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Thread: Right Hand Technique

  1. #1
    Registered User Mike Rodbell's Avatar
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    Default Right Hand Technique

    I'm coming to the mandolin after many years as a guitar player. In poking around the internet, I seem to have come across a few different points on right hand technique. I'm curious about people's takes. Some things that cause me to think:

    • in a youtube video by Chris Thile, he advocates a regular alternating style (up down, up down), however in the David Grisman book, he talke about a cross picking style that can have subsequent up strokes (down, up, up). Both of these guys clearly know more than I, however seem to contradict one another. What's your take?
    • I seem to have a tendency to rest the base of my palm on the bridge. This seems to not be advised. Any thoughts?


    Also, any suggestions as to how to establish a good practice regimen to develop the best techniques? I think I know where I want to get, but am a far ways away!

  2. #2
    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Technique

    Here's a link to a search for 'right hand'. Probably some pertinent info.
    Phil

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    David Mold OldSausage's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Technique

    Crosspicking is a specialized style of playing, done to get aparticular effect that can sound a little like a banjo roll. You would normally use alternating picking, and Grisman would agree with me on that, so there is no contradiction. The base of your palm should lightly brush the bridge, this acts as a guide to help you locate your picking hand.

    If you want to develop good technique, I would advise getting a good teacher, online or live.

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    Default Re: Right Hand Technique

    Great inquiry. The right hand is where the music happens, where the pick and the string collide. In the briefest terms keep your right hand free and above the strings. Don't rest your hand on anything. Keep your extra fingers loosely curled inwards and don't rest them on the instrument or pick-guard. The right hand will have proper balance and move easily with this hand position. Almost all of the hand movement is at the wrist not the elbow so you can see the importance of an unfettered hand.

    The angle the pick hits the string will affect tonality and you should experiment. Striking the string with the pick parallel has a particular sound as does striking it at a 45 degree. I will alter the angle to affect tonality within a phrase.

    There is a range of tonal options depending where the string is struck. Brighter toward the bridge and warmer toward the fingerboard and if you develop a technique where you can move your hand around you have all the options.

    Lastly, for now, the material the pick is made of is important. I am completely in love with the Blue Chip pick. Incredible space-age break through.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Right Hand Technique

    A third mandolin player, Doyle Lawson, specifically advises the extremely light brushing of the bridge top with the wrist (base of the picking hand) as a guide, especially when one plays with a free wrist, and not touching the mandolin top with any other part of the picking hand.
    His smoothness in transitioning into and out of tremolo and straight picking is unsurpassed.
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    David Mold OldSausage's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Technique

    Absolute last time I bother.

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    Default Re: Right Hand Technique

    To Mike Rodbell
    A few further thoughts on the right hand...

    When picking the strings push through both of them. The path of the pick should be parallel with the face of the mandolin, not upwards and away from the mando. If you were to continue the movement of the pick you would stop at the next string. The down stroke and the up stroke should sound the same. Also, the up stroke and the down stroke should only travel as far as it needs to play the string. It is critical to keep in mind the concept of minimizing extraneous hand movement. Develop a clear sounding note one at a time. Lots of fast notes are cool if they are each clear and succinct and you can hear every one.

    With regard to the tremolo, smoothness is paramount. Even and buttery, my goal is to emulate the effect of the bowed violin string. Practice starting and stopping. The ideal won’t have a spike at the beginning or end, just an even steady flow of sound from the outset.

    The shape of the point of your pick has a huge affect on sound. A sharp point has a more tight or precise tone while a rounded tip has a softer, more defuse sound. The thickness of the pick parallels this concept.


    Billy Packard
    billypackardmandolin.com

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    McReynolds-Style Jordan Ramsey's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Technique

    Hi Billy, welcome to the Cafe. I checked out your website, very nice playing!

