#1
Hi all,

I've been playing some fingerstyle acoustic guitar for a while, but despite having played for 7 years, still feel like my playing is still very rough and playing some pieces are often a struggle even after playing them through multiple times. I've uploaded a video of me playing a slow intro of my own and then a cover of a song called Common Ground by Andy Mckee. The original song from Andy Mckee can be watched below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4tcFHQJHcA

Below is my video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYtyAsEBb44&feature=youtu.be

I know I need a lot of improvement because my playing still sounds weak. Please provide some constructive criticism as to what I'm doing wrong and where I should seek additional help. Critical classical guitarists are welcome. Cheers!
#2
Great track ... haven't heard this guy before.

I'm not a finger-style player, but here's my thoughts.

You should be proud of your version. Apart from a couple of wrong notes, I think the main thing you need improve on are the hammer-on / pull-off ... these are weak in sound. Your timing is mostly good. I suspect that in general you could pluck the strings a little harder ... but I don't know where you mic was.

Posture-wise ... watch your fretting-hand wrist bending too much.
#5
Yeah your action looks outrageously high even for an acoustic. Your fretting hand also looks really tense. You shouldn't have to deathgrip the guitar like that. Part of that may be your action but a lot people just deathgrip anyway. Your picking hand tech is really solid though. Pretty good positioning, you're not anchoring which is great, and your fingers aren't flying way away from the strings. So that part looks fine. I think if you focus on relaxing and just practice it more it'll smooth right out.
#6
Quote by mknight5590
Hi all,

I've been playing some fingerstyle acoustic guitar for a while, but despite having played for 7 years, still feel like my playing is still very rough and playing some pieces are often a struggle even after playing them through multiple times. I've uploaded a video of me playing a slow intro of my own and then a cover of a song called Common Ground by Andy Mckee. The original song from Andy Mckee can be watched below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4tcFHQJHcA

Below is my video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYtyAsEBb44&feature=youtu.be

I know I need a lot of improvement because my playing still sounds weak. Please provide some constructive criticism as to what I'm doing wrong and where I should seek additional help. Critical classical guitarists are welcome. Cheers!


Wow. That was great. Keep it up. You're surfing the vibe there.
#7
Pretty good man, but one thing you should work on is accuracy. I don't mean necessarily hitting the right notes, but rather fretting in such a way to let each note ring out properly. Your intro had a lot of buzzing and muted notes. Also, watch the angle of your wrist. Always try to keep it as straight as possible.
Quote by Geldin
Junior's usually at least a little terse, but he knows his stuff. I've always read his posts in a grouchy grandfather voice, a grouchy grandfather with a huge stiffy for alternate picking.
Besides that, he's right this time. As usual.
#8
Quote by Junior#1
Pretty good man, but one thing you should work on is accuracy. I don't mean necessarily hitting the right notes, but rather fretting in such a way to let each note ring out properly. Your intro had a lot of buzzing and muted notes. Also, watch the angle of your wrist. Always try to keep it as straight as possible.


Thanks man! Any exercises our approaches that you recommend for better accuracy? It's tough to play certain chords (like an A-seventh barre at the sixth fret) without angling my wrist...
#9
Quote by mknight5590
Thanks man! Any exercises our approaches that you recommend for better accuracy? It's tough to play certain chords (like an A-seventh barre at the sixth fret) without angling my wrist...


I don't bend my wrist at all to play barred A7, with zero effort to fret the chord. Can you get to see a teacher briefly to correct your mechanical approach?
#10
I think clarity is your biggest issue. You are playing the right notes and the right rhythms, but a lot of what you are playing just isn't clear. Work on letting the notes ring out to their full value. You're sounding really good though! Keep it up.
#11
I would like to point out a few flaws in your technique that could potentially hold you back. I have had the good fortune of learning classical guitar (look up Pepe Romero playing "Gran Jota de Tarrega") from some of the best classical guitarists in the world, so I know what I am talking about.

Overall, your fretting hand looks pretty good. Occasionally, you put your thumb over the top of the guitar neck. That is a very bad habit and can cause tension. Always keep your thumb on the back of the guitar neck. It doesn't take very long to fix that though.

Unfortunately, to be bluntly honest, your picking hand technique is atrocious. You rest the side of your hand on the bridge. That is a HUGE no-no that destroys your tone and makes playing complex phrases impossible. In addition, you rest your C finger (pinky) and occasionally your A finger (ring) on the guitar top. That is also a big technical flaw. You want to hold your hand free floating above the strings. It is not as hard as it sounds, because you will almost always have at least one of your fingers planted on the strings (in preparation for a stroke).

