Lighten up already..!

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by erksin, Apr 1, 2005.


  1. erksin

    erksin Member

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    Not you - me...

    I strangle my guitar necks. Always had a very hard picking attack, and my fretting hand seems to follow by 'vice-gripping' every note and chord. Obviously, that slows down a lot of my playing speed/dexterity potential and it certainly adds to my tendonitis problems of late.

    As somebody who's been playing this way for 28 years - what advice could any of you give me for developing a lighter touch? It seems like I can 'control' it for a short while, and then once I get into playing it rears it's ugly head again.

    Thanks for your suggestions!
     
  2. dave s

    dave s Member

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    I'm watching your post with great interest. Same sitch with my playing ... mostly when on stage.

    C'mon folks--come clean with the goods for the heavy-handed folks on board.

    dave
     
  3. aleclee

    aleclee TGP Tech Wrangler Staff Member

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    I haven't figured out a good way to lighten up with the left hand (except maybe playing a scalloped neck) but I find that playing a touch-sensitive amp helps one develop a sense of touch. If getting new amps isn't your speed :eek: then playing clean at higher-than-normal volume or edge of distortion might be a good exercise. Keeping things from distorting or getting too loud would help you develop the habit of lighter picking.
     
  4. Stormy

    Stormy Member

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    V-A-L-I-U-M about 10mg should do the trick ;)
     
  5. decay-o-caster

    decay-o-caster Member

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    My problem as well. Working towards a cure by:

    1) Lighter guage strings. I put them on one guitar to give myself a really light action, and I found that I wasn't fighting the guitar so much. I went from 11s to 10s on short scales, and from 10s to 9s on Fender scales. Made a real difference.

    2) Different chord voicings. Using 3-note chords (either Freddy Green style, or CAGED style voicings) got me out of using barre chords, and also seemed to lighten my touch quite a bit. Now I use barres as flavors, not as the only way I play rhythm.

    3) An exercise I came up with in which I'd NOT use my left thumb to hold the back of the neck. By intentionally not using it, it really did lighten my touch up quite a bit.

    Now, in the excitement of the moment I do sometimes overdo it, but I'm very conscious of it pretty quickly and back off now.

    I dunno, probably won't work for anyone but me, but these are what I do.
     
  6. trisonic

    trisonic Member

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    Tomo Fujita wrote a recipe on one of his threads for me to try to overcome this - you'll have to do a search!

    David - What is available on CAGED in the 'States? Or rather where did you get the info from?

    Best, Pete.
     
  7. littlemoon

    littlemoon Member

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    Loosen your grip. Seriously - it's the only way out of the problem and and an instant cure.

    Too tense and anxious to loosen your grip, or your hand won't cooperate? What you have here is a dissociation reaction where you're separating your sense of self from your hand, which, of course, is psychological tom foolery that earthlings seem prone to do to themselves.

    Remedy? Refuse to accept this neurotic state of affairs and reclaim your hand and the responsibility for your tight grip. It won't happen instantly, but the hand once belonged to you, and you can take it back.

    You might first learn a couple of coping mechanisms, like playing more slowly or softly with much more space between lines, while you learn to become uncritically aware of the tension, advancing toward your goal of relaxing your grip. You might also try starting your practice routines with a deliberately tight grip, relaxing your hand in stages until it's completely relaxed. This will reaquaint yourself with and reinforce the process of moving from a tense grip to a relaxed grip.

    The idea here is to try to artificially recreate the anxiety and helpless feeling you experience when the malady strikes (usually during a high pressure performance); so you can learn to consistently find your way out of it without being overcome or impeded by the fear turning in a bad performance.

    The same kind of tense grip can affect tennis players, who must keep a relaxed grip on their racket to have control over their shot pace and placement. Too tight a grip leads to very little ball control and a clinical case of tennis elbow. A light touch is absolutely necessary to feel your way through a controlled shot. Pro players train hard to maintain a light grip on their racket in high pressure situations.

    Once you regain control of your hand, you'll be able to relax it at will, anytime, like magic.

    littlemoon
     
  8. decay-o-caster

    decay-o-caster Member

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    Pete - I believe there are websites on it. Do a search on CAGED on this forum and I think someone put one up. And I should do more research into the whole thing, so maybe I'll do the search and post the link when I find it.

