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Thread: Right Hand Planting vs. Free Floating

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    Default Right Hand Planting vs. Free Floating

    Ok, I know this topic has been discussed to death, but.....Here's my deal. I've been playing for about six or so years. My mando has a pick guard. When I play, I don't plant per se, but my middle/ring/pinky fingers glide along the pick guard. I've tried off and on to stop doing this, and to play with a closed hand. But I lose patience and stop. I have pick accuracy with my current technique, and I feel relaxed. When I try to play with a closed hand, I feel my arm and shoulder tense up. The down-side of my current technique seems to be with tremolo and double stops. They are slower. I know some of you folks have struggled with this and overcome planting/gliding. How did you do this? How long did it take? Do you feel like you gave up anything by relearning right hand technique?

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    Default Re: Right Hand Planting vs. Free Floating

    If you are not planting to the extent that it restricts movement I see no reason to try "free hand". Thiere is no real advantage to your hand not touching anything except maybe you rely on a pitch guard. Just make sure your pinkie brushes the guard not planting on it to the point that it hinders your movement.

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    Default Re: Right Hand Planting vs. Free Floating

    Coming from a 3 finger banjo and guitar background, I had a similar issue, and, when I'm strumming, I still relax those fingers. I actually feel like I tremolo better in that position as well, but I can pick smoother and faster with the closed fist power grip. My main mandolins do have a little pinky shine, but no real finish damage yet.

    When I made the commitment to switch grips, I got frustrated as well. At first I'd do scales, exercises, and some songs I knew cold for about 15 minutes, then switch back so I could relax and just "play." After a week or so, I admitted that I wasn't really helping my progress that way, and went full closed grip. I noticed improvement in my speed and control within a few days, but it was probably 4-6 weeks before I really began to feel comfortable with it, and maybe 2-3 months before I felt like my speed and accuracy were better than with my old grip. But, I'm a hack of limited talent and wasn't playing in a band at the time, so it wasn't an issue to sacrifice those couple of months. I'll also say that I generally play almost everyday, but sometimes it's only for 10-15 minutes depending on work/life. If you can dedicate a significant amount of time to practice, you'll probably progress much faster than I did.

    I definitely believe it was worth it to make the switch, and my speed and tone have improved because of it. Good luck!
    Chuck

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    Eternal Beginner Seamus B's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Planting vs. Free Floating

    I have recently got into the habit of resting the side of my right hand on the strings behind the bridge despite trying to 'free float' my hand. I am hoping that the armrest I have ordered helps me with this!
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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Planting vs. Free Floating

    Quote Originally Posted by banjoboy View Post
    Ok, I know this topic has been discussed to death, but.....Here's my deal. I've been playing for about six or so years. My mando has a pick guard. When I play, I don't plant per se, but my middle/ring/pinky fingers glide along the pick guard.
    On archtop f-hole instruments - guitars and mandolins - the pickguard is not there to "protect" the instrument - if properly setup, it's a spacer, a guide.

    On bowlback mandolins the bridge is low, you can get a spacer ( in other words, a place to sense where the plane of the strings is) from the top of the instrument - but on the high bridges of archtop mandolins, the pickguard serves this purpose.

    "Gliding" on the pickguard is fine! Just don't plant the 4th finger or anchor your hand on the bridge.

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    Default Re: Right Hand Planting vs. Free Floating

    Quote Originally Posted by Seamus B View Post
    I have recently got into the habit of resting the side of my right hand on the strings behind the bridge despite trying to 'free float' my hand. I am hoping that the armrest I have ordered helps me with this!
    The armrest might help - but I've seen people with armrests that still figure out how to plan the 4th finger or anchor the picking hand on the bridge.

    Don't expect the armrest to correct your technique. Do it yourself. Now, the armrest may help if your chops are already good, but it most likely the lack of an armrest is not hampering your picking technique.

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    Registered User Drew Streip's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Planting vs. Free Floating

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    On archtop f-hole instruments - guitars and mandolins - the pickguard is not there to "protect" the instrument - if properly setup, it's a spacer, a guide.

    "Gliding" on the pickguard is fine! Just don't plant the 4th finger or anchor your hand on the bridge.
    I was thinking about this in regards to another thread earlier. Where is the authoritative source that defines a pickguard as either a spacer or a finger rest, rather than a protective element?

    Arch top plectrum instruments came after flattop plectrum instruments, where the pickguards were presumably to protect from pick damage (i.e. there was no need for a ďguideĒ because it was on the same plane as the top).

