Guitar Power Chords 2 - Damping

Use damping to tame the Power Chord

Now that you have mastered the Power Chord and can comfortably move around the fret board playing any key you desire quickly and smoothly, you need to learn to control the phrasing of your playing. By this I mean the length of each strum that you play.

Sometimes you might prefer your strums to meld into one roughly continual sound that is full and raucous. However - this is usually only reserved for the rousing chorus or sections such as that. A lot of the time you need to have those power chords under control.

If you are riding a powerful motorbike, you canít keep the throttle open all the time. In fact you rarely have the throttle all the way open. You are constantly adjusting the amount of power you are feeding to the back tyre with careful throttle adjustments.

In the same way - when you are playing power chords on guitar with a nice fat distortion sound, you rarely want to be giving it all itís got. You need to throttle those chords so that you can achieve a dynamic sound that varies in tone, phrasing and volume.

The technique to do this is called damping. Damping involves controlling how much and for how long the strings vibrate when you strum them. There are two main ways of doing this - one for each hand.

Left Hand Damping

I will start with your left hand (or right hand for lefties). You can stop the strings ringing after you have strummed a power chord (or any other chord for that matter) by simply removing the pressure in your fingers pressing the strings against the frets. You do not actually remove your fingers from the strings, but just ease the pressure off so that the strings do not touch the frets. This will instantly stop the strings ringing and will allow you to produce sharply defined stops and gaps in your playing.

Experiment first by playing the same chord and playing a simple 4/4 riff 1, 2, 3, 4, with all the chords ringing for the same amount of time. Then you can experiment with more complex timing sequences such as strumming for one chord and allowing it to ring for two beats and then damping the last two beats in the bar as before. 1 - 2, 3 4. You will find that even playing the same chord over and over you can make it interesting by playing around with the timing like this.

Once you have that mastered - start moving around the fret board with your power chords and you can create a really interesting riff. Try to come up with a 4 bar sequence of four different chords and an interesting timing sequence and you are on the way to creating the basis for a nice tune ;-)

Right Hand Damping

The other way of damping the strings is to use your right, strumming hand (left for lefties). The technique involves using the side of your palm close to your little finger. (the bottom of your hand in a karate chop style). This soft bit of flesh makes the ideal tool for damping the strings to a variable degree.

What you do is slide this bit of your hand from the bridge (where you may usually rest your hand whilst playing) and actually slide it onto the strings. The further into the strings you slide your hand and the hard you press down - the more the strings are damped. This gives you the option of a subtle damping right through to a Metal style Chug Chug that doesnít ring at all - allowing you to play the fast sequences of complex timing that define the Metal guitar style.

Again start off by sticking to one power chord and concentrate on playing this chord with varying levels of damping. Once you have that sorted you can begin to experiment with complex timing sequences and then moving the chord around a bit.

Get this nailed and you will be able to hold your own in any rhythm guitar situation in almost any genre but especially in modern guitar based music.
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