Progress after a few more weeks of practice. 115bpm works on a good day but I'm focussing on the accuracy and staying relaxed at 100 for now. The tag has some way to go yet - getting those rest strokes in is tricky!I'm back to my OM style guitar now that it's back from the shop and this arm position feels best for me. I feel that my wrist, forearm, and elbow are unified in my pickstroke and I have control of where I'm playing on the string while resting my elbow forces me to play by the neck joint.
This is the B part variant with my right arm placement as close I can get to yours; does this look like it would be more effective in the long term to you?
This is where I am after a few weeks on this tune. I think that my technique has improved a lot as I'm letting myself play closer to the bridge where the strings are more taut and I'm learning to control my attack to help keep nimble. I'm struggling to avoid tension in my wrist as I work up to the quicker speeds which is leading to some dragged timings and mispicks; I'll revisit adjusting my positioning so that my elbow is resting on the guitar but do you have any advice that may help here otherwise? My goal is 115bpm on this but the final push is certinaly going to be a challenge!
I really enjoyed working on this tune! I deleted my earlier video as I got my recording nerves under control this afternoon. I'm looking for feedback for the verses and chorus as I'm not sure I've found the balance of not-too-obvious but not-too-planned-out yet :-)
Hi Chris,You mentioned that the right hand rolling style is something that you've spoken about in other lessons; could you direct me to this?All the best,James
Hi Chris,Is the general guideline for rest strokes something like: Use rest strokes to help your low notes project on downstrokes but use them less on a quick run?All the best,James
I missed your comment here. I was back-and-forth on the dissonant chromatic line between 0:36-0:38 for a while as it's a bit... outside... haha. Thanks for you thoughts regarding dynamics; I've never heard someone flatpick in person which makes it tricky to imagine what things 'really' sound like with all of the nuance that mics don't capture. Catching Punch Brothers in London a couple of times is my only live reference at all!I've spent £25 trying different picks over the last couple of months as I've never really deviated from a heavy 351 style; I can only buy primetones in packs of 3 which did get a bit expensive with a few styles and shipping. I'll definitely consider a Blue Chip once I've settled on a style/thickness for flatpicking in general :-)
I think I've found the middle ground - my arm position hasn't really changed but my pick stroke is less wrist-based which is making things easier to control.This take is at 110bpm with a few fluffs but it's a fair representation of an average runthrough. I'll be tidying it up over the coming weeks but think it's time to start working on something new too :-)
Thanks, Chris.I've tried to increase the tempo as much as I can in this video for technique feedback but I can't match you yet. As you predicted, it's difficult to hold everything together. I could get quicker but I think that the single note runs would become significantly weaker and lose balance with the rest.I've adjusted my right arm position here - how's this looking to you? This feels weird at the moment so my playing isn't good here even at the slow speed. I'm happy to persevere for a few weeks but wanted to check that it's off to the right start :-)I'll have an experiment with the slurs for sure - breaks for the right hand sound great right now haha
I had a great time praciticing this one; I really enjoyed the right hand style.I've acquired 2 new students by playing bits from these lessons in guitar shops while browsing so thank you for making Sonic Junction self sustaining for me! I invested in this Atkin OM37 which I think sounds great :-)
You sound great here. Very clear, nice flow and just generally musical. I have a question and two suggestions:
The question is: as you continue to practice this are you able to bring the tempo up closer to where I play it? My guess is that the right hand becomes more difficult as the speed increases because most of the lateral string-to-string picking motion is coming almost exclusively from your wrist. If you shift the guitar slightly to your left so that your forearm can reorient to be slightly more horizontal then you can engage your elbow more meaningfully in the pick stroke. To be clear, a pick stroke ideally is one fully integrated movement that engages your whole arm (and really, actually, your whole body) - not just something happening your elbow or your wrist. So see if shifting the guitar and, accordingly, the angle of your forearm helps the movement to feel more unified.
The other suggestion is to see where hammer-ons and pull offs complement the melody and give your right hand a break. It's important to remember that they can subtely change the contour of a melodic line. Experiment and use those subtle tweaks to your musical advantage. There's not a right or correct way to do this - the slurs will just change the emphases of the notes you're already playing, so see what you like. The melody will become more dynamic and your right hand will thank you - win win!
Hey James, this is great - thanks for both videos.
You're doing a fine job on the quicker video using your normal technique - your wrist is getting quite the workout!
Even though the technique isn't as assured on the second video, your forearm and mechanism on the whole looks more relaxed. My suggestion is this: try for a forearm position that splits the difference between your old position and the new one. See if you can find a spot that still retains a bit more fundamental familiarity but where you also are engaging your forearm a bit, as in the second video. I'm guessing that the split difference will be the sweet spot where you can encourage a better, more wholistic movement pattern but it doesn't feel like you're starting from scratch.
Yes! This looks much more relaxed and flowing to me. Keep working on it of course, but you're on a good path here!
