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Classical gtr technique 4 picking steel?

MichaelAnthony 04 Nov 01 - 09:46 PM
Rick Fielding 04 Nov 01 - 11:52 PM
MichaelAnthony 05 Nov 01 - 05:27 PM
marty D 05 Nov 01 - 05:46 PM
GUEST,bflat 05 Nov 01 - 06:13 PM
Benjamin 05 Nov 01 - 07:11 PM
GUEST 05 Nov 01 - 08:40 PM
Uncle Jaque 05 Nov 01 - 08:41 PM
53 05 Nov 01 - 09:36 PM
Justa Picker 05 Nov 01 - 09:45 PM
Justa Picker 05 Nov 01 - 09:48 PM
Don Firth 05 Nov 01 - 10:03 PM
Benjamin 05 Nov 01 - 10:52 PM
Kaleea 06 Nov 01 - 12:57 AM
Whistle Stop 06 Nov 01 - 08:48 AM
Whistle Stop 06 Nov 01 - 11:38 AM
Rick Fielding 06 Nov 01 - 11:57 AM
MichaelAnthony 06 Nov 01 - 12:13 PM
MichaelAnthony 06 Nov 01 - 12:27 PM
Whistle Stop 06 Nov 01 - 12:52 PM
Don Firth 06 Nov 01 - 02:15 PM
GUEST,bflat 06 Nov 01 - 06:09 PM
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Subject: Classical gtr technique 4 picking steel?
From: MichaelAnthony
Date: 04 Nov 01 - 09:46 PM

I practiced classical guitar for a while years ago, and of course this helps me to play folk songs.

I'd like to be automatic a la Rick's tips http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=40703& messages=33#585060

Should I "place" or position my fingers on the strings before picking on the steel string? Should I give up and get finger picks instead of using my nails? Do the "rules" of playing classical change when playing steel string? These are the things I wonder from time to time.

I can do a couple of patterns, kinda, by just winging it. To do something like alternating bass on the 6th and 4th string is going to take a lot of practice for me. Placing may be the answer -- or something to help me feel confident and not so nervous and shaky and stiff with the right hand when not wanting to "wing it". Getting accuracy and "in the groove" is tough for me.

Anyone else been through this to a satisfactory place?

Thanks, MA


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Subject: RE: Classical gtr technique 4 picking steel?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 04 Nov 01 - 11:52 PM

Hi Michael. Lots of classical techniques can transfer to steel string. I'd never recommend anyone using fingerpicks though. I've been using them since I was about 15, and they are certainly a part of my style, but many wonderful players just use bare fingers and get a great sound. The "Burl Ives" excercise I talked about is exactly the same on Classical or steel string. Just keep the fingers real close to the strings. Many blues and folk players lay their little finger on the guitar so that their hand doesn't "float". Also gives an "opposable" feel when your really "digging out" notes and going for a lot of dynamics. Some players would never think of leaving their pinky on the guitar. Diffrent strokes....

Rick


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Subject: RE: Classical gtr technique 4 picking steel?
From: MichaelAnthony
Date: 05 Nov 01 - 05:27 PM

Yes, Rick, the "Ives" is one that carries over from my nylon string practicing with no problem. I do the "placing" on that one, and since the fingers lay on the strings in such a nice order.

I've been practicing the first exercise from that thread daily. I hope to get it down as automatic, since it's nice and powerful. A bit of trouble shifting it up and starting on the 5th string (instead of the 6th) -- the strings are so much thinner, and I loose my orientation. I think I'll have to practice regularly to keep up any learning I get here. I can even loose my alternating bass technique on the 6th and 5th strings (which is very strong) if I don't practice and am a bit nervous.

Right now still reverting back to earlier learned patterns when I let loose. Gonna keep practicing.

Thanks for the response, MA


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Subject: RE: Classical gtr technique 4 picking steel?
From: marty D
Date: 05 Nov 01 - 05:46 PM

OK here's a really stupid question. Can you actually play Merle Travis and Doc Watson style on a classical guitar? I mean so it's sounds decent.

marty


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Subject: RE: Classical gtr technique 4 picking steel?
From: GUEST,bflat
Date: 05 Nov 01 - 06:13 PM

Could someone make a blue clicky to the thread mentioned? I'm a classical guitarist who dabbles at steel strings and I'd like to improve and this may be the ticket. Thanks in advance.

