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Old 09-04-2016, 07:43 PM
mattwood mattwood is offline
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Default Question for fingerstyle players

I was doing some reading today about fingerstyle technique and I'm curious as to what others are doing. It was talking about that on the stroke, your finger should be pushing the string down towards the top so the string vibrates more perpendicular to the top instead of parallel to it. So the stroke is more pushing the string downwards instead of plucking it upwards. I have long fingers and I have been definitely doing more plucking. So are you a pusher or a plucker and is this something you have consciously worked on to change? Thanks.
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Old 09-04-2016, 09:01 PM
Arthur Blake Arthur Blake is offline
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You essentially have to experiment continually. I find there is a great variety of sound variation that is possible depending upon how you strike the string - both angle and position, direction and force.

When you're doing a rest stroke, the string naturally gets more up and down motion, and you'll notice a difference in volume and tone, and you can also create a similar motion with the fingers by accentuating the amount you lift up.

I think you often get the best results by turning your head away and just listening. Then you can look and see what you were doing, but the key seems to be in listening.

FWIW I've been using SCGC strings recently and finding them exceptional. First tried light tension, then went to mid.
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Old 09-04-2016, 09:04 PM
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rick-slo rick-slo is offline
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Mainly it is about how smoothly the fingertip leaves the string when plucking it. For example with fingernails, how are they are shaped and how polished are they? Pushing downward rather than more across makes less difference, though I think there could be less unwanted movement of the unwound strings on the saddle with downward picking.
Rest strokes usually have a bit more full and rounded tone than free strokes, but again IMO that mainly results from how smoothly the picking fingertip leaves the string (in rest strokes the
fingertip tends to be flexed backward a little as it leaves the string).
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Old 09-04-2016, 09:32 PM
StringFive StringFive is offline
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Toward the top? I dunno...that seems a bit odd.
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Old 09-04-2016, 10:01 PM
mattwood mattwood is offline
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Toward the top? I dunno...that seems a bit odd.
Might not be the best terminology but more to define direction.
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Old 09-05-2016, 08:47 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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"Towards the top" (into the guitar rather than away) is known as the "rest stroke", because the finger comes to rest against the next string. The "free stroke" - reasonably enough - is where the finger picks the string and misses the next string.

Most non-classical fingerstyle involves free strokes, partly because we tend to be picking chord shapes and like to let all the strings ring. Also the hand position required for rest strokes suits either fingers or thumb, but not both together.

The advantage with rest strokes is that it's much easier to control when picking fast scalar passages or melodies, because the fingers stay close to where they need to be for the next note. Some claim you get a different tone, but I don't buy that myself - I don't hear any difference, although of course the feel is quite different (which might prejudice the ear). The picking action of nail across string is physically the same either way - the direction of the finger after it's left the string is obviously irrelevant.
Where there may be a minimal difference is either in (a) the angle of the finger (and nail) relative to the string, and (b) the speed of attack. The dynamics can (arguably) be different: it seems easier to control the dynamics with a rest stroke.

As for choosing which stroke to play when: I'd only choose rest strokes for playing clean single-note melodic lines, where I wanted each note crisp, without risking neighbouring strings vibrating. Otherwise, when playing with thumb and fingers together, its all free strokes - the hand is simply in the wrong position to play rest strokes, whether I'm in classical position (wrist arched up) or folk-blues position (wrist close to the top, or resting on the bridge).
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Old 09-05-2016, 11:12 AM
mattwood mattwood is offline
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Originally Posted by JonPR View Post
"Towards the top" (into the guitar rather than away) is known as the "rest stroke", because the finger comes to rest against the next string. The "free stroke" - reasonably enough - is where the finger picks the string and misses the next string.

Most non-classical fingerstyle involves free strokes, partly because we tend to be picking chord shapes and like to let all the strings ring. Also the hand position required for rest strokes suits either fingers or thumb, but not both together.

