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Right hand help /fingerstyle

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Casey@50 02 Feb 00 - 09:15 AM
JedMarum 02 Feb 00 - 09:26 AM
Amos 02 Feb 00 - 09:34 AM
Lady McMoo 02 Feb 00 - 10:07 AM
GUEST,Neil Lowe 02 Feb 00 - 12:06 PM
Night Owl 02 Feb 00 - 12:32 PM
Mbo 02 Feb 00 - 12:42 PM
GUEST,Les B 02 Feb 00 - 05:09 PM
Chet W. 02 Feb 00 - 05:15 PM
Benjamin 02 Feb 00 - 05:20 PM
GUEST,Les B 02 Feb 00 - 05:30 PM
Joan 02 Feb 00 - 05:31 PM
John in Brisbane 02 Feb 00 - 08:10 PM
Amos 02 Feb 00 - 08:18 PM
Night Owl 02 Feb 00 - 08:21 PM
Mbo 02 Feb 00 - 10:03 PM
GUEST,Les B 02 Feb 00 - 11:57 PM
Easy Rider 03 Feb 00 - 09:52 AM
GUEST,Mbo 03 Feb 00 - 09:59 AM
Sean Belt 03 Feb 00 - 10:49 AM
GUEST,SWR 29 Oct 04 - 11:46 AM
PoppaGator 29 Oct 04 - 12:14 PM
GUEST,Maurice 29 Oct 04 - 02:47 PM
Janie 29 Oct 04 - 03:13 PM
pdq 29 Oct 04 - 03:30 PM
GUEST,Pops 14 Jan 05 - 03:36 PM
eleanor c 15 Jan 05 - 12:17 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 15 Jan 05 - 01:10 PM
Amos 15 Jan 05 - 02:23 PM
Justa Picker 15 Jan 05 - 04:29 PM
Kaleea 16 Jan 05 - 01:33 AM
John Hardly 16 Jan 05 - 12:47 PM
CraigS 16 Jan 05 - 04:52 PM
Bee-dubya-ell 16 Jan 05 - 07:35 PM
GUEST,van lingle 16 Jan 05 - 09:04 PM
PoppaGator 16 Jan 05 - 09:41 PM
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Subject: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: Casey@50
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 09:15 AM

Hi All

I'm presently taking slide guitar lessons from a talented delta blues player. I have played guitar for years, using a pick. Obviously this is a big change for me and find my right hand lagging behind. With this type of music/style the right hand keeps time, plays bass lines along with melody, and mutes unwanted strings ect.

What I'm looking for are recommendations for songs that drive home the use of the thumb for bass and timing. Presently using "Spanish Fandango" (?) and "Blackbird" and "Betty and Dupree". I'm using open tunings either Spanish or Veatapol.

Also is there any way to practice / excercise right hand without driving ones spouse crazy. (BE NICE - Talk about a straight line).

Any Suggestions

Thanks for any help


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Subject: RE: Help: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: JedMarum
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 09:26 AM

well, I am not sure about open tunings, but a great way to develop your right hand finger pickin' skills is to learn Freight Train. It's a great song, and is easy to play, and learning it teaches you all the basics of finger style ...

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Subject: RE: Help: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: Amos
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 09:34 AM


Long ago when I was trying to learn to fingerpick, I found it useful to separate it into two drills. Inthe particular style I was learning the thumb played a four-notes per measure pattern, typically starting on the "A" string, up to the "D" string, down tot he low "E". and up to the "D" again, making a little bass rhythm that sounded like Winnie the Poo going tiddlypum, one-two-three-four over and over.

I spent hours just watching my thumb do this (you can use an open tuning, a full C chord, or any chord where no dissonance is introduced).

I would run my thumb through this little pattern (bumTIDDLEbumTIDDLE) over and over, even waking around with no guitar. Eventually it learned to do this even when other fingers were off doing other things.