Ellen


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Subject: RE: Classical gtr technique 4 picking steel?
From: Benjamin
Date: 05 Nov 01 - 07:11 PM

Here you go bflat!

I generally try not to use nails on a steel string guitar. The strings tear your nails up pretty good. I play mostly classical now. But I do agree that a lot of the technique can carry over. Especially from the left hand.

Marty, I'd say it wouldn't sound to decent to play Doc or Merle on a classical guitar for the most part. But I've never tried it. I'm guessing the fingerpicking might go over better than the flat picking (I'm not to sure though). I personaly can't see my self trying it. Though I've thought it fun to arrange something simular for classical guitar, it would probably sound a bit different.


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Subject: RE: Classical gtr technique 4 picking steel?
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Nov 01 - 08:40 PM

The first real "lick" I learned was "the Travis pick" and played it on a classical guitar for years...sounded pretty good behind Railroad Bill and a few others... I've never taken any lessons but once I turned to steel strings I just transferred everything I knew (haha...not that much!) onto my Martin. I've never learned to use a pick and have weak nails but still manage ok...but then, I'm strictly an amateur...not trying to sustain 3-5 hour gigs a night, etc.


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Subject: RE: Classical gtr technique 4 picking steel?
From: Uncle Jaque
Date: 05 Nov 01 - 08:41 PM

I find it really helps to use a 12-string guitar, like my Yamaha, strung up with only 6 strings per standard. It gets a little confusing when tuning up, having to skip all the "vacant" tuning machines, but I'm getting used to it and the wider neck translates into string spacing more like your classical guitar, and a bit more conducive to fingerpicking, drop-thumbing, "pinches", appregios and all that stuff. If I really want to, I can still take a pick to it and whail away - although I have to keep it up close to the bridge to avoid tripping or getting hung up between strings with the pick. I hardly ever do that anyway, but every so often need to (or feel like) making a lot of noise and too lazy to break out the banjo. I used to trim my fingernails real short on the left hand for fretting and leave 'em pretty long for picking on the right... but after studying and trying to emulate the early (1850 - 60) styles such as Justin HOLLAND, have gotten away from that and use fingertips and palmar side of thumb to pluck with. You almost have to come up from underneath the string and pluck up and away from the deck - and this is where it helps to have a little room between strings. For some of the harmonics ("Chiming") HOLLAND reccomends simultaniously plucking down on the string to be "chimed" with the thumb while plucking up with the index or second finger about a half-inch down from the thumb, and immediately lifting the hand away from the strings. Takes a little practice.

As to the habit of "anchoring" the right hand to the deck with the pinky; HOLLAND mentions that this technique was being taught by some of the European Maestros (The Instruction book I have was published in the 1880's) at the time, but that in his opinion "...This practice cannot be too highly condemned", and the hand should be allowed to "float" over the strings. HOLLAND felt that the finger contact "deadened" the instrument and he apparantly used all five fingers at one time or another in his melodic picking style, so probably considered it a waste of a perfectly good picking finger.

I rather enjoy using the "old" styles on the steel - strung guitar for it's crispness and clarity, and my "first CD" (such as it is) "Home From The Hill" has several of the "Trad" tunes on it - as well as a couple of my more recent compositions - recorded with my Yamaha .

If you have an old 12-string hanging about that needs re-stringing anyway, I'd encourage you to give it a try.


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Subject: RE: Classical gtr technique 4 picking steel?
From: 53
Date: 05 Nov 01 - 09:36 PM

i'm just trying to learn to fingerpick in general, and here recently i've been working on the beatles song blackbird,. BOB


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Subject: RE: Classical gtr technique 4 picking steel?
From: Justa Picker
Date: 05 Nov 01 - 09:45 PM

Marty,
In answer to your question, in theory if you have large enough hands and long enough fingers, sure you could do it...but most fingerpicking tunes by Merle and Doc, lend themselves much more easily to a narrower necked guitar, because of the chord formations used. I'd say 1 3/4" nut would be about the maximum for comfort.

Keep in mind that Merle had a slim, narrow Bigsby neck put on his pre-war D-28 to facilitate playing. Whenever you see him in a video performing one of his classics on this guitar, it always looks effortless and he comes across as smooth as puppy shit. Part of it is his natural talent, and I would guess a good part of it, is also due to the slimness and ease of shaping those "Merle" chords on this neck.


