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Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.

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Rick Fielding 15 Jul 02 - 11:25 AM
Rick Fielding 15 Jul 02 - 11:31 AM
Justa Picker 15 Jul 02 - 11:41 AM
C-flat 15 Jul 02 - 11:41 AM
Wesley S 15 Jul 02 - 01:32 PM
Don Firth 15 Jul 02 - 02:10 PM
Whistle Stop 15 Jul 02 - 03:11 PM
Jeri 15 Jul 02 - 03:27 PM
Mudlark 15 Jul 02 - 03:48 PM
Benjamin 15 Jul 02 - 05:06 PM
GUEST,CraigS 15 Jul 02 - 06:53 PM
Steve-o 15 Jul 02 - 07:51 PM
Murray MacLeod 15 Jul 02 - 08:07 PM
NicoleC 16 Jul 02 - 01:56 AM
Kaleea 16 Jul 02 - 02:14 AM
Murray MacLeod 16 Jul 02 - 04:09 AM
Benjamin 16 Jul 02 - 04:54 AM
Rick Fielding 16 Jul 02 - 10:59 AM
Jeri 16 Jul 02 - 11:28 AM
Steve-o 16 Jul 02 - 11:55 AM
M.Ted 16 Jul 02 - 12:46 PM
JedMarum 16 Jul 02 - 12:54 PM
JedMarum 16 Jul 02 - 01:06 PM
Whistle Stop 16 Jul 02 - 02:04 PM
Don Firth 16 Jul 02 - 04:18 PM
GUEST,CraigS 16 Jul 02 - 07:19 PM
Don Firth 17 Jul 02 - 02:48 AM
Don Firth 17 Jul 02 - 12:56 PM
NicoleC 17 Jul 02 - 11:44 PM
Murray MacLeod 18 Jul 02 - 03:17 AM
GUEST,MichaelAnthony 18 Jul 02 - 03:28 AM
Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull 18 Jul 02 - 03:35 AM
Murray MacLeod 18 Jul 02 - 03:39 AM
Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull 18 Jul 02 - 03:44 AM
Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull 18 Jul 02 - 03:46 AM
Murray MacLeod 18 Jul 02 - 03:51 AM
Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull 18 Jul 02 - 03:54 AM
Rick Fielding 18 Jul 02 - 09:35 AM
Marion 19 Jul 02 - 04:35 PM
Rick Fielding 19 Jul 02 - 06:35 PM
Murray MacLeod 19 Jul 02 - 06:45 PM
C-flat 19 Jul 02 - 06:54 PM
JedMarum 19 Jul 02 - 06:57 PM
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Subject: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 15 Jul 02 - 11:25 AM

I used to start a lot of technical threads for several reasons; A: it was fun, B: folks seemed to appreciate it, and C: I learned one hell of a lot from all the feedback.

Stopped doing it about a year ago, not just because my illness (discussed elsewhere) robbed me of most of my energy, but also because we'd all thrown so much info out there that was so easily retrievable, there didn't seem much point in re-hashing everything.

But there are so many good new folks around Mudcat (and some dynamite musicians from what I can gather) that maybe it's time to throw out a few technical things again. If we HAVE discussed these topics before, perhaps a Joe Clone can direct folks to those threads. (I can barely remember what I had for breakfast, let alone whether we've talked "hand positions")

Several times in the past week I've had the opportunity to sit and jam with a number of first class guitarists...all with COMPLETELY different styles....hence different results, but I want to talk strictly about VOLUME for the moment.

I've always been taken with Mudcatter Jed Marum's ability to extract the last bit of sound out of his Larrivee (in his hands it has almost a "lute" quality)

Well, I watched him VERY closely, and here's a few things that he does: His right hand is VERY arched...a bit like a classical position, BUT he uses his fingerNAILS....his fingers are generally straight, coming down at right angles to the string (as opposed to my general style of a very low hand position and fingers bent at a 45 degree angle....much more bluesy)

Now most of the folks I've seen who employ Jed's style play in an ALMOST classical milieu, and right on the beat. Jed, however can swing like mad when he wants to....and that means a LOT of finger control. He also employs a few tricks like a "trailing finger" that can brush EITHER back and forth, after a picking pattern. Perhaps he'll notice this and elucidate a bit.