I'm pretty happy with how this one turned out! My own observation is that my dynamics are unstable which I think is affected by me pushing the tempo on this take and struggling to control the 1.3mm primetone pick (I like the depth of the tone this is giving me but I'm really feeling the extra weight compared to an Extra Heavy celluloid).I think I may be earning myself a trip to the guitar store :-P
Ooh, I love your chromatic embellishments! Regarding the dynamics, they sound good to me. Sometimes with flatpicking it can be easy to fetishize really even playing - think Tony Rice playing Blackberry Blossom on Manzanita. The guitar playing on that track is INSANE and maybe the most striking element is the cyborg-like precision (in timing, dynamics, touch, etc).
But I actually think it's fun when an entire line has a dynamic contour. So I would actually suggest that you try singing the tune and see where the dynamics, accents and melodic contours are falling naturally. Then, once you have a handle on how you naturally are thinking about the melody, adapt it to the guitar.
Re the flatpick, I got into using a bluechip TP-48 about 4 years ago and I love it. I especially like the way the TP-48 feels in my hands. It's more maneuverable than what I was using before. They're expensive at $35 per pick, but if you're not someone who loses/misplaces your picks, I think they're worth the money (I can use the same pick for almost a year). Of course, your mileage may vary!
I think that I've got the melodic shape now and I've worked on the tense mouth during the transition to the B section. Metronome is on 1 & 3 though I should've given myself an extra moment to find the beat before punching in!It looks like my right arm is resting across the soundboard but the only contact is just below my elbow on the binding of the guitar. Based on other players' observations of their technique and the responses, I'll see how bringing my elbow affects my playing as I start adding into the chromatic notes in the next lesson.
Internalising the flow of the melody on this one has been a challenge for me over the last few days. I'm not sure how much sense this makes but there's something about the melodic shape here that didn't come naturally; fiddle tune melodies just move in a different way to the styles that I'm used to but hopefully this becomes more intuitive with more listening and practice! My mouth is a tell of where I was struggling to connect the phrases in the B section during practice and getting lost.One of my questions is about damping vs sustain. I'm used to damping the strings very actively in my usual playing but, with a 'floating' right hand, I'm hearing a wash of lingering noise as I release the C chords in the B section and return to the melody. I'd probably block this with the right hand on the strings if I was doing something similar in other styles but wanted to ask your thoughts on whether this is necessary for Bluegrass and if a RH mute would reduce the resonance of the guitar in the melody.
Hey James, you sound great here and there's an obvious progression from one video to the next. It seems to me as if you naturally sorted out the damping in the second video. Damping isn't much of a problem on acoustic guitar just because the sustain of any "leftover" notes tends to be relatively quiet compared to notes that one might play in a melody. It's way less of an issue than on electric for instance where those open strings will often be nearly as loud as the "played" strings. All of that said, I do employ damping at times, using both my right and left hands. Also, for what it's worth, I am not at all committed to having a "floating" right hand. It does bring some advantages (crosspicking and quick leaps across several strings are easier for me when floating), but there are distinct advantages to lightly anchoring as well (timing and power). I'd suggest that you experiment and see what you prefer.
I had a quiet afternoon so had a chance to get more practice in and tidy up those rhythms; I think that this feels a lot better now.I was using a 1.5mm Primetone in this take; is anyone else hearing an odd tone in the pick attack?
Early days of practicing with this one and I'm focussing on trying to keep the melody distinct around the other notes. Do you have any tips on my articulation here? I know that my timings are loose - the rhythm on the slurs doesn't feel natural just yet but I'll be metronoming shortly.I noticed that you're not using vibrato in your playthough - is this a stylistic trait for Bluegrass? It's going to feel weird restricting when I use it if so!
You sound great and the difference between the first and second video is wonderful. The way I played the melody the first time through is probably less adorned than I would perform the song at a show. It was more to present it with simplicity and clarity. The second is a little more dressed up for presentation. However, the first time through does speak to some of the simplicity of the style. Namely, not much vibrato, a fairly direct melodic sense, crisp timing and rhythmic feel, and a pleasant tone. I hadn't figured out how to record the guitar well when I made the video, but the other elements come through well enough.
By the second video I feel like you nailed all of these elements plus a lovely sense of heart and musicality. Beautiful! For what it's worth, I'm not hearing anything out of bounds with the pick noise.
Hi Chris,I had a couple of Skype lessons with you a few years back during a brief excursion into Bluegrass-land and have been revisiting things recently. I've been playing for 15 years and teaching for nearly 8 now but I just wanted to say that really coming back to the foundations in depth is really helping me to improve again - especially after a year of teaching online at awkward angles! I've adjusted my grip on the pick and experimented with different shapes, switched to a floating right hand instead of anchoring, and found issues with tension in my arms even when I'm not playing which I'm working on. My playing is already sounding smoother and my right hand is the most accurate it has ever been. I'm really looking forward to working through more of this series and hope to catch you on tour when you're in the UK next.All the best,James
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