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Old 03-18-2021, 10:06 AM
tdlwhite tdlwhite is offline
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Default Improving my flatpicking - advice needed!

Over the last couple of weeks I have been working on my flatpicking. I have changed my pick-grip, floated my hand (bye bye pinkie-anchor!), and even bought some nice big triangle picks to hold on to.

My aim is to be able to play this tune at a decent tempo:



It is a Carl Miner demo tune, and I'm playing at about 70% the speed of Carl in that video. I have a few ideas about how I'm going to try and improve, but really, I'm just playing the piece over and over while listening to a metronome and hoping for a flatpicking epiphany.

Any hints, tips, thoughts and recommendations would be most welcome!
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  #2  
Old 03-18-2021, 12:35 PM
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hubcapsc hubcapsc is offline
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Set the metronome to slow enough that you can play it without messing up.

Crank up the metronome a little bit.

Keep repeating.

I say this because it has helped me improve, but I am still unable to
play the bluegrass songs I've been practicing as fast and reliably
as I need to.

Some talented or young people seem to be able to just do it.

-Mike "I hate them "
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Old 03-18-2021, 01:50 PM
tdlwhite tdlwhite is offline
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thanks Mike.

The slowly-increase-speed playthrough has worked so far (and recording the thing has nicely shown me that I need to slow back down again!). My main worry is whether the gradual increase in tempo will get me playing the whole thing up to speed. I have the sinking feeling that it will not.

I have also taken short sections/runs and done the same thing. Perhaps that'll be my next goal; choose a short section and keep at it until something good happens.
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Old 03-18-2021, 03:01 PM
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I have also taken short sections/runs and done the same thing. Perhaps that'll be my next goal; choose a short section and keep at it until something good happens.

Oh yeah! I can play the rhythm of Black Mountain Rag decently enough,
but I've worked on the melody part in little bits at a time... keep practicing
what you know and keep adding new parts to it...

-Mike
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Old 03-19-2021, 05:24 AM
Robin, Wales Robin, Wales is offline
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Hi Tom,

I thought that your video was excellent. Wonderful playing!

You are a way better player than I am so all I will do here is suggest the approach I would take from a sports coaching background.

Body position: The only thing I could spot was that your left shoulder looked a little tense and your left elbow tucked in a little.

The tool kit: Carl no doubt uses many movements (phrases) from his tool kit to play this piece. So it will be built from lots of short fine motor movement sequences that he already has honed and stored in his non-conscious reservoir. You are coming at this afresh, so it will take a while, and be a struggle, to familiarise yourself to those patterns and drive them into your non-conscious. The physical movements for flatpicking are too fast to be fully cognitive, they must become non-conscious. Your approach of at times practicing small chunks out of sequence is the correct one.

The speed: Speed has its own physicality. Playing something at speed is physically different to playing the same thing slower. The sheer physics of the way the pick bounces off the strings and fingers bounce off the fretboard is different at speed. You are firing your fast twitch muscle fibres differently – and the non-conscious pathways are different. So, playing something slowly and then gradually building up speed is not necessarily the most effective approach. You now know the tune in terms of fingering but are stuck a 70% of the speed. I would suggest you start learning small segments at the full 100% speed. Or at the very least a little too fast to be comfortable. You will blow it! Because, as you speed up, it is like learning the whole sequence again (the movements are different because the physics is different). So expect to struggle, then have a breakthrough one segment at a time.

As I said, you are a far better player that I am. So the above is simply from the perspective of a sports coach standing on the side-line watching their top flight players.

BTW, what guitar are you using in your video? You coax a wonderful tone from it!
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I'm learning to flatpick and fingerpick guitar to accompany songs.

I've played and studied traditional noter/drone mountain dulcimer for many years. And I used to play dobro in a bluegrass band.



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  #6  
Old 03-19-2021, 07:25 AM
RoyBoy RoyBoy is offline
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I think your playing is sounding nice at this stage, you have a nice tone going.

The one piece of advice I can offer after watching your video: to increase speed and fluency you'll need to keep your fretting fingers closer to the fingerboard. If you watch Carl, his fingers hover maybe 3/8" above the strings at most. Watch Tony Rice to see the master of efficiency of motion.

Carl also has an amazing right hand, totally fluid. Molly Tuttle also has incredible right hand technique. I think this part of the puzzle probably only comes with gonzo hours of playing.

Your doing fine! IME that last 20% of speed is the hardest to master. Keep up the good work.
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Old 03-19-2021, 07:57 AM
tdlwhite tdlwhite is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin, Wales View Post

Body position: The only thing I could spot was that your left shoulder looked a little tense and your left elbow tucked in a little.

The tool kit: Your approach of at times practicing small chunks out of sequence is the correct one.

The speed: ...So, playing something slowly and then gradually building up speed is not necessarily the most effective approach. I would suggest you start learning small segments at the full 100% speed.

BTW, what guitar are you using in your video? You coax a wonderful tone from it!
Thanks Robin!

Good spot with that left elbow - I *think* I was doing that to 'improve' the filming angle! But I will check my 'usual' playing position too.

My initial learning of the piece was all small chunks, so I've already done a fair amount of going over each part in isolation. Doing that again, but adding the speed makes sense. As does pushing it to see whether my slower mechanic works for faster tempos -- so far it's a mixed bag, the up/down runs seem to speed up fine, but parts with inside/inside picking do not.

The guitar is a Larrivee OM40 (elixir PB 12s, Primetone 1.4 pick), and I have to say that I'm really loving the plectrum sound. Every time I go back to fingerpicking it sounds a bit quiet/dead until I get used to it.

Thanks again for the thoughts and kind words.