    But I got the concepts I use from Bill (like I got all my guitars, most of my amps, and a huge number of my pedals... :rolleyes: ). What I was really trying to say there in my clumsy shorthand was the idea of the open position 3- and 4-note chord shapes, but moved over the neck as appropriate. So one Fmaj chord voicing looks likes an open Dmaj, except on the 5th and 6th frets instead of the 2nd and 3rd frets (xxx565, low to high). Move the root down two frets and you have the 7th (xxx545), move the third down a fret and you have the minor (xxx564 for Fmin, xxx544 for Fmin7, etc.).

    By using smaller voicings and not barring as much, I find I hurt less - I don't grip nearly as tightly. And it has other benefits as well - it's far less muddy than 2 guys slamming 6-string barre chords at each other when you're playing with another guitarist or with keyboards. And by using the right chord tones in your solos, you actually outline changes much better.
     
  9. Dave Orban

    Dave Orban Gold Supporting Member

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    I have been known to be a heavy-handed player.

    There was a time about 8-9 years ago when I could be expected to break two or three strings at every gig!

    It's only been in the last couple of years that it subsided. I think a lot of it came from lacking both technique and self confidence. And, as I made improvements in both areas, I find that I have relaxed my grip, and have much greater control, overall.

    I still can get pretty heavy-handed from time to time during a gig, but now it's much more controlled, and is done to advance a solo or a particular passage within a song...

    FWIW, I typically play 12s or 13s these days...
     
  10. spencerbk

    spencerbk Member

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    1) Put your first finger at the 12th fret on the low e-string and pick once and sound the harmonic.

    2) Now press just a little harder on the string and pick again

    3) Repeat step two until on the 10th pick you've pressed down hard enough that your string reaches the point you hear the tone of a fretted note

    4) Repeat steps 1-3 for all 4 fingers on all six strings

    If you haven't guessed, by the time you reach the fretted tone you are pressing at the absolute minimum pressure you need to create a good tone. After one run of this excercise you'll be pressing lighter for a while. Do it everday and you'll completely retrain your hand.

    Having said that, this super light touch doesn't work as well for, say, bending or reaching certain chords. But it's nice to get out of hammer-finger funk.

    Credit this one, "the ten gridations," to my old teacher, Anthony Michael Peterson.
     
  11. Claptone

    Claptone Member

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    Close your eyes and don't think about how you are playing just what you are playing. Taking your thumb off the neck should only happen when vibratoing. You can also put your thumb over the top,like blues players, this will help relieve tension.
     
  12. jaimo

    jaimo Member

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    The following two suggestions seem simple, but you have to practice them almost as a meditation to overcome some bad habits which constrain most of us.

    From Tomo Fujita - Rehearse with your guitar plugged into your amp. Amp volume up considerably. Guitar set to bridge pickup with as trebly a tone that it will make. Now. Attempt to practice scales, chords, timing, etc. while trying to keep your dynamics and tone as soft and smooth as you can. This makes you lighten up on your grip and and rethink and readjust your picking. A great exercise. Difficult.

    From Eric Johnson - Breathe, Relax. Sounds like something you would do naturally, yes? Wrong. I personally have said, and heard many other players say after they have played a difficult piece, "(Big Sigh) I can take a breathe now." Learning to relax and breathe normally while your playing is a great help. You have to keep the oxygen going. When you can think of it, start playing a piece as you would normally play. Then, straighten up, relax and breathe WHILE your still playing. The difference in your mindset and physical state may astound you.

    These methods work. Now, I just need turn them from a meditation into my normal approach to playing.
     
  13. Tomo

    Tomo Member

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    Hi jaimo,

    Thank you for mentioning.

    Let's me add a bit more......
    Most problem is people play or practice without amps.
    But how to set up the amp. I always tell my student to
    set up .... treble 7, middle 4... bass 2-3.. this way
    the sound is not boomy and you can hear every notes
    you play... hear all left hand noises and subtle nuances
    on both hands.

    I never use my reverb at my house. Because mess up with
    my playing, covers my time... as if my playing is ok...
    So I try to get the good tone by playing with pure bright
    tone and pick softly to get more warmer tone. I only
    use my rear pickup to practice... as if my instrument is
    drums, trumpet...piano.

