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Thread: Picking faster?

  1. #51
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Ok thanks. Pops1, do your fingers brush across the top? How do they do that? My mandolin has a nitro finish that is too sticky for my fingers to slide on.
    Dave, I'm currently working on staying loose, I can actually play the piece I asked about at 137 bpm, it's the last three that I can't get, but it's not loose at that speed. I'm working on the excersise from the "developing a fast precise tremolo" video. I use a Dunlop primetone pick, (large triangle 1.4) which is easily the best pick I've used, but I've not tried BC, Wegen, or any other boutique options.
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
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  2. #52
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Oh and btw, I've made it to 140, with a proper warm up I can play once through fire on the mountain at that speed, I'm gonna see just how fast I can get with daily practice, I play it at 160 on fiddle, so that's my current goal
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
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  3. #53
    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Hey, nice! I think you're getting me inspired to go sit down with the metronome.
    -Dave
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    Way too many other instruments

  4. #54

    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Sheets View Post
    Hey, nice! I think you're getting me inspired to go sit down with the metronome.
    Practice with metronome and try pushing the pace everyday. Try different things with both hands, pressure, technique to find what works for you. Ultimately it will come down to how many hours you sit behind the mandolin. Good luck.

  5. #55
    Out of tune HappyPickin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar View Post
    FWIW, it's my general goal to eventually get here:
    https://youtu.be/tlq62fA_zCU
    11 time IBMA Fiddle Player of the Year Michael Cleveland is also one heck of a mandolin player. He really likes to mash on it. I've never heard him play it at a mortal human's tempo.
    Out of tune and out of time.

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  7. #56
    Registered User timmandolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    The best advice that I can give you is to stay loose and use a metronome. Just about everyone says this, but it's the truth. The more you tense up, the less you will be able to move faster because you are expelling so much energy to keep your muscles tense. I've heard some people say that it helps to keep your whole arm moving, but I generally don't do that. I just use my wrist and kind of flick it.

    Either way, the concept is the same. Slowly work your way up. Or, in your case, start fast and work your way up to even faster. You can always get faster. It just might take some time and effort.

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  9. #57
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Well, daily practice of right hand technique did not end up happening.... I've been playing daily, but not focused practice on technique. Turns out, I was premature in blaming my right hand for my (relative) lack of speed. While my left hand can play that fast on fiddle, mandolin is a bit different. Also, synchronization between my hands is more important on mandolin. I'm still trying to get faster, but I'm also trying to get good tone and cleanliness in my playing. I have noticed that I can play faster with a closed fist resting the heel of my hand behind the bridge, but it doesn't have nearly as good tone, and it's hard to play the lower strings. So I compromise, when I need outright speed, I close my hand, when power or tone are more important I plant/brush my pinky
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar View Post
    FWIW, it's my general goal to eventually get here:
    https://youtu.be/tlq62fA_zCU

    Why? The only mandolin player I know of who can create rhythmic interest at tempos like that is Chris Thile. Many times I don't realize how fast some of his tunes are until I attempt them myself.

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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar View Post
    I've seen that video, it's great. I've considered Sam's picking, but gave up trying to imitate it.
    I'm glad you did and I wonder why you even attempted that. Bush had to revise his technique because of an accident that made his wrist stiffen. This video illustrates what his his technique was like before the accident:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_Q_fkvCLnY

    Pretty orthodox, I'd say.

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    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post
    Why? The only mandolin player I know of who can create rhythmic interest at tempos like that is Chris Thile. Many times I don't realize how fast some of his tunes are until I attempt them myself.
    Why? Why not? I have no intentions of becoming Chris Thile. I want to get to where I can play that fast so I can. It'll make me cleaner at slower speeds, and if I happen to join a jam with Kentucky Thunder, I'll be able to keep up. I don't want to play everything at that speed, but I want the ability in case I need it
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

  13. #61
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post
    I'm glad you did and I wonder why you even attempted that. Bush had to revise his technique because of an accident that made his wrist stiffen. This video illustrates what his his technique was like before the accident:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_Q_fkvCLnY

    Pretty orthodox, I'd say.
    I attempted (briefly) to imitate his picking because he has the most relaxed looking right hand of anyone I've seen. I've heard his wrist is broken or something, but it looks loose to me. In that video his technique is pretty orthodox, but not nearly as interesting as it is now
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    probably been said a million times here but play at a speed you are comfortable with - with a metronome.
    Its kind of like push ups and sit ups, you do 10 push ups one night you are not going to see gains in strength the next day, you need to keep doing push ups daily an increasing the volume as much as you can.
    Make sure the notes are clean at the speed that works for you - then start to speed the metronome up, if it becomes clumsy, back-off the speed until you are ready to move ahead. There is no "fast" way to gain speed in playing. It's probably worth while to practice with different melody lines (or fiddle tunes) instead of the same one, and very worth it to move between keys ( C, G , D A, F, Bb ect), you don't need to rework the tune in the new key (but if you want to that teaches a lot about the circle of fifths) just find tunes that work in the native key - Red Haired Boy or Salt Creek for A, Cuckoo's Nest for D, New Camptown races for Bb and so on. These are just suggestions, any melody will work( I suggest starting simple -Angelina Baker then move forward to more difficult tunes). Also worth while to practice rhythm with a metronome. The right hand is very important so if you start cramping or stiffening up, time to take a break, and maybe re think hand position or ask a professional teacher, Banjo Ben is as good as anyone else IMHO.
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  16. #63

    Default Re: Picking faster?