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Subject: RE: Classical gtr technique 4 picking steel?
From: Justa Picker
Date: 05 Nov 01 - 09:48 PM

Oh and Marty,
Ever tried to play thumb F chords and other thumb-based chords up and down the neck of a classical necked guitar? Try it, and you'll answer your own question. :-)


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Subject: RE: Classical gtr technique 4 picking steel?
From: Don Firth
Date: 05 Nov 01 - 10:03 PM

I don't think there's much of any finger-style playing that can't be done using classic technique. I think there are some folk guitar players who might take offense at this, but it has to be said, because it's just plain true: classic technique is the most efficient way of playing a guitar , whether it is steel-string or nylon and regardless of the width of the fingerboard.

Okay, you can explode all over me now. . . .

Also, I've known and still know many really fine finger-style players of steel-string guitars, classic technique and otherwise, who use their nails rather than fingerpicks. It depends a lot on the condition of your nails.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Classical gtr technique 4 picking steel?
From: Benjamin
Date: 05 Nov 01 - 10:52 PM

Guest, I should clearify my statement (or make a different) that some of the old time Travis and Watson or old time blues stuff can sound great on a nylon string, but different than a steel string. A lot of it can depend on the guitar. My Kenny Hill sounds great when playing Tansman or Tarrega, but just doesn't sound right when playing a blues riff. I remember a high school teacher who attempted to teach some of the younger kids who would always keep a couple guitars in his room and Thursdays when he held a class after school (of which I did not take part) would bring a few more in. Of all, my favorte (conisedenctly his favorte, and the one everyone else hated) was an old beat up nylon string that had seen extreme conditions and was fairly weathered from it. We'd always have blues jams at lunch when that guitar was around (he'd play banjo or harmonica) and my riffs sounded great on that guitar. I think the guitar also plays a role in other words.

Don, I can't entirely agree. Classical technique is very efficiant, and perhaps the most (I use it daily). But it doesn't allow you to use your left hand thumb. It would not be very useful for somebody like Rev. Gary Davis. Other than that, I have no problem.


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Subject: RE: Classical gtr technique 4 picking steel?
From: Kaleea
Date: 06 Nov 01 - 12:57 AM

Michael Anthony, After having taught guitar for many years, I find that my students who learn basic techniques of guitar which I would consider in the "classical" style, can, from there, go on to play in any genre. I teach them to place the pinky on the face of the guitar in a spot which puts the plucking fingers directly over the sound hole. Then, you may pluck with the thumb the alternating bass on strings 4-5-&6, while plucking the strings (4)-3-2-1 with the index & middle & ring fingers. After my students learn the basics with their fingers, I am open to letting the student decide whether to use a thumb or other picks or not. I maintain that if you learn without picks first, you may go to the picks thumb, finger or flat, but you can not go the other way. Each musician must decide what is in their hearts to play. I learned to play in the "folk" days of Peter, Paul & Mary, Burl Ives, Merle Travis, Chet Atkins, & on & on. I prefer to play rhythm, and accompianiment using an apreggio style strum is second nature to me. You can find these styles of playing in the "Mel Bay Guitar Class Method" which I have used to teach beginners for over 25 years. If you pick up the guitar & play slowly but surely at a steady tempo, you will surely get it. I prefer to play without picks, only using a flat pick when I must have the volume while strumming. (I am quite adept with picks, I just prefer to not use them.) My Grandad was a man who farmed 20 acres & never drove a car or had plumbing, and never had a pick for his guitar. I guess if no pick was good enough for Grandad & his Dad & Grandad, I can do it too. Good Luck! Kaleea


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Subject: RE: Classical gtr technique 4 picking steel?
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 06 Nov 01 - 08:48 AM

Just bringing this thread up to the top so I will have an easier time finding it when I come back to it a little later today. I have been playing guitar for about 33 years, starting as a serious student of classical guitar (used to perform classical guitar publicly quite a bit in my earlier years), and ultimately transferring a lot of the technique to steel strings. There are adjustments to be made along the way, but a lot of the technique is really worth hanging onto and/or adapting. I'll be back...