The only other thing I noticed was your thumb on your picking hand. You want to move from the rear joint on your thumb. You are bending midway. If your thumb was your leg, you would be moving from the knee. The best way to move is from the hip. This goes for all of your fingers (to some extent), but the thumb is the only one I see doing it.

Other than that, everything is looking ship shape. Good work!
#12
Quote by mknight5590
Thanks man! Any exercises our approaches that you recommend for better accuracy? It's tough to play certain chords (like an A-seventh barre at the sixth fret) without angling my wrist...

Start off with something simple that just has single notes and open strings. Like the intro to Megadeth's "Foreclosure of a Dream". After you get used to doing something like that for a while and getting to a point where everything can ring out properly, try some arpeggios. Maybe the intro to Dream Theater's "On the Backs of Angels".

The angle of your wrist may be indirectly linked to the action of your strings. Angling your wrist gives your fingers for leverage, and a guitar with high action needs more pressure to fully fret the strings. Other than that, I don't really see much that jumps out at me and screams "this is wrong".
Quote by Geldin
Junior's usually at least a little terse, but he knows his stuff. I've always read his posts in a grouchy grandfather voice, a grouchy grandfather with a huge stiffy for alternate picking.
Besides that, he's right this time. As usual.
#13
Quote by XbubbaX
I would like to point out a few flaws in your technique that could potentially hold you back. I have had the good fortune of learning classical guitar (look up Pepe Romero playing "Gran Jota de Tarrega") from some of the best classical guitarists in the world, so I know what I am talking about.

Overall, your fretting hand looks pretty good. Occasionally, you put your thumb over the top of the guitar neck. That is a very bad habit and can cause tension. Always keep your thumb on the back of the guitar neck. It doesn't take very long to fix that though.

Unfortunately, to be bluntly honest, your picking hand technique is atrocious. You rest the side of your hand on the bridge. That is a HUGE no-no that destroys your tone and makes playing complex phrases impossible. In addition, you rest your C finger (pinky) and occasionally your A finger (ring) on the guitar top. That is also a big technical flaw. You want to hold your hand free floating above the strings. It is not as hard as it sounds, because you will almost always have at least one of your fingers planted on the strings (in preparation for a stroke).

The only other thing I noticed was your thumb on your picking hand. You want to move from the rear joint on your thumb. You are bending midway. If your thumb was your leg, you would be moving from the knee. The best way to move is from the hip. This goes for all of your fingers (to some extent), but the thumb is the only one I see doing it.

Other than that, everything is looking ship shape. Good work!


Are you sure you were looking at the right video? I don't see my a and c fingers touching the guitar body at all and although my hand floats, it is rather flat and could look like the right hand is resting on the bridge. I am not Andy Mckee who is in the embedded video; I am the one playing in the link below the embedded video.

I still appreciate someone with a classical background helping me out though. I may get a teacher in that area at some point.
#14
Quote by XbubbaX


Overall, your fretting hand looks pretty good. Occasionally, you put your thumb over the top of the guitar neck. That is a very bad habit and can cause tension. Always keep your thumb on the back of the guitar neck. It doesn't take very long to fix that though.

Unfortunately, to be bluntly honest, your picking hand technique is atrocious. You rest the side of your hand on the bridge. That is a HUGE no-no that destroys your tone and makes playing complex phrases impossible. In addition, you rest your C finger (pinky) and occasionally your A finger (ring) on the guitar top. That is also a big technical flaw. You want to hold your hand free floating above the strings. It is not as hard as it sounds, because you will almost always have at least one of your fingers planted on the strings (in preparation for a stroke).


I play classical guitar, among other styles.

1) Thumb - this only applies to classical guitar ( due to the way the neck is built), for electric or acoustic guitar the thumb can be used to great effect to fret notes - this was popularized by Hendrix, but it still has great value in certain contexts. There is an art to wrapping your thumb around the neck, it is not a bad habit if used in the proper context. I didn't watch the video so if he's just placing his thumb too high rather than actually fretting notes, than I agree with you that that is bad positioning.

2) Anchoring - this is technically considered a bad habit in Classical and makes some complex phrases impossible, but in blues or other fingerstyle styles it can help achieve a better and more percussive attack for the notes the upper strings - it can also help you palm mute notes and dampen notes, which is not that really helpful for classical, but if you're playing electric it's important.
#15
Quote by mknight5590
Are you sure you were looking at the right video? I don't see my a and c fingers touching the guitar body at all and although my hand floats, it is rather flat and could look like the right hand is resting on the bridge. I am not Andy Mckee who is in the embedded video; I am the one playing in the link below the embedded video.