    So it seems like ó even if this isnít the intent ó to suggest that itís NOT a pickguard would mean that a player who doesnít use it as a finger guide (say, Chris Thile) is not using proper technique.

    Iím not picking you apart, David ó just truly curious about this answer. Like I said in another thread, I never had a teacher instruct me to use a pickguard as a finger rest. So Iím curious whether they didnít know, didnít care, or disagreed with this bit of knowledge.

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    Default Re: Right Hand Planting vs. Free Floating

    Banjoboy, you might enjoy reading the descriptions in the old Bickford Mandolin method, in the early pages it covers pick grip and right hand technique. The advice is to never plant your pinkie on the top but to allow the corner of your pinkie nail to glide on the guard. Here it is for what it is worth. Obviously everyone has their own technique but this is one method the classical guys were taught a hundred years ago. The Bickford book in general is a good one in my opinion and contains many useful exercises.

    https://archive.org/stream/bickfordm...ge/n0/mode/2up
    Mark Lynch

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    Default Re: Right Hand Planting vs. Free Floating

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Streip View Post
    I was thinking about this in regards to another thread earlier. Where is the authoritative source that defines a pickguard as either a spacer or a finger rest, rather than a protective element?

    Arch top plectrum instruments came after flattop plectrum instruments, where the pickguards were presumably to protect from pick damage (i.e. there was no need for a “guide” because it was on the same plane as the top).

    So it seems like — even if this isn’t the intent — to suggest that it’s NOT a pickguard would mean that a player who doesn’t use it as a finger guide (say, Chris Thile) is not using proper technique.

    I’m not picking you apart, David — just truly curious about this answer. Like I said in another thread, I never had a teacher instruct me to use a pickguard as a finger rest. So I’m curious whether they didn’t know, didn’t care, or disagreed with this bit of knowledge.
    I learned this from reading method books and from years as a guitar and mandolin player, teacher, and repairman.

    Even the flattop instruments like bowlbacks do use the "spacer" method for proper pick as described below:

    Quote Originally Posted by MarkELynch View Post
    Banjoboy, you might enjoy reading the descriptions in the old Bickford Mandolin method, in the early pages it covers pick grip and right hand technique. The advice is to never plant your pinkie on the top but to allow the corner of your pinkie nail to glide on the guard. Here it is for what it is worth. Obviously everyone has their own technique but this is one method the classical guys were taught a hundred years ago. The Bickford book in general is a good one in my opinion and contains many useful exercises.
    So "I never had a teacher instruct me to use a pickguard as a finger rest."

    You had teachers that did not know this bit of old mandolin technical lore, that's all.

    "a player who doesn’t use it as a finger guide (say, Chris Thile) is not using proper technique. "

    Thile seems to be using more correct old-school technique than not, at least what I've seen of his playing.



    Sure looks like he's resting the edge of the hand where the pickguard would be for proper spacing.

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Planting vs. Free Floating

    Playing banjo,it's fairly usual to 'plant' your pinky,or as some pickers do,your pinky + third fingers. Try as i may,i can NOT do that when using a pick on either a guitar or mandolin. My fingers seem to be as per.the Chris Thile photo ie.thumb & first finger gripping the pick & the other fingers left to their own devices & relaxing. I will say that my pinky is nowhere near the mandolin top. CT seems to be resting the edge of his hand lightly on the bridge as i also do.

    From banjoboy - " I have pick accuracy with my current technique, and I feel relaxed.". It seems to me that you've got all you need right there !!,
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    Default Re: Right Hand Planting vs. Free Floating

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    Playing banjo,it's fairly usual to 'plant' your pinky,or as some pickers do,your pinky + third fingers. Try as i may,i can NOT do that when using a pick on either a guitar or mandolin. My fingers seem to be as per.the Chris Thile photo ie.thumb & first finger gripping the pick & the other fingers left to their own devices & relaxing. I will say that my pinky is nowhere near the mandolin top. CT seems to be resting the edge of his hand lightly on the bridge as i also do.
    "Lightly" is the key word - he's not anchored.

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    Default Re: Right Hand Planting vs. Free Floating

    I am not a pro nor have I had proper lessons but as a loong time player I've always felt the only part of the right arm touching the mandolin should be the pick. I do let my pinky brush the mando but it's never on purpose, it just does. And it's hard to keep your forearm off but I usually have a sleeve on and try to have such light pressure that the sleeve could easily pulled out from between my arm and the mando. For me any thing that can interfere with the beautiful vibrations we try and create is counterproductive.