Anyway, he gets double the volume out of his guitar than I would have expected....it's the nails...but also the finger angle....and it's HARD to do!

Any thoughts?

Cheers

Rick


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 15 Jul 02 - 11:31 AM

One more thing.....this "percussive" style is really prevalent on the new album (Producer and Mudcatter Paul Mills let Heather and I hear the finished tapes last night) but without actually SEEING Jed play, I'd have been a bit stumped at HOW he got that sound.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Justa Picker
Date: 15 Jul 02 - 11:41 AM

Good thread!
I think also the hand angle determines the "snap" you get out of your fingerpicking and the attack on the strings. Naturally when you're dampening or muting the strings, you're going to have a much shallower angle of attack and more thrust is going to come from the end joints of the picking fingers. Same holds true in general if you use a more "crouched" hand position even if you're not muting.

With a higher arc or angle of attack, you tend to be able to use more of the entire finger in achieving more volume. You also wanna make sure that if you really like to get a lot of snap out of the guitar to have it setup with medium action. Low action and lots of volume don't appear to be compatible, as you'll get a lot of string buzzes. The real trick in all of this is to be able to maintain total control over volume as well as clean picking. The faster you play, the harder it is to maintain that control and cleanliness..hence the faster, the lighter the touch. I don't know too many fingerpickers that can play really fast, loud and clean at the same time.


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: C-flat
Date: 15 Jul 02 - 11:41 AM

I'm no classical guitarist but I do like to practice playing this style to get used to the hand position. I find I can "dig in" much harder and get more dynamics into a performance. I also like to spend a few minutes each day attempting flamenco style strumming for the same reason.
Personally I think that guitars sound at their best when played hard and when it comes to the quiet delicate moments they seem sweeter for it.


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Wesley S
Date: 15 Jul 02 - 01:32 PM

Rick - If I've imagined Jed's hand position correctly it sounds like it would cause fatigue in the wrist. Does he extend his thumb away from the hand { toward the neck } like a classical guitarist ? Jeez - you would have thought I would have noticed this stuff at the local Bull and Bush sessions.


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Don Firth
Date: 15 Jul 02 - 02:10 PM

You may already know this, but then maybe not. I don't think it's necessarily intuitive, and I rarely if ever see self-taught guitarists doing it, but one of the ways classic and flamenco guitarists get volume out of a guitar is by using the "rest stroke" or apoyando. This consists, not of plucking the string with an upward motion, drawing the fingertip toward the palm, but a slightly downward motion (toward the soundboard), bringing the finger to rest against the next string. That is, if you're plucking the 2nd string, the finger moves across the 2nd string at close to a right angle and comes to rest against the 3rd string.

This is impossible if you're playing chords, and impractical if you're playing fast arpeggios or fingerpicking patterns, but if you're playing single notes or scales, it works well. You can also get a lot of volume out of the basses by doing the same thing with the thumb, i.e., if playing the 4th string, bring the thumb to rest against the 3rd. Using the rest stroke and alternating fingers (index middle index middle) is the way classic and flamenco guitarist can play those string-smoking scale passages so loud and fast.

There's no reason that some of the fiddle tunes that Doc Watson plays with a flat-pick couldn't be played this way. (. . . not that I can do it myself. . . )

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 15 Jul 02 - 03:11 PM

It sounds like Jed's right hand position is similar to mine. In my case, I started as a classical guitarist, and gradually incorporated other styles, with a lot of my style having been influenced by John Renbourne (you can see how a young classical guitarist with a brand-new steel-string guitar might be drawn to Renbourne's playing), as well as Leo Kottke, Martin Simpson, and others. Volume is one benefit, although I'm not a particularly loud guitarist (unlike Jed, I gather). What I find is that a quasi-classical right hand position allows for a lot of finger control and independence (one finger's motion not being dictated by the adjacent finger's motion), and a range of tonalities that might not be available otherwise.