I still appreciate someone with a classical background helping me out though. I may get a teacher in that area at some point.



Aha! My apologies. I watched the wrong video.

Your wrist needs to come farther away from the guitar body. I will try to upload a video of me demonstrating so you can see what I am talking about. Other than that, your technique looks very good.
#16
Quote by reverb66
I play classical guitar, among other styles.

1) Thumb - this only applies to classical guitar ( due to the way the neck is built), for electric or acoustic guitar the thumb can be used to great effect to fret notes - this was popularized by Hendrix, but it still has great value in certain contexts. There is an art to wrapping your thumb around the neck, it is not a bad habit if used in the proper context. I didn't watch the video so if he's just placing his thumb too high rather than actually fretting notes, than I agree with you that that is bad positioning.

2) Anchoring - this is technically considered a bad habit in Classical and makes some complex phrases impossible, but in blues or other fingerstyle styles it can help achieve a better and more percussive attack for the notes the upper strings - it can also help you palm mute notes and dampen notes, which is not that really helpful for classical, but if you're playing electric it's important.



1.) Yes, you can use your thumb to fret notes, but it is best to avoid this. Moving your thumb in such a way moves your wrist into an awkward position, and can potentially hurt you in the long run (carpel tunnel syndrome and such). He is just placing it too high as you said. It is nothing too serious.

2.) I disagree with you on this. Listen to Pepe Romero, John Williams, or any other great classical guitarist, and you will see that they have no trouble getting a VERY wide variety of tones and attacks. For example, changing the angle that your fingers strike the string will greatly affect your tone. In addition, you can strike the strings in a different section (moving closer and farther away from the bridge) to achieve an even greater variety of sounds. Anchoring does nothing but limit your playing ability. It is a crutch that can easily be overcome. Luckily, He does not do it in his video though. That will save him a lot of trouble down the line.
#17
Quote by XbubbaX
Aha! My apologies. I watched the wrong video.

Your wrist needs to come farther away from the guitar body. I will try to upload a video of me demonstrating so you can see what I am talking about. Other than that, your technique looks very good.


Hmmm.... Not according to other people. There's some buzzing in my playing and lack of clear sound in some of the notes. If I was to pick any harder with my fingers, my right hand would cramp up or be pulled out of position...

I'd be interested in seeing a video. The other thing I might do as well is seek out a fingerstyle guitar/classical teacher because this lack of progression in playing ability over 10 years might be hampered by my own self-taught practice...
Last edited by mknight5590 at Mar 4, 2016,
#18
I did not say that you need to pick harder. Watch the video and look at how close your wrist is to the guitar. It is almost like you are resting it on the bridge, but you are not. Bring your wrist up so that the top of your hand is parallel to the guitar. That is not an exact rule, as the height of your wrist will depend on which string you are playing on, but it definitely be much better for you than where it is at right now. It will feel awkward at first, but give it time. It will be much better for you in the long run.

I will see If I can make one. A teacher could be helpful or hurtful. It all depends on whether or not they know what they are talking about.

I attached a picture of Pepe Romero. Look at the position of his picking hand and compare it to yours.

Hope this helps!
Attachments:
pepe romero.jpg
#19
Quote by XbubbaX
I did not say that you need to pick harder. Watch the video and look at how close your wrist is to the guitar. It is almost like you are resting it on the bridge, but you are not. Bring your wrist up so that the top of your hand is parallel to the guitar. That is not an exact rule, as the height of your wrist will depend on which string you are playing on, but it definitely be much better for you than where it is at right now. It will feel awkward at first, but give it time. It will be much better for you in the long run.

I will see If I can make one. A teacher could be helpful or hurtful. It all depends on whether or not they know what they are talking about.

I attached a picture of Pepe Romero. Look at the position of his picking hand and compare it to yours.

Hope this helps!


I watched some videos of Pepe as well as John Williams. Very stunning! I tried adopting their form a little . How is that?

I notice their fingers are really good at being perpendicular to the strings so I tried to keep them at that angle with a little success.
Last edited by mknight5590 at Mar 6, 2016,
#20
Bravo! That looks much better already!

Very good observation. I noticed you turning your hand more in the video.

