Right Hand Technique

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by gregory70, Jun 27, 2005.

  1. gregory70

    gregory70 Supporting Member

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    When I used to play a lot of fingerstyle acoustic guitar, I "braced" my right hand against the pickguard with my pinkie. This offered stability, but reduced mobility. So I started playing without using my pinkie to anchor/brace against the guitar. My playing improved dramatically within a week or two.

    I've spent the last 5-6 years playing primarily electric blues with a pick. While I'm not bracing with my pinkie, I've noticed that I am forever brushing my pinkie against the pickguard as I play. In contrast, many of my favorite guitarists (e.g. SRV) have no contact with the body of the guitar as they play.

    Is this a bad habit? Should I aspire to hit the strings without any additional contact with the body of guitar? Your insight would be greatly appreciated!
     
  2. Kappy

    Kappy Member

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    I think as long as there's no undue muscle tension occuring when you play _and_ you can comfortably play as fast as you need or want _and_ you are content with your technique, then anything goes. That said, I personally think no anchors or touching is better overall. If you can retrain yourself without much difficulty you'll be better off. But again, if you're happy and comfortable when you play, let it ride.
     
  3. gregory70

    gregory70 Supporting Member

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    Thanks, that's what I thought. I feel like the touching (the guitar) might be slowing me down and interfering with my playing.

    Great... now to unlearn a nasty habit
     
  4. jzucker

    jzucker Supporting Member

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    I don't think there's any real concensus on that issue.

    McLaughlin doesn't touch and plays with tremendous speed but Dimeola does and he also plays with tremendous speed. Steve Morse and Frank Gambale touch also as does www.rustycooley.com who is perhaps the fastest player I've ever heard...
     
  5. lhallam

    lhallam Member

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    I agree, last year I started practicing without touching at all and after a year, I have found little difference.

    I barely touch the gtr and when I do, I seem to have a little better control, especically on the low strings. Also, I am able to mute the strings easier with my pinky extended.
     
  6. Kappy

    Kappy Member

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    I have a question for you guys with a laissez-faire approach to right hand picking technique who are also teachers. If you have a beginning student you don't examine his approach and make recommendations that might stave off bad habits down the road that might lead to undue tension or might be somewhat limiting? Do you just leave it to him to figure out?

    I was always told to avoid any anchors because they were potentially limiting, and because they weren't always conducive to a nice relaxed right hand. I'd probably suggest that to anyone starting out as well, but maybe I'm missing something.

    If a stiff wrist with tensed up forearm muscles and all speed picking coming from the elbow works so well for Steve Morse, does it mean it will for me? If I'm meant to be a great picker, will it matter whether I do it with tension or whether I do it with a relaxed technique?

    Just curious. I know there are no hard and fast rules that work for everyone, (as I said above "if it works, anything goes"), but I'm not so agnostic about anything that remotely resembles rules that I think certain principles/guidelines can just be dismissed.
     
  7. jzucker

    jzucker Supporting Member

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    Here's a list of pickers who touch their right hand to the guitar pickguard or body while they play:
    • George Benson
    • Tal Farlow
    • Rusty Cooley
    • Frank Gambale
    • Steve Morse
    • John Petrucci
    • Randy Johnston
    • Joe Diorio
    • Al Dimeola
    • Birelli Lagrene

    I don't think any of them are particularly limited, nor do the exhibit signs of right hand tension in their playing.

    I recommend students do touch their hand down as a reference point but it's always useful to experiment with different techniques. I know several guys who do not touch down generally but do so when they want to play fast. Dan Hovey does that.
     
  8. lhallam

    lhallam Member

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    Not sure I'd term my attitude as laissez-faire.

    In my classical gtr playing, my rt hand floats free and all muting is done with fingers of both hands, the same goes for fingerpicking. I taught my classical students to use the time honored technique.

    Steve Morse stresses that his technique is for him and not necessarily right for you and I agree.