The advantage with rest strokes is that it's much easier to control when picking fast scalar passages or melodies, because the fingers stay close to where they need to be for the next note. Some claim you get a different tone, but I don't buy that myself - I don't hear any difference, although of course the feel is quite different (which might prejudice the ear). The picking action of nail across string is physically the same either way - the direction of the finger after it's left the string is obviously irrelevant.
Where there may be a minimal difference is either in (a) the angle of the finger (and nail) relative to the string, and (b) the speed of attack. The dynamics can (arguably) be different: it seems easier to control the dynamics with a rest stroke.

As for choosing which stroke to play when: I'd only choose rest strokes for playing clean single-note melodic lines, where I wanted each note crisp, without risking neighbouring strings vibrating. Otherwise, when playing with thumb and fingers together, its all free strokes - the hand is simply in the wrong position to play rest strokes, whether I'm in classical position (wrist arched up) or folk-blues position (wrist close to the top, or resting on the bridge).
Very informative and helpful! It really resonated with me what you said about the hand position for the rest stroke not suiting both thumb and finger at the same time. Thank you!
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Old 09-05-2016, 11:21 AM
Wyllys Wyllys is offline
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As usual I come from a DIY "just play it" approach and leave the analysis for hindsight. An example:

Sitting and playing one day, someone asked me how I managed to pick a certain passage. In repeating the paasage we found I was "back-picking" the second of two notes, up-picking the first note with my index finger and then brushing my nail against the string on a down- or "back-" pick.

I had been completely unaware that this was going on until I got "caught".

My point is that planning, study, directed practice and such are fine and commendable, but you have to leave room for and accept inspiration and fortuitous accident when you offer yourself up to the music, put the brain in neutral and let the music play you.

I think the Heisenbergian principle of the act of observation (and analysis) affecting the object applies. There comes a time when you just have to DO and not think. The music will inform your hands...if you let it.

Now back to your regularly scheduled Cartesian approach.

Have fun.
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Old 09-05-2016, 12:37 PM
mattwood mattwood is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wyllys View Post
As usual I come from a DIY "just play it" approach and leave the analysis for hindsight. An example:

Sitting and playing one day, someone asked me how I managed to pick a certain passage. In repeating the paasage we found I was "back-picking" the second of two notes, up-picking the first note with my index finger and then brushing my nail against the string on a down- or "back-" pick.

I had been completely unaware that this was going on until I got "caught".

My point is that planning, study, directed practice and such are fine and commendable, but you have to leave room for and accept inspiration and fortuitous accident when you offer yourself up to the music, put the brain in neutral and let the music play you.

I think the Heisenbergian principle of the act of observation (and analysis) affecting the object applies. There comes a time when you just have to DO and not think. The music will inform your hands...if you let it.

Now back to your regularly scheduled Cartesian approach.

Have fun.
Are you sure your aren't confusing Heisenberg's uncertainty principle with the Observer effect? I'm in agreement with you that analysis can often contribute to paralysis and sometimes you just have to get out of your own way.
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Old 09-06-2016, 05:48 PM
Pitar Pitar is offline
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The stroke is parallel to the top. Initial plucking of the string to lift it away from the top sets it in motion to possibly strike the fretboard on it's return path. Not good, nor correct.

Also, the string does not remain in a linear motion. Strings are circular in cross section and therefore follow a circular vibration. A flat string (ribbon) would follow a more linear vibration. In other words, when a string is plucked it will begin following a circular motion around it's normal static state, or center of tension, until it returns to that position (static) once all its finger-induced energy is spent. But, the initial pluck is parallel to the top. The fingernail moves and releases the string and the finger stops against the adjacent string (rest stroke). That describes a rest stroke.

It's virtually impossible to pluck downward, into the guitar top, so I think there's some confusion at work in the mind's eye about plucking strings.