In the same period, I taught my index and middle fingers to syncopate three beats between the last three thumbstrokes by plucking the high E, the B, and the high E again : din,dan,din over and over. Trained them to do that independently, then introduced them to the thumb.

It was also useful to choose a chord like Am where the whole pattern sounded good and memorize the tune it made --bumTIDDLE(din)bum(dan)TIDDLE(din) when syncopated. Then I would sit for hours playing that tune until the hand kind of got the idea.

Once that happens you can introduce variations, like sending your thumb off on a bass run or running a pair of notes together on the higher strings for a slide, without losing your basic routine.

And that's how I learned to fingerpick, for what it's worth!


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Subject: RE: Help: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: Lady McMoo
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 10:07 AM

Most Mississippi John Hurt tunes will be great for the type of thumb practice you describe.

In terms of strengthening muscles and speeding up movement (also for the left hand) a simple but effective trick is to bunch your hand and put a strong elastic band round your fingers and thumb and then exercise your fingers and thumb upwards against it. This exercises a different set of muscles to the "pressing down" ones and can be quite beneficial.

All the best


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Subject: RE: Help: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: GUEST,Neil Lowe
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 12:06 PM

For what it's worth, I heartily endorse Amos' method above for learning how to fingerpick - it's essentially the same way I taught myself: get the thumb action down, then work the fingers in between the notes the thumb plays.

Once the thumb pattern is down pat and operating independently, it's not too hard to work the other fingers in, and patterns of picking notes with the fingers present themselves, either by playing notes in between the notes plucked by the thumb, or playing notes on the downbeat with the thumb, or a combination of the two.

Once the fingerpicking pattern is fixed in your mind, then you can practice changing chords smoothly without goofing up your thumb pattern.

I apply what I learned about fingerpicking to folk music mostly, represented in songs like John Prine's Hello In There, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young's Helplessly Hoping, Blind Fiddler as it is done on John McCutcheon and Friends' How Can I Keep From Singing (previously on June Appal Records - now on Rounder), John Fahey, etc etc. Blues seems to use a different pattern, but the strategy is the same: get the thumb to do the bass line (lots of times just thumping the same string or same note), while the fingers pick a bluesy phrase.

Get used to a lonely exile in an unused closet, the garage, or the basement, if you don't want to drive others crazy. Personally, I take a certain sadistic pleasure in the cries of "No Dad, dear God please, no - not 'House of The Rising Sun' again," especially after they've tortured me mercilessly with an endless barrage of Dr. Dre and Christina Aguilera music videos.

Regards, Neil

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Subject: RE: Help: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: Night Owl
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 12:32 PM

Great thread Casey...thanks for starting it!!!! (Amos, I can't believe I understood what you said...well done!) "BumTIDDLE(din)bum(dan)TIDDLE(din)", as well as other rythyms, can also be practiced on the outside leg seam of your dungarees while driving, sitting, etc. to get the syncopation down and save relationships. I also used, and still use, a medley of Freight Train, Railroad Bill, Louis Collins and Darcy Farrow in C to train my brain to talk to my right hand.

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Subject: RE: Help: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: Mbo
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 12:42 PM

I could tell you how we do it on classical guitar--but it would take a while. Lots about p i m a, the "sweet spot," planting, the "vee," the fist, the gorilla slap...sorry, terms of the trade!


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Subject: RE: Help: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: GUEST,Les B
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 05:09 PM

Amos: Great explanation of fingerpicking ! The only thing I would add for practice is to sit in front of the TV with your guitar and do it mindlessly (muting the strings with the left hand if others are watching and are bothered by the constant bum tiddyling), that way your thumb and fingers get used to the actual distance between strings. And it's a lot of the mindless repetition that gets that alternating thumb into auto mode. Another good practice is to also learn the Mother Maybelle Carter "scratch" style - your thumb gets a chance to play the melody and makes it more versatile for putting in bass runs when fingerpicking.