    I know a lot of amazing mandolin players that use the free hand technique that you describe above, but I also know a lot of amazing mandolin players that do it differently with great results. Your "rest stroke" advice is solid info for anyone looking to improve tone by playing through the strings at a proper angle, but a free hand approach is just one way to achieve fluid motion with your right hand. I disagree with the "extraneous hand movement" statement... Works great for the left hand, but minimizing the movement of the right hand could promote poor tone by reducing the backswing and follow through of the pick stroke. I agree that it all comes down to the wrist, and gaining control of your pick grip, depth, and stroke (along with finding the right pick shape and thickness).

    Not trying to be argumentative, just establishing that this is a big place with a lot of different ideas about what is "right" and "wrong". I look forward to your contributions here, take care.
    Jordan Ramsey
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    Registered User Rosemary Philips's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Technique

    Quote Originally Posted by OldSausage View Post
    Absolute last time I bother.
    ???

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    Unfamous String Buster Beanzy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Technique

    in 4/4 time only got to alternate picking once I'm playing 16th notes. Otherwise I stick to down strokes. It's a timing thing for me.

    In 6/8 or 9/8 I normally use DUD DUD. THere will be exceptions but I start with the above as my normal approach.
    Eoin



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  11. #11
    Registered User Mike Rodbell's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Technique

    Thanks everyone. I'll take a look at your recommendations. My brain says lay off of the wrist on the bridge, but my wrist says nooo! Something to practice! I'm very happy to have run across this site. Its very helpful.

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    Registered User Willow's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Technique

    Great question and responses, even if they differ, they still make this noob think. Thanks!
    Simple rule #1: If you do not go after what you want, you'll never have it.
    Simple rule #2: If you do not ask, the answer will always be no.
    Simple rule #3: If you do not step forward, you will always be in the same place.

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    Registered User Dan Margolis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Technique

    I heard two great mandolinists last Sunday: Mike Compton and Sierra Hull. Sierra has super technique--her hand floats and does not anchor anywhere on the mandolin that I could see. Mike seemed to lightly brush his curled fingers on the pickguard, or maybe it only looked as though he did. Regardless, both were fantastic (of course), each with slightly different right hand technique.
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    Default Re: Right Hand Technique

    Hi Jordan, thanks for the kind words.

    I agree with you that the left hand is where minimizing extra movement is critical. I must confess I add flair and flourish to my right hand spontaneously as I play but I also come back to the area I mentioned where the tonal options are. God knows there are so many fine artists with varying right hand styles we can learn from.

    Today I will be participating in the San Francisco Festival of the Mandolins with a workshop and a performance. http://www.croatianamericanweb.org/index.php

    Your web site looks great.Cheers,
    Billy

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  16. #15
    Registered User Cheryl Watson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Technique

    There are different patterns of picking. When you are picking a 1+ 2+ 3+ 4+ pattern in 4/4 time, yes it is DUDUDUDU and that is what Chris Thile is referring to. The down strokes are on the downbeat and the upstrokes are on the upbeat. When you play a 3/4 time tune, it is the same general rule. This is how I start out my beginner mandolin players, and they learn that if there is no upbeat, you have two downstrokes in a row. Depending on the tune and how you want to flavor it, it gets a bit complicated with slides, tremolo, hammer-ons, which is why I think that a good teacher is very important in the beginning. You can learn from You Tube and very good instructional videos, but there is nothing like a really good teacher, in person.

    There are many other picking patterns involved with mandolin picking (as with guitar picking) Crosspicking patterns, 6/8 jigs, Monroe-style which has DUDU but often uses several types of tremolo and often multiple downs in a row to punctuate. Monroe-style is very expressive.

    Holding the pick at an angle may be what a lot of players suggest, but I learned from Mike Compton to hold the pick square to the strings (no angle) because it gets the most contact. That works for me for either Monroe-style or the notey styles.

    I used to lightly rest my hand on the bridge which is NOT a good idea because it limits your tone. You need to be able to move up and down the neck--closer and farther away from the bridge to get different tones for expression. I do lightly touch my pinky to the pickguard but I do not plant my finger firmly. Some players do: Adam Steffey plants hard when he plays lead and he surely is a much better picker than I! It is really about what works for the individual, but just don't get mired in one way--experiment and find what works best for you.

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