Lesson 4: Changing Strings and Frets

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Learn how to access all the notes on your guitar in Armchair Guitarist.



Changing Strings and Frets

In the previous tutorial, we learned how to play notes in Armchair Guitarist. Some of you may be wondering, after this, what the use is of an instrument that only has five notes. Some of you may also be wondering why so much of the screen is wasted with the fret board. The good news is that the other five strings and 19 frets aren't there for nothing- Armchair Guitarist lets you play notes from any position on the fret board.

In this tutorial, we'll find out exactly how to do this.

Step 1: Changing Strings

The first thing we'll try here is changing strings. Armchair Guitarist has six strings, tuned to the same pitch as the strings on a regular, six-string guitar. To change strings, we use the Strum Bar or the up and down directions on the controller's D-Pad.

This behaviour is slightly different, depending on whether you're in Pick Mode or Tap Mode. We''ll start with Pick Mode- if you're not already in Pick Mode, change modes using the Back or Select button on your guitar controller.

Now, without pressing a Fret Button, strum down with the Strum Bar. You'll notice when you do this that the Fret Bar in the interface moves down to the next string. Now strum up, and the Fret Bar will move back up to the first string. Use this technique to move to each string on the Fret Board.

You'll see when you do this that the notes printed on the Fret Buttons in the interface change to reflect the string you're on.

Move the Strum Bar up and down while not playing to change Strings

So, how does this behave when we want to play notes? Try it, as described in the previous tutorial- you'll see that, in Pick Mode, when you are holding a Fret Button down, using the strum bar will play the note, but the Fret Bar will remain in place- in Pick Mode you cannot change strings and play notes at the same time.

Obviously, this isn't great if you're trying to play a solo that involves using more than one string (pretty much a given, unless you happen to be the frog from Nice to Be Here). This is where Tap Mode comes in.

Select Tap Mode on your controller, and, while playing notes, move up and down with the strum bar, as randomly as you like. Because you don't need to use the Strum Bar to play notes in Tap Mode, it is left free for changing strings! This leaves you free to construct fast and complex solos using all six strings, without having to take your fingers off the fret buttons.

The last thing to take note of here is what happens when you try to move the Fret Bar past the top or bottom of the Fret Board. You may even have noticed this already. When you try to move the Fret Bar it simply loops around- if you try to move past the bottom of the Fret Board you will end up at the top, and vice versa. Try this a few times until you get used to it.

There's one last thing to look at before we move on- to the right of the Mode Selector in the interface you'll see the Flip Strings button. This flips the fretboard over, so that the bass string is at the top of the fret board. Try it both ways until you find the way that is most comfortable for you.

Now that we've mastered the delicate art of changing strings, let's move on to Changing Frets.

Step 2: Changing Frets

As well as the six strings described in the previous step, Armchair Guitarist gives you access to 24 Frets, plus an Open String.

In the default position, the Fret Buttons are positioned over the first four frets, and the open string. The Open String is seperated from the others by the Bridge, and is darker than the other frets. This is played using the Green button, when the Fret Bar is in the default position.

As with the Strings, though, very few guitarists are going to be content with just one!

To move the Fret Buttons to different frets, we use the D-Pad (Directional Pad). Try this now- find the D-Pad on your controller, and press the right direction once. You'll see that this moves the Fret Buttons in the interface up by five notes. Press it again, and it moves to the next five, and so on.

Move the D-Pad left and right while not playing to change Frets

As with changing Strings, you'll note that the notes on the buttons change as you change frets, as do the notes played by your instrument when you play them.

Now try pressing the left direction on the D-Pad. As you might expect, this causes the Fret Bar to move back in the other direction.

You may have noticed by now that moving between the Strum Bar and the D-Pad is a little inconvenient (this is worse on some guitars than on others). This is made slightly easier by the fact that the D-Pad and the Strum Bar are effectively the same thing as far as the computer's concerned, so you can use the D-Pad to change Strings as well as Frets, and even Play Notes in Pick Mode. The creveat with this is that the up and down directions on the D-Pad are reversed, so moving DOWN on the D-Pad will move the Fret Buttons UP instead.

Unlike changing Strings, there are no restrictions on when you can change Frets- since the left and right directions on the D-Pad are never used for Strumming, they can always be used to change strings, ragrdless of whether you're playing a note or not.

Finally, the same thing happens when you try to change to a fret that is too high or two low as what happens when changing strings- moving past the end of the fretboard will take you back to the first fret, and vice-versa.

In the final step of this tutorial, we will find out how to play notes on different strings and frets at the same time.

Step 3: Playing Notes on Different Strings and Frets

There will be times when you'll want to play notes that are on different strings and frets to your current position on the Fret Board. This is entirely possible, if not entirely practical in the current version.

Let's start by playing a note, in Tap Mode. Just press and hold any Fret Button. Now, while that note is playing, without releasing the button, change to a different string and fret- you'll notice that your first note doesn't stop playing when you change (this is more obvious if your instrument plays long notes- a single pluck on an "accoustic" guitar sampler doesn't last long!)- in fact, if you switch to Pick Mode and give it a quick strum, the same note is played again! This is because the note you select stays selected until you unselect it, and that only happens when you release the button.

Now, without releasing the first button, make sure you're on a different string or fret, and press a different Fret Button. You will hear the note on this button, from the current string and fret, playing the new note still without stopping the other one. You can do this until you run out of fingers, or run out of Fret Buttons, the only restriction being that you can't use the same button for more than one note.

Now for the final trick. Select a note using every available finger, as described above, in Tap Mode. Then, without releasing any of the notes, switch to Pick Mode. Strum. You'll hear all four notes (If you can play five, there's a spaniard who'd like to meet you) played as a chord. This is not useful for actually playing chords when performing live, but can be used when recording offline, or for creating interesting 'effects'.

This concludes the Changing Strings and Frets tutorial!

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