In Unison

What it is about

Unisons. And octaves. And other intervals. And harmony.

How it was written

By exploring fingerstyle guitar techniques.

All together now

In Unison octaves (0:12)
In Unison octaves
In Unison octaves

In Unison octaves sets the tone of the piece. The picking thumb plays octaves and sets the tempo; two picking figures play unison and other intervals; and the fretting hand uses all four fingers.

Fingerstyle is a difficult technique to master. The picking thumb and fingers sometimes move in rhythm, sometimes in contrast, in twos and threes and fours. Three fretting fingers and often the little finger and, occasionally, the thumb, are called into action and have to move and stretch quickly into unusual shapes. Both hands need to co-ordinate with each other, especially at speed, for a smooth sound. The result is the equivalent of industrial precision engineering.

Fingers and thumbs

In Unison fingerstyle (0:10)
In Unison fingerstyle
In Unison fingerstyle

The sample demonstrates fingerstyle technique.

The harmony is your standard E power chord, a perennial favourite of guitarists. This version cannot be fingered easily as a chord, but it can be played fingerstyle. The two playing fingers have an easy job playing the open E and B strings. The ring finger of the fretting hand is stuck firmly in place on the fourth fret of the third string, in unison with the open B string. The playing thumb and the fretting index finger have the hard job, keeping in sync with each other on the onbeats.


In Unison chord progression (0:10)
In Unison chord progression
In Unison chord progression

The harmony features a chromatic progression B-A#-A-G#.

Chromatic movement between two notes a semitone apart, easy on a piano, is difficult on a guitar. Moving between two notes a semitone apart invariably means that chords have to be refingered and all four fingers of the fretting hand are often called into play. Chromatic runs of three or more semitones, such as in the sample, are rare, because they are so hard to finger. Maybe that is why the progression sounds so striking, noone has ever played it before.

Tech spec

Title: In Unison

Key: E

Tempo: 100bpm

Length: 3' 03"

Track 1: nylon guitar fingers

Track 2: nylon guitar thumb

Track 3: acoustic bass

Genre: Pop, Rock, Folk