Rest Stroke "relax" - how? And a few other questions



  • woodamandwoodamand Portland, OR✭✭✭ 2015 JWC Favino replica
    Posts: 227
    anthon_74 wrote: »
    Try this - First, relax your wrist. Allow it to go slack so it's slightly bent, but not forced. Second, turn your hand up and inward slightly so you can see your palm when you look down.
    THEN - Imagine you're THROWING your picking hand at the strings, not guiding it.
    The main thing to keep in mind is that you're NOT using your wrist muscles, but rather your bicep and forearm muscles.

    Overall, you need to practice everything slowly until you can do it without tensing up your wrist. This takes time and happens in stages.

    Everyone - thanks for the responses, glad this is a common bit of confusion, and I am not alone in struggling with this.
    Here is another one though -Anthony, great explanation but I am reading in Gypsy Picking that "all motion should come from the wrist", and you are saying it should come from the arm.....................
    So am I missing something here? It seems much more natural not to use your wrist muscles to me.
  • HemertHemert Prodigy
    Posts: 264
    It's more of a wrist rotation, but if you rotate your wrist that movement actually comes from the lower arm. I tend not to think about that at all but just focus on my thumb for a down stroke and my index finger for an up stroke.
  • edited September 2015 Posts: 3,707
    The muscles that rotate your wrist are located in the forearm ( the brachioradialis and the pronator quadratus and p. teres) and if you firmly grasp your right forearm with your left hand you will find that most of the "wrist" rotation is actually in your elbow joint.

    It is a complex motion and one not used a lot in normal life so it will take a lot of disciplined practice just to build up the muscles to be able to perform the motion at a reasonable level.

    If you squeeze your thumb and forefinger together you can watch the tendons move in your lower forearm. The tighter you squeeze the more the one moves down and the other moves up. The more they move away from resting position the more difficult it is for the forearm muscles to move freely. The tighter you hold he pick, the harder it is to move the wrist freely which, while possible to woark around will take much longer to gain speed and will likely limit the top speed. This is reason why almost alll top reat stroke guitarists hold the pick lightly.
    HemertBucopickitjohnwoodamandNejcCharles Meadows
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • HemertHemert Prodigy
    edited September 2015 Posts: 264
    "Forearm"? Ah yes, that's the right word! I was
    literally translating the Dutch word for forearm which gets you "lower arm" :-)
  • edited September 2015 Posts: 3,707
    The list of wrist muscles involved in the fine angular adjustments is quite long so I wont bore anyone with that. :)

    Christiaan your English is light years better than my Dutch:)
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • Posts: 4,712
    If you play golf you can use the analogy of holding the club.
    If you put a death grip on the club it'll ruin your game and make your muscles ache. There needs to be just enough grip so that the club doesn't fly out of your hands.

    Same with the pick. It needs to do the work, not your wrist or your arm or your muscles. Yes you use all of those to put the pick into motion but with a minimum required effort.
    It's like riding a bike, wheels are what propels you, you use your muscles to turn the pedals which transfer the energy via chain to pulleys which turn the wheels. I know I left some parts out you get the point.
    The pick is the wheels.
    Use minimum amount of energy to get it in motion.

    I know you have a lifetime of music behind you and this may sound like a rudimentary advice...I thought looking at from a different angle might help.
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • MattHenryMattHenry Washington, DC✭✭✭✭
    edited September 2015 Posts: 131
    This is great from Christiaan, yeah:

