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Thread: Right Hand Mandolin Book in the making!

  1. #1
    Registered User Jake Howard's Avatar
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    Default Right Hand Mandolin Book in the making!

    Hello fellow mando pickers,

    I am in the process of writing a book on all things right hand. I don't feel like there is enough resources for the right hand world of mandolin picking and I wanted to try a fill some of that void. Don't get me wrong, there are some great resources for right hand picking but we should keep developing the conversation about it. We shouldn't be in the dark about it, because the right hand is SO important.

    I have some heavy mandolin cats showing interest in the project. Joe Walsh and Ethan Setiawan have been generous with their ideas and support and pickers like Mike Marshall, Caterina Lichtenberg, Mike Compton, John Reischman, Dominick Leslie, Carlo Aonzo, Aaron Ramsey, David Benedict, Forrest O'Connor, Thomas Cassell and others are showing that they'd like to be a part of it.

    My question to all the mandolin cafe members is what would you like to see in this book? Are there any burning questions you have about the right hand that you would just love to ask a professional mandolin player? I have formulated a big list of important topics that are kind of talking points for the interviews with the aforementioned pickers but I want your questions/opinions as well. I really want this project to be a primary source for learning and educating the mandolin masses about the possibilities of the right hand.

    Can't wait to see what y'all come up with!

    Jake Howard

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Right Hand Mandolin Book in the making!

    As a violinist/guitarist who just picked up with mandolin two days ago, I would love a resources like this. For beginner's like myself I would love to have some of the seriously fundamental stuff answered, like when moving my pick should I be thinking mostly about my wrist? How do I know I'm making the correct movement? How do I get my upstrokes to feel congruent to my downstrokes? How loose is a "loose grip" on the pick? etc.

    I'm sure more advanced pickers will have other questions, but those would be lovely for beginners. I'll post if I think of any others!

    Cool project!

  4. #3
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Mandolin Book in the making!

    I'd like to know how committed they are to only one pick. Do they change about from one genre to the next or just pull it out of, "The one?"

    What does it truly take to control dynamics? (Well, there's practice!)

    Interesting ideas.

    f-d
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    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Mandolin Book in the making!

    I see big differences in technique between some of these players. A discussion of the pros and cons of pinky planting (or brushing), heel of the hand on the strings behind the bridge, etc., could be useful.

    Tremolo is a big issue for everyone, and approaches, exercises, et al to develop and refine tremolo would be nice.

    Picking patterns—at what speed do you go from down, down, down, to down, up. Is 6/8 time always played in two sets of three, starting each group down?

    Pick holds, angle of the pick to the strings, all the variants and why.

    I'm really glad you are doing this. Having a lifetime's experience playing bowed strings, I have run into a couple of people well into adulthood who were much more articulate about how to use a bow. Wish I had had that information 40 years ago.
    1988 Reno mandolin, Trinity College mandola
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    Default Re: Right Hand Mandolin Book in the making!

    The classical instruction books I have seen are full of right hand techniques and exercises. Even Mandozine has a section on right hand exercises. For specific stuff, there’s resources Mike Marshall’s fingerbusters booklet. While I think that it would be useful to have a single, all in one resource for the right hand, would people really buy it, given a seemingly large prejudice to jumping right in to learn tunes rather than learning how to control the sound of your instrument. And certainly topics regarding musicianship are a bit neglected.

    I read all sorts of instruction books, so one more couldn’t hurt.
    Play it like you mean it.

  8. #6

    Default Re: Right Hand Mandolin Book in the making!

    I hope this isn't too off topic to ask. What are currently regarded as the best right hand technique books/videos?

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    Default Re: Right Hand Mandolin Book in the making!

    I think dedicated material for right hand technique would be amazingly helpful, but I think there would really have to be some video component to be truly effective. Perhaps an accompanying Youtube channel? Good luck with the project!
    Steve

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    Registered User maudlin mandolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Mandolin Book in the making!

    Tremolo, cross picking, the Duo Effect and artificial harmonics are all topics requiring special right hand technique but the right hand also controls rhythmn / tempo,tone and volume so perhaps these aspects should be addressed.

