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Thread: Right arm placement

  1. #1
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Right arm placement

    Watching one of my lessons Sharon Gilchrist plays with her right arm coming a few inches above the tailpiece. I notice mine almost come right across the end of the instrument. Am I hindering my self by doing this? It puts my right hand in a position where I like to attack the strings with the pick but I cloud adjust and play with the headstock higher if there is good reason to do so. Thanks!
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Right arm placement

    In my view, positioning your picking arm the way you are is fine, perhaps even ideal. Coming in straight over the tailpiece and straight over the bridge and strings (without resting on them) centers the pick over the strings and helps to eliminate pick angle. That improves tone by keeping the pick flat to the strings, which maximizes the amount of the pick that is in contact with the strings. And you won’t need an armrest. Others may disagree with my view and I certainly will not second guess Sharon Gilchrist. But in my opinion you are doing it right.

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  4. #3
    Unfamous String Buster Beanzy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right arm placement

    Ditto, I feel the central alignment works best for me.
    My pick travel distance is reduced to 2 courses either way & the arm comes in at an angle where the mandolin rests on the crook of my elbow allowing me to forego using a strap.
    Eoin



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  6. #4
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right arm placement

    I'm just glad I'm not the only one! I was concerned I had developed some seriously bad habit. I don't post a finger but occasionally a finger will ride along the high e string if it isn't being played. My tailpiece does tend to dig into my arm a bit so I might make a leather strip to soften the edges but the left-hand position is good so I guess it all works out in the end. Thanks!
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

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  7. #5

    Default Re: Right arm placement

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy B View Post
    In my view, positioning your picking arm the way you are is fine, perhaps even ideal. Coming in straight over the tailpiece and straight over the bridge and strings (without resting on them) centers the pick over the strings and helps to eliminate pick angle. That improves tone by keeping the pick flat to the strings, which maximizes the amount of the pick that is in contact with the strings. And you won’t need an armrest. Others may disagree with my view and I certainly will not second guess Sharon Gilchrist. But in my opinion you are doing it right.
    FWIW all of the (bluegrass) mandolin instructional videos I've watched recommend the opposite positioning. i.e. the arm coming in above the tailpiece and holding the headstock at an angle in order to create (not eliminate) a pick angle. I believe the tone produced by a flat pick against the strings is undesirable to many players. Many of the premiere professional players seemed to have adopted this form - Mike Marshall, Sam Bush, Sierra Hull, Chris Thile, Adam Steffey, Radim Zenkl, Joe K Walsh, etc.. The most notable exceptions I'm aware of are John Reischman (who positions his arm parallel, but has a double jointed thumb that allows him to still attack the strings at an angle) and David Grisman (who seems to not position his arm completely parallel, but certainly a much lesser degree than the other players mentioned).

    Anecdotally I've noticed that a parallel/flatter attack is more common among classical players (e.g. Julien Martineau in his recent mandolin monday video), but I don't have a lot of exposure to that genre, so I could be off base.

  8. #6
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right arm placement

    I can honestly say how the pick strikes the string depends on how I angle my grip sometimes flat sometimes at a very slight angle. Now I wonder which I do more of.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right arm placement

    I would think the right arm over the tail piece would require the mandolin be straight horizontal. I do not prefer this, as I like my left hand to come at the strings at an angle, requiring the neck be raised at an angle, requiring the right hand to come in a few inches above the tail piece. Works for me.
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    Registered User TonyEarth's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right arm placement

    Right, I'm certainly no expert but I've heard a good pick angle is favorable as it helps the pick sort of move "through" the string, and is why some picks have that sort of asymmetric bevel (which would be sort of less effective if you came in flat).

    Whether this is technique really is better for you or you actually need your arm above the tailpiece to do achieve that angle may vary case by case.
    Diego

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  12. #9
    Unfamous String Buster Beanzy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right arm placement

    Indeed it does TonyEarth.
    People who don't play one way often make assumptions about what is or isn't possible playing another way they don't, or can't manage.
    It stands to reason that people will understand their way as the best, or even the only practical way as that is their experience.

    For what it's worth, the position I use allows me to play while holding the neck pointing towards the floor or vertical when I have to lean in to a single mic for vocal harmonies or a solo without banging the guitar or banjo etc. it's not a function that's limited by the right arm support position.
    Pick angle can be altered if required, but then again nobody uses a pick shaped Ike I do, so all round non conformism & contrariness is a factor too.
    Eoin



    "Forget that anyone is listening to you and always listen to yourself" - Fryderyk Chopin

  13. #10
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right arm placement

    Well, I have been paying more attention to my right arm position, not trying to change it just being more aware of where it is when I play and it seems to be very dependent on body position. Certain chairs dictate a different angle couch another angle standing stools etc all have slight variances. I also noticed that my left hand also changes it. If it was a long hard day, I work with my hands a lot, then the strength or level of tiredness dictates slight changes. I also noticed that unless I am very tired I can vary my pick angle enough with my right arm in different locations that the tone to my ears can significantly change.

    For example the Blue Chip picks have slight tonal variances with tip and thickness. My XR is not like my small pointy jazz but if the pointy jazz is played flatter to the strings it shifts in tone slightly toward the tone of the XR it doesn’t sound like the XR but shifts a bit in that direction. The pointy jazz and the XR, to my ear, brighten up a bit of played at an angle more than flat to the strings. I was subconsciously manipulating the picks attacks to get the closest to the tone my ear or brain thought I should have. So the angle I picked at changed from pick to pick. I wonder how many others have this happening or is it more common to have the same grip and attack and they change picks often to get the tone they want. So many little nuances to think about! Someone working on a. Phd could have a field day trying to sample people and see how the react.
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  14. #11
    Unfamous String Buster Beanzy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right arm placement

    You make a really good point for all players, no matter what approach they adopt as their preferred hold.
    The interplay of all of our decisions really has a huge cumulative effect.
    I tend to rewind regularly to reassess things in case I'm letting something creep in that I'll regret later. Especially if I've rehearsed when stressed or tired the time before (I work strange hours and shifts) It's amazing how some of that can get practiced in and carried over between, from session to session.
    I like to do a few reaches and arm drops to relax at the beginning. Then spend a few minutes to take stock, starting with the largest muscles and the shoulders, to check for tension or lifting up rather than being relaxed. It's an eye opener how often I can see the day that was in the initial position & how setting those larger muscle groups first can avoid other issues with my fingers or wrists trying to compensate for the big muscle distortions from a bit of tension.
    My poor fingers and hands could never win or compensate for even a bit of tension in thise big muscle groups, I'd be all twisted out of sorts.
    Well worth taking stock before heading into a practice.
    Eoin



    "Forget that anyone is listening to you and always listen to yourself" - Fryderyk Chopin

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