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    Default Re: Right Hand Planting vs. Free Floating

    I don't understand why planting has become a thing to "overcome." What professional mandolin players are playing without touching the top or resting their hand on the bridge? I'm not seeing that as an issue.

    Andy

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    Default Re: Right Hand Planting vs. Free Floating

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy Hatfield View Post
    I don't understand why planting has become a thing to "overcome." What professional mandolin players are playing without touching the top or resting their hand on the bridge? I'm not seeing that as an issue.

    Andy
    It's only an issue to "overcome" if planting or anchoring restricts one's ability to play the instrument.

    Also, I bet you when are seeing better players "touching the top or resting their hand on the bridge" they are not restricted by their hand position.

    In theory, I believe one should try to develop the best possible technique on mandolin.

    In reality, a lot of stuff works and it depends on the player to determine where they want to set limits.
    Last edited by DavidKOS; Feb-09-2018 at 10:55am.

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    Default Re: Right Hand Planting vs. Free Floating

    I experimented with multiple right hand holds and chose the one that works best for me. Everyone is different. I think the number of hours a player puts into the mandolin vastly outweigh slight right hand hold changes.

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    Eternal Beginner Seamus B's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Planting vs. Free Floating

    I am seeing a lot of experienced players resting the side of their right hand on the strings behind the bridge in a way that I am trying to get away from. In fact, that video that did the rounds yesterday of a player explaining hand-position and technique seems to be doing that. I am finding free-floating to be really hard to acquire, partly because my upstroke (or up-pick) seems compromised. I'm not a pinky planter, I play with a tight fist, so I think leaning slightly on the strings behind the bridge is my way of anchoring.
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    Default Re: Right Hand Planting vs. Free Floating

    The only professional mandolin player I've seen play without resting his hand or pinky is Danny Roberts. That's one guy out of 1000's of great players. When I grew up (pre-thile), more people anchored or brushed their pinky, now I see more people brushing their wrist behind the bridge. Their are hundreds of great players in both camps.

    I would argue that not anchoring or brushing introduces tension, because you're trying to balance your hand over such a small area.

    My advice would be to look at great professional musicans, and copy their technique, if it fits your body type.

    While teaching me golf, my cousin said, "don't watch Uncle Ron's golf swing. I don't want you to learn any bad habits."

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    Default Re: Right Hand Planting vs. Free Floating

    I had a mandolin once that to make it tune correct the bridge had to slant quite a bit. I don't know if it was the mandolin, the bridge, the strings, or whatever. Any way I had a guy tell me that was a no no it would make my mandolin sound bad, I told him no if the bridge was straight it would sound bad because you couldn't get it in tune. If you can't hit the correct strings without some reference point then lightly resting heel of hand behind the bridge, or as I prefer a pinkie brushing a pick guard will make you a better player than hitting wrong strings on a regular bases. If you are really "planting" to the point of being immobile, you need to work on that because you can't play fast and powerful from your fingers, but lightly will not restrict your movement or playing.

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    Default Re: Right Hand Planting vs. Free Floating

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    Playing banjo,it's fairly usual to 'plant' your pinky,or as some pickers do,your pinky + third fingers. Try as i may,i can NOT do that when using a pick on either a guitar or mandolin. My fingers seem to be as per.the Chris Thile photo ie.thumb & first finger gripping the pick & the other fingers left to their own devices & relaxing. I will say that my pinky is nowhere near the mandolin top. CT seems to be resting the edge of his hand lightly on the bridge as i also do.

    From banjoboy - " I have pick accuracy with my current technique, and I feel relaxed.". It seems to me that you've got all you need right there !!,
    Ivan
    Yeah, I'm really torn. I've been trying to play this week using a closed grip. I know that change takes time, but I really hate it. I feel my arm and shoulder tensing up. As I mentioned, I brush my fingers against the pick-guard. I don't plant. The only player that I can think of that really, really plants is Adam Steffey. Man, his little finger if fully planted so much that it bends. But he doesn't do a whole lot of tremolo/double stops. By allowing my three fingers to be relaxed and flop, does that prevent the ability to tremolo correctly because of the weight of the fingers? Plus it's a bummer that I have a hard time playing other mandolins that don't have guards. I know there is no right way or wrong way of doing things. I was discussing this last night with my band-mates. Everybody is different and finds their own way I guess.

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    Default Re: Right Hand Planting vs. Free Floating

    From Seamus B - " I am seeing a lot of experienced players resting the side of their right hand on the strings behind the bridge in a way that I am trying to get away from."