P.S. A good song that you might want to learn is a song called "Recuerdos de la Alhambra". It is absolutely stunning, and it implements a very impressive looking technique called tremolo (not the same as electric guitar tremolo). Just a suggestion. Keep up the good work!
#21
First off, I'd say your action is way, way too high - particularly for your delicate picking style. Not sure if it's your bridge height or just truss rod way out of wack. James Taylor is a delicate picker and he likes his action just just above 'buzzy', so it's pretty low.

Also, I would use your pinky for ANY string. You've got quite good control using your palm for stability, which is also great for damping the basses if you need to, but I would rest that picking hand pinky on the sound board and leave it there.

Use two or three finger if you want, but the best pickers in the world only use one or two. Doc Watson, Reverend Gary Davis, Big Bill Broonzy, Merle Travis only used one!

Use extra lites for your style.
#22
It's excellent. I really liked what you have done. Very good joob, guy. Please keep playing!
#23
Quote by jimbruce
Also, I would use your pinky for ANY string. You've got quite good control using your palm for stability, which is also great for damping the basses if you need to, but I would rest that picking hand pinky on the sound board and leave it there.


I don't know how people anchor their pinky like that. I was told to do that at the start but found it limited my ring finger motion. Floating hand is just so much easier and far more relaxed. If I try and anchor it on the soundboard these days it just feels very restrictive.
#24
mknight5590, I've only been playing for 1.5 years. Fingerstyle like you, so I'm of course in no position to comment on your technique with any great authority. But as a listener I feel like you're missing the groove and the changes in fingering up and down the neck look quite forced and rigid, rather than the smooth and flowing. The left hand needs to dance around the fretboard too.

It could just be a difficult piece for you. I find that I often only get the smooth motion with my left hand if I know a song 110%. It could also be high action.

But take that with a grain of salt. I'm self taught too, and obviously still a ways behind you.
#25
Quote by gweddle.nz
mknight5590, I've only been playing for 1.5 years. Fingerstyle like you, so I'm of course in no position to comment on your technique with any great authority. But as a listener I feel like you're missing the groove and the changes in fingering up and down the neck look quite forced and rigid, rather than the smooth and flowing. The left hand needs to dance around the fretboard too.

It could just be a difficult piece for you. I find that I often only get the smooth motion with my left hand if I know a song 110%. It could also be high action.

But take that with a grain of salt. I'm self taught too, and obviously still a ways behind you.


Yes! I know exactly what you're talking about. I do tend to force my hand into positions, even with a lower action. I was told my left hand looks tense and indeed, I have to know a song like the one I played really well to actually play it ok.
#26
Quote by XbubbaX
I would like to point out a few flaws in your technique that could potentially hold you back. I have had the good fortune of learning classical guitar (look up Pepe Romero playing "Gran Jota de Tarrega") from some of the best classical guitarists in the world, so I know what I am talking about.

Overall, your fretting hand looks pretty good. Occasionally, you put your thumb over the top of the guitar neck. That is a very bad habit and can cause tension. Always keep your thumb on the back of the guitar neck. It doesn't take very long to fix that though.

Unfortunately, to be bluntly honest, your picking hand technique is atrocious. You rest the side of your hand on the bridge. That is a HUGE no-no that destroys your tone and makes playing complex phrases impossible. In addition, you rest your C finger (pinky) and occasionally your A finger (ring) on the guitar top. That is also a big technical flaw. You want to hold your hand free floating above the strings. It is not as hard as it sounds, because you will almost always have at least one of your fingers planted on the strings (in preparation for a stroke).

The only other thing I noticed was your thumb on your picking hand. You want to move from the rear joint on your thumb. You are bending midway. If your thumb was your leg, you would be moving from the knee. The best way to move is from the hip. This goes for all of your fingers (to some extent), but the thumb is the only one I see doing it.

Other than that, everything is looking ship shape. Good work!


Your tips were mostly for classical, and were critiquing Andy Mckee, one of the greatest acoustic guitar players in the world. Listen to how crisp and clear everything he plays is, and he is playing at a good speed also. There is nothing to improve there, on that piece.