    This thread came along at exactly the right time for me. I'd like to share what I've been doing that's helped my speed, and also ask for some advice.

    I try to do about half an hour of just tremolo practice daily. That's what I *try* to do. In general if I manage to do that 4 days out of 7 I call it a win. :-)

    I use an (online) metronome. I start at a speed well within my comfort zone and then work up at +10bpm until things start to fall apart and then back off 5 and finish there.

    At each speed I start at the G string and hang out there about 2 minutes, then go up through each string in turn for the same ~2min, and then back down. I concentrate on crossing the strings smoothly and keeping in time. Then I do 2 strings at a time, GD then DA then AE.

    I've gotten a lot better at relaxing my right arm. Just not holding the pick too tight actually made a huge difference for all the muscle groups. But I still find I get tension and hence fatigue, mostly at my shoulder and my bicep. Is there any advice on how to work on that?

    The other thing is, while my current best is about 140 bpm for tremelo (16th notes), I can't fret anywhere near that fast. Doing 8th notes at that speed is right on my ragged edge. (My benchmark song is Jerusalem Ridge because, one, lots of variety in rhythms and string crossing and two, cmon, it's Jerusalem Ridge!) What kind of exercises have worked for you to speed up your fretting hand?

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  18. #64
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Here is a different take-

    The dirty little secret is that playing fast is not all right hand. And if playing a tune fast is seeming like an athletic event, there are other things to attend to.

    Ok sure you have to get it moving. But it is likely that speed of the right hand is not the issue, or at least not the whole issue. And the "speed"of the left hand really isn't either.

    What I have learned over the past several years is that how you finger the notes of a tune make a huge difference in how fast you can play it.

    So many things become so simple if you can move between position, for example. I know several tunes that become butter left all day in the sunshine when you move the B part to third position.

    Things that depend on scales that happen to be break between two strings become so much easier to finger when you do the scale per the FFcP method.

    Keeping fingers down and at the ready, perhaps even on the same string but below the note you are playing, greatly decrease "transition time" between notes or riffs.

    I invite the great teachers on this site to correct me if I am wrong, but I think that if you are able to do a decent tremolo with your right hand, you have the picking and athleticism already, and everything else is left hand cleverness.

    I leave you with this. https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...ghlight=reuven

    Watch in this case Yaki's left hand. It is so relaxed, is not doing any incredible reaches or complicated string jumping. It is put in places where complicated jumps and reaches are not needed to play the notes.
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Speed is mental. Yes it is technique up to a certain point, but after that it becomes mental. For instance JeffD talks about leaving fingers down behind each other, we know that the milli-second that saves is immaterial but if it helps then by all means do it. It seems faster mental. We once had a rhythm guitar player that would flake out on really fast numbers and drag us down. I kept telling him to "push the beat" he was really playing fast enough he just wasn't in time. mental. If I concentrated on keeping speed up with mandolin chop he would be ever so slightly behind me but he stayed there did not get futher behind. Mental. He couldn't get the push in his head. Mental. I told him to practice with a record a song of medium speed and try to speed up the song with his guitar like he was with a band that was slowing a song down. It put in his mind how a bluegrass guitar was supposed to drive a song and you could not out play his rhythm. Mental

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  22. #66

    Default Re: Picking faster?

    (Progress update: just got neeeearly all the way thru Jerusalem Ridge at 150 bpm before falling apart completely. Yay me.)

  23. #67
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Martin View Post
    One other thing I noticed when I did a lot of transcribing. All great players play simpler lines when at top tempos. Makes sense, no one can play fast what they play at medium and slower tempos. .
    I read right past this the other day. Makes so much sense.
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  25. #68
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    Quote Originally Posted by kurth83 View Post
    That's way beyond me, my top speed is 100-110 bpm, and consistent clean is closer to 90ish.

    I have had some pretty good teachers try to explain it, mostly stuff about rest strokes, but I have not achieved that level yet.

    Fire on the mountain requires you to pick two courses to get the drone course to ring.
    Similar to pike county breakdown.

    Exercises I have heard to build up to those speeds are essentially tremolo practice, start without the left hand, to get the right hand solid, then bring in the fingerings. Cramping likely means you are tensing up, the tremolo practice is supposed to get you to be able to do sustained speeds while relaxed.

