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Thread: Oval Hole Picking Technique

  1. #1
    Registered User rsgars's Avatar
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    Default Oval Hole Picking Technique

    I have an Eastman oval hole with an ached top. I have a tendency to hit the top with my pick when playing above the oval. It's better if I move more toward the bridge, but the tone is not as sweet. Any tips from experienced players?

  2. #2
    Registered User Bren's Avatar
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    Default Re: Oval Hole Picking Technique

    I'm pretty clumsy and mostly play archtop oval/round hole mandolins, picking over the hole..

    I don't have this issue though.
    I do tend to anchor a finger on the top, which is generally not recommended, but helps me get the distancing right.
    It's not "locked" to the top, and I do manage to lift it and play with flow.
    I also use a profiled pick such as a Primetime, or a Wegen TF140, and try to get just the tip of the pick contacting the strings. This is not as hard as it might seem, because the brain tends to adjust the picking hand automatically to a sound it likes. Once you've practised enough.
    Bren

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    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Oval Hole Picking Technique

    I pick right at the bottom of the fretboard on my oval A - I never hit the top, though I do have a wooden finger rest on it, but still, there's no marks on it at all either. You might try working on introducing more "economy of motion" into your picking hand, so that when your pick strikes the string it doesn't continue to travel (this advice for playing single note melody obviously, not for strumming!). The other benefit of minimising that pick travel is that it can facilitate better accuracy and speed when playing as well.
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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Oval Hole Picking Technique

    Make sure the instrument top is not rotated up too much. I actually intentionally keep mine vertical to a bit down so I am not tempted to watch the fret board constantly. Too much rotation up could put the top in the line of you picking hands movement.
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

    Creativity is just doing something wierd and finding out others like it.

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    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Oval Hole Picking Technique

    My experience with working through Calace and other classical methods is that great emphasis is put on holding the pick at a 45° angle, gliding through both strings of the course; and stopping the stroke on the next course - reverting to a 90° angle on the faster notes. This approach pretty much requires removing pick guards so that picking 45° through the E-course is successful. I haven't seen that f-hole or oval-hole makes any difference. But it sounds like genre and the pick stroke you initially learned have the primary impact on this type of concern. It took me a great deal of time to relearn a more suitable pick technique than the one I initially was exposed to. And finally, I don't think that how an instrument is held can be underestimated. It can have a huge impact on playing.

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    Registered User rsgars's Avatar
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    Default Re: Oval Hole Picking Technique

    Thanks for the responses. All areas I will explore.

  9. #7

    Default Re: Oval Hole Picking Technique

    Jim, can you say a little more about this or provide a reference? What angle do you strive for on the upstroke? Can you pick through both strings on the upstroke with the pick still at 45 degrees? In the other axis, is your pick aligned parallel with the strings? I'm really curious about this. I find a little angle with the strings helps with triplets but taken too far, it hurts the tone and volume. Still working on my picking technique on mandolin and tenor banjo where lack of string stiffness introduces other issues with getting caught on the upstroke during triplets. Thanks

  10. #8
    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Oval Hole Picking Technique

    Quote Originally Posted by Parker135 View Post
    ... Still working on my picking technique on mandolin and tenor banjo where lack of string stiffness introduces other issues with getting caught on the upstroke during triplets. Thanks...
    I recently acquired a little Keech banjo and was surprised because years ago I couldn’t play loose strings. No problem now since my level of accuracy, and a firmer pick hold along with loose wrist (endless right-hand-only exercises) has improved.

  11. #9
    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Oval Hole Picking Technique

    Quote Originally Posted by Parker135 View Post
    Jim, can you say a little more about this or provide a reference? What angle do you strive for on the upstroke? Can you pick through both strings on the upstroke with the pick still at 45 degrees? In the other axis, is your pick aligned parallel with the strings? I'm really curious about this. I find a little angle with the strings helps with triplets but taken too far, it hurts the tone and volume. Still working on my picking technique on mandolin and tenor banjo where lack of string stiffness introduces other issues with getting caught on the upstroke during triplets. Thanks
    Here is a link for books on Calace's method which provides many Etudes which explore all of the things you asked about:

    https://www.elderly.com/products/two...nglish-edition

    These techniques and those of other classical mandolin schools are popular in European classical circles. Caterina Lichtenberg uses these methods in her extremely well organized classical mandolin course on Artist Works. If you scroll through her curriculum you will see most of your questions are focused on in individual lessons. I would suggest you take a good look at the curriculum for your answers and consider enrolling in her course. I am learning a great deal and believe she is an excellent teacher.

