Jerry Preston Talks About Two-Handed Tapping (2/12/07)


Jerry Preston

The Rochester Guitar Club met with eighteen members in attendance at 7:00 pm, Monday, February 12, 2007 at Bernie Lehmann’s building, 34 Elton Street. The evening was pleasurably spent with special guest, Jerry Preston, presenting his unusual percussive style of music making. Jerry is enthusiastic about his music and easily established a rapport with the audience musically and personally.

The most striking feature of this style of playing is the aggressive use of percussive techniques achieved by both hands tapping and slapping on the guitar, while simultaneously executing normal picking techniques. Jerry explained that he started out as a “metal head,” but changed horses midstream when he encountered the music and stylings of Michael Hedges. His own style has developed from these influences, and by tinkering with his instruments at every opportunity. He uses the edge of his right hand on the strings, emphasizing thumb and pinky while the middle finger strikes the middle strings, frequently working in tapping with both hands on various parts of the body for a variety of effects. The left hand sometimes approaches the frets in the conventional manner and at other times from the top side of the guitar. Jerry also suggests having the pickup at the bridge for stronger percussive effects.


a tap-tap-tappin’

It is interesting that Jerry says that rhythm did not come easily to him. Consequently his playing and composing have evolved with a more interpretive rubato approach to timing and use of a variety of unusual time signatures, even in one piece. He commented that sometimes his teachers have been frustrated by his tendency to play outside strict mathematical time signatures, but Jerry feels that his approach allows for greater expressiveness, particularly in this genre of music. He also asserts that melody is the most important aspect of his music and shouldn’t necessarily be fettered by strict meter.

Jerry experiments with string gauges and a great variety of tunings, all of which are based on DADGAD rather than standard tuning. He feels that in standard tuning he is too aware of classic intervals and harmonies and prefers the sonorities and surprises of unusual tunings. He used a small amplifier to enhance his unusual effects.

Jerry plays with acrylic nails and discussed the use of nails vs. fingerpicks which he doesn’t care for, especially metal ones because they click and don’t feel as natural. The percussive techniques take their toll not only on his nails, but also on his Taylor guitar which he sends to the factory twice a year for rebuilding, which always includes a new saddle and nut and sometimes frets, too! So be forewarned.


Members try their hand at tapping

Jerry treated us to numbers such as Michael Hedges’ Sister Soul, Ragamuffin, Drifting, and an original, Four Years After, inspired by his dog with a syncopated gait! When asked about composing, Jerry noted his need for visual images to write a song. Included with the presentation were a CD and printout of several tunes which we were invited to experiment with. The music was from an excellent website source for fingerstyle guitar information and transcriptions,

His advice for us: analyze after creating, not before, practice a lot, keep the right hand moving and do things for a reason.

The presentation lasted till nearly 9 pm, when we broke for refreshments followed by round robin playing for those who could stay. We look forward to meeting again on Monday, March 12. There should be more time for member playing since there is no special guest for this meeting.

— Richard Taglieri, photos by Kinloch Nelson

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