It is finally sinking into my thick skull that I need to learn to be very good with what I call "brush strokes" for back-up purposes. Try as I might, fast or slow, I can't get the individual notes of a chord to sound evenly, as parts of a whole sound. I can only describe this as I am likely hitting some strings harder than others. Advice please from the big dudes and dudettes: are there exercises to get that brush stroke to be an even, smooth sound? Wrist? Elbow? Arm? Pick type/thickness, etc?
Stroke=Strum=Brush? Whip? Guess I need some definitions, too.
I play right-handed, always have. I realize that I have the guitar locked quite firmly under my right elbow (good or not?) My chord strumming involves some wrist rolling and moving my entire forearm. Should my wrist not move at all? Just can't seem to hit each and every string with the same force. Posture The strap comes off the bottom button, across my back, over my L. shoulder to the upper button which is on the neck heel. I used to place the guitar across my right thigh but in the past year, have it more upright, more centered in front of me, a la classical.
I tend to add some length to my brush/strum/stroke portion of the "boom-ching". When I get it working well, the length of the brush is suggestive of the tempo, like a quarter of a beat or so, and I tend to emphasize the boom, and lay back on the ching, unless an upright bass is around. Now that's just my style, and its close to the older stuff I like. Its one of many.
In a full bluegrass unit, a different approach works best, with really quick attack on the brush, with a lot of wrist similar to a whip of the wrist. And, the bass or boom notes are less important, as they crowd the upright bass, while the brush is really important, and is more of a chick than a ching. Sometimes its closer to a boom - chicka, which adds an upstroke after the brush. There's some good videos in the library on this site, and elsewhere that show more detail.
Now that I re-read your original question, perhaps your getting crossed while trying to achieve the familiar boom-ching? Are you alternating the bass notes on the boom? There's a pattern to which notes work well on the "boom" that helps with timing, and fluidity. If you're kinda just hitting whats convienient, that may be throwing you off a bit?
Jim: Thanks. I'll check out the videos later today. Simple, basic G-chord, for example: I can hit the low notes on 5th and 6th strings without missing. That, to me, is the "boom" part. To do the "chick" or downward brush stroke (2nd and 4th beats, I guess), I'm lifting my wrist without changing the pick angle, then stroking down across 4, 5, or 6 strings. They don't make a collective "sound" that I can hear other people make.
First, let me say that in the flatpicking domain, I'm usually talking about the traditional old fiddle-tune based backup, not the more modern styles. I believe we are talking about the same boom-ching pattern as heard on Doc Watson material for example.
I use the 4, 5, and 6 strings for the boom, depending on the note I want. I will use the 4,3,2 and 1 strings for the ching, but not necessarily all 4 each time. Sometimes I might use the 4,3 and 2 strings for the ching, sometimes the 3,2 and 1. I almost never use the same string in both the boom and ching. For instance, I might make the three finger G chord, and begin like:
6 / 432 / 4 / 321 / 6 / 432 / 4 / 321
Is this familiar? I can tell you, it sounds deceptively simple, but it really takes some time to do this consistantly, and weave the alternation into chord changes so that its seemless.
Jim Yes, it's familiar. My question arises from what I hear with the 6 / 4 3 2 (for example). I can't control the "ching" part to get 4 3 2 to all have the same volume. I think I hear (432) as a single sound, Doc Watson would be a good example. However, what you outline above looks like a good practice sequence, _and_ to make lightning fast chord changes in it.