Right And Left Hand Technique. Part 4 - Right Hand Position

author: UG Team date: 07/31/2003 category: guitar techniques
rating: 8.3 / votes: 12 
This series is the approach that I use to teach pick-style technique to all of my students. For best results, take these articles to an educated and experienced teacher who is stylistically broad based and who knows this approach, so that (s)he may coach you. This approach is to attain the maximum possible cleanliness and articulateness in ones tone. Also, it will give, ultimately, the greatest speed with the least health risk. I am careful never to say that it is the correct way to play. There is no such thing, and many people do great things with really sloppy technique. Wherever possible, though, I will indicate the exact benefits of each technique. If you are left handed, please excuse my right-handed bias, and reverse all of the relevant direction and hand indications. F) Overall Position. If you have set up the guitar position as in lesson I, your right forearm should be making an angle of about 160 degrees with the strings. That is as it should be. Furthermore, one could even position one's forearm so that it is parallel to those strings, extending from them. The thing to avoid is having the guitar low, with your right forearm perpendicular to the strings. This enables one to the pick set up as follows. G) The Pick. Only a very small portion of the pick should extend -- a millimeter or less. The flat of the pick should be parallel to the strings, and the pick itself should be perpendicular to the guitar. One common mistake... people usually try to adjust this by angling differently at their wrist. That is unnecessary. The wrist should stay straight. All pick adjustments can be made by placing it at a different point on the fingertip. Benefits: This reduces pick noise. Many people are inclined to have the pick angled because it produces less friction, and seems faster. The problem, though, is that any angle increases the noise produced as the pick scrapes across the string. If one does play fast with this angle, the scraping noise buries the actual tones. Exceptions: Sometimes the noise sounds cool. For example, the beginning of _Hoardes of Locusts_ by Satriani, or an accented blues articulation... H) Alternate Picking. Alternate picking is the alternation of downstrokes with upstrokes. Use it! Do that exercise presented in previous lessons like this:
d = Downstroke, u = upstroke

Ascending:
    
   d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u  
E|-----------------------------------------1-2-3-4--|
B|---------------------------------1-2-3-4----------|
G|-------------------------1-2-3-4------------------|
D|-----------------1-2-3-4--------------------------|
A|---------1-2-3-4----------------------------------|
E|-1-2-3-4------------------------------------------|...etc

    Descending:
    
   d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u
E|-5-4-3-2-----------------------------------------|
B|---------5-4-3-2---------------------------------|
G|-----------------5-4-3-2-------------------------|
D|-------------------------5-4-3-2-----------------|
A|---------------------------------5-4-3-2---------|
E|-----------------------------------------5-4-3-2-|
Be very careful descending. People who are uncomfortable with alternate picking generally reverse their picking pattern to:
   d u d u u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u etc...
E|-5-4-3-2-----------------------------------------|
B|---------5-4-3-2---------------------------------|
G|-----------------5-4-3-2-------------------------|
D|-------------------------5-4-3-2-----------------|
A|---------------------------------5-4-3-2---------|
E|-----------------------------------------5-4-3-2-|
because an upstroke to a lower string requires traveling less distance. Avoid this! Benefits: The most obvious -- one has the potential for playing twice as fast with alternate picking than one does with just downstrokes. The reason to be rigorous about the pattern is to produce a more musical pattern of accents. A downstroke naturally produces a little heavier accent than an upstroke. You can modify this deliberately, so that your upstrokes are heavier, but this is not what will come out naturally. Now, there is a pretty predictable pattern of accents in the rhythms of just about everything you will play. Take something in 4/4 time. The BEATS 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 in any measure will take the accents HARD - SOFT - MEDIUM - SOFT respectively. That would be efficiently executed with Down - up - down - up. Imagine subdividing that measure into eighth notes...
             1      &       2       &       3       &       4       & 
is accented HARD  SOFT   MEDIUM   SOFT    HARD    SOFT   MEDIUM   SOFT
and picked  down    up    down     up     down     up     down     up

sixteenth notes?...

 1      a       &       a       2       a       &       a
HARD  SOFT   MEDIUM   SOFT    HARD    SOFT   MEDIUM   SOFT
down    up    down     up     down     up     down     up

triplets?

 1      &     a    2    &    a
HARD   SOFT  SOFT MED  SOFT SOFT
down    up   down  up  down  up     or...
down    up   down down  up  down
Exceptions: Since downstrokes and upstrokes sound different, sometimes one will want that sound. Fifties Rock, for example, is most convincingly executed with downstrokes only. In some Rock and Fusion styles, "economy" or "sweep" picking is appropriate. This is where one always downstrokes to a higher string, or upstrokes to a lower string. It is easier to develop speed this way. Unfortunately, the accents flatten out, and the passage just sounds fast and picked. Time permitting, I will go into sweep picking in greater detail in other lessons. Class Assignment: Do the pseudo-chromatic exercise from Lesson II with the following criteria: A) Guitar Position (see part I) B)1. Left Hand Thumb Position and range of motion (midline [G string] to edge... see lesson II) 2. Left Hand Thumb Pressure (NONE! PERIOD! again, see lesson II) C) Left hand wrist. (straight as a ruler, palm away from the neck... again, lesson II) D) Left hand wrist. (parallel to the underside of the neck... lesson III) E) Finger placement. (close to the neck... lesson III) F) Overall position of right forearm. G) The pick, angled for the least noise H) Alternate Pick. - Tim Fullerton
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