    Like I said, I haven't found my touching to be tense or limiting. On fast lines, I barely touch the gtr, the pinky sort of skates along with no pressure, it's not anchored or resting per se. No one taught me right hand technique so this is all from old habit.

    When I found out that this was theoretically bad, I began practicing free float, no difference for me.

    Most of the time, I'm using hybred technique. Sometimes I use economy picking, sometimes alternate picking, sometimes I'm floating, other times I'm touching.

    If the student is a beginner I would say to use the floating technique.

    For a more advanced student I would show them a variety of ways others have done it and let them suss it out.

    There's a smoking player in these parts who uses a thin thumb pick and you wouldn't believe how fast and clean he is with a fine tone. He seems to break all the rules.

    For all students, I stressed:

    Relax
    Breath
    Keep you elbow by your side
    Do not lean into the gtr
    Do not scrunch your shoulder up and/or move it forward.
     
  9. Kappy

    Kappy Member

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    You guys raise good points about being open to different right hand techniques. There are plenty of great players who anchor or do weird abberant things with their picking hand.

    I tried to emulate Paul Gilbert's right hand when I was going to GIT and I guess I just stuck with that style of right hand as a dogma point for picking fast. At the time he was one of the best pickers I'd ever seen for sheer fluidity. Guthrie Govan's another one with similar technique. I don't even play that kinda' music, but those guys are picking insanely clean and accurately and if you watch their right hand they're pretty relaxed. Seems to work for them. To each his own I guess.
     
  10. jzucker

    jzucker Supporting Member

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    The irony is that if you watch mclaughlin's hand, it looks incredibly tense but it's not. Looks can be deceiving. I used to float and my guitar teacher at the University of Miami switched me to touching. I always wished I had stuck with floating!
     
  11. Ed DeGenaro

    Ed DeGenaro Supporting Member

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    Why? With floating your muting is way restricted...I would think.
     
  12. Kappy

    Kappy Member

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    I don't find it to be so. The muting just kinda' shifts more to the area of the fat part of the thumb and your lower palm.
     
  13. lhallam

    lhallam Member

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    Not exactly sure what you're describing. With my right hand facing me I've got the fleshy part under my thumb (to the right of my lifeline) and the fleshy part near the side of my hand (to the left of my lifeline).

    When you're playing the top three strings, which part are you using to mute?
     
  14. Kappy

    Kappy Member

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    Those strings get muted with more of the karate chop part of the palm, but if I'm playing on the lower 2 or 3, the muting is done more by the fleshy part below my thumb.

    Since this thread started I got a chance to look more closely at what I was doing while I was playing. I noticed that I'm muting all the time. So, I'm basically lightly anchored to the strings at all times when playing single note lines. But any open ringing string cross picking stuff is done completely untethered.
     
  15. lhallam

    lhallam Member

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    Same here.
     
  16. Ed DeGenaro

    Ed DeGenaro Supporting Member

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    I must misunderstand something here. When the palm makes contact with the strings how is the hand floating?
     
  17. Kappy

    Kappy Member

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    It's not. Yes, it's technically anchored to the strings. But is that really "anchoring"? There would be no way to play electric without doing some kind of muting like that. Regardless, it's not anchored twice: once to the strings and another time somewhere else with the pinky or other fingers on the body of the guitar (which is what I tend to think of when I think of anchoring).
     
  18. Ed DeGenaro

    Ed DeGenaro Supporting Member

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    That was my earlier point.
    IMO any contact with the instrument isn't floating.
     
  19. EricT

    EricT Member

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    Just want to add that Vinnie Moore used to play with a stiff wrist and all the motion coming from the elbow. But he had to completely change his technique because of "tennis elbow" or a similar repetetive stress syndrome.
    As a general rule, I guess too much tension is a bad thing no matter what technique you use.
     
  20. jzucker

    jzucker Supporting Member

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    There's no consensus on that either. Johnny Smith played from the elbow and Dennis Sandole advocated playing from the elbow. I don't think there's any generalization you can make about a particular technique being more prone to tendonitis.
     

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