However, that there is a lot more variability in classical guitarists' hand positions than might be apparent to the non-classical guitarist, and a good deal of debate and disagreement in classical guitar circles about which positions yield the greatest benefits. Some classical guitarists extend their thumbs very far towards the neck, while others have them closer to the other fingers; some rely heavily on rest strokes, while others use them only rarely; some use more nail, others use more flesh; some play with their fingers almost perpendicular to the strings, others with more of an angle. These topics sound kind of arcane to non-classical guitarists, but in classical guitar circles they are the equivalent of the ubiquitous "what is folk?" question on this forum.

Volume can be nice, but in most ensemble settings a fingerpicked guitar will lose the volume wars to other instruments, no matter how aggressively the guitarist plays. And, of course, there are tradeoffs -- beyond a certain point, volume comes at the expense of tone (or at least, at the expense of the range of tones available). Segovia, the grand master and touchstone for classical guitarists everywhere, has often been critiqued for his insistence on not using amplification, and the way this forced him to limit his tonal range in order to be audible (sometimes barely audible) in an ensemble or concert hall setting. If I am playing with others, I generally like to use a little subtle amplification, because it allows me to make use of the full range of tones that I can produce, rather than being forced to limit myself by the quest for unamplified volume. Others may feel differently, of course.

Thanks for the "technical" threads, Rick. I often visit the forum these days without contributing, but I'm always happy to jump in on threads like this. Glad to see you back in action. -- WS


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Jeri
Date: 15 Jul 02 - 03:27 PM

One thing I noticed about Jed's playing - he anchors with his 3rd (ring) finger and picks with his little finger. I think anchoring with the 3rd allows him to get more height, so he can come at the strings from a straighter angle. I tried it, and I don't have much control of my pinkie!

Anchoring with my pinkie bothers me, though. The outside of my hand gets really sore, really fast, because I have to press pretty hard in order to just feel the guitar. Anchoring also limits the motion of the other fingers, which may be good for learning how to not have one's fingers flying around like a spider on a griddle. What feels best is to not anchor at all, or to rest my hand on the bridge, but that can mute the sound a bit and will mute strings if I'm not very careful. I seem to get more and better sound out of the strings when my hand's not anchored. Just now, reading what Rick wrote, I figured out why - it's the angle. If I were to really snap a bass string with my thumb, I'd probably need some sort of leverage. No reason why I have to keep my hand in the same position all the time.

I thought I'd have problems with losing my place and hitting the wrong strings, but I hit just as many - if not more - wrong strings when my hand's anchored. Oh well, I'm just a newbie with a long way to go, and will enjoy hearing what other folks have to say.

I got the impression one buzz factor is picking in a more upward direction as opposed to sideways. Am I right or wrong, or does it not make that much of a difference?


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Mudlark
Date: 15 Jul 02 - 03:48 PM

Great to have you back in action, Rick...I'm not a good enough guitarist (or musician, for that matter) to be able to make use of a lot of the technical data, but I read every word.

I am entirely self-taught, and played a classical guitar for many years. Perhaps for that reason, as nylon strings are so much quieter, I've always played, unanchored, fingers almost at right angle to strings, using nails (and curse mightily when I break one).

Even so, I think volume is one of the reasons that I've abandoned my lovely classical guitar entirely, for my Martin. I love the fact that is is both mellow, but also much easier to achieve same clarity and volume.

