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Plucking Technique for the guitar?

guitar picking plucking technique method

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#1 Gazzcool

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Posted 30 May 2019 - 16:58

Hi There,

 

I've taught guitar for several years, both classical and pop style, but to this day I've never quite figured out what the best method is to teach when it comes to plucking the strings.

Firstly, do you start them off using their fingers, or a plectrum?

If you use fingers, should you teach them to use their thumb first, or finger? do you teach them to alternate between I and M, or one finger per string? or just start with one finger at a time? free strokes or rest strokes?

 

And what about if you are using a plectrum? Do you teach them to pick down first, or jump straight to alternate picking? And is that strict alternate picking or does it depend on the situation? or "economy picking"?

Personally I find that if I begin with a "simple" technique (such as plucking all down strokes or with only one finger), it becomes much harder later on to switch to a better technique. But if I begin with a more "advanced" technique, I get so much push-back from the student ("but WHY?") and they end up not enjoying their lessons.

any thoughts?
 

 


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#2 ten left thumbs

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Posted 31 May 2019 - 10:55

I'm not a guitar teacher - but a learner. After some mucking about with a pick I learned from  Leavitt's Modern Method. That was very strict about down strokes for crotchets, then running quavers are down up down up. The quaver on the beat gets a down and the off-beat quaver gets an up. So a quaver pick-up is an up. There are various solutions for triplets. It did wonders for my picking. They have these picking etudes that are marathons to get through, but they are really good. The value in the system was it made you consistent, and accurate about placement of the arm and hand (where to I need to be to approach this string from this angle, and where will I end up? If I do a rest stroke will I mute the next string, is that what I want, etc, etc?)

 

Right or wrong, it was a system and now I can pick up a guitar and I will always pick like this and I'm fairly accurate.

 

Classical - Here I got very very confused. I felt the books were asking me to alternate i and m for no reason other than to confuse me, and to instill in me that this was the correct pattern, where in fact I have 5 fingers on that hand and there is no reason to neglect any of them. I had occasional lessons and found my teacher equally inconsistent. What he did say was that different guitar authorities have different ideas on this. At one point, he said that m would make a naturally stronger tone (longer finger) so I should use that for the on-beat quavers, i for the off-beats. Sometimes he would have me alternating i and m, sometimes p and i (which worked well as it felt to me like the down-up from Modern Method). Then arpeggios were generally pima. 

 

I could never work out if I was doing something because it was easier to make it sound musical, or if I was doing something precisely because it was more difficult and mastering it would make me a better player. I'm a pianist, and I have this obsession with 'any finger should be able to do anything'. 

 

I never really got the hang of fingerstyle on steel-string, but I have a funny feeling that if I had stuck at classical, then I would just finger things in a classical way. 

 

I'm interested in hearing what others have to say, as it is in my mind to return to classical guitar at some point.


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#3 Pat H

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Posted 10 June 2019 - 10:54

I begin with rest stroke. First of all I show them a 'scratching exercise' to demonstrate the correct movement of the whole finger (from Glise, 'Classical Guitar Pedagogy'), together with proper playing posture and RH position. Then rest stroke with individual fingers – i and m to begin with – followed by alternation of i and m on a single string, then crossing strings.

 

I stick with rest stroke for several weeks while the student is learning to read notes and using the fretting hand. Rest stroke is appropriate to the simple single-line melodies that they can play at this stage. Later I introduce free stroke.

 

I would not take this approach with steel-string acoustic, though. Rest stroke does not work for me on steel string, so I don't teach it. If I'm teaching fingerstyle on steel-string, I start with free stroke, demonstrating planting of RH digits and various patterns such as pima, pami, pimami.


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#4 Karensnagsby

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Posted 10 June 2019 - 11:38

I begin with rest stroke. First of all I show them a 'scratching exercise' to demonstrate the correct movement of the whole finger (from Glise, 'Classical Guitar Pedagogy'), together with proper playing posture and RH position. Then rest stroke with individual fingers – i and m to begin with – followed by alternation of i and m on a single string, then crossing strings.

I stick with rest stroke for several weeks while the student is learning to read notes and using the fretting hand. Rest stroke is appropriate to the simple single-line melodies that they can play at this stage. Later I introduce free stroke.

I would not take this approach with steel-string acoustic, though. Rest stroke does not work for me on steel string, so I don't teach it. If I'm teaching fingerstyle on steel-string, I start with free stroke, demonstrating planting of RH digits and various patterns such as pima, pami, pimami.


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#5 Karensnagsby

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Posted 10 June 2019 - 13:04

Lost my own reply to Pat H’s comment, I’ll be back soon!
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#6 Karensnagsby

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Posted 10 June 2019 - 18:03

Pat H, what do you do if a beginner student plays a very strong rest stroke which sounds too staccato or “jerky”, do you encourage the cultivation of a smoother rest stroke?
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#7 Pat H

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Posted 10 June 2019 - 18:59

Pat H, what do you do if a beginner student plays a very strong rest stroke which sounds too staccato or “jerky”, do you encourage the cultivation of a smoother rest stroke?

 

With beginners I usually find that the really hard jerky rest stroke tends to happen when they are concentrating on fretting notes with the LH at the same time, so I get them to alternate i and m on an open string and let them see/feel what their RH is doing when they are just playing steady not-too-loud notes, then ask them to keep it doing the same when they add the LH.

 

Also, when I'm teaching rest stroke, I get them just to push the string and feels its weight before they go on to play the whole stroke including string release, i.e. break down the stroke into its sequence: touch, push, release, relax/return. I show them the 'moving' exercise after the scratching exercise (i.e. just moving the string without releasing it).


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#8 Karensnagsby

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Posted 11 June 2019 - 18:52

Pat, thank you for your reply. I will revisit the work for the RH without fretting the notes, with one of my students. The student is making good progress, now playing very simple bass accompaniments with the melody lines, but with an over emphasis on the rest stroke. (The method books I use suggest rest stroke on the treble strings to begin with).

I haven’t been teaching classical guitar very long so I try to make sure I do my best!
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#9 ten left thumbs

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 08:21

Pat - what is the scratching exercise?


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#10 Gazzcool

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 16:04

I begin with rest stroke. First of all I show them a 'scratching exercise' to demonstrate the correct movement of the whole finger (from Glise, 'Classical Guitar Pedagogy'), together with proper playing posture and RH position. Then rest stroke with individual fingers – i and m to begin with – followed by alternation of i and m on a single string, then crossing strings.

 

I stick with rest stroke for several weeks while the student is learning to read notes and using the fretting hand. Rest stroke is appropriate to the simple single-line melodies that they can play at this stage. Later I introduce free stroke.

 

I would not take this approach with steel-string acoustic, though. Rest stroke does not work for me on steel string, so I don't teach it. If I'm teaching fingerstyle on steel-string, I start with free stroke, demonstrating planting of RH digits and various patterns such as pima, pami, pimami.

Thanks for the response Pat. I tend to find that children in particular respond very well to melody-based pieces. Particularly melodies that they are familiar with. The trouble is it can be very difficult to find pieces that - for example - are all on one string, or alternate from one string to another in some sort of logical way. And if a kid learns the Harry Potter theme using just their index finger, it's going to be hard to convince them that they need to start alternating their fingers further down the line because it's going to slow them down a lot. I can't tell you how many times I've had kids complain that its easier with just one finger, that they can do it so much better. The explanation that it's better technique, or that it will help them a lot when they get to try harder things later on, doesn't really convince them. I find that even if they do it in the lesson, they won't do it when they practise at home. Do you have any suggestions?


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