Vibration must have as much of a parallel vibration component as possible to set up initial (largest) frequencies on the saddle. Think of a bowed instrument and how its strings are set in motion. They're displaced parallel to the top skidding back and forth in rapid motion under the rosined bow strings as the bow grabs them, moves them to a certain displacement and their tension snatches them backwards from the bow string's grip. This happens at a high frequency motion, in minute displacements per second, and all of it is parallel to the instrument's top. Even when the bowed instrument is plucked (Pizzicato), the strings are plucked parallel to the top.
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Old 09-07-2016, 09:29 AM
gfsark gfsark is offline
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Downstroke can be louder and fuller sound than upstroke. In classical playing, downstroke is used to emphasize the melody, and the upstroke apegio is the accompaniment to the melody line. As regards speed, I'm amazed at how fast the speed-demons can play with either stroke.

Same holds true for the thumb. Flamenco players especially use downstroke with the thumb. The loudest single note you can make on guitar is the downstroke with the thumb because the whole weight of your hand can be put into a single note. But you need a sturdy long thumbnail for this technique.
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Old 12-09-2016, 05:32 AM
Znerken Znerken is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JonPR View Post
"Towards the top" (into the guitar rather than away) is known as the "rest stroke", because the finger comes to rest against the next string. The "free stroke" - reasonably enough - is where the finger picks the string and misses the next string.

Most non-classical fingerstyle involves free strokes, partly because we tend to be picking chord shapes and like to let all the strings ring. Also the hand position required for rest strokes suits either fingers or thumb, but not both together.

The advantage with rest strokes is that it's much easier to control when picking fast scalar passages or melodies, because the fingers stay close to where they need to be for the next note. Some claim you get a different tone, but I don't buy that myself - I don't hear any difference, although of course the feel is quite different (which might prejudice the ear). The picking action of nail across string is physically the same either way - the direction of the finger after it's left the string is obviously irrelevant.
Where there may be a minimal difference is either in (a) the angle of the finger (and nail) relative to the string, and (b) the speed of attack. The dynamics can (arguably) be different: it seems easier to control the dynamics with a rest stroke.

As for choosing which stroke to play when: I'd only choose rest strokes for playing clean single-note melodic lines, where I wanted each note crisp, without risking neighbouring strings vibrating. Otherwise, when playing with thumb and fingers together, its all free strokes - the hand is simply in the wrong position to play rest strokes, whether I'm in classical position (wrist arched up) or folk-blues position (wrist close to the top, or resting on the bridge).

What about doing free strokes, but still pushing the strings towards the top(downwards)? You will get the advantage of the "push" but don't have to rest pick. I think some people are doing that as well?
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Old 12-09-2016, 05:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mattwood View Post
So are you a pusher or a plucker and is this something you have consciously worked on to change? Thanks.
Something else I never gave a moment's thought to in my fifty-plus years of playing. I do what I do and it sounds good, so my answers are I don't know and no.
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Old 12-10-2016, 05:54 PM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Znerken View Post
What about doing free strokes, but still pushing the strings towards the top(downwards)? You will get the advantage of the "push" but don't have to rest pick. I think some people are doing that as well?
I don't quite see how you can pick a string downwards (into the guitar) without touching the next string afterwards.
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Old 12-10-2016, 07:00 PM
Pitar Pitar is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StringFive View Post
Toward the top? I dunno...that seems a bit odd.
I don't think the finger can physically move the string in a perpendicular direction to the top, nor do I think the author of the technique is an authority if that is his claim.

The initial release of the string places it in its greatest travel displacement which could contact a fret wire if released perpendicularly to the top. After the initial release the string sets up its vibration in a revolving manner much like a jump rope. There are two perpendicular vectors with each rotation, as well as two parallel vectors. But, the initial release is always parallel because that is the only motion the fingertip travels through. The proper pluck is a rest stroke which means the finger displaces and releases the object string, and then comes to rest against the adjacent string. To attempt a perpendicular release of the object string would require hooking and lifting it with the fingernail before release. This is physically impossible to do in regular play.
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