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    Default Re: Right Hand Mandolin Book in the making!

    Quote Originally Posted by MoreThanQuinn View Post
    What are currently regarded as the best right hand technique books/videos?
    YouTube is a treasure trove. Combined with the slow down options we have the techniques of master musicians right before our eyes!

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    Default Re: Right Hand Mandolin Book in the making!

    I am a bit worried about how you would achieve a consistent approach with this when the experts don't agree, and across genres.

    A bit like Louise's question above for 6/8 -DUD works for a jig, other places you may not want it, or staccato picking being all down strokes, regardless of note length, rather than a regimented DUDUDU.

    August Watters has some good stuff in his book 'Exploring Classical Mandolin', and posts on here.
    - Jeremy

    Wot no catchphrase?

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    Default Re: Right Hand Mandolin Book in the making!

    A good description of the various approaches within and across genres, from classical to choro to bluegrass, with illustrations and exercises sounds like a must have resource to me! Glad you’re writing this!

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    I'll take it! JGWoods's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Mandolin Book in the making!

    I want big print for text and tabs so my old eyes can read the music/tabs from a few feet away
    Be yourself, everyone else is taken.
    Favorite Mandolin of the week: 2013 Collings MF Gloss top.

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    Default Re: Right Hand Mandolin Book in the making!

    Quote Originally Posted by JGWoods View Post
    I want big print for text and tabs so my old eyes can read the music/tabs from a few feet away
    Agreed. I hate having to get my music stand practically at my knees to see the notes/tabs. Older eyes need larger type (in addition to the glasses I already have on my nose).

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    Default Re: Right Hand Mandolin Book in the making!

    I'm curious about picking positions from the bridge up the neck. Why and when should you pick up the neck, over the fretboard? I've tried it and it seems to give a more quiet, mellow tone, but I'm curious to know from the masters.

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    Registered User mandogio's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Mandolin Book in the making!

    My quest for tremolo technique over the last year has been an education in the variability of techniques dependent on the instructor. In the end the big take-away is "Do what works for you". So, I would suggest that you cover various and conflicting technical possibilities (across the board, not just for tremolo) and clearly distinguish between what is possible/optional and what is more or less universally established practice. Thanks for the opportunity to provide feedback. -- mandogio

  19. #16
    Kelley Mandolins Skip Kelley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Mandolin Book in the making!

    I think exploring tremolo is a great idea. My thoughts are the pick strokes per beat so to speak. I have heard workshop tapes where the instructor demonstrated how playing tremolo fits in a slow song and he also used it in a very fast tune. Say like a waltz and then using it in Bluegrass Breakdown. He said the same tremolo at a slow speed also worked at a fast pace. I never could work it out!

  20. #17

    Default Re: Right Hand Mandolin Book in the making!

    I like the idea of presenting "the possibilities" of the right hand. It would allow the user to learn from whomever, even if the technique is different across a few professionals.

    While you can alternate pick a jig, I have seen this mostly as an accommodation for people in the bluegrass world. I think you would have to pick a side and present that as the preferred way in some cases, relying on an expert in the genre.

    A question on classical technique, why would I use all down strokes on a phrase, and when would I use it?

    Choro rhythms on the mandolin could be it's own book. One choro question I have is where does mandolin rhythm playing fit in? Do we try and fit in with the cavaquinho player, the guitar player? Or should I get out of the way and let them handle it?
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    Registered User Billy Packard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Mandolin Book in the making!

    I did a workshop on right hand technique which follows,


    The Right Hand, A Few Thoughts


    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 to the string has a particular sound as does striking it at a 45 degree angle. 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. If you develop your technique so you can move your hand around while you play you have all the options.

    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 mandolin. 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 tremolo. The ideal wonʼt 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 with a thinner pick sounding brighter and a thicker one sounding darker.

    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.

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  22. #19
    Cambridge Mandolinist Daniel Nestlerode's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Mandolin Book in the making!

    I like f-d's question.