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Subject: RE: Help: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: Chet W.
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 05:15 PM

Got to have nails, not too long but just 2 to 3 millimeters of free nail so that you can still pluck with the fingertip and the nail, or just the nail, as needed. Also use different plucking positions (no joke). There is a completely different tone near the bridge compared to near the neck. And don't get dependent on planting your little finger on the soundboard, but sometimes it is useful to do so. Let each finger, mostly 1 through 3, be dedicated to strings 1 through 3 (in reverse order), with the thumb covering strings 4 through 6, but this like all rules is meant to be broken. With your left hand learn the fingerboard enough so that you play only the part of the chord that you need. No need to fret a whole chord if you're only going to pluck 2 or 3 strings. Like everything else, once you get the feel for it, it becomes a lot easier to learn new stuff. Work hard!


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Subject: RE: Help: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: Benjamin
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 05:20 PM

It sounds to me like you want to and/or should learn the alternating bass technique. This is the easiest way to learn to separate the bass and melody notes (as far as I know at least).

"Oh Papa Rag" is a good short tune with a clear alternating bass. It's open tuning though.

Hope this helps!


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Subject: RE: Help: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: GUEST,Les B
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 05:30 PM

Mbo - could you elaborate on the sweet spot, the vee, the fist, the gorilla, etc. They all sound fascinating, and I've always wondered what classical pickers do !

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Subject: RE: Help: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: Joan
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 05:31 PM

Great, Amos. I read your post a couple of times, and got the bums and the tiddles sorted out. It does make sense. I've taught guitar in the days when you could turn on the radio and hear folk music--so people came for lessons knowing the sort of noises they wanted to make. Lots wanted to fingerpick.

My system was "RUN TO the CAN-dy STORE (1-2&-3&-4)" followed by the slightly more complex, "RUN TO the SU-per MAR-ket (1-1&-3&-4&). The first one translates into this, finger-wise: (Pinch[index/thumbtogether]-thumb-middle-thumb-index-thumb) After people got the pattern going by doing it over and over until they could disengage the brain...then the index and middle finger could get more selective letting the tune come out on the high strings, while the thumb filled in on the bottom ones. Sounds horribly complex, reading all that back to myself, but it worked nicely, and even the manually challenged could eventually manage to at least fingerpick an accompaniment. (Though it takes a bit of time to get where you can sing a song at the same time you're thinking about running to wherever.) Joan

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Subject: RE: Help: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: John in Brisbane
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 08:10 PM

There's a couple of dozen Right Hand Picking Patterns Click Here that give the thumb and fingers a fairly decent workout - just stick to one or two at a time until your cerabellum remembers them. Regards, John

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Subject: RE: Help: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: Amos
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 08:18 PM

Thanks, John! My daughter thanks you as well!


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Subject: RE: Help: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: Night Owl
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 08:21 PM

thanks John!!

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Subject: RE: Help: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: Mbo
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 10:03 PM

Well, Les, classical guitar right-hand technique is very strict to say the least. I was terrible when I first started, but it came to me quickly. First, p i m and a are the abbreviations for the fingers-in Italian. P is thumb, i is index, m is middle, and a is ring finger. We use these because in classic guitar notation because numbers=string numbers. Sweet spot is that area on the fingernail that we all apsire to hit--it produces the best sound.

Despite the weird stigmas that go with it, we have to have long fingernails on our right hands. And what is more, they must be filed to an exact angle on one side--a leading edge. The sweet spot is right where the angle meets the rounded bottom of the nail. Confused? It's kinda hard to describe it without pictures.

Both the fist and the vee are how the right hand is set when playing the strings. The fingers are planted on the string, right on the sweet spot. Then, to pluck the string, the finger must be pulled back into the hand as if making a fist. You will see the fist if you execute a roll. The vee is the angle at which the thumb is held in relationship to the rest of the hand--when the fingers pluck and pull back, and the thumb strikes going forward--the thumb and forefinger form the vee shape.

Pullback is important. Far too many guitarists (and me too at one time) pluck the string up instead of back--this creates unoptimal tone. Also, the fingers, after plucking, should return to the string in perfect time to plant on the sweet spot and pluck again.