BTW, I saw Segovia in concert once in a large hall, and tho I was nowhere near the front every note was clear as a bell. I'm sure that had a lot to do with his guitar, as well as his mastery. I still remember playing a very expensive Oribe concert guitar in his shop many years ago and being blown away by the incredible carrying sound the lightest touch produced. It still gives me chills just remembering it.


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Benjamin
Date: 15 Jul 02 - 05:06 PM

Sound is created by the vibration, or movement of the strings. The more movement you can cause, the more volume you can create. Playing closer to the bridge tends to cause less movement in the strings. Also, when you hand is directly in front of the sound hole, you tend to get less volume as your hand is blocking the sound hole (though you usually end up with a nice tone).
Also, to add to the topic of a rest stroke, what actually happens (or should happen) is the string is pushed down (towards the body of the guitar) before it is plucked, creating an up and down movement which tends to give you more volume. I've also never seen anyone self taught use one. I think (though I'm not sure) it was Tarrega that made rest strokes standard practice in classical guitar.


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: GUEST,CraigS
Date: 15 Jul 02 - 06:53 PM

Observations from a middling to poor blues basher

To get loud bass, it's best if the thumb is at 90 deg. to the strings, from both angles of vision.

- if playing clawhammer (or torquewrench if I'm doing it) the thumb is at best at 45 deg. to the strings, but you can get more control of the volume by anchoring and pivoting on the anchor finger.

- Segovia's hands distorted over the years; his left hand fingers were longer than the right ones by about half an inch. More to the point in this context, his right thumb twisted at the middle joint towards his body, so that although his right hand was not as turned in as most classical guitarists, the tip of his thumb was close to a right angle to the strings.

- plectrum pickers seem to get more volume - why?


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Steve-o
Date: 15 Jul 02 - 07:51 PM

Plectrum pickers get more volume for a few reasons, but in regard to hand position, it is surely that they are picking at the "bottom end" of the soundhole (closer to the bridge). Regarding both (steel-string) fingerpicking and flatpicking, I think "planting" your baby finger for string orientation is really just a matter of how you were taught. I was taught by a friend to plant that pinkie, and now after all these years I couldn't do it any other way. Probably has little effect on tone, but who knows. For fingerpicking (this is only somewhat related to "hand position") I found years ago that the biggest difference for controlling volume was that I gave up fingerpicks and grew fingernails. Once you learn to do it with just your own nails, nothing beats it for control. Thanks for the fun thread, Rick.


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 15 Jul 02 - 08:07 PM

Good to see you back here Rick, and I hope your autumn trip to the UK will be both enjoyable and successful.

In all modesty, I am the loudest fingerpicker I know, and it is all down to
A: spending vast amounts on having acrylic nails maintained every ten days. (Yes, fingerpicks will give volume as well, but try playing "Si Bheag and Si Mhor" as a solo with fingerpicks ....)
B:As Jeri has noted above, playing "unanchored". I don't care how many great bluesmen played with their pinkies, ring fingers, thumbs, index fingers or whatever on the soundboard, if you want volume, you gotta let the soundboard go free. (That means no resting of the wrist on the bridge, either.)

I wouldn't be dogmatic about right hand position. I play with an almost classical right hand posture, but Tony McManus achieves amazing effects with a right hand position in which the picking fingers are almost parallel to the strings, and generates superb tone and volume by picking with the sides of the nail rather than the tip.

As my (sorely-missed ) American friends used to say "Go Figure "....

Murray


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: NicoleC
Date: 16 Jul 02 - 01:56 AM

From my (kinda brief) endeavors at classical guitar, the length, shape, thickness and personal composition of the fingernails has a lot of effect on the string sound; more so for nylon strings, I think, but I always played a steel string.

I've noticed a some rather creative imitation fingernails from male classical guitarist. One young guitarist I've heard of glues pieces of shaped ping pong balls UNDER the fingernails -- so I assume he grows a decent length of fingernail anyway.

Going and getting pre-shaped acrylic nails done at a salon or at home sounds much easier, so I guess he gets a particular sound quality he wants out of the process.