    You're going to get different answers from different players. So think about including a spectrum of these answers.

    For example, Simon Mayor uses a medium plectrum and flexes it to stiffen it when necessary. But Mike Compton will have one plectrum and one grip for everything.


    Daniel

    Quote Originally Posted by fatt-dad View Post
    I'd like to know how committed they are to only one pick. Do they change about from one genre to the next or just pull it out of, "The one?"

    What does it truly take to control dynamics? (Well, there's practice!)

    Interesting ideas.

    f-d

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    Default Re: Right Hand Mandolin Book in the making!

    There are several types of pick grip used by the major players, and it would be useful to have some DETAILED PHOTOS showing -- and comparing -- each of these grips from different angles, and some accompanying instructions on how to make these grips (where to place the pick on hand, what fingers make contact where, etc.). It would be especially useful if the same person's hand and pick were being photographed in each example, so that any comparisons are easier to make.

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    Default Re: Right Hand Mandolin Book in the making!

    This suggestion is beyond the scope of a traditional "book" (and honestly, I question whether a printed book is the best way to go). I would really love it if someone could put together a series of videos demonstrating different right hand techniques as practiced by various top dawgs that we all know and admire. I'd love to see it for both guitar and mandolin. This video of Molly Tuttle on guitar demonstrates the point of view I'd like to see captured:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGEF92y4W2o

    In Molly's video there's a bit of slo mo happening about 2/3 of the way through, but on youtube you can also choose half speed (with crummy sound) or quarter speed (no sound). It's pretty interesting to see how her position changes for strumming vs picking, where she moves on the strings, her pick angle and such.

    Given a setup like that, half a dozen or more musicians whose techniques differ significantly, at full speed and slow motion, with carefully selected passages (e.g. cross picking, single note leads, lots of double stops, tremolo, etc), and a detailed discussion of the results, I expect we'd all learn something useful.

    p.s. Credit where due: the interviewer, Troy Grady, has used this video technique with a few other players. See his videos here:
    https://www.youtube.com/user/troygrady/videos

  25. #22

    Default Re: Right Hand Mandolin Book in the making!

    I can't think of a single reason why I might buy a book that only deals with one half of the two, immutably linked elements in the playing equation.

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    Default Re: Right Hand Mandolin Book in the making!

    Spiral Bound please. A reference book is useless if conventionally bound and will not lay out flat.

    MEL BAY and authors take note. No spiral binding, deterrent to purchase.

  27. #24
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    Default Re: Right Hand Mandolin Book in the making!

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron McMillan View Post
    I can't think of a single reason why I might buy a book that only deals with one half of the two, immutably linked elements in the playing equation.
    Indeed, even if you concentrate on the right hand you've got to deal with questions of coordination and independence (e.g., don't fret harder when playing loud). Also, you can't escape a discussion on various techniques avoiding the use of the right hand, for more interesting phrasing, such as HO's, PO's, slides. For instance, I might use these techniques on triplets, e.g., D-HO-U
    or D-HO-HO (when I was younger I often used D-U, splitting the down stroke - don't know if anyone else uses that technique).

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    Default Re: Right Hand Mandolin Book in the making!

    Quote Originally Posted by Skip Kelley View Post
    I think exploring tremolo is a great idea. My thoughts are the pick strokes per beat so to speak. I have heard workshop tapes where the instructor demonstrated how playing tremolo fits in a slow song and he also used it in a very fast tune. Say like a waltz and then using it in Bluegrass Breakdown. He said the same tremolo at a slow speed also worked at a fast pace. I never could work it out!

    We are now entering matters of pure taste, of course. I, for one, try to minimize the use of tremolo, and treat it as an expressive device, rather than a default technique, to be used when expressing something.

    Bluegrass Breakdown in the original version uses long sequences of repeated eighth notes, sometimes in a somewhat galloping rhythm, and I would never dream of tremoloing these eighth notes as I don't do that even on much slower numbers. Also, long ago that tune was transformed into a banjo number (the original was a mandoin number) freeing the mandolin player to play whatever works for him (and the group).

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