    Seamus - You don't explain the reason 'why' you're trying to get away from it. I rest the lower edge of my palm just behind the bridge & it does touch the strings. It doesn't hamper the mandolin tone / volume, as the tiny amount of pressure is far lower than what's there already !. Doing that,it keeps my hand in place,so that i'm hitting the strings in the same place every time - unless !. Sometimes,when i'm 'chopping along' to a tune / song,I'll float my right hand so that i can hit the strings over the fingerboard,just for the tonal difference = texture. That's the only time i'll move my hand from it's 'anchored' position,
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    Mandolin Botherer Shelagh Moore's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Planting vs. Free Floating

    I used to “plant” my pinky on the top but over the years have become more of a “free floater” with the heel of my hand often lightly touching the strings just behind the bridge which gives me a reference point and aids a relaxed grip. I don’t notice it restricting double stops (which I tend to use a lot) or tremolo to any significant extent.

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    Eternal Beginner Seamus B's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Planting vs. Free Floating

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    Seamus - You don't explain the reason 'why' you're trying to get away from it. I rest the lower edge of my palm just behind the bridge & it does touch the strings. It doesn't hamper the mandolin tone / volume, as the tiny amount of pressure is far lower than what's there already !. Doing that,it keeps my hand in place,so that i'm hitting the strings in the same place every time - unless !.
    Hi Ivan - I just assumed that any touching of the strings beyond deliberate dampening is bad for tone and volume, and I have been advised to float my right hand. But really what I do is what Richard describes above - lightly touching the strings rather than resting. For me it is also an anchor point, and if that light touching is not bad practice then I will simply carry on. I don't know why free-floating affects my upstroke so much, but it really does.
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    Mandolin Friendly Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Planting vs. Free Floating

    Quote Originally Posted by Seamus B View Post
    I don't know why free-floating affects my upstroke so much, but it really does.
    Lack of familiarity/practice.

    My own experience has been encouraging to me - that any change in technique requires a bit of re-learning time, during which you'll probably feel awkward and lose your accuracy. Fortunately, it's always short-lived. The more comfortable you become with allowing yourself to suck for awhile when learning new technique, the easier it will be for you to make adjustments when you want to, throughout your musical career. Admittedly, I'm no virtuoso or expert, and a newbie at mandolin (2+ years), but I've enjoyed over 50 years of 'guitar-ing' and learned many styles and new techniques over the years. With mandolin, I've learned, experimented and re-learned at an even quicker pace than in the previous 50 years with guitar, and it's my belief that I'll be doing adjustments from time to time for the rest of my life. No fears.

    About the issue at hand, you'll find different opinions perhaps at the fringes, but I think that overall the best advice will be that truly anchoring anywhere is not a good idea at all, but lightly touching or brushing either at the bridge or on a finger rest or mandolin top can be helpful and is not detrimental to the sound if done judiciously. So it may pay to practice all three from time to time: free-floating, brushing behind bridge, lightly brushing a finger. Try playing in different areas too, rather than one single 'sweet spot'. I think the more variety and freedom you can master, the better.
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  38. #24

    Default Re: Right Hand Planting vs. Free Floating

    I'm a self taught player here and not a hot picker either, so take with a grain of salt. Almost shy of posting this here, but....:

    I also find I need some kind of guide to where the strings are. I have stumbled on something that is working for me in learning to "free float" that is a little different from what anyone has said. I am using the right index finger as a guide. Pick is held in the normal fashion but with the index finger resting just above the point. That way when you dig in, the finger tip touches the string momentarily, bridge side of the pick, just as the pick begins to strike. I Can't hear the effect in the playing, and once I am warmed up and in the groove I can readjust the pick grip slightly so the finger doesn't touch, and still have a sense of where I am. Or just rotate the wrist forward slightly so the finger doesn't hit.

    If anyone understands my explanation and wants to try this it would be interesting to get some feedback.

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    Ben Beran Dfyngravity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Planting vs. Free Floating

    If it aint broke, dont fix it.

    Unless what you are doing is slowing you down or a henderance of any sort, I see no need to make a change. The most important things to a solid pick stroke are no tension, keeping your forearm in the same plane while picking (this keeps your pick from digging in too much), and solid (but somewhat light) pick hold between your thumb and the side of the first joint of your pointer finger. It seems you are doing all of these, so I see no reason to change what your are doing. Speed and accuracy comes from consistent practice of good technique.

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