The gorilla slap is actually a left-hand exercise--I don't know why I put it in there--after placing the guitar in the correct position, the left hand is dropped to the side, and then quickly brought back up to grab the neck of the guitar with the fist. This is done rapidly--almost in the blink of an eye. The fist around the neck gets you comfortable with even pressure over th frets when executing difficult barre chords.

Boy that sure took some time! Funny thing is--after a while you don't even think about it anymore--you just do iy. I thought it was insanely complicated once, now I can't see any other way to do it. Classical guitar---totally RULES!

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Subject: RE: Help: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: GUEST,Les B
Date: 02 Feb 00 - 11:57 PM

Thanks Mbo. I thought the "sweet spot" refer to that area between the bridge and the sound hole where the best tone is produced.

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Subject: RE: Help: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: Easy Rider
Date: 03 Feb 00 - 09:52 AM

Rev. Gary Davis used to say that to play the guitar you must imitate the piano. Your thumb plays the bass line, the Left hand on the piano, and your fingers, index for him, index and middle for us humans, plays the melody or the Right hand of the piano.

It's very important to get that alternating bass rhythm down so well that you can play it without thinking about it at all. You have to get a driving "bum-Chick-Bum-Chick" rhythm going. Remember, most of this is dance music. It needs a strong rhythm. Once you get that, you can add a melody line, with your index and middle fingers, either on the beat or in between the beats. Almost any song can be played this way. Start with someting simple. "Freight Train" is the one 90% of us started with. "Buck Dancer's Choice" was my second song. Mississippi John Hurt material was what I plunged into next. A very good source of instruction for this style, in Country Blues, is Stefan Grossman's guitar Workshop,

Guitar Workshop

Start with his GW901 and GW931 fingerpicking Country Blues videos. There is free TAB for "Freight Train" on his "Tab of the Month" page.

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Subject: RE: Help: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: GUEST,Mbo
Date: 03 Feb 00 - 09:59 AM

Oh yeah, I remember Frieght Train alright! In addition to being a classical guitar player, I do a whole lot of steel string guitar work. I actually pretty good with a flatpick, and the classical experience is wonderful for fingersyle guitar. That's what I love about the guitar, you can use one genre's techniques in another to strengthen your playing. And I've learned important things from both sides of the guitar world.


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Subject: RE: Help: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: Sean Belt
Date: 03 Feb 00 - 10:49 AM

For working on thumb technique, I'd say you can't do better than learning Mississippi John Hurt and Reverend Gary Davis tunes. Davis' "Cocaine Blues" might be a good one for starters, as it's usually taken slowly.

I also find that whether I'm learning something new on the guitar, banjo, dulcimer, whatever... I try to break it down meaure by measure and just repeat each 4 or 8 beats over and over. It becomes kind of meditative and zen-like after awhile. Not real entertaining listening for others, but my wife has learned to be very patient about it.

Most of all, have fun!

- Sean

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Subject: RE: Help: Right hand help /fingerstyle
Date: 29 Oct 04 - 11:46 AM

I'm a 48 year old finger style guitar player who has recently been struggling with arthritis in my right hand. Obviously, this has compromised my playing to the point of having to make adjustments to more technically challenging pieces. My question to anyone experiencing a similar problem: what steps can one take to counter stiffness and diminished facility in the right hand fingers? Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

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Subject: RE: Help: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: PoppaGator
Date: 29 Oct 04 - 12:14 PM


I've mentioned this before in many different threads, and I'll say it again for you: Liquid glucosamine is the best thing that ever happened to *my* arthritic knuckles. You have to take a dose once a day, and it takes about a month to notice any effect, but it eventually not only stops the pain, it actually seems to restore a large degree of the flexibilty and freedom of movement that you've already lost.

I'm a long-time fingerpicking guitar player, too. I had been playing less and less over the years, and at about age 50 (6-7 years ago), my hands had become so stiff and my upper knuckles so grotesquely enlarged that I was finally unable to play at all. Of course, once I *couldn't* play, I suddenly *wanted* to resume playing.

