Right hand struggle



  • dennisdennis Montreal, QuebecModerator
    edited February 2022 Posts: 2,161

    I made this video talking about technique. I think despite what many people may believe, it is actually quite flexible. it's a personal thing, and the important thing is that when working on technique, one should have a particular sound they're going for in their head. Having worked with all the best players in the style, I can tell you that they all have their own technique. Stochelo and Mozes are brothers but they developed slightly different techniques, Dorado Schmitt has a completely different technique (angle of the wrist is flatter), Adrien Moignard has his own thing going, etc.. All the Gypsy players were not really taught technique in a specific way (if at all), they just developed things on their own hence all the variation that exist. Most try to go for a certain sound, or stumble upon it instinctively.

    I wouldn't call it the Gypsy Jazz technique but maybe floating hand technique. The vast majority of the players in this style , actually every single of them (i can't think of one great player who doesn't) is using some variation of the floating technique for sound reasons. When you rest your hand on the bridge, it affects the sound. I wouldn't say that the sound is better or worse, but it's different. The specifics of the technique are often decided by the kind of lines you want to play. Stochelo developed his right hand in function of the lines he plays, same goes for every other player.

    So the most important thing when working on technique is just to try many different things , and figure it exactly what it is you want to play, or have that in mind as you work on it. Each subtle variation of the floating hand has its pros and cons.

    JSantabbwood_98BucoAndyWWillieMichaelHorowitzBillDaCostaWilliamsnomadgtrbillyshakesrudolfochristand 1 other.
  • bbwood_98bbwood_98 Brooklyn, NyProdigy Vladimir music! Les Effes. . Its the best!
    Posts: 674

    I fail to see how "Make sure your teacher can help you emulate your preferred players;" will achieve anything other than promote more copying. Are there any 'teachers' who know how to encourage creativity?


    Like learning a language: Emulate, Assimilate, Innovate.

    The last one is the hardest, and often a teacher cannot help with this - you have to do the work on your own.

    This is the same in so many aspects of music to my mind. A further question though might be - do we have room for creativity in a 'dogmatic' music like gypsy jazz? What defines creative playing? To my thinking in fact there is somewhat less creativity now as opposed to when I came into the music, and rather less creative concepts in terms of both improvisational language and band conception.

    (oh, man - stepping in it).

    (also, perhaps another thread is the place to take this conversation - so as not to de-rail this thread)

  • Russell LetsonRussell Letson Prodigy
    Posts: 360

    Dennis's observations about how individual "technique" can be matches what I have observed in dozens of encounters (as journalist and workshop attendee) among working musicians in a number of popular and folk traditions. These have not been, for most part, "schooled" players--by which I mean those who come up through a tradition in which technique (and often underlying theory) have been established and codified. Classical players are the model for this kind of musical culture. Which is not to say that popular/folk players are not trained--they often come from cultures with definite ideas about aesthetic and practical matters. Think bluegrass. I've talked extensively to slack key players about how they learned from fathers, grandfathers, and uncles, and I hear echoes of that kind of family-music culture in the backgrounds of gypsy players. (On the other hand, the Ferré brothers are conservatory-trained *and* part of a traditional-musical family. The late Dennis Kamakahi had a similary mixed background. Conservatory training for jazz players is something that has risen in my lifetime--and it has affected the kind of music produced.)

    The assumption behind "schooling" is that the abstract elements of a practice regimen (scales, for example) feed into the actual music that will eventually be made. And I think it's significant that one part of that kind of training is etudes, which are musical pieces designed to develop particular skill subsets. The best etudes become part of the standard repertory, where what the audience hears is not technique but music.

    I notice that Dennis distinguishes between working on technique and on vocabulary--which I take to mean that technique is acquired in the context of making music ("vocabulary" being the component parts of larger musical structures)--which suggests that practicing serves performance and is shaped by it.

    So for those of us in the popular and folk traditions, the analogous regimen is probably not running scales and arpeggios (though those are useful neuromuscular and fretboard-knowledge exercises) but learning repertory. And "repertory" means not only entire tunes but the components from which those tunes are built, along with the kinds of variations and decorations they can generate. That's some of what I see in Dennis's video. My way of thinking about it is that the ears lead the hands--you're listening for a particular sound, and you work on the neuromuscular process that produces it. (But don't listen to me--I'm lazy, impatient, and not very systematic about anything not involving words.)