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Subject: RE: Classical gtr technique 4 picking steel?
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 06 Nov 01 - 11:38 AM

Back again. As I mentioned, I transferred skills and techniques from my classical guitar studies to the steel string guitar -- some conciously, some as a natural outgrowth of trying to play a new instrument with the same old hands. It has worked well for me. However, I think it's only fair to say that there are many ways to play the guitar, and the minute someone claims to have found "the" best way, someone else will come along and break all their rules, yet still play beautifully. So I can only say what has worked for me, not what will work best for everyone.

The study of classical guitar technique is largely the study of ergonomics. When I first began classical guitar studies at the age of 11 or so, I wasn't necessarily aware of all the thought and experience that had gone into the development of classical guitar technique. Hand positions are worked out so as to provide free movement with minimal stress, ample volume, good tone production and versatility, etc. And whether you're playing classical, folk, jazz, blues, or other styles, playing with free and natural movement, good tone and low stress is desirable.

An example of this is the position of the guitar when held by a classical guitarist: typically it's held on the left leg (assuming you're right handed), with the guitar at roughly a 45-degree angle across your body. This puts the neck in a position where your left hand can fret (from underneath the neck) freely, without hyperextending the wrist, and the right hand falls in a natural arch over the strings. Again, this allows you more flexibility with less effort, and helps prevent muscle cramps, carpal tunnel problems, etc. When I play steel-string acoustic, I generally hold the guitar at more of an angle than someone who started in folk/blues, who might tend to hold the guitar more horizontally (parallel to the floor).

The strings feel different under your fingers, with respect to tension, action, spacing, and so forth, so you do have to adapt, particularly in the right hand. I find that I fingerpick with a combination of flesh and nail similar to how I would pick a classical guitar, and because of this I have a wide variety of tones at my disposal (and I know how to get them). Classical guitarists learn to angle the plucking finger differently to produce different tones, and much of this is still valid on steel strings. If you're going to be playing wiht your nails, nail shaping and maintenance, which classical guitarists learn, is essential to being able to play on steel strings with adequate volume and tonal flexibility, and without chewing up your nails on the strings. [Note: My nails are not inherently stronger than the next person's, but I can play for hours on medium gauge phosphor bronze strings with no ill effects. It's not the strength of the nail that matters, it's the shape, length, angle of attack, and smoothness. If your nails get chewed up by steel strings, the solution is not to harden your nails, but to really study how they strike and glide off the string, adjust your hand position to get a good angle, shape and smooth the nails appropriately so they won't get hung up on a string, and rigorously maintain them.]

There are some things that are definitely against the rules for classical guitarists, but seem to work well for some others. Wrapping your thumb over the neck is one; with apologies to the Rev. Gary Davis, it so drastically restricts the movement in your hand that it would never be considered an appropriate technique by the classical guitar world (especially if you have the "neck high" position that allows the fretting hand to more more freely and naturally). It is also a recipe for cramping. And those of us who play with a "proper" hand position coming in from under the neck would maintain that there is little you can do with the thumb wrapping over the top that you couldn't do better from underneath, assuming you put an equivalent level of effort into learning it. If you're playing in more of a rock and roll posture (picking around the crotch area, neck low, maybe a few Pete Townsend windmills), wrapping your thumb around the neck may make sense, but you'll probably lose more than you gain.

Anchoring a finger on the face of the guitar is another taboo; not only does it dampen the sound, it also restricts movement. And if your hand is positioned "correctly," it should be able to fall in the right place over the strings without an anchor. Also, to answer your specific question, it is generally frowned upon to "pre-place" your fingers on the strings; there are some exceptions (tremelos, for example, where you may anchor the "a" finger before plucking with the thumb), but for the most part you should have your hand positioned correctly, and be familiar enough with your instrument (practice!) so that your fingers will know where to go without being pre-positioned.

With some adaptation, most or all classical guitar techniques and principles can still apply on a steel string, with qutie satisfactory results. Some things have to be adjusted; you will probably play fewer rest strokes on steel strings, you may keep your nails a little shorter, you will need to get used to tighter spacing between strings, etc. But I think it's a great foundation, whatever style you want to pursue. I'll check back on this thread, so let me know if there are other aspects of this you want to explore. Good luck -- Whistle Stop


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Subject: RE: Classical gtr technique 4 picking steel?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 06 Nov 01 - 11:57 AM

Great thread....and you can see why we (well, some of us,anyway) love to discuss techniques on Mudcat.

Marty...in answer to your question ("can you play Travis style on a classical?")

Ever listened to Guy Van Duser?