I saw my doctor, who referred me to a specialist, who ordered x-rays and a lot of other stuff, only to tell me, "take aspirin when it really bothers you."

My wife has similar problems with her back, and her doctor had prescribed Vioxx. I started taking her Vioxx, and noticed some improvement insofar as I experienced less pain, but there was still extreme stiffmess and immobility. Eventually (about two years ago) I learned about glucosamine from health-food/supplement enthusiasts, found a source on the Internet, and tried it out. It has made a *huge* difference, and now I'm picking almost every day.

Liquid glucosamine generally comes mixed with another supplement called chondroitin, an extract of shark cartiledge.

Do a web search on "Syn-Flex" for a source for the stuff I've been using; costs about $30 per one-month-supply bottle. I'm ready to try switching to another product: Sam's Club (the Wal-Mart subsiidiary) sells a much larger bottle (about 3 month's worth) for $25-30, labelled generically as "Liquid Glucosamine."

I realize that what works for me will not necessarily work for another person's ailment, but I think it's worth a try. Good luck.

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Subject: RE: Help: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: GUEST,Maurice
Date: 29 Oct 04 - 02:47 PM

When I started to fingerpick I used to use my thumb (or thumbpick) a bit like a flatpick, doing a lot of the melody work. I came across an interview with Ralph McTell where he said you should confine your (right-hand) fingers as much as possible to specific strings. So, the thumb stays with the 6th 5th and 4th, first finger plays third string, 2nd finger plays 2nd and third (ring) finger plays 1st string. This is probably well-known but I wasn't really conscious of it before and it steered me in the right direction. Maybe I didn't explain that very well, but it was a great help to me, and now I can finger-pick just fine! It's worth a bit of effort, so much more enjoyable than flatpicking when you get into it.

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Subject: RE: Help: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: Janie
Date: 29 Oct 04 - 03:13 PM

I second PoppaGator on the glucosamine. I have osteoarthritis in my hands,neck and back, and have been unable to play guitar for several years because the knuckles in my LEFT hand lock up under the pressure of holding the chord (no problem with the picking hand). Not only is it painful, I have to grasp the finger with the other hand to straighten it out. On my doctor's advise, I started taking glucosamine chondroitin about 4 months ago. The mobility in my hands improved significantly after about 6 weeks. I stopped the glucosamine about 3 weeks ago to test the results. This week my hands have started aching and burning again and the knuckles are locking up when I grasp something. Looks like the stuff really does help. I'm starting back on it today. Who knows, maybe I'll reach the point I can start to play guitar again!


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Subject: RE: Help: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: pdq
Date: 29 Oct 04 - 03:30 PM

You might consider using just a plastic pick on the thumb and a medium metal pick the index finger. This allows more flexibility in placement of the hand . Doc Watson fingerpicks a guitar this way, the late Don Reno used two-finger style on banjo.

The health aspect may be the most important, though. Diet changes will help some, maybe a lot.

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Subject: RE: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: GUEST,Pops
Date: 14 Jan 05 - 03:36 PM

Hi all - Been thumping a guitar since I was a kid (many many yrs ago) and just recently started (trying) to learn "Fingerstyle" - Total thumb and finger independence - Beeen trying about 6 weeks with little to no results - Does anyone out there have a proven method of learning this style??? - I have been told many things and have read much material on the subject - Everyone seems to have a different approach to learning this style - Isn't there a PROVEN method to learn this difficult style of playing - Some say practice ONLY WITH THE THUMB - (alternating bass) until you can put some melody notes in WITHOUT interrupting the bass groove - I've been trying that for several weeks now - no results - as soon as I attempt to put a few melody notes in - BOOM - the thumb gets all wacked and doesn't know what to do - Maybe I'm expecting too much too soon ??? Does anyone know the normal amount of time to learn this style (I'm old - but still buying green bananas) - Don't have a lot of years left - Sure would appreciate someone helping me - I can play patterns using both the fingers and the thumb - BUT - most songs don't follow a set pattern - so I don't see the benefit in pattern playing ??? right or wrong ??? Help Help Help - Thanking all in advance - (Can't find the answer on the internet either) - Thx again -