    Practice specific exercises on your goal is important
    as well as you practice like your performance. Too much
    practicing is not so good... you want to create very musical
    expression on even ONE NOTE... so quality is always first.
    no waste any notes without feeling. That's my rule.

    To understand these ideas on your head is not enough.
    Actually if you understand to fast... you'll forget all the
    points. I always stress on sound... record your performance
    and review your playing by your ears is only way to improve
    your playing. Make musical statement from nothing(anything).

    One more (for me) always eat a lot before you play.
    if I get hungry.. i can't concentrate anything.

    I really believe anybody can improve(fix) this problem.
    because you create the problem, you can fix it. I did it.


    Tomo
     
  14. John Hurtt

    John Hurtt Supporting Member

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    Some really good advice in this thread. I think Tomo really nails it down in a practical way. This is discussed in Tomo's instructional DVD, "Accelerate Your Guitar Playing". I just got this a few days ago and have spent a bit of time with it. This is just one of the many things he covers, he makes it look so easy!
     
  15. Guinness Lad

    Guinness Lad Silver Supporting Member

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    I have a lot of people tell me that I play with a real light touch and never really thought much about it but I will offer some useful advice of things I have done working on my technique over time.

    1. Do not wrap your thumb around the neck of the guitar, it's not a baseball bat, treat it as such.

    2. Do you have your guitar strung so low that it's hanging at your knees? If so raise it so it's between your chest and stomach.

    3. Do this exercise without an amp. Play 4 note patterns, it can be anything. Start with 1,2,3,4, on frets 1 through 4. Play the first note loud then the other 3 soft as possible. After you do this mix it up changing out the loud note and making all the others soft.

    4. I like playing without an amp because if my technique sucks I'll hear it.

    5. Change picks, try different picks. When I used to play with a pick I used the Jim Dunlop jazz III's. I used the side of the pick and would only hold it with enough pressure to keep it in my hand. Do you strangle the pick? Think about it. This creates a shitload of tension in your wrist which eventually works into everything else.

    6. Practice hitting one string over and over varying from loud to soft. Hit the note let it ring out, listen to the tone then repeat at a lower volume listen for the differences in tone.

    7. Practice releasing the note after hitting it. Do it just enough to release the arm pressure but not enough to kill the note.

    8. Play fingerstyle, this will give you a different perspective.

    If I think of anything more I'll post it. Hope this is helpful. :)
     
  16. JPF

    JPF Member

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    Great question and some great advice here. I'm tend to clamp down with my left hand as well, it sounds as though those of us who play righty need to physically loosen up our left hands, and mentally loosen up our right-side brain ;)

    I'm going to try and combine littlemoon's mind adjustment approach with harry's physical one, and think more about eq setting as jaimoe and tomo point out - I'd never thought of that part of the equation.

    Great thread - thanks:dude
     
  17. darial

    darial Guest

    Light left hand touch is certainly required to play fast. I'd say the easiest way to get there is first to clean up your left hand positioning (thumb behind neck) and then work on gradually increasing speed excercises. You'll be forced to lighten up to keep up.

    A light right hand can be a curse though, if you ever have to play anything hard. The technique people I respect the most use a fairly tight grip, and make all movements from the wrist. The force behind those wrist movements determines how hard they pick.
     
  18. LHanson

    LHanson Member

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    Unsolicited tag-along: E.J. also suggests keeping your shoulders soft and loose as a way to increase speed and control.
     
  19. Tomo

    Tomo Member

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    Hi John,

    Check this thread,
    http://www.thegearpage.net/board/showthread.php?s=&threadid=75530&highlight=tomo

    It's very similar idea... soft playing... better tone!

    Thank you for using my DVD! I really look forward
    to hear more your thought later.

    Thanks,

    PS, when I send your live cds order...
    would like to take a look at my Accelerate 2?


    Tomo
     
  20. John Hurtt

    John Hurtt Supporting Member

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    "Accelerate 2" is already out? I thought that you were still recording that bad boy? I'm really diggin' the first one, some really easy to implement ideas and techniques that show real improvement fast! Let me stop, I sound like a tv ad announcer.

    Sure, I'd like to check out Volume 2.
     

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