My own personal thought on it is that perhaps you shouldn't "want" to play it on Classical, simply 'cause it's a steel string technique. BUT, BUT, having said that, I believe that breaking the rules is ALWAYS OK if it works for you. Keep in mind that it was not only Segovia who insisted that the thumb be placed UNDER the neck. Period. Many Jazz guitarists learned that way as well.

Chet Atkins tells a great story about meeting Segovia, and watching the Master's face as he realized that Chet was using a THUMBPICK to play classical guitar. Naturally he was horrified....and you can be sure Chet wasn't playing any "thumb chords" during their meeting. So there you have it... was Chet as 'legit' as Segovia? I sure think so. But Chet still felt a little intimidated around the 'popularizer' of the whole classical guitar repertoire. From what I know of his personality, had Merle been pickin' with Andres, he wouldn't have given a pile of possum shit at Andre's reaction to his thumb chords.

Here's a suggestion though. There are a number of hybrid "narrow neck, cuttaway classicals" on the market now. The manufacturers obviously have no problem with folks' breakin' the rules!

Rick


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Subject: RE: Classical gtr technique 4 picking steel?
From: MichaelAnthony
Date: 06 Nov 01 - 12:13 PM

I've been practicing -- that seems to be the biggest factor. I believe pre-place is good for me until I get the accuracy down.

Now as to standing up -- because of lower energy or decadence or something I haven't been practicing this way -- and when I play an open mic or something I'll sit down. But I really would like to play standing up sometimes. Guess I'll have to find that energy.

A nice thing is switching between guitars. If I practice on the nylon strings for quieter moods etc, then later switch to steel, it's a nice change that can be inspirational -- kind of like when you pick up a great guitar at a music store to play or borrow someone's great guitar. The newness is nice, and you appreciate the advantages of different guitars. It reminds me that apprectiation is relative for me. Another example of this is that no matter how nicely driving my car may be, I'll get used to it and no longer appreciate it as much. But go on a trip and drive a rental for a while, then go back... My car doesn't drive nicely now. But it has other advantages I appreciate after getting out of a cream puff.


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Subject: RE: Classical gtr technique 4 picking steel?
From: MichaelAnthony
Date: 06 Nov 01 - 12:27 PM

Thanks for the great posts. BTW, Whistestop, yes the pinky-placing does seem to affect my sound, even on the pickguard. Also changes the attack, but that's not all of it.

Nails are holding up okay so far. Having some fun finally practicing again.


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Subject: RE: Classical gtr technique 4 picking steel?
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 06 Nov 01 - 12:52 PM

Glad to hear it, Michael. Rick's story about Chet meeting Andres is one I had heard as well, and reinforces the point that there are lots of ways to play well. Reading back over my post, I realize that I probably harped too much on the "correctness" of classical guitar technique. It's probably better to say that classical technique has much to recommend it; especially the fact that the ergonomics are really studied at length by classical guitarists, and this type of focus would benefit any player, regardless of the technique he ultimately employs or the style of music he prefers to play.

I'll also second Risk's mention of Guy Van Duser -- an oustanding player on a nylon string guitar, who incorporates elements from a lot of different styles.

Finally, I think you're absolutely right about how switching between instruments can help you maintain a fresh perspective and appreciation for each type of instrument. It sounds to me like you have a pretty healthy outlook on the lifelong process of learning to play. And keep these threads coming -- like Rick, I enjoy discussing technique.


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Subject: RE: Classical gtr technique 4 picking steel?
From: Don Firth
Date: 06 Nov 01 - 02:15 PM

Good summation up yonder, Whistle Stop. I started out on steel strings, then shifted to a classic guitar early on. I'm used to the two-inch fingerboard, and although I can play a steel-string guitar without any difficulty, it always feels like I'm trying to play on a toothpick. But I suppose in time I could get used to it if need be. I've never used my left thumb to fret a string. I've never run into an occasion where I felt I needed to. But then, I can manipulate full bars with ease, so. . . .

I feel that classic technique is the most efficient way of playing a guitar, at least ergonomically, but the ultimate test, of course, is whatever works.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Classical gtr technique 4 picking steel?
From: GUEST,bflat
Date: 06 Nov 01 - 06:09 PM

This is a wonderful thread. Thank you, Benjamin for the blue clicky. Terrific contributions from you seasoned players.

Ellen


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