  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 6,154

    I agree with so much that has been said here. The "studying the masters" approach is something that has been essential to artistic development of any kind since time immemorial. Whether it's going to the Louvre and studying the Mona Lisa, analyzing baroque counterpoint, or learning a Django phrase, it's only useful if it brings you closer to your artistic goals. I think a lot people waste time trying to reinvent the wheel, especially when it comes to technique which, lets face it, is a bitch in this style! Personally, I'd rather master the time tested approaches that have been proven to work and then use those tools to express my own creativity.

    With regards to the great innovators in music, I don't think you'll find a single one who didn't pay some serious dues. Hendrix cut his teeth playing in R&B bands around here in Seattle, Miles Davis was immersed in both the classical and jazz world of St Louis, and Charlie Parker was a devoted student of the Klose method. We just know them for their creative achievements, but they were all working with a very strong foundation that was largely based on what came before.

    WillienomadgtrDjangheureuxBillDaCostaWilliamsJSantajonpowllittlemarkbillyshakeswimrudolfochristand 1 other.
  • ChrisMartinChrisMartin Shellharbour NSW Australia✭✭ Di Mauro x2, Petrarca, Genovesi, Burns, Kremona Zornitsa & Paul Beuscher resonator.
    Posts: 959

    Some interesting reactions to my (deliberately) controversial post.

    And yes Michael, you have reinforced what I was getting at about the true originals, Miles and Hendrix did certainly 'pay their dues' as did Django, and that kind of training on the job can not be taught, it has to be experienced. Those names however did get to place where they were no longer going through the motions but managed to blend everything they had learned into something totally new.

    I do not deny we all need to practice until we have the ability for our fingers to produce the notes and sounds that are in our head, but I sincerely hope the players on here are aiming for something higher than yet another copy of a well-worn Django solo.

    Yes, technique is important but it is a means to an end, NOT an end in itself. Certain styles require a certain way of playing, and some, like classical must have a fixed method to achieve a fixed result. Similarly, bluegrass players generally rely on flatpicking and one would not get far in Flamenco without the basic rasguedos etc.

    To that end I do get what is the purpose of Rest Stroke Picking but I have also seen some good players who have adapted their own way of picking. It may help but not essential, yet there are those who seem to want to wear it like a badge of honor but are still no nearer to coming up with any new music, just relying on repetition.

    The comment above about a 'floating right hand' is probably more relevant, at least that IS an essential IF you want to get the best tone out of your Selmac type guitar.

    I also recognise to get anywhere near the authentic sound the rythmn players need to get 'La Pompe' going with the right sound and swing, but again, it is more a question of 'feel' rather than an exact set of rules. There are some out there who know all the fancy chords (as Mark Knopfler put it) but have no sense of swing which rather defeats the purpose.

    But.... there is a J in GJ, and it stands for Jazz. Forgive me if I am wrong but I thought Jazz meant no rules, free form, improvisation, whatever. The G stands for Gypsy, also a rather loose term but for the sake of the Django's invention of the GJ genre we will take that to mean some of the old traditional tunes handed down around the campfire.

    As a learner I maybe notice things from a different perspective than some who already have their technique honed, but I do notice there are a lot of so called teachers, many of who frequent this forum, who rely on the old "if you can't do this you need my help" approach to pull the suckers in.

    And yet none of these people seem to understand that Django was just playing (for the most part) the pop hits of his day, yet they are still fixed on the same old tunes rather than the pop hits of TODAY which is where a modern day Django's focus would probably be. So yes, Django's own compositions - Nuages, Anouman, Diminushing etc - still stand up as great tunes today, but the modern equivalent of say a standard like Sweet Georgia Brown. might be Back In Black or some Taylor Swift number and surely bringing new material and ways of improvising into the general sound and style of GJ would be more refreshing than yet another recycled solo over Minor Swing.

