Gipsy jazz world...here is my opinion about the right hand technique controversy, let me know what you think, and what yours is, if any
I think that too many guitarists - instructors, and music schools emphasize way too much onto this superficial and physical aspect of the guitar performance, which has nowadays become one of the many distractions from playing music, and expressing yourself.
I believe that your right hand will do the right thing at the right time, as long as your musical mind has a clear understanding of the following:
- Time's subdivision
- Clarity of the musical idea intended to be played
- Internalization of forms
- Tone and dynamics (widely responsible for the famous quote "It's not what you play, it's how you play it".
I could go more in details into this list, explain its stratification and what other qualities come from improving these fundamentals, but I won't do that now...that being said for the basics, that is it!!!
If any of these is lacking in your playing, you will experience at some point a loss of confidence and control during your performance, which will in 99% of the case impair your musicality. The 1% left is for that moment when you didn't really intend to play something, and it actually sounded good.
I understand that many guitar players don't know how to develop these fundamentals, and I can't blame anyone because this was for may years the story of my life.
These points are actually very difficult to improve when you are on your own, and when you don't have the right teacher to guide you in your daily routine, and give you a quality feedback.
It is even more difficult to improve these fundamentals when you have a teacher telling you to work on the wrong things, or telling you to work on the right things the wrong way and trust me I have been there, and it took me a few years to recover from bad teachers. Luckily I also had a few great one.
Speaking of online education, most courses do not give you much insights onto how to strengthen these fundamentals, but instead sell you materials that are usable right away, licks, or entire transcriptions to learn, which on the long term, won't positively affect your technique and musicality on a deeper level. Now a good question to ask ourselves could be: "Is it better to learn a solo note for note, or to understand the creative process behind it?".
All of that to only say that working on improving these fundamentals will improve your musicality on a deeper level, it will make you a better musician, regardless of the instrument or the type of music you play. It will help you to cope with new difficulties in a more grounded manner.
Improving these fundamentals will allow you to create a dynamic in your life that makes of everyday day an occasion to improve at a deeper level and allow you to reinvent yourself constantly, and always become a better version of yourself. The limits of this process are only the one we will set for ourselves. Otherwise it is never ending.
Staring at someone's right hand won't give you any of this.
Please give me a favor, tell me I'm wrong!
But I have two different arguments to try to tell you that you are not totally right:
First, in the points about music you are mentioning, I believe you are missing one: the sound. With guitar, you can just pick any string without even thinking about what you are doing and you get a decent sound. But it is definitely not the case with any other instrument.
Unless you practiced and experienced different ways to pick the string (with right hand and left hand) to get the tone and dynamics you want, there is no reason for your right hand to automatically adjust. And looking at the way people produce their sound can give you new ideas to widen your options among which, once they are part of you, your brain will choose how to produce the sound.
I dont think that it is something that happens out of nowhere. In my case, none of my guitar teachers ever told me anything about technique. We would just sit and play. I realized the importance of sound production after I started practicing another instrument and being conscious that YOU have to produce the sound, your whole body has to have an intent.
So it should not be the one and only thing you focus on, but looking at other's people posture is interesting.
Second one of the specificity of what is called gypsy jazz is that it is part jazz and part traditional music.
So if someone wants to learn this music, he has to learn what makes the tradition: e.g. to play klezmer music, you have to learn the ornmentations that are traditional otherwise you are playing a klezmer tune/melody but you are not playing klezmer music. Once you know the language, you can twist it whatever way you want, but you have to know it first.
And the right hand picking is part of the building block of the gypsy jazz tradition. You are right that it should not go really further than: take the pick between thumb and index, hold it as you would do to pinch the ear of a misbehaved child and break your wrist. Knowing these basic rules and playing around them to find a comfortable position and the right sound should be enough to start. That could be considered the minimum to say that you are playing gypsy jazz and not swing music. That being said, gypsy jazz is also jazz and you can thus interpret that as an authorization to do whatever you want.
I might be wrong but the "problem" of focusing on the size of the pick, the position of the pinky, the right hand angle etc. is a problem of beginner who does not know how to start. On internet, you have a bias towards beginners who are looking for information (and a bias towards bad reviews): on forums, beginners will ask those questions and most of the time, other beginners slighlty more advanced will answer but no pro will come and tell THE truth. (And even if a pro would come and tell the beginner that he should not focus on such small details, the pro would get slammed).
In the real world, the teacher would answer briefly and tell the student to move on to the other points you mentioned (I had a lot of those stupid questions regarding clarinet when I started).
However, there came a time when I just had to get my head around the technical aspects of the instrument to progress. I studied the history and various pedagogical approaches, came to understand the physical and technical aspects of the instrument and just simply had to work on all the stuff I was too lazy to concentrate on because I was "all about the music". I actually found it all fascinating.
I've had many great teachers, some that really focus on the specifics of technique and others who were child progidies who's technique was so flawless at such a young age they just couldn't explain how they did most of what they do. Those teachers were great at delving into the music and delivery, but if you had a technical issue not much help. I suffered with back issues from playing, not uncommon among cellists and especially when playing 10 hours a day. I went to a good teacher for technique who helped me adjust small things I was doing physically that I would never have known about without being taught to think "in that way" about playing. After much time and dedicated practice to sort out those issues I never suffered those from them again and it was a quantum leap moment for my playing overall. Without it, I couldn't have further developed the technical proficiency and would likely have burned out physically.
Of course, if you focus on all this "mechanics" stuff and neglect everything else then that is not a good thing, but thinking that if you just play lots and never focus on technical stuff with the attitude it will just sort itself out is pretty nieve as a blanket approach for everybody.
So my point is it shouldn't be either or, nor should people make assumptions based on these discussions that those involved with them have not considered/practice all the other aspects of playing, although in some cases it would undoubtedly be the case. I agree with your list of things to be a primary focus, but there may come a time when the specifics of technique may be a required focal point to open the door to the next stage of the musical journey. Even some of the greatest musicians have had to relearn or refine their technique at some point of their musical careers.
It's not about the instrument or the style.
Same goes for the right hand. But as we are all built a little differently and often use somewhat different gear, how one determines the path for achieving the desired sonic result will vary from person to person. Indeed, all the points listed by the OP are important but learning how to develop technique is important too.
Many people hear are still developing their ears as well as their technique so their process will be quite different from someone who has been playing a number of different styles of music and instruments for over 50 years and has worked hard to develop their ear.
I can usually pick out a wrong or out of tune note out of our 18 piece R & B band. I think the directors who can pick out a slightly out of tune violin out of a section of a dozen of the same instrument are totally amazing. SAme deal for developing your personal guitar sound.
Downstrokes , rest strokes, and a relaxed picking hand is NOT.
Another will have a different process. Just because someone is a good musician doesn't necessarily make them a competent or good teacher. Different skill sets.