As an engineer, I always noticed classically trained guitar players consistently get a lot more volume out of their instruments. I think most of it is due to the unanchored style of playing, but they also tend to have better voloume control overall.


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Kaleea
Date: 16 Jul 02 - 02:14 AM

Steve-o is onto something-- the professional "classical" guitarists of Europe (& a few from North & South America) whom I've known & seen have long fingernails on the right hand (the better to scrape/scratch/strike the strings with), and not so long ones on the left. This allows for not only a more percussive sound, but also makes the nylon (or gut) strings sound or speak louder. Also, the hall in which the "classical" guitarist is most likely to play in was literally designed by a professional to make the acoustic sound reach the entire audience--including the proverbial back row. However, the guitar which is used by the "classical" (style) guitarist speaks much better due to design factors, &, yes, gives more volume than my old Gibson J45 with a rosewood neck--not as hard, obviously, as the ebony neck often used, and my rosewood bridge absorbs (or "eats") more of the vibration/sound than the popular plastic or bone used in the "classical" guitar. So, while fingernails help to make the tone more "percussive," there are many other factors, to include the fact that the well seasoned "classical" guitarist plays with more "authority" or gusto than does the average amateur, and thus making his/her classical sstyle guitar speak better. However, this aging "fangerpicker" will continue to not worry about such things, and will fight the arthritis to the death, while picking with my short, stubby "fangers" which have not very long nails (alas & alack, my piano teacher would never let me grow them out)!


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 16 Jul 02 - 04:09 AM

.......gives more volume than my old Gibson J45 with a rosewood neck--not as hard, obviously, as the ebony neck often used, and my rosewood bridge absorbs (or "eats") more of the vibration/sound than the popular plastic or bone used in the "classical" guitar. "

Yes, well, where do we start .....

Murray


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Benjamin
Date: 16 Jul 02 - 04:54 AM

Finger nails on the right hand is common practice in classical guitarists everywhere, though nail shapes differ greatly. I'm not sure their used to get a "percusive sound." The actuall technique was developed by Segovia and is a combination of flesh and nail. A good guitarist is able to get a wide variety of different sounds, including a very smooth sound when desired, almost like singing (with no words).
Another point I forgot to add earlier is that both a rest stroke (as mentioned above) and a free stroke (the other, more common way to pluck a string) should (on classical) come from the back knuckle (which attaches the finger to the palm). You middle knuckle will still move some, more on a free stroke. This gives you a fuller tone with more volume, though I'm not sure why. Same thing for the thumb.


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 16 Jul 02 - 10:59 AM

I'm starting a new project this week, and I don't know how successful it's gonna be.....but I want to start (SLIGHTLY) changing my finger angle. Not to REPLACE my existing style....which gives me volume aplenty and suits what I do.....but to ADD something. The hard part will be to remember to keep "that arch" rather than falling back into the "claw" shape I normally use. I'll drop the fingerpicks (for a few days at least) but keep the thumbpick. I wanna get a bit of that "lute" sound on certain songs.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Jeri
Date: 16 Jul 02 - 11:28 AM

I have one acrylic nail on my index finger. (I bought a kit.) Gardening and picking don't mix. I like the sound and feel of that better than the natural nails, but they're all probably too long. Maybe it's all pschological because I know the acrylic nail isn't going to break. I'd guess the ping-pong ball bits under the nail would give a crisper sound.

I'm wondering, if Jed happens to stop in here, how he came to be bracing with his ring finger. Did you start off that way or come up with the technique later on? What gave you the idea? I can't get the stupid finger to stay in place and the muscles and nerves of my pinkie seems too connected to the ring finger to make it any use. (Add to that the fact both fingers are numb in places like the tips.)


