Accents

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by j_uc, May 26, 2008.

  1. j_uc

    j_uc Member

    Messages:
    75
    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2008
    There have been regular discussions about picking technique and about how "swing" is created. I haven't found much discussion about the importance of accenting notes, i.e. how certain notes are picked louder than others to create contrast. How relevant do you think accents are to creating a sense of swing, and which technique do you use?
     
  2. Austinrocks

    Austinrocks Member

    Messages:
    7,026
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2007
    Very important, probably the most important element of music, I use as an

    uh 1 uh 2 with a up down, to get the accent.
     
  3. mike walker

    mike walker Member

    Messages:
    4,154
    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2008
    Location:
    manchester England
    Divide into a triplet and play 1st and third notes. Play slowly on a regular scale. tri-pe-let tri-pe-let. so you make a movement in the air with your pick but miss out the middle part of the triplet. Keep this going a while and you'll eventually hear the notes you are playing as swing quavers. Play this way and go straight into a standard without stopping. Keep the feel.
    I did this a long long time ago. i was 18. It's got a pretty good swing feel at an uptempo. Musically it goes on a bit. But as an illustration of upswing it's not bad for young'n.


    http://www.mike-walker.co.uk/audio/Therewillneverbeanuddereweextract.mp3
     
  4. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Supporting Member

    Messages:
    9,476
    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2005
    Location:
    we eat a lot of cheese and drink a lot of beer
    Good topic- honestly, I could talk for hours about this subject as I've given it a lot of thought. But I'll try and keep it short... :D


    First I think it's good to separate this topic into two areas- timbre and phrasing. With timbre the first thing I realized is that upstrokes and downstrokes sound different. Not just mine, but all player's. That's one reason I've never been a proponent of strict alternate picking- I like to use a particular stroke for it's sound as much for it's technique. More on this in a bit...

    The next issue is phrasing. The funny thing is I realized how phrasing is affected by your picking strokes by someone that doesn't even use a pick- Wes Montgomery. Wes used his thumb, but in much the same manner of a pick. To me Wes always had great phrasing- one of the few guitarist that had as personal a swagger as the saxophone players I loved. What I realized is that while a lot of it was just him, much had to do with his physical technique. If you hold your thumb like Wes and pluck notes, you'll probably first notice that the downstrokes are much louder than the upstrokes. But another thing you'll notice is how quick the upstrokes happen- because it's not a natural movement for your thumb it really "pops" when you do a downstroke. If you try and play even 8ths alternating downs and ups with your thumb the ups will naturally sound a bit ahead of the beat. Try it. This is a lot of what gives Wes his natural phrasing. He tended to use mostly downstrokes, and he would switch up where the upstrokes were depending upon the phrase and the accents he wanted. And of course his ups and downs both had a very different timbre.

    Anyway, it's all very similar with a pick, just not as pronounced. For almost all players it's easier to play downstrokes- the ups are the thing they need to work on. But just like with Wes and his thumb, at the same time they are naturally rushed as the upstroke is a much quicker movement. And a lot of it has to do with how you hold your pick and the angle of your pick to the string. A guy like Benson who holds his pick in a reverse angle to the strings than many players actually gives the advantage to the upstroke motion. His upstokes really cut the string and there's less resistance.

    So, what picking technique do I use? I guess it's a loose version of economy picking. But I also use a ton of slurs, pull-offs, hammer-ons, etc. I definitely try and take advantage of the way the different strokes sound. Because of that I'll often play different left hand fingerings than others might, like putting a note on a different string to then use a different stroke. This also has the added benefit of creating a more different timbre too, as a different string will sound different. Take this phrase- play it as a repeating triplet:


    1)
    2)
    3)
    4)4-5-7-4-5-7-4-5-7
    5)
    6)

    Now try this:


    1)
    2)
    3)
    4)--5-7----5-7----5-7
    5)9------9------9
    6)

    It's the same notes, but it sounds different. And this:


    1)
    2)
    3)
    4)-------7----------7----------7
    5)9-10------9-10-------9-10
    6)



    Different still. That's the kind of thing I worked on- trying lines different ways until I found the timbre and phrasing I thought fit the line best. I'll also start with an upstroke on a downbeat if the accents will fall better that way for the phrase. I kept doing that in the woodshed and eventually it happens naturally in a playing context. Some of it is intentional and a lot of it is subconscious- I didn't even realize how much I did it till I took a lesson with a local player and he pointed it out to me.
     
  5. mike walker

    mike walker Member

    Messages:
    4,154
    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2008
    Location:
    manchester England
    Rob,
    Just a thought. Downstrokes easier coz they go with the pull of gravity? Upstrokes against the gravitational pull.

    Thoughts?
     
  6. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Supporting Member

    Messages:
    9,476
    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2005
    Location:
    we eat a lot of cheese and drink a lot of beer
    Maybe. I think it has more to do with the pick angle, and also the motion of your arm/wrist. If you hold a pick like most player on a downstroke the pick is angled in the direction of the stroke, but on an upstroke the angle of the pick is kind of fighting the motion and there's more friction on the string. With a downstroke the pick usually has a lot of follow through past the string, but on an upstroke the stroke sort of stops right after the string. I think it's just not as natural a motion for your hand. Again, if you flip your grip around like Benson, the upstrokes are much easier to play and you have more follow though. But it feels funny for most players and to be honest I don't really like the timbre (but a lot of guys do).
     
  7. j_uc

    j_uc Member

    Messages:
    75
    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2008
    Thanks for the replies - very informative !
    Mike - I will try the exercise.
    rockinrob - thanks for the exercise suggestions.
    About technique... my jazz teacher from ten years ago once explained to me how he accented notes and he would accent by squeezing the pick on the relevant notes. The "squeeze" did not involve just finger extremities but the whole hand - hard to describe in words. He got a great swinging, pulsating sound from his right hand. He also was a master of a middle eastern string instrument (a type of lute) and I wonder if the idea might have come from there. The technique turned out incredibly difficult for me and I never mastered it. Back to the guitar some years later I'm trying to replicate this, only a bit differently and more simply, based on a GB grip, by pressing the pick tighter between the thumb and index flesh pads when I want to accent a note.
    As you say rockinrob the upstrokes are facilitated with the GB approach. They are still a different stroke from the downstroke but in terms of the string resistance met it is more or less exactly the same, and it does not feel less natural, at least not to me.

    Just an anecdote and take it for what it is, as I'm just a beginner who just took up the instrument again. Recently I'd been trying to learn a fast solo line in an otherwise slow and largely chord-based ballad. Initially I practiced it "dumbly" by endless repetition at a slower speed, until I realized it would never happen if I didn't figure out the timing and the accents. First found it had a "quintuplet" (don't know if that's the right term) in it which gave it that peculiar flow played fast over the 3/4 tempo. But what really nailed it for me was finding out where the accents fell. Fairly quickly I was able to play it to speed, a convincing imitation of the original, which was nice, as I initially thought it would take me months to be able to play "that fast". Adding the time and accent factors to complete the equation was what nailed it for me. It was an interesting lesson.
     
  8. mike walker

    mike walker Member

    Messages:
    4,154
    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2008
    Location:
    manchester England
    Rob,
    I think for me the 'follow thru' you mention and the pick stopping after an upstroke is gravitational. Angles matter but downstrokes are stronger because gravity is pulling them down.
    J-uc,
    Glad to help.
    Mike
     

Share This Page