Some signature Giltrap hammer-on and pull-off technique
Download the tablature here: The Racer – Full Score
I find revisiting old compositions fascinating – especially if it is a piece I haven’t really looked at in quite some time. This month’s piece in our DADGAD series is a prime example. After my friend and transcriber Mark Thomson has sent through the final thing I obviously go through it bar by bar. The main thing that occurs to me is this: what was my mindset when I first composed it? Was I focusing on certain aspects of my technique, or was I looking purely at creating a memorable tune? My guess is that we have a mixture of both here.
There is no point in saying there are some tricky and challenging passages here when in fact the whole thing, as far as I’m concerned, is challenging from start to finish. My lovely wife Hilary has often said, “Why do you make things so difficult and complicated?” and it’s because that’s what a particular piece of music demands.
My friend Raymond Burley – who has created some cracking arrangements of my music for classical guitar in standard tuning – has often asked why I write in open tunings. The answer is that, to me, it just sounds better. You cannot create the sustain and ringing tones with some of these tunes of mine in standard tuning – and, anyway, the tuning inspired the piece so that is surely justification for doing so.
The title of this piece came from my wife who said it reminded her of a graceful racehorse. As I said, much of it is a tad challenging but I would like to look at bars eight, 16, 26 and 55 where we have my typical signature “out of nowhere” hammer-ons.
I have always favoured a low action on all my instruments and will not go higher than an 11-gauge string set. The main reason is that I have never considered myself to have a particularly strong left hand technique, so both a low action and lighter strings help to execute these tricky passages for me.
The other tricky hammer section is in bars 26 and 27 where that bar leads smoothly into the next section. There is also a sneaky hammer on the fifth fret, sixth string so watch out for that. Bar 35 comes under the “tricky” heading as does bar 45 with the chromatic pull-off, which I must admit isn’t easy. As a younger player I found them a piece of cake, but in old age, these fingers of mine don’t quite work in the same way. There’s an admission!
The final four bars I have always found interesting with their use of open and fretted notes to create that lovely flow. I have always experienced a sense of relief when I play those final bars, but also an immense feeling of satisfaction. I sincerely hope that you feel the same once you have got it under your fingers.