Publication Date

Winter 12-13-2019


Guitar techniques such as alternate tunings, capos, harmonics, and tapping have the potential to greatly expand both the tonal and percussive capabilities of the acoustic guitar. This work presents an examination of alternative techniques’ origins, recent developments, and contemporary applications. A historical thread of innovation and experimentation regarding alternative techniques is discovered by exploring works of composers such as Giovanni Paolo Foscarini, Fernando Sor, Andrés Segovia, Benjamin Britten, and Chet Atkins. Further contributing to the development of alternative techniques were advances in notation, specifically tablature. As a result, composers were able to express their creativity by incorporating alternative techniques such as alternate tunings, harmonics, and percussive performance – in which the performer uses their fingers and hands to strike the guitar at various locations to create a beat – with greater ease and intentionality. A final alternative technique discussed is the capo – full and partial. The use of one or more capos further expands the technical, harmonic, and sonic possibilities of the guitar. This work further presents in-depth analysis of various compositions by three composers: Andy McKee, Phil Keaggy, and the author. It is argued that when adequately understood and effectively implemented, alternative techniques provide a wealth of possibilities for even the most advanced composer.

Major Mentor

Mark Volker, Ph.D.

Second Mentor

David McKay, M.M.

Third Mentor

Paulo Oliveira, D.M.A.


Music, School of


Music and Performing Arts, College of

Document Type



Master of Music (MM)

Degree Level


Degree Grantor

Belmont University

Included in

Music Commons