Soprano Guitar Magic- August Rex

What would happen if you took a guitar and tuned all the strings up one octave higher in pitch? Well, you’d have to buy a new set of strings for starters (they would most certainly all snap!) – or you could just go out and buy a Soprano guitar with the correct gauge strings.

In this video, Swedish multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire August Rex performs an original classical/gypsy/ style original song entitled “The Blowlamp Jig” that also includes a solid rhythm guitar backing track.

The picking on this is superb, but before you close your eyes to enjoy- I want you to play close attention to his use of the upstroke picking on the descending arpeggios- WOW- too cool, and what a conservation of energy. This is known (as I’ve mentioned here on the site before) as “sweep picking” which is basically a strum downwards or upwards but only to play single note arpeggios instead of chords. The degree of difficulty to play this is intense and almost a mystery to pickers like myself who only use the “down-up” style of picking. The difficulty is the slower speed at which the pick needs to travel and the interruption and recovery to play in time that happens when coming off a single string down-up phrase.

August who makes this technique look too easy, is using it in a way however that is not common at all. Instead of doing the traditional gypsy downstrokes, he’s only using upstrokes. Turns out that the composition itself plays into his strength- resulting in a very musical piece of music that most musicians will not be able to pull off (unless they are an expert at this upstroke sweep picking or have incredible chops with the down-up).

Here’s a rundown from about the Soprano Guitar ( August however is tuning his one octave from guitar E A D G B E):
“Soprano Guitar is a 6-string, nylon string instrument, with the body size of a baritone ukulele and tuned with the same intervals of a guitar at a 1/5th higher register. In other words, A D G C E A. The sound is like that of a more complete ukulele, using the same chord shapes as played on guitar. These instruments are beautiful sounding and a great cross-over instrument for either a ukulele player who wants more or a guitar player who loves the higher register of the ukulele.”

As a comparison, here’s a video of Jessie McReynolds with his mandolin cross-picking technique. You will notice that Jessie is still picking the notes using the “Up-Down” picking direction instead of what August is doing.


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