Fingerpicker - want-a-be - Pops (Practicing about 2 hrs per day)

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Subject: RE: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: eleanor c
Date: 15 Jan 05 - 12:17 PM

A proven method, which is superb, ( and i'd tried all the others!) is to be found at
This guy's book got me using all the other 30 books I'd bought & never got the hang of.
I don't get commission from him! ! but he has a perfect method for right and left hand technique in most styles, if you have the patience to follow his instructions - they pay off. Clear and ergonomic, it develops accuracy which is one of the charms of the style.

Stefan Grossman is a great teacher / dvd lesson source too, I started by planting my pinky on the soundboard like him for accuracy, actually that's a bit limiting (and damps that posh guitar you just bought!) but do as Guitarprinciples says and you won't need to plant the pinky.
Also Earl Scruggs's book on banjo playing is a very good right hand trainer, it gives you a realistic view of how much repetition is needed to learn.
Repetition causes physical changes in your muscles & in the nerve and blood supply to your right hand, those changes don't happen by thinking & wishing, you just put in the hours.

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Subject: RE: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 15 Jan 05 - 01:10 PM

Bob Brozman's book ( I think he's only got one out ) has lots of exercises on getting the right hand thumb and fingers to work independantly.

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Subject: RE: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: Amos
Date: 15 Jan 05 - 02:23 PM


Here's what worked for me. Memorize the tune/sequence of notes generated by playing in a full C chord:
1. Thumb on A (3d) = "C""
2. Thumb on D string = "E"
3. Ring finger on high E string
4. Thumb on low E = "G"
5. Index on B string -= "C"
6. Thumb on D string = "E"
7. Ring finger on high E string

This sequence has the thumb going 1, 2, 3 ,4 while the upper strings are following with "rest, 2, 3, 4, rest, 2 , 3, 4.   It makes the syncopated jingly sound typical of fingerpicking style.

If you memorize the whole tune in one choird such as the expanded C chord mentioned, and get your hand lulled into doing that tune only over and over for hours, while watching TV or whatever, it will gradually become automatic.

Inserting melody lines comes LATER!!

Hope this helps.



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Subject: RE: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: Justa Picker
Date: 15 Jan 05 - 04:29 PM

Invest a few bucks in this, and then work it all out at your own pace.

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Subject: RE: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: Kaleea
Date: 16 Jan 05 - 01:33 AM

Crazy as it sounds, you might consider taking lessons from a food fingerpicker for a few weeks or months. I always include finger pickin' like a basic Travis style pick, arpeggio style accompaniments & such when I teach. When John Denver was popular, students almost always wanted to learn fingerstyle. Some of his old music books show the tablature for his songs. I learned fingerpicking from the old Peter, Paul & Mary song books. They usually show the plucking pattern on tablature which Paul used, as well as the chords.
   Why not listen to some of the finger pickin' greats while you're focusing on this? Chet Atkins, Tommy Emanuel, Merle Travis come to mind.

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Subject: RE: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: John Hardly
Date: 16 Jan 05 - 12:47 PM

I think the proper term is either "food fingerlicker" or "good fingerpicker". Nevertheless, I love a good typo.

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Subject: RE: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: CraigS
Date: 16 Jan 05 - 04:52 PM

The way I learned tunes was to play whole chords all the time, make the thumb work properly, and just scratch around with the index finger until I was in a position to start working on the fancy bits and use the other fingers. If you play partial chords you have to keep the volume down or the "inner voice" does not sound good. If you've been flatpicking all your life you might find it easier to use the flatpick for the thumb parts and use the second and third fingers to pick with. The first book of Leaonard Cohen's songs had good tab and encouraged learning fairly simple but methodic picking, if you can stand playing Doom From a Room in standard tuning. The glucosamine tablets worked for me, too!