    Unfortunately I suspect my Elvis and his impersonators analogy applies to a lot of Django wannabes too, sad men who crave the spotlight yet have nothing of their own to offer and having managed to approximate a certain sound are happy to be the star turn at a local bar or wedding party with no higher ambition to any original thinking.

    If Michael thinks I have wandered too far from the original question about the right hand and this needs to be the subject of a new thread then yes, move it to wherever it fits.

  • JSantaJSanta NY✭✭✭ Dupont, Gaffiero, AJL
    Posts: 262

    In my mind, the rest stroke technique is part of the grammar of the language of this kind of music. It's not that we have to abide by things in a rigid and tense way so much as it serves as a foundational element of the approach to the instrument. Once that grammar is in place, you learn how it actually interacts with the language (composition and harmony) and then you have the ability to steer yourself in whichever direction you so choose.

    This is how I have learned to look at this music, and how I can conceptualize what are in reality very abstract ideas. It's not a matter of right or wrong (which I don't particularly think is a thing in in music or art), but having some way of expressing the language.

    I've experienced where "rules" aren't real in classical guitar playing. I was working on an entry level Bach piece recently and really struggled with the fingering that was in the score. My classical teacher (Drew Henderson) was happy to tell me that the sound was better by not alternating the fingers for the chords, and my tone was MUCH better when I didn't. He explained some of that background to me, and it was interesting to hear his perspective. I see a parallel to the rest stroke playing in that. Sometimes, some players simply aren't going to hit a run without alternate picking. C'est la vie.

  • nomadgtrnomadgtr Colorado Bumgarner, Marin, Holo, Barault
    Posts: 123

    Being a life long fan of Bruce Lee, I believe one of his philosophies applies here:

    “Research your own experience. Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is essentially your own.”

    For me, the floating hand is useful and has withstood centuries of string instrument playing for a reason. That being said, I have all sorts of stuff I've picked up over the years including a ton of classic rock and fusion stuff that pops out here and there too. So hat's off to Bruce.....

  • SwedeinLASwedeinLA New
    Posts: 42

    Different picking for different music for sure. You don't want to reststroke a Holdsworth tune, you don't want to reststroke your way through a country tune. . That's just my opinion of course. It obviously is superior in gypsy jazz music, but even in straight ahead standard jazz plenty of other styles of picking is as good or better. Personally I'm naturally a hybrid picker, legato and finger playing, but I am working actively at getting better at the rest stroke.

  • NotoNoto
    edited March 2022 Posts: 41

    Chris Martin wrote: "some, like Marcel Bianchi, Coco Biraval have been consigned to the bin labelled 'Soup'."

    Soup? What does that mean?

  • luckylucky New
    Posts: 38

    For me, it's about the tone. I struggled for a long time as well and that struggle was as much conceptual as technical, I just couldn't get my head round why resting the pick on the next string would make any difference. Someone sat me down and got me to just hit the string in lots of different ways, without worrying too much about the rest stroke, until, on one stroke, this amazing clear, rich, bell-like tone sprung out of the guitar. Once I could hear what I was aiming for, the whole thing made sense, although it took me a long time after that to master getting that tone consistently. It is about the downstrokes, but there are a lot of subtleties that are difficult to explain and some are very individual, which is why everyone does it slightly differently.

    These Selmer guitars sound really timid and constrained if you don't play them right. I've seen many players dutifully resting on the next string with a downstroke, playing licks well beyond my abilities, but getting nothing out of the guitar (and often blaming the guitar). Another player, with the same guitar, can make it sing.

    This is just one of those things, like playing the F chord, or bending a note on a harmonica, or playing draw shots in pool, that you've just got to keep going at until you start to get the sound and can build your own individual technique. It's elusive and frustrating to begin with, but it becomes second nature eventually.

Sign In or Register to comment.
Home  |  Forum  |  Blog  |  Contact  |  206-528-9873
The Premier Gypsy Jazz Marketplace
Banner Adverts
Sell Your Guitar
© 2024, all rights reserved worldwide.
Software: Kryptronic eCommerce, Copyright 1999-2024 Kryptronic, Inc. Exec Time: 0.015688 Seconds Memory Usage: 0.99881 Megabytes