    The five practice exercises at around 20:00 are great too. I'm gonna practice those for sure.
  • woodamandwoodamand Portland, OR✭✭✭ 2015 JWC Favino replica
    Posts: 227
    That's great having the video, I will have to look at it tonight when I am off work. Jazzaferi/Christiaan your explanations help a lot, looking at my arm this morning reading this at breakfast I could see what you were talking about. I am assuming that Le Pompe should work in the same way. I don't think I am mashing the pick, but after so many years of playing with a different technique it is hard to re-educate my hands. Plus I am still getting to grips, so to speak, with using a much thicker pick than I ever have. Its cool, but very different.
    When I first started playing clarinet after years of sax, it was the same thing: learn to relax. You can imagine how tough it is to go from plateau (closed) keys on the sax to open keys on the clarinet. Your impulse is to squeeze as hard as possible in order to have your fingers make a good seal on the hole, since if you don't the squeal produced will make everyone hate your ass. It took me some time, and a lot of prodding from my teacher, to learn to use just enough force to close the keys. And with too much force, boy can you hurt your arms!
    So more relaxation = more speed, and less pain. A beautiful thing, eh?
    I am also starting a class tonight for GJ and really looking forward to it, hopefully I can bug the instructor on this - but you guys are so helpful, I am sure I will be still asking questions here.
  • MattHenryMattHenry Washington, DC✭✭✭✭
    edited September 2015 Posts: 131
    Another thing to note in the Q&A video from Christiaan above: it's a good idea to learn to "skim" the top with the fingernails of your pinky and ring fingers. Often players from other backgrounds end up "posting" with straight fingers and their fingertips on the top to measure the distance to the strings more easily or whatever. Posting makes gypsy picking all but impossible; your only two options are to "float" with no fingers on the top or to skim. For me, skimming offers more control and than floating. I used to be a floater but on higher energy tunes or louder stuff my motion would get bigger and my technique would suffer. Christiaan's wrist and picking technique is just what I'd teach and what I try to do myself.

    Here's my favorite Romane clip (he's a floater):

    And here's Adrien and Gonzalo (both skimmers):

    Almost none of the younger cats use those fat gypsy picks btw. They all use 2mm or 1.5mm Dunlops held sideways. I switched to the sideways Dunlop and it's good living after an admittedly awkward transition period.
  • AmundLauritzenAmundLauritzen ✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 236
    Seems like if you loosen the grip too much on the pick, it will simply fly out of your hand.

    I'd say keep calibrating the grip. You want your grip to be just tight enough that the pick doesn't fly out of your hand. That is, as loose as you can possibly get away with. Don't grip it hard, you will tense up. I wasted two years with tense grip and picking from the arm and it caused stiff sounding playing and tension in my hand and arm.
    Loosening the grip and focusing on picking from the wrist helped a lot and probably spared my forearm and elbow from injury.

    For me the lights went on when I achieved a powerful sound with a very relaxed technique, proving that it's all about calibrating technique and letting gravity do the work for you(still working on calibrating this and I'm not even halfway close to optimal and efficient technique yet).

    Those downstrokes generate a lot of power, which is why they are used so abundantly(another reason is they create pulse and accents) and where it really counts is the part where you move the pick back up again to get ready for the next downstroke(or upstroke). If you pick with too much force, you will have too much momentum that you have to cancel out in order to get the pick back up, regardless if the next stroke is up or down. This is also why it's so hard to get a good speed for that classic G major lick of Django involving the B and high E using the notes D,E(open string), F#, G, F#, E(open string).

    So calibration is what takes the most time once you got the basic idea. Because when the muscle memory is there, more practice makes you more economic in using less force and movement through that calibration.

    It's especially noticeable when you push down through the high E string that the pick wants to keep travelling(eventually hitting the body of the guitar if you're not careful. Thank you luthiers for pick guards!) because there is no string to rest on! IOW there is no such thing as rest strokes on the high E string.

    This is just my experience with the subject. I am still learning and correcting myself constantly through trial and error so take it with a grain of salt.

    One good example is Stochelo Rosenbergs technique for ascending diminished arpeggios using all downstrokes, but not rest strokes! The down strokes are obviously very light, but Stochelo has spent decades calibrating this movement so that it's probably as natural to him as breathing is to us. We don't breathe manually, and neither does he have to think about those dim arpeggios, they just happen.

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