Should the knuckles brush the strings while playing rhythm?

Charles MeadowsCharles Meadows WV✭✭✭ ALD Original, Dupont MD50
in Technique Posts: 432
It seems like at least some of the great players do this. Any strong opinions? If so which fingers? I'm definitely liking my rhythm better. But I still find myself on 2 and 4 sometimes hitting the A string a little hard (and not muting enough) and making a bit of a "twang". Hopefully just being more consistent on 2 and 4 will give a drier sound. Brushing the strings with the thumb and fingers seems to help. ideas welcome!


  • wimwim ChicagoModerator Barault #503 replica
    Posts: 1,459
    There are many different flavours of rhythm playing, and I guess it depends on the style - but if you use the most popular french style (sideways dunlop) then yes, I think they do and they should! The sound seems to be better. But I don't think it's something you can try and do to achieve, at least I never thought of doing it intentionally - it just happens as a natural consequence of holding the pick so closely to the edge. It never happened back when I used a wegen, interestingly.

    You can tell which knuckles brush and where, because when you change a fresh set of strings there will be some black marks on the fingers. For me it's mostly on the index, but to a lesser extent all the top knuckles of the other fingers brush lightly. You will get lightly calloused there too - at first I had some concern for these marks and worried I should try to adjust the technique, but when looking closely at the right hands of many top players with a nice rhythm sound, I've seen this same pattern on the knuckles over and over again.
    Charles MeadowsMattHenryMarkA
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,320
    Yeah ur fingernails and the first knuckles next to the nails may get black smudges on them after you play for a while (like at a gig).
  • I get black on the side of my thumb and my pointer fingernail/tip sometimes. The touch must be so light I am not aware of it while playing.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • MattHenryMattHenry Washington, DC✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 131
    I agree with the folks here that the first knuckle of your fingers likely will and should brush the strings when playing rhythm.

    My other comment would be that I much prefer a rhythm technique where the pick stays close to the strings all the time. If you watch your la pompe motion on video or look down as you're playing naturally and your pick is routinely getting two or more inches out in front of the guitar then your motion is probably too wild and would benefit from a quieter swivel wrist motion and less or no movement of the forearm. Similarly, if your pick travels an inch or more above/below the low/high E strings then you're moving too much and should refine your rhythm technique.

    Of course there are exceptions to lots of things, but I feel strongly that for contemporary gypsy rhythm playing it's a really strong foundation to develop an efficient technique without much extra motion.

  • Posts: 4,812
    As others noted it happens but I don't think it's something you can consciously build into your playing. It just happens after a lot of playing time/practice. Using very little of the pick tip and turning your hand so that the pick ends up angled versus being parallel to the strings will get you there a bit faster, maybe, but nothing will replace putting the time in so that the arm/hand motion and movement is refined to the millimeters.
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • bohemewarblerbohemewarbler St. Louis, MO✭✭✭✭ Jordan Wencek No.26, Altamira M01D-12 fret
    Posts: 243
    The 1 and 3 starts with the pick resting on the low E string, raking down from there, while the 2 and 4 starts above the E string. How far above the string depends mostly on the tempo. You probably do this naturally, but sometimes it helps just to point it out.

    I had to consciously learn how to make my finger tips to the first knuckle brush against the strings. It was only until someone pointed the technique out to me that I started doing this. I still experiment with different angles: sometimes I change my approach angle so that all my fingers tips brush the strings. Sometimes I just brush the strings with my nails. Both of these differences produce changes in the volume and a slightly different tone.

    For the left hand technique, most modern GJ players compress on every beat and might not even lift off the strings entirely except when the finger positions change when going to the next chord. To sometimes accent chord changes, many players will compress and hold for beats both 1 and 2. For various tremolo techniques, it is advised to compress down just before the start of the tremolo and continuously hold down until the tremolo technique is complete.
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