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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Left Hand Technique


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.flatpickerhangout.com/archive/6402

biznork - Posted - 12/23/2008:  14:31:30


I was wondering if there was any kind of rule on this. Do you leave a finger planted if you are going to be playing the note again shortly, or do you lift your finger so that the note doesn't keep ringing? I've found that if you leave fingers planted sometimes it makes it sound sloppy. Any advice?

Piotr - Posted - 12/24/2008:  01:36:53


quote:
Originally posted by biznork

I was wondering if there was any kind of rule on this. Do you leave a finger planted if you are going to be playing the note again shortly, or do you lift your finger so that the note doesn't keep ringing? I've found that if you leave fingers planted sometimes it makes it sound sloppy. Any advice?




The basic rule is keep your fingers as close to the strings as possible, all the time.
Say you play c-a-c on the 2nd - 3rd-2nd strings;
if you don't want to leave the c note ringing you lift your finger ever so slightly, without losing contact with the string. Of course, in fretting the a you can also damp the 2nd string simulanteously.


Edited by - Piotr on 12/25/2008 07:32:00

JohnTheGrey - Posted - 12/24/2008:  20:33:13


Everything should be dictated by the sound you want to achieve. Sometimes a more ringing riff is what you want; sometimes you want it as dry and woody as possible. At a certain point you want to seek out the things that are difficult for you and try to repeat them until they are incorporated into your normal style. You want to be in control, not the instrument. One of the biggest things is to always fret single notes with individual fingers - don't sluff them from an adjacent string by rolling your finger unless it's a legitimate barre. Take it slow at first - you don't own a song until you can play it slowly.

"We have the stars to guide us.
Guitars here beside us
To play as we go" - Three Caballeros

Piotr - Posted - 12/25/2008:  23:52:10


quote:
Originally posted by JohnTheGrey

Everything should be dictated by the sound you want to achieve. Sometimes a more ringing riff is what you want; sometimes you want it as dry and woody as possible. At a certain point you want to seek out the things that are difficult for you and try to repeat them until they are incorporated into your normal style. You want to be in control, not the instrument. One of the biggest things is to always fret single notes with individual fingers - don't sluff them from an adjacent string by rolling your finger unless it's a legitimate barre. Take it slow at first - you don't own a song until you can play it slowly.




I question the last piece of advice. I've always, i.e., for the last 50 years, done that rocking motion with my fingertip and I can see no disadvantage to it at all. Placing two fingers on the same fret diminshes the reach of your left hand.

A more debatable point is slding your first finger back and forth between two adjacent notes on the same string, especially if you're picking all three notes. I've decided over the years that my coordination is good enough for that. Besides, I sometimes enjoy picking and sliding slightly out of sync - sliding first, picking then - which is a very nice effect. But that's not where you begin.

JohnTheGrey - Posted - 12/30/2008:  21:26:49


quote:
Originally posted by Piotr

quote:
Originally posted by JohnTheGrey

Everything should be dictated by the sound you want to achieve. Sometimes a more ringing riff is what you want; sometimes you want it as dry and woody as possible. At a certain point you want to seek out the things that are difficult for you and try to repeat them until they are incorporated into your normal style. You want to be in control, not the instrument. One of the biggest things is to always fret single notes with individual fingers - don't sluff them from an adjacent string by rolling your finger unless it's a legitimate barre. Take it slow at first - you don't own a song until you can play it slowly.




I question the last piece of advice. I've always, i.e., for the last 50 years, done that rocking motion with my fingertip and I can see no disadvantage to it at all. Placing two fingers on the same fret diminshes the reach of your left hand.

A more debatable point is slding your first finger back and forth between two adjacent notes on the same string, especially if you're picking all three notes. I've decided over the years that my coordination is good enough for that. Besides, I sometimes enjoy picking and sliding slightly out of sync - sliding first, picking then - which is a very nice effect. But that's not where you begin.




I need to preface this with the statement that I am talking about single-note bluegrass music played on a mahogany dreadnought like a D-18, and it's all about tone. The basic sound that the player wants to achieve (in this environment) is a hard attack with lack of sustain. The notes should be distinct and percussive. This is achieved by fretting the note like a hammer-on while simultaneously striking with the pick. Immediately thereafter the finger is removed from the string by lifting it or doing a pull-off. This kind of play will provide a distinct sonic difference between fretted notes and open strings. Any deviation from this should be because it makes sense musically. For example, if the same fretted note is to be played two or three times in succession it makes sense to leave the finger on the fret, not because it is difficult to play the notes distinctly but because that's what is usually the musical point of playing the same string multiple times. The same idea applies to slides and hammer-on(s). By their nature these notes are not expected to be distinct. However, when the hammer-on note has been played both fingers should be lifted from the fingerboard.

