength" to achieve this technique.

    Length: 6:56 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
    Finger IQ: Pull OffsLesson 9

    Finger IQ: Pull Offs

    Now Dan shows us the next element of legato playing: Pull Offs.

    Length: 3:30 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
    True Legato: Three Notes Per StringLesson 10

    True Legato: Three Notes Per String

    Using hammer-ons and pull-offs that we learned in the previous lessons, Dan now gives us an introduction to true legato - using three note per string patterns.

    Length: 5:08 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
    Home PositionLesson 11

    Home Position

    Now that we've spent a good deal of time on the fretting hand, it's time to turn our attention to the picking hand. Dan starts with examining how to get the best tone from our instrument, using what he...

    Length: 11:43 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
    Home Position ApplicationLesson 12

    Home Position Application

    In this lesson, Dan helps us apply some exercises to the home application that will help it become second nature in no time!

    Length: 8:59 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
    Rhythm and KonokolLesson 13

    Rhythm and Konokol

    A solid rhythmic foundation is a must when addressing the basics of good technique. In this lesson, Dan shows a very fresh and cool way to approach rhythm, with the ancient Indian method: Konokol.

    Length: 7:47 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
    Time and Rhythm TableLesson 14

    Time and Rhythm Table

    Now, Dan moves the Konokol rhythm system that we looked at in the last lesson to the guitar, exploring different rhythm configurations along the way.

    Length: 3:04 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
    Polymeter and PolyrhythmLesson 15

    Polymeter and Polyrhythm

    When it comes to complex rhythm, understanding the difference between polyrhythm and polymeter are very important. In this lesson, Dan gives us a crash course on how to tell the difference.

    Length: 3:08 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
    Sync or Swim Part 1Lesson 16

    Sync or Swim Part 1

    Now it's time to put our hands together (so to speak). We're bringing what we've worked on for the left hand, and what we've worked on for the right hand together to get a firm grasp of our two hand sync....

    Length: 8:40 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
    Sync or Swim Part 2Lesson 17

    Sync or Swim Part 2

    In this lesson, Dan continues to emphasize two hand sync, adding the new ideas of inside picking and outside picking.

    Length: 10:08 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
    Sync or Swim Part 3Lesson 18

    Sync or Swim Part 3

    Now Dan introduces some 2 string patterns into our two hand sync exercises. In each lesson, he's ratcheting up the difficulty level!

    Length: 3:08 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
    Sync or Swim Part 4Lesson 19

    Sync or Swim Part 4

    In this lesson, Dan explores more two string patterns, this time emphasizing odd two string patterns. Finger twisters and brain teasers for sure!

    Length: 8:03 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
    Sync or Swim Part 5Lesson 20

    Sync or Swim Part 5

    Endurance is the name of the game in this lesson. Dan shows us one of his favorite techniques he calls "Phalange Laps".

    Length: 4:04 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
    Rhythm vs. Lead PlayingLesson 21

    Rhythm vs. Lead Playing

    Subtle hand positioning can go a long way in determining the proper position for lead playing or rhythm playing. Here, Dan analyzes this concept in great detail, getting you on the right path and putting...

    Length: 4:30 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
    Picking Hand Muting TechniquesLesson 22

    Picking Hand Muting Techniques

    Now we get to muting techniques. Starting off, Dan gives us all the details on muting techniques for the picking hand. These are a must if you want to truly reign in that beast of an instrument!

    Length: 12:49 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
    Fretting Hand Muting TechniquesLesson 23

    Fretting Hand Muting Techniques

    Switching our muting attention to the fretting hand, Dan gives us the essential techniques we need to get the cleanest result.

    Length: 14:52 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
    Learning to Fish for OurselvesLesson 24

    Learning to Fish for Ourselves

    In this lesson, Dan teaches a great way to analyze our own playing, focusing in on our mistakes and how to correct them. It starts with quarantining our playing.

    Length: 9:19 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
    NuancesLesson 25

    Nuances

    What gives you your unique voice on the guitar? Well, there are a number of things that go into that equation. In this lesson, Dan takes a look at some of the key techniques that will go a long way in...

    Length: 18:01 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
    Substrate 1 - Rhythm vs. Lead PlayingLesson 26

    Substrate 1 - Rhythm vs. Lead Playing

    Now Dan will help us focus on growing our weaknesses. First up is Rhythm vs. Lead Playing.

    Length: 5:28 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
    Substrate 2 - LegatoLesson 27

    Substrate 2 - Legato

    Up next in working on strengths and weaknesses? Legato.

    Length: 3:49 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
    Substrate 3 - Alternate PickingLesson 28

    Substrate 3 - Alternate Picking

    Up next in the world of substrates - Alternate Picking.

    Length: 4:50 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
    Substrate 4 - Directional PickingLesson 29

    Substrate 4 - Directional Picking

    The last substrate Dan takes us through is Directional Picking.

    Length: 7:06 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
    Creative Application of All TechniquesLesson 30

    Creative Application of All Techniques

    In the last lesson of the series, Dan gives us a musical, full band exercise that ties in all of the techniques that we've learned throughout the series.

    Length: 6:25 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
    JamPlay Interview with Dan SugarmanLesson 31

    JamPlay Interview with Dan Sugarman

    Who is Dan Sugarman? Get to know a little about Dan - his background, his music, and what drives him to excel at guitar in this JamPlay interview.

    Length: 8:44 Difficulty: 0.0 Members Only
    Dan Sugarman

    About Dan Sugarman View Full Biography

    Dan Sugarman is a 26 year old guitarist, producer, teacher and songwriter hailing from the South Bay of Los Angeles, CA. His tenacity and dedication to the art of music and guitar led him to the lead guitar position in the internationally touring band, As Blood Runs Black. Now as a solo artist, Dan continues to work on his original music being released through Patreon, and is currently producing and engineering other bands & artists at Sugartone Studios, and composing for film & television. He also maintains an ever-growing student body as a private guitar teacher, mentor, and educator in the crafts of songwriting, creativity, and modern day recording techniques.



    Dan is currently working on his "living album", Inside Out - Part I, available on patreon.com and completing an album for his new group A Mind Made Me, featuring singer//actor Sarah J Bartholomew.

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