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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Right Hand Advice for Beginner-Intermediate Player

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HTaylor - Posted - 02/26/2018:  12:35:51

This is my first post here, and I'm excited to get started! I'm an intermediate-ish level player and I've mostly done fingerstyle, but now I'm getting started with flatpicking and I'm having a little trouble. I'm trying to learn to float my right hand, and I've experimented with letting my fingers brush the pickguard or strings (as a reference point), but I'm finding that I don't have very much control. My hand is just kind of bouncing around and pushing the pick through the strings sometimes makes my wrist hurt. I've waded into the handmade pick world, and for me the Red Bear TIII I have is my favorite. Does anybody have any advice for right hand technique? I feel like I may be missing something.

Uncle Brad - Posted - 02/27/2018:  10:12:53

I was struggling with this topic heavily last year. I had been attempting the floating method, but was missing so many notes due to the lack of reference on the strings. After seeing a video posted by a member here on the Hangout and being impressed with his technique, I sent him a note asking the same question you are posing. His kind and informative reply was:

"That is a very good question, and a recurring conversation point with many of the students and beginners I have given lessons to. The short answer is: each person should do whatever works best for them. The long answer is: you need to determine what actually works best for you. So let's unpack the long answer...

When I first started studying bluegrass/flatpicking guitar, I relied heavily on "posting" for accuracy. As I have gotten more comfortable over the years (and thousands of hours of practice and gigs) my posting has become much more loose and I don't press down nearly as hard on the pickguard. I've watched players such as my father and David Grier, and both of them have a "floating" hand when they play—and they play very well!

I played without posting for a while, and after a bit of practice I was able to play reasonably well, but I never could get completely comfortable with it. I also felt like I lost accuracy, particularly on upstrokes. When I went back to allowing my ring or pinky touch the pick guard, I discovered that my dependency on them for accuracy had lessened, and my personal technique began to take form.

In the beginning, it can be very frustrating to struggle and not know if it's an issue of improper technique, or the inevitable growing pains that come with lack of experience. My advice would be to experiment with both techniques and stick with both for a while; the technique that works best for you will hopefully reveal itself over time the same way that mine did.

And be wary of players that tell you that there is a "right" and "wrong" way of doing it. Obviously, there are things that will keep a player from getting optimal tone and being accurate, but anatomically speaking, not all hands and fingers are the same, and you will need to determine what works best with the hands you have.

Take a look at players like Dan Crary, David Grier, and Norman Blake; they all play magnificently, but that all have very different techniques and hand posture.

I hope this is of some help and encourages you along your way in the study of flatpicking. This world needs as many pickers as it can get!"

I studied the players referenced, as well as a few more. While I wanted to do the floating method, it was just not working for me. I took a few weeks to "slowly" convert to posting my pinky on the pick guard and have since found it to be a better solution for me. I still have a long way to go, but with this change, I believe I can go further in my bluegrass style.

Hope this helps.

HTaylor - Posted - 02/27/2018:  10:33:08

Thanks for the advice, Uncle Brad. Using my fingers to lightly post or even to just kind of brush the strings does seem to help, though it still seems awkward. I'm thinking Bryan Sutton/Ron Block/several other guys who play like that. I think "growing pains" is the best way to describe it. I still have days where it doesn't seem like I can play anything, which I recognize from learning the violin.

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