To recall the question the "biznork" originally posted, "Do you leave a finger planted if you are going to be playing the note again shortly, or do you lift your finger so that the note doesn't keep ringing?", I would say that the decision should always be made by what the player wants to achieve musically. It should never be because it is too difficult to fret adjacent strings distinctly. It may be tricky to play, but repeating the phrase slowly should achieve it if what you want to do is humanly possible.

It should be remembered that there are two styles that greatly influence the sonic character of the bluegrass run. One is the smooth flow characteristic of Doc Watson. For this style the player doesn't want the sound to be as distinct and percussive, so leaving fingers on the frets makes more sense. The other style is the "syncopated" style characteristic of Clarence White. With this style the player wants very distinct notes so that the syncopation is not smoothed over or muddied.

"We have the stars to guide us.
Guitars here beside us
To play as we go" - Three Caballeros

Gman - Posted - 01/08/2009:  15:29:43


quote:
Originally posted by biznork

I was wondering if there was any kind of rule on this. Do you leave a finger planted if you are going to be playing the note again shortly, or do you lift your finger so that the note doesn't keep ringing? I've found that if you leave fingers planted sometimes it makes it sound sloppy. Any advice?



Whatever the song calls for really. If the note is supposed to ring out while I continue to play others, I keep that finger planted. If not, I lift it and move on. Sometimes the issue settled for me because I need that finger for some other note.

Piotr - Posted - 01/12/2009:  23:12:38



The next to last post is a bit misleading; taken literally the OP will have his fingers flying, which is a waste.

In order to stop a string from ringing you need not remove your finger. You need only release pressure-
unless, of course, you're moving to a lower note on the same string. You can also mute the string by fretting a neighbor string.

Also, a basic rule is, if you're playing an ascending scale on a string you keep your fingers down. My hands are small so I don't quite follow that rule; my index tends to lift, but then it's usually on its way to the next string.

In one of my own tunes I often play the figure g-a-g-e-c, on the three bottom strings. Usually I hammer the a and pull the second g. The index is fixed in place, of course. Going down to the e (2nd or 3rd finger) I still fret the g, but mute the 4th string.

Going finally to the low c I keep the first two fingers down, muting the upper two strings. It would be silly and wasteful to lift the 1st and 2nd fingers, esp. the 1st that supports your fingering so well (I'm acutely aware of this as my left hand was weakened in an accident last year). If I wanted the notes to ring I would have to fret at a different angle.



Austinmike - Posted - 01/14/2009:  16:08:15


Biznork,

I think the rule on this is that there isn't a rule for everything. I think John is right, you should know the song slowly and be able to get the correct (for this song) tone on each and every note. Think of Billy in the Lowground, I always think the A part should be dry - staccato. Flowers of Edinburg B part I llike to hold every note as long as possible and let them ring.
Just as each song is different, each arangement should be what YOU like for the song.

Mike

JonT - Posted - 01/15/2009:  13:10:53


I think that part of the answer to this question has to be dictated by the style in which you want to play - also by how closely you want to be tied to any given style, and how much you want to play something just the way YOU want to play it, not the way somebody else wants you to play it. I really believe that we need to put our own stamp on our musics.

Best - JFT
jfthompson.typepad.com/californiafiles

Piotr - Posted - 01/16/2009:  06:09:45


Perhaps I should emphasize that I was addressing technical issues alone. It would be unfortunate if the OP was given the impression that you express your indivuality by poor and uneconomic technique. The principles that I've touched on are common sense. Here are a lot of useful tips on technique:

johnmcgann.com/techtips.html

Of course, some principles may have to be modified according to special physical limitations. Where do you put your left thumb? Used to be I placed it on the back of the neck by default. Today I place it on the side, but below the fretboard of course, except when making barrés, still with a slight outwards arch to the wrist
The reason is very simple. Owing to an accident last year (car hits bicycle, radius, elbow and pelvis fracture) the mobility of my left thumb is impeded. It stands at a 45 degree angle against the plane of my palm; I can't flex it outwards, it's almost parallel to the index (when seen from inside). It lands where it lands!

Now, phrasing is what you do with your technique, and largely it's a matter of taste. I don't play many fiddle tunes but I do play a few, to practise my weak left hand. One is St Anne's Reel, in D, which begins with a pickup: a-d-f#.
If I want a snappy type of phrasing I play these notes at the 2nd fret on the top strings. For a legato feel I barre strings 2,3,4 at the 7th fret and work from there.

HO's and PO's are good both for pick economy and for interesting phrasing. I sometimes play the sequence g-f#-e-d-c#-b of the B part
with double PO's on the 1st and 2nd strings, which is a nice syncopated effect. Probably not where a beginner should start.

Another tune I practise is Sailor's Hornpipe which is in Bb, which I can play off the 3rd or 5th fret. There are a lot of scale movements and the weakness of my left hand sometimes makes me abandon the usual chromatic fingering and finger diatonically instead, much the same way as on the mandolin. A beginner should develop full left hand strength by forcing his pinky into action.



Edited by - Piotr on 01/16/2009 21:18:03

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