I break a lot of the "rules" you mentioned on acoustic also. Wrapping the thumb can be very powerful. Classical guitar necks are very wide and so it is a lot harder to wrap the thumb around, and in standard tuning, which Andy Mckee doesn't usually use, and probably isn't using there, the barre position is very powerful, and so classical teaches to stay in a good bar position, which is also good for wast runs. But there are also a lot of advantages to a more bluesy stance, which has a high thumb like that, which can even be used to fret the low E, I even use it to fret the A string sometimes. You will notice how he switches between both stances, when it is most convenient for him, and he does so perfectly cleanly, and briskly enough for perfect smooth flowing music. On acoustic, I also often use the side of my hand to mute the strings I don't want to ring out, which may be ringing from having accidentally brushed them, (acoustic has more narrow string spacing, and players will often play with fingers, rather than nails), or from sympathetic resonance. I also use it sometimes to partially mute all the string which gives a sort of pizzicato effect. So, those standard practices of technique are really only for classical, and not acoustic.

OP though, you have a long way to go, I'm not going to start picking it apart, but you will need to practice for many years to be able to play the way Andy Mckee plays. Everyone starts off kind of sucking. Guitar is tough, you need to persevere to get to that level, and practice a lot.
#27
Quote by gweddle.nz
I don't know how people anchor their pinky like that. I was told to do that at the start but found it limited my ring finger motion. Floating hand is just so much easier and far more relaxed. If I try and anchor it on the soundboard these days it just feels very restrictive.



I find it depends on the style you play. If I were to play sort of Travis picking, or with a pick, or sort of simulating a pick with my index and thumb pinched together, I would pinky plant.

I never really use those techniques though, so, I never really plant my pinky either. I use my pinky to pick the high E a lot of the time. You have 4 fingers, so you can pluck 4 strings, plus your thumb, that makes a lot of sense to me.

Especially given that on the left hand, I can barre, and play a minor chord, or m7, or dom7, or maj7, or maj, or a lot of options, and still have a finger free where I can play melodies over the chord, all of this in "E position" barre, and that lets me do all of those things, on the top 4 strings, thumb doing the bass on the E, and then who cares about the A string, I've got 4 fingers playing all 4 other strings, and I can do all of those things with that. Or, I root my barres on the A string, and same deal, but ignore the low E.

If I had my pinky planted, that would be a huge disadvantage for that style.
#28
Quote by XbubbaX
1.) Yes, you can use your thumb to fret notes, but it is best to avoid this. Moving your thumb in such a way moves your wrist into an awkward position, and can potentially hurt you in the long run (carpel tunnel syndrome and such). He is just placing it too high as you said. It is nothing too serious.



That's not true. All blues guitarists, and electric players play like that. I have played that way for a long time. It's not dangerous. It is just not considered classical technique, because of the way classical guitars are, and the way classical music is.

But acoustic and electric guitars have different string spacing and neck widths, and a lot of different style of playing with a lot more note bends and all that kind of stuff, which you don't have in classical. Classical technique is really refined for classical style, but the modern world has introduced a lot of other new styles of guitar, and music, and new techniques suitable to those.

Like I said, I phase in and out that thumb position all the time. Each position has its strengths and weaknesses. The classical thumb position is definitely very powerful, but the other position is really cool also. For me, it's like there are 2 stances. A lot of things can be done in both stances, but a lot of things can't also. So, for me, which I use, really depends where I just came from, and where I'm going next, whichever is most convenient.
#29
Quote by mknight5590
Hmmm.... Not according to other people. There's some buzzing in my playing and lack of clear sound in some of the notes. If I was to pick any harder with my fingers, my right hand would cramp up or be pulled out of position...

I'd be interested in seeing a video. The other thing I might do as well is seek out a fingerstyle guitar/classical teacher because this lack of progression in playing ability over 10 years might be hampered by my own self-taught practice...


That's not a bad idea. I think for you, it looks like what you could use at this point, is sort of going to guitar gym. It looks like what you're doing is still a little bit difficult for you, and if you had some condition you could play a bit more quickly, and with more confidence.

You should make sure to find an acoustic teacher though, that can play at that level or greater.

EDIT: I saw a bit further into the video, and your left hand is actually pretty good, your right hand still needs a bit of work, like I said some guitar gym for a while would fix that. Your action could be a bit lower. You don't want to play harder. A soft touch is much better, it keeps the strings from travelling, and makes the tone a little nicer, and it lets you be more nimble and move more quickly and efficiently. But it is more difficult to do, because everything needs to be easy for you in order to play with a real soft touch. When things are difficult, then there is tension, and you need to sort of push harder, but when it's all easy for you, you're good.

It would be hard to dance ballet gracefully with a sledgehammer, but once you got strong enough where the sledge hammer wasn't so heavy, it wouldn't be so tough. Same sort of deal.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Apr 19, 2016,