    I've tried pinky plant, resting heel of hand on the bridge, both are about the same, I lean towards heel resting for now, but I think the pinky plant is less RSI prone in the long-run.

    There are teachers on this board who can play and teach fast like that, maybe one of them can help. Lessons with someone like that might be the best option.
    As I've said many times before: don't plant, don't rest. On a mandolin with pickguard the most natural technique is to play with loosely curled fingers, brushing across the guard. On a mando without guard the most common technique is having the wrist brush across the strings behing the bridge, touching the strings "ever so slightly", to quote Mike Marshall. Because they're there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by archerscreek View Post
    How are people measuring this? Does 140 = 140 quarter notes and thus 280 eighth notes played per minute?

    I ask because discussions of speed in BPM seem to be all over the map regarding what each click on the metronome actually means. For example, I have an article where Steve Kaufman recommends picking fiddle tunes at 250 beats per minute, but then I also read a Guitar World article that measured a player's speed according to how many BPM a player could set the metronome at and still play four sixteenth notes per click. Applying the Guitar World standard to Kaufman's standard, that would mean a player should pick 1000 notes per minute playing a fiddle tune. I highly doubt that's ever happened. Haha.
    The confusion arises because some people think 2/2, others think 4/4. 250 bpm in 4/4 is the same tempo as 125 bpm in 2/2. 62.5 bars per minute. I think of 60 (in 2/2) as medium, 90 as medium up, and 120 as fast.

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  28. #70

    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar View Post
    Well, daily practice of right hand technique did not end up happening.... I've been playing daily, but not focused practice on technique. Turns out, I was premature in blaming my right hand for my (relative) lack of speed. While my left hand can play that fast on fiddle, mandolin is a bit different. Also, synchronization between my hands is more important on mandolin. I'm still trying to get faster, but I'm also trying to get good tone and cleanliness in my playing. I have noticed that I can play faster with a closed fist resting the heel of my hand behind the bridge, but it doesn't have nearly as good tone, and it's hard to play the lower strings. So I compromise, when I need outright speed, I close my hand, when power or tone are more important I plant/brush my pinky
    I've made a long progression from brushing the pinky finger to a relaxed closed fist and it's made a huge difference. But don't rest the heel of the hand behind the bridge! What you don't want is a "windshield wiper" effect because that uses the same muscles on the top of the hand to engage on both the downstroke and the upstroke. If you think of the strings like a plane, you have to break the plane to strike the string and then get the pick back on top of the plane to pick the next note. (See Troy Grady's tutorial on pick slanting on Cracking the Code on this point.) The key is to let the muscles on the top of the hand relax on the upstroke--I've heard it compared to picking up a suitcase, but I tend to think of it as a heavy middle knuckle on my middle finger. As I begin the upstroke I imagine that knuckle feeling very heavy and and then I kind of cup my hand slightly into the pick stroke. I don't know if that makes any sense. Harder to describe in words than demonstrate in person.

  29. #71

    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Agree with a lot of the techniques you guys are talking about.
    My technique (today) was 2 hours of playing the metronome pattern below.
    The strum pattern is D-UDU-D-U-D-
    It’s a triplets exercise and the idea is to play it slow and as efficiently, smoothly, gracefully even, as possible (in terms of hand movement). You have to practice it long enough that you get bored and relax, leave your fingers to do the thinking.
    Then make changes, arpeggios etc to get your fingers out of the rut.

    The basic pattern is D-U-D- D-U-D- ie. 6/8 time.

    Anyway, I did that and later in the day, playing 4/4 time my fingers were dancing all over the fretboard, clean and fast. Like magic, but not.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Good luck!

    ps. ‘relax’ meaning let your fingers do the thinking, or get your head to be relaxed.

  30. #72
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?



    Here's fire on the mountain at 160 bpm on fiddle, and I noticed at that speed tone goes bye bye, so I think 140 is probably an ideal performance speed.
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

  31. #73
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post

    I invite the great teachers on this site to correct me if I am wrong, but I think that if you are able to do a decent tremolo with your right hand, you have the picking and athleticism already, and everything else is left hand cleverness.
    good point

    If you can't play a good tremolo, you cannot play a fast moving line.

  32. #74

    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar View Post
    Ok, thanks for all the advice, I'll work on all of that. The only reason for the 120-140 jump in precise numbers is that I learned it from a site that has backing tracks, and those are the two with none between. And unfortunately I currently don't have a metronome. I'll keep working on it
    Yes you do have a metronome. There are a bunch of free online ones.

  33. #75
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Picking faster?

    Quote Originally Posted by fiddlinduke View Post
    Yes you do have a metronome. There are a bunch of free online ones.
    That's been mentioned a couple times, and I used it for a while, but usually when I'm practicing mandolin is after my mom has me off the internet, or when the internet is down (frequently). But occasionally I do use it online, which is fine but it's not loud enough
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

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