    The music will dictate whether or not you use a 45° angle on either the downstroke or upstroke. The majority of the time the pick is parallel to the strings, not angled as is most common with American Bluegrass players. Caterina teaches a different grip than is typically used by American players. The index finger is not tucked under - rather it points straight down and works as an equal counter balance. This change in pick hold is quite important to make playing parallel to the strings work well. It took me a great deal of time to change my approach and, of course, I am still learning. Please bear in mind that I am only interested in classical music. Other techniques are suitable for different genres.
    Last edited by Tim Logan; Nov-28-2021 at 10:07am.

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
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  13. #10
    Pataphysician Joe Bartl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Oval Hole Picking Technique

    Tim,

    Did you mean to say "perpendicular" to the strings? "Parallel" to the strings leaves you with nothing to pluck ...

  14. #11
    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Oval Hole Picking Technique

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Bartl View Post
    Tim,

    Did you mean to say "perpendicular" to the strings? "Parallel" to the strings leaves you with nothing to pluck ...
    Hi Joe - I did mean parallel. Hopefully I understood Parker's question correctly. The first part of the question was whether or not the pick is tilted towards your feet at a 45° angle on the down stroke or towards your head on a 45° up stroke. I believe the second aspect of his question had to do with whether or not the pick is in full contact with the string rather than having initial contact being only with the leading edge of the pick. This question comes up most often in relation to tremolo where many American players advocate angling the pic, as in not being parallel to, the string so that the leading edge contacts first and the tremolo feels easier. The German school approach is to not hit the string, during tremolo, with the leading edge but with the full face of the pick (albeit very close to the tip). Initially this seems as if it makes tremolo more difficult but in the long run, for me, it makes it much more easy to control the tremolo. I hope I'm answering your question in a way that is clear.

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
    2015 Collings A (MT2-V)
    2020 Burgin Shanghai Octave Mandolin

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  16. #12

    Default Re: Oval Hole Picking Technique

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Logan View Post
    Here is a link for books on Calace's method which provides many Etudes which explore all of the things you asked about:

    https://www.elderly.com/products/two...nglish-edition

    These techniques and those of other classical mandolin schools are popular in European classical circles. Caterina Lichtenberg uses these methods in her extremely well organized classical mandolin course on Artist Works. If you scroll through her curriculum you will see most of your questions are focused on in individual lessons. I would suggest you take a good look at the curriculum for your answers and consider enrolling in her course. I am learning a great deal and believe she is an excellent teacher.

    The music will dictate whether or not you use a 45° angle on either the downstroke or upstroke. The majority of the time the pick is parallel to the strings, not angled as is most common with American Bluegrass players. Caterina teaches a different grip than is typically used by American players. The index finger is not tucked under - rather it points straight down and works as an equal counter balance. This change in pick hold is quite important to make playing parallel to the strings work well. It took me a great deal of time to change my approach and, of course, I am still learning. Please bear in mind that I am only interested in classical music. Other techniques are suitable for different genres.
    Tim, thanks for this and your subsequent comments. You are interpreting my questions as I intended. I'll have a look at your suggested resources. I'm spending a lot of time with triplets on the banjo, when in the past I sort of stumbled through them. I thought maybe some dedicated practice might be helpful, which got me into exploring my mandolin technique as well. The two seem so different to me. The mandolin strings are so stiff in comparison, plus with the course of two strings, I have less trouble getting stuck midway through the triplet. I also think I'm probably rolling my wrist downward a little on the downstroke, which gets me in too deep. What's frustrating is that I'll think I've sorted things out, maybe with a slightly different technique or different pick, only to have the problem return a little later. The other night after an Irish session on the mandolin, I came home and played decent triplets on the banjo! So much to learn.

    Parker

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