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How do you drift on a guitar?

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September 13, 2011 1:20AM


(drift is a relative term and must be associated with the player or the instrument)

While this is true, I believe I can supply a few suggestions as to what "Drifting" means, in general reference to the guitar, and a few steps on where to start.

Firstly, Drifting is a relative term, but mostly, you will find that it pretty much revolves around both hands working independantly of each other to simulate several layers of sound, and usually produces soft and etherial tones, due to the single handed hammer-ons, and slap-harmonics.

Alot of what could be considered "Drifting", are actually talented hammer-ons, and what is called "Travis" picking. (These are also very good skills to aquire and interlace with your Drifts.

So, Here are some suggestions for getting your foot in the door.

1. Know your harmonics.

You can Pick or Slap harmonics out of your guitar at the 5th, 7th, 12th, and 20th frets. There are other places for harmonics, like the 9th fret, but they are very hard to pull off and rarely sound good.

To pick a harmonic, lighty lay the tip of your finger on the string over the corresponding fret, and pluck with the other hand. It produces a bright, bell-like tone.

To slap a harmonic, simply slap the flesh of your pointer finger on the string, over the corresponding fret. This is incredibly simple, but super tricky. Give it five minutes, you'll be a master.

The 15th fret produces the same note as the string your picking/slapping is tuned to. Use this wherever you would normally pluck an open string.

2. Buy a kaiser-short cut capo.

I'm not sure what it is, but when I put one of these on my guitar, over the A, D, and G strings in the second fret, it becomes incredibly easy for me to Drift.

I theorize it is because the harmonics for those strings has been moved up correspondingly with the capo, and so now I have access to harmonics all over the fret board.

A short cut capo looks like a six-string kaiser capo, but shorter, as it is meant for capo-ing three inside strings.

3. Watch the greats. And Don't worry about stealing from them.

I watched countless hours of Trace Bundy, Andy Casad, Andy Mckee, and Eric Mongrain, until I had memorized what I thought to be a pattern in the playing.

One interesting thing about Drifting, is that unlike rhythym guitar, which is both hands creating one sound, drifting is using two hands to try and create two or more sounds or riffs together.

For this reason, it is almost all done in open tunings, and can tend to sound very similar from artist to atrist. What will set you aside is your mastery of it.

4. Change tunings.

Standard tuning is home for us all, in general, but drop tuning, and capos can make for an easy start in Drifting.

Try DADGAD, which is the famed Drifting tuning,

But also try simply tuning your G to F#, this is the Lute tuning, and has very similar and sometimes identical scales to standard.

Try capo-ing across the sixth fret, or the 9th, for some friendly slap harmonics, and easy travis picking.

5. Learn your techniques.

There are a world of different techniques used in Drifting, and in fact, you could say a diverse array of techniques is what most defines drifting.

These are just a select few.

The Pick Harmonic. (see above)

The Slap Harmonic. (see above)

The Single Handed- Pick Harmonic;

This requires great skill, you use the thumb-facing side of your right pointer finger, and lay it over the corresponding string and fret, and use you thumb to pick the string right behind it, it's almost like covertly flicking a booger off your finger. Watch Trace Bundy's Dueling Ninjas to see this technique at its finest.


Both two handed, and one handed, learn them both. Practice fun hammer-ons by throwing your fingers down into an open chord shape, one finger at a time, right after you pluck that string. Ex; For a open G chord, Pluck A string, then throw down pointer finger, then pluck E, and throw down middle finger, the e and the ring finger.

Then practice hammering a string with your right pointer finger, then sliding down, or up to a corresponding note.

These two techniques can be learnt simultaneously, to great effect. It really is immpressive to see.

Body Slapping.;

Have fun slapping, rapping your kuckles, finger thrumming, and swishing the fat of your palm over the body of your guitar, this is a stand out technique in Drifting, and shows that you are not just a master of tone, but aware of the timing and rhythym of your work.

There are dozens upon hundreds more possible combinations of techniques. Dirfting might also be defined as pushing a simple instrument to the limits of it's sound making ability.

Just be creative, and borrow techniques whenever possible.

Congrats, your a Drifter now!

These are some things you could do to be a GREAT Drifter, very soon.

- Besome Obssesive. Every cool looking skill takes work, but you can cut down on how long it will take by getting really serious, right now.

-Play with other drifters, and ask them what they do.

-Have someone play basic rythym guitar, or a drum to help you learn to improv.

-Learn your scales.

-Cover easy Pop songs. Learn the basic rhythym guitar, then add Drifting techniques till it's no longer rhythym guitar.

-Become obssesive. I wrote it twice on purpose. Get serious, and you'll get results.

Hope this helps.