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Subject: RE: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 16 Jan 05 - 07:35 PM

Can't offer much in the way of what to actually do with your fingers 'cause I'm one of those self-taught guys who can't do it if he thinks about it. The fingers know what to do, the brain has no idea.

But, I can maybe offer some insights into some "hardware issues".

Most fingerpickers prefer a guitar other than the dreadnaught size usually preferred by flatpickers. That's by no means a "rule", just a generalization. (I've certainly never seen Doc Watson change guitars when he does some fingerpicking.) But, smaller guitars are generally better voiced for fingerpicking. They also generally don't sound as good as a D when flatpicked so you pretty much have to learn to fingerpick to justify having shelled out two grand for that Santa Cruz OM.

Many fingerpickers prefer at least a 1 3/4" wide neck as opposed to the 1 11/16" width usually found on dreadnaughts. That extra 1/16" may not sound like much, but it can really make a difference in cleanliness of sound, particularly regarding left-hand fingernail buzz. Or, as an alternative, you can just capo up a couple of frets to where the neck is a little wider.

If you're using thumb and/or finger picks, try out several brands and styles and find what's most comfortable and controllable for you. Don't worry about volume too much to start with. Fred Kelly Speedpicks are probably the easiest thumb picks to use, though they may lack the punch you'll eventually want. You can change to something heavier after your thumb knows what it's doing.

As suggested by eleanor c above, play 5-string banjo! The same basic techniques apply and you pretty much have to learn to fingerpick to play banjo. And, once you learn a tune on banjo you can play it on guitar in the corresponding open-tuning (and vice-versa). It's like getting two tunes for the price of one!

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Subject: RE: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: GUEST,van lingle
Date: 16 Jan 05 - 09:04 PM

I've got to second what Justapicker indicated. When I was starting out I learned basic and intermediate styles of fingerpicking from the 2 fingerstyle books that Happy Traum produced. At Homespun he pretty much covers all the bases and skill levels with CD's and DVD's which give you a real close look at what's going on. Wish we had them way back when. Good luck, vl

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Subject: RE: Right hand help /fingerstyle
From: PoppaGator
Date: 16 Jan 05 - 09:41 PM

I'm repeating what I've said in other threads (including the top two most recent references listed at the top of this page), but I'll say it again anyway:

Some folks seem able to start by working (and thinking about) the thumb and fingers separately -- i.e., learning to keep a steady alternating bass going with their thumbs, and then "layering on" a treble part with the fingers.

I could never have gotten started that way. I had to learn one-measure-patterns, and then entire songs, by rote -- and to play gazzilions of repetitions before developing any ability to play more freely, with the fingers very gradually developing a degree of independence. In time, I *became* able to more-or-less improvise with the fingers while keeping a steady thumb-beat, but to get there, I had to train myself to play whole-right-hand patterns first.

My first fingerpicking exercise was a pattern learned from Stephan Grossman, using the "Go to the groc'ry store" rhythm mentioned above. That first quarter-note is a "pinch," thumb and middle finger picking simultaneously. I think it's *very* important for the patterns and/or songs you use for early learning to incorporate piches as well as alternations between thumb and fingers -- all alternations with no pinches won't help you develop the "vocabulary" or "muscle memory" of movements and positions that you'll need if you want to develop further.

This is just a matter of "different strokes for different folks," i.e., different "learning styles." For those you you having success without resorting to step-by-step study, tablature, books & tapes, etc., more power to you! I'm speaking to those who are having the same difficulties I faced as a beginner.

I'd second many of the suggestions above: Stephan Grossman and Happy Traum as guys who have perfected the art of creating great teaching materials for this stuff, and songs like "Freight Train," Gary Davis's "Cocaine Blues," any and all Mississippi John Hurt (especially the standard-tuning songs in C, D, G, and A -- in that order!) for study, rote imitation, practice, and eventual digestion.

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