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Steve-o
Date: 16 Jul 02 - 11:55 AM

Ping pong ball pieces under the nails is a little bit over the edge, don't you think? Eat a bunch of jell-o, do your gardening with gloves on, etc., and keep it simple. Check out Leo Kottke (the king of percussive acoustic playing) working out on his 12-string- claw hand position, sometimes pinky on soundboard, sometimes not, and NO PICKS AT ALL. It's all just practice, practice, practice......


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: M.Ted
Date: 16 Jul 02 - 12:46 PM

I am not very familiar with Jed's technique, so I am not sure if this is the same thing or not, but I make a lot of use of the fingernail on a down stroke while playing fingerstyle--I started trying to do it after noticing that Merle Travis used it when he was playing a chord accompaniment in the movie, "From Here to Eternity"--it was pretty difficult until I realized that it was basically the same movement that I used for strumming the ukulele--When it came to that, Merle anchored a finger to the guitar (and got as much volume as anyone could want, Murray!) I don't suppose it makes much difference whether it is the ring or pinky, assuming of course. that you aren't going to use it for any picking--


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: JedMarum
Date: 16 Jul 02 - 12:54 PM

good discussion ... I'd have jumped in earlier 'cept I'm just getting settled after being outta town.

I never really planned to try to get more volume out of my picking style, my guitar is loud, and I guess I am a loud player (even with a flat pick) - but I suspect Rick is correct; that my finger placement and angle increases the volume. I started using strictly my nails (I used to use a thumb pick and my nails) when I started playing banjo. I chose to learn with just nails to keep a more even volume (a mix of nails and thumb pick on banjo creates a rather unbalanced sound). So my banjo picking style and guitar picking style are very similar, at least as far as finger angle.

I find that with a ring finger anchored, and a 90 degree thumb angle, I can do a few thing with my nails; I can brush or pick in either direction and I can use a loud pop with a front of the nail kick (usually muted or half muted) for a very percussive sound on accent points (this is an occasional thing). I can also use the front of my index for picking, almost like a flat pick - for a mix of flat and finger pick sounds (works well for solos while playing the accompaniment with your picking fingers).

I didn't really plan all this. It's evolved over time and includes elements from much earlier methods I used. For several years after I started playing, when I was a teen ager. I learned to use a thumb brush method for accompaniment - probably because I was always loosing picks and this method meant I didn;t have to keep track of 'em! But, it worked for me and I actually played sans picks for two or three years. That element, though less obvious has reappeared in playing mixed with the finger picking I learned years later. I also do that same mix, maybe even more often when I play banjo.

I think the angles developed when I decide to drop the thumb pick (I hate depending upon tools to get a job done).


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: JedMarum
Date: 16 Jul 02 - 01:06 PM

by the way ... the thumb angle is literally 90 degrees. But it is close.


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 16 Jul 02 - 02:04 PM

Rick, there are lots of ways to play the guitar, as you know, and the minute one person says he has found the "right" way, others will come along and play beautifully using completely different techniques. There really is no "best way," and I'm glad of that -- it makes life more interesting.

However, you should know that classical guitarists in more recent times have generally moved away from the high wrist arch that used to be considered optimal. You can do a simple test to see why. Hold your hand out in front of you with a straight wrist, and move your fingers as if you are plucking the strings. Then do the same thing with an arched wrist. Feel the tightness in the back of your hand? That is because anything more than a slight arch impedes the free movement of your fingers. And impeding free finger movement is not generally a prescription for better playing. [The same holds true for the fretting hand, by the way, which is why the standard rock'n'roll guitar player's posture with the guitar slung low can result in carpal tunnel problems in the fretting hand. I learned this lesson the hard way a number of years ago.]

Classical guitarists pay a lot of attention to the ergonomics of playing, and most classical guitarists these days have concluded that the right wrist should generally only be arched slightly, if at all. This runs counter to earlier teachings, so folks who haven't kept up with the field may still be under the impression that good classical guitar technique requires a high-arched wrist. By all means, experiment with different hand positions, but remember that the more extreme positions can cause problems.


