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Old 11-08-2012, 06:16 PM   #1
Gravenous
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Picking Hand Position In Relation To The Strings?

Hey guys, this is a really stupid question, but I've been examining my own playing style as much as I can - I've had a guitar for ages, but have tried teaching myself and other inefficient stuff, so I am basically a beginner. Also sorry about the diagrams, I have no way to take pictures right now.

I've been watching some videos, and what's been bothering me lately is this. In this Freepower video, this Nevermore lesson, this Mattrach lesson and basically tons of other videos of guitarrists I respect, people hold their forearms almost perpendicular to the strings, something like this :

It's most obvious in the Nevermore video with the way Jeff Loomis plays.

Whereas I hold my hands at a much greater angle, something like this - basically leaning my bicep on the top of the guitar body :

Which feels a lot more comfortable to my upper arm, but I'm not sure if it doesn't cause tension in my wrist when I play the low E string, especially on upstrokes. I am quite short, though, so my arms are a bit shorter, too, which might be a factor, but still. Oh, this is with the guitar on my right leg, btw.

Now this allows me to move my arm across the strings like this :


But that changes the angle I get between my hand and the different strings, which has to be detrimental, I presume. I'm not sure if my wrists actually hurt me, since I just started going to the gym after a long pause and it could be that.

As far as I see, the advantage of holding my arm more vertically is that I get the same angle between my hand and the strings, but I have to move my entire arm, not just the forearm to switch strings, and I don't think it'll be overly comfortable for my upper arm and shoulder and triceps in particular when playing the low E.

Am I missing some obvious benefits of the one position and/or debilitating problems with the other?
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Old 11-08-2012, 06:27 PM   #2
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I'm not seeing the whole perpendicular thing, but what you're doing is more or less correct.

Most people on here will tell you that you should hold your guitar on the left leg (classical position) as opposed to on the right. That gives you better posture and is more similar to playing standing up, not to mention allows you better fret access and more ergonomic control of the instrument. In short, there is no reason not to use the classical position.

As for wrist pain, that could be a number of things. I'd need a video to see your technique before I make any kind of call about what's causing you tension, though.
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Old 11-08-2012, 06:32 PM   #3
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I made a thread attempting to ask the same thing about a year or so ago as this was bothering me too - although in mine I was specifically asking about how one goes about crossing between strings - from the wrist, forearm or moving the entire arm. My arm rests much like yours as personally I find the other way uncomfortable - it causes me to lift my shoulder un-necessarily (I play with the guitar on my left leg). I don't get how people get that extreme of an angle without their shoulder hurting as it seems you have to suspend your arm all the time to some degree.

I'd say the most extreme example of your first diagram is George Bellas - he plays with his arm coming down like that and moves his whole arm for all string crosses. He plays ridiculously cleanly. However, I have noticed that Guthrie Govan plays more like your second diagram. While his style doesn't usually involve ridiculous alternate picking all over the place, I don't doubt he's got the chops to pull it off.

Recently, I attempted the George Bellas method again, and at first wondered why I didn't stick with it. Then my shoulder started killing me. I don't know if it's because I have a weak shoulder or because I was somehow doing something very wrong - I looked in the mirror and didn't appear tense, and my shoulder generally sat low and didn't feel particularly tense.

Personally, I'd say if you can do it with no problems and it feels fairly natural, attempt to go for the whole arm thing, but I can't do it myself without causing myself severe strain and many other players do just fine without it.
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Last edited by llBlackenedll : 11-08-2012 at 06:34 PM.
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Old 11-08-2012, 06:47 PM   #4
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Ok, I got some pictures, as shitty as they might be.

Here is how I generally play:


Here is how other people who are successful guitarrists seem to play


With the way I play the pick lies really flat to the strings, which I've read might be a problem if I reach higher speeds, and palm muting feels really unnatural.

Should I try playing the other way, or just straight go classical position? And if so, can you recommend a video explaining classical position for electric guitar?
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Old 11-10-2012, 12:22 PM   #5
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I play like you showed in the second picture, I think you should try get used to it because its closer to what its going to be like when you stand up.

By looking at your stance I would guess that you strum and pick moving the entire forearm? In that case you should focus on picking just from the wrist and fingers, it will help a lot with reducing the tension in your picking hand/arm.
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Old 11-10-2012, 03:26 PM   #6
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Nah, I don't pick from the entire forearm, I pick with rotational movement, with a slightly crooked wrist, and strum with a combination of that and forearm movement. A way to imagine it is if the arm with a straight wrist and knuckles up is _ _ , or a 180 degree angle, mine is about 195, so rotation creates a sort of flicking motion.

However at the advice of Geldin I switched to classical position and god damn, I though I sucked before but this is a whole new dimension.

This also brings another question - in classical position when skipping strings, like in freepower's string crossing and skipping exercise, should I be doing it from the elbow, with a sweeping motion of the forearm, or by dragging the upper arm, like Jeff Loomis does here at 00:15 -> ? I'm trying to do it with dragging, but it seems really hard.

Man, I feel really silly asking all these simple questions, but I can't afford a teacher right now, and I don't want to practice wrongly.

Last edited by Gravenous : 11-10-2012 at 03:27 PM.
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Old 11-10-2012, 04:04 PM   #7
llBlackenedll
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gravenous
Man, I feel really silly asking all these simple questions, but I can't afford a teacher right now, and I don't want to practice wrongly.

Don't feel silly asking questions like this, feel thankful that you're perceptive enough to pick up on them. The reason a lot of questions aren't asked or aren't asked frequently is because a lot of people "just play" and don't pay particular attention to the intricacies of playing. I'm much the same in that I probably over-analyse things like this a bit too much; it can cause problems with something like guitar because often there is not a definitive answer as different people have different ways of doing things and you can end up going around in circles trying different methods of achieving the same thing, when more often than not what you really need to do is stick with one and practise. Watch a load of different guitarists on Youtube and you'll notice that they all do things slightly differently, either because that's how they've learned or because that's how their body tells them feels right.

In terms of moving from the forearm or moving the whole arm, I use the forearm as moving the whole arm seems to cause me some problems. Think about it this way - have you ever woken up with a dead arm and tried to lift it with your other arm? It's damn heavy. Moving your whole arm feels like it's a lot of effort just to move a centimetre or so, and doing it a lot you might cause some strain as I have. If you can work out how to do it without causing strain in your shoulder I'd really like to know as I found it worked well for playability just not for my general health.

EDIT: Oh and looking at the Loomis vid - my arm has a similar angle to that, but I don't string cross moving the whole arm.
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Last edited by llBlackenedll : 11-10-2012 at 04:08 PM.
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Old 11-10-2012, 07:58 PM   #8
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Old 11-24-2012, 12:52 PM   #9
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Sorry to bump this topic, but from what I've gathered Paul Gilbert places his wrist not parallel with the string but at an angle and plays with a combination oscillation/translation, using mostly his wrist to switch from string to string, right?
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