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Don Firth
Date: 16 Jul 02 - 04:18 PM

Andrés Segovia's hands. Well . . . yeah.

- Segovia's hands distorted over the years; his left hand fingers were longer than the right ones by about half an inch. More to the point in this context, his right thumb twisted at the middle joint towards his body, so that although his right hand was not as turned in as most classical guitarists, the tip of his thumb was close to a right angle to the strings.

I don't know how these things get started, but it just ain't true.

I met Segovia on two occasions: the first was in 1960. He graciously consented to do a question-and-answer forum for the Seattle Classic Guitar Society, and I met him and had a chance to talk with him at a reception afterward. I met him again a few years later, at an afternoon reception the day after his concert. He had his bride Amelia with him, and since he had a bit of time before his next concert, they stayed in Seattle for a few days to do some sightseeing. It was at this reception that Ladd Witcher, a local guitar maker, asked Segovia if he would look at one of his guitars. Segovia played a few scales on the guitar, played a few chords various places on the fingerboard, then a few notes repeatedly, listening carefully to them. Then handed the guitar back. He indicated in his graciously eloquent style that Ladd had not yet achieved that for which he strove, but he encouraged him to keep trying. I was about six feet away at the time. So I've seen Segovia's hands up close.

Other that that they were Segovia's hands, there was nothing unusual about them. No distortions. The fingers of his left hand were the same length as the fingers of his right (give or take a millimeter or two, because no one is perfectly symmetrical). His right thumb had a substantial backward curve to it when he positioned it to play (as does mine), but it did not twist toward his body. His hands were fairly large and they were a bit "pudgy," consistent with the fact that he was a somewhat portly gentleman. The nails of his left hand were quite short. The nails of his right hand were long enough so they protruded slightly beyond the pads of his fingers, and they were carefully manicured and shaped. His nails were not unusually long. They were long enough so they would contact the strings when he wanted them to, but short enough so he could use just the pads. Or any combination thereof.

The guitar he was using at the time was made by José Ramirez in Madrid. There are José Ramirez guitars listed in catalogs, but to get one like Segovia's, I think you'd have to go to Madrid and buy it directly from the maker.

Just to set the record straight.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: GUEST,CraigS
Date: 16 Jul 02 - 07:19 PM

I met Segovia in the early 70s when he played a concert at the Albert Hall in Nottingham. I've seen those hands. I also have a video of a program by the BBC made in the eighties called The Song of The Guitar, where you can see the twist in the thumb in close-up, as the man plays Recuerdos in the AlHambra. Just to set the record straight.


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Don Firth
Date: 17 Jul 02 - 02:48 AM

I'm not quite sure that's physiologically possible to accomplish in ten years, but okay if you say so. . . .

Don Firth

How do you make your fingers grow a half-inch longer?


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Don Firth
Date: 17 Jul 02 - 12:56 PM

For anyone who might be interested, there is a large book (12" x 12") entitled The Segovia Technique by Vladimir Bobri, with an introduction by Andrés Segovia, The MacMillan Company, New York, Collier-MacMillan, London and Toronto, 1972, 94 pages. It contains no exercises or written music at all, but it is filled with large photographs of Segovia demonstrating how to hold the guitar and position the hands. There are many close-ups of his hands, both left and right and from various angles, along with written descriptions. The book may be available at libraries, and for anyone who is really interested, it is still available through Amazon.com. You can verify for yourself whether Segovia's hands are distorted or not.

Photo of Segovia with a brief bio here.

Segovia's greatness was not due to anything peculiar about his hands, it lies in his dedication, determination, and discipline—and a certain single-mindedness. I don't think it helps aspiring guitarists to claim that they have to have deformed hands to be able to play well.

As far as volume is concerned, a lot of it depends on the guitar. You can't get more volume out of the instrument than is there; and you can only whack a string so hard before the tone sounds nasty and harsh.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: NicoleC
Date: 17 Jul 02 - 11:44 PM

I went searching for the identity of the classical guitarist I heard with the ping pong ball story. This is not an amateur doing it to make up for poor fingernail care, but pro doing it in *addition* to.

Surprised the heck out of me to discover tons of web pages on the topic. Here's how you, too, can glue bits of ping pong balls to your fingernails: http://fly.hiwaay.net/~marklong/class/ping.htm


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 18 Jul 02 - 03:17 AM

What happens when the nail breaks in such a way that there isn't enough gluing surface to affix your ping-pong ball?

Far better to have a nail tech glue a thin artificial nail on TOP of the nail, and fill in with acrylic. Looks and feels totally natural.

I sometimes wonder if many of the guitar players here cut their own hair and do their own dentistry ....

Murray


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: GUEST,MichaelAnthony
Date: 18 Jul 02 - 03:28 AM

Well, I believe part of it is the proper standard classical technique, but a lot of it the LARRIVEE.

I have a brazilian rw Larrivee lc-10 from 1993, recently purchased used. It's incredible crunchy and loud. Sounds like it's being amplified. I've never encounter a more balanced and crunchy and responsive guitar.


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull
Date: 18 Jul 02 - 03:35 AM

Murray said "I wonder if the guitar players here, cut their own hair and do their own dentistry.."
Murray-I cut my own hair & i have taken my own teeth out, using a pair of pliers and a screwdriver.Why pay them buggers if you can do the job yourself?


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 18 Jul 02 - 03:39 AM

John, I imagine most people would take their teeth out just by using their thumb and forefinger. Go easy on the fixative cream ....

Murray


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull
Date: 18 Jul 02 - 03:44 AM

I didn't take them all out, it was just one. (the top right wisdom tooth)


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull
Date: 18 Jul 02 - 03:46 AM

PS. I was not just trying to save a few pounds, I am terrified of dentists, so decided to do the job myself.


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 18 Jul 02 - 03:51 AM

I think that's quite enough thread drift John, don't you think ? :-)

Murray


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull
Date: 18 Jul 02 - 03:54 AM

Yes you are right. :)


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 18 Jul 02 - 09:35 AM

I have to agree (to a certain extent) with GUEST Michael Anthony. Jed's Larrivee has a very percussive "alive" sound.

When I played it,(or Michael K, or Paul Mills,) it sounded different (still good though)

Rick


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Marion
Date: 19 Jul 02 - 04:35 PM

I don't like fingerpicking with a capo on because I find that using a capo cuts down on volume significantly, although I always put the capo right behind the fret. Are certain kinds of capos more deadening than others? (I use a Dunlop clamp capo on a steel-string.)

Marion


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 19 Jul 02 - 06:35 PM

Good question Marion. The rubbers on the Shubb and Dunlop are pretty good, but it's really the fret that it's resting on....so they SHOULD all be the same......but they're not. Different capos DO produce different sounds.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 19 Jul 02 - 06:45 PM

It is an interesting question, why do different capos affect the sound differently.

Undoubtedly they do.

Would it be true to say that most professionals nowadays use either Shubbs or Kysers?

Murray


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: C-flat
Date: 19 Jul 02 - 06:54 PM

I tried the "ping-pong ball" technique after reading an interview with Gordon Giltrap in "Guitarist" magazine in which he describes,in detail,how to cut and fix them to the underside of your fingernails.
It does actually work, but I found it to be fiddly and time-taking and usually ended up with the T.V.pages stuck to my fingers.


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Subject: RE: Guitarists: Hand position and Volume.
From: JedMarum
Date: 19 Jul 02 - 06:57 PM

That Larrivee sounds soooo good, I hated putting a capo on it. In fact, for the first few weeks I owned it, I refused to do so! I did eventually use one, though. The guitar sounds great with a capo, too - but I still play sans capo if I'm looking for that really full sound.


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