Tom
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Old 03-19-2021, 08:01 AM
tdlwhite tdlwhite is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RoyBoy View Post
...The one piece of advice I can offer after watching your video: to increase speed and fluency you'll need to keep your fretting fingers closer to the fingerboard...
Thanks Royboy - for both the encouragement and the warning about that last 20%!

Totally agree about my left hand, not only about keeping it closer to fretboard, but also I need to get the timing better. I can definitely hear times when it 'leads' the picking hand, or lags behind.

Tom
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Old 03-19-2021, 08:02 AM
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hubcapsc hubcapsc is offline
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Is there a term or name for that thing he does at second
28 or 29? A sweep? Someone else posted a black and white
video of Tommy Emmanuel and a couple of other guys
(subject: this will get your toe tapping) and Tommy Emmanuel
did a bunch of really complex and fast sounding "sweeps"
near the end.

-Mike "I'd skip trying to play that part "
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Old 03-19-2021, 08:11 AM
tdlwhite tdlwhite is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hubcapsc View Post
Is there a term or name for that thing he does at second
28 or 29? A sweep?
If I'm listening to the same bit as you, that part is a down-stroke double-hammer-on the A string to a down-stroke to start the lick off again on the D.
I hadn't noticed that he did double-down there - I ordered the right hand picking to up-stroke the A for the hammer-on and then immediately down the D. Carl does two up-strokes on the descent in order to get that down-stroke on the A. He's almost totally alternate up/down the whole time (which is really what I wanted to learn/practice by playing this tune.

So, I don't think I'd call that a sweep, more of a double-down-double-hammer
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Old 03-21-2021, 12:15 PM
TBman TBman is offline
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I'm a flat picker who moved onto finger style years ago.

The musicality of this sort of piece relies on the speed (as most of this style does) the reason being that single note runs sound very empty to the listener so throwing more notes in the air is an attempt at making up for it.

Once you can play the whole piece through at a slower pace without mistakes (muscle memory training) then you should play short sections doing speed bursts to performance speed and beyond. You have to find the tempo of failure and keep pushing that higher. Its fun doing this, but you might drive your family nuts while practicing,

The goal is to be able to play the piece beyond performance speed of the original artist. You have to be able to play faster than performance speed so that playing at performance speed is easier. At least that's the way I was taught way back when I took lessons from a flat picker.

When I was flatpicking, there was no internet and I had no clue about bluegrass music. If I had found out about it back then I would have gone nuts. I really could have used youtube

Also, I would go back to pinky bridging. There's nothing wrong with it.
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Avalon Ard Ri L2-320C, Furch Yellow Gc-CR, Gibson J-45, Guild D-120, Larrivee OM-05, Martin D-16GT

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Celtic covers - videos

https://soundcloud.com/barry329

Enjoying guitars since 1964.

Last edited by TBman; 03-21-2021 at 12:26 PM.
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Old 03-21-2021, 10:16 PM
rdube rdube is offline
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If you are just starting to apply yourself to flatpicking that was very good playing. There is already some great advice here but I would add a couple of things to consider.
One is pretty basic. As Segovia said: play scales. If you look up Jimmy Bruno’s 5 Shapes he demonstrates how he plays the major scale across the entire fretboard. It’s one approach but very good.
The other, if you wanted to make a study of it, is Bryan Sutton’s Bluegrass guitar course with Artistworks. I play wrong-handed and Sutton’s instruction elevated my picking far beyond what I thought I was capable of. He is technically amazing and also communicates well.
I’m also wondering what guitar you are playing.
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Old 03-22-2021, 07:46 AM
tdlwhite tdlwhite is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TBman View Post
Once you can play the whole piece through at a slower pace ... you should play short sections doing speed bursts to performance speed and beyond. You have to find the tempo of failure and keep pushing that higher. Its fun doing this, but you might drive your family nuts while practicing,

...You have to be able to play faster than performance speed so that playing at performance speed is easier...

...I really could have used youtube

...Also, I would go back to pinky bridging. There's nothing wrong with it.
Thanks for this advice. I'm mixing full, careful, play-throughs with practicing sections as fast as possible. In a few more days I'll try another recording.
YouTube (and the ability to slow playback) is an unbelievable tool. As someone that started learning in the early 90s, I feel truly lucky that I have access to high quality videos of amazing players. (and high quality/free instructional stuff too).

I'm going to keep the floating hand for now, as I'm actually quite enjoying it. But I will happily land the pinky if I feel the need.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rdube View Post
...As Segovia said: play scales.
...
I’m also wondering what guitar you are playing.
Thanks for the compliment!

I have incorporated some scale-type exercises into my practice. Ones that I have made-up, but that match the specific patterns used in the piece I'm learning. I'll certainly look up Bruno/Sutton's teachings too, so thanks for mentioning 'em.

The guitar is a (new to me in January) Larrivee OM-40, and the hog/sitka combo has won me over.
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Old 03-22-2021, 08:12 AM
TBman TBman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tdlwhite View Post
Thanks for this advice. I'm mixing full, careful, play-throughs with practicing sections as fast as possible. In a few more days I'll try another recording.
YouTube (and the ability to slow playback) is an unbelievable tool. As someone that started learning in the early 90s, I feel truly lucky that I have access to high quality videos of amazing players. (and high quality/free instructional stuff too).

I'm going to keep the floating hand for now, as I'm actually quite enjoying it. But I will happily land the pinky if I feel the need.



Thanks for the compliment!

I have incorporated some scale-type exercises into my practice. Ones that I have made-up, but that match the specific patterns used in the piece I'm learning. I'll certainly look up Bruno/Sutton's teachings too, so thanks for mentioning 'em.

The guitar is a (new to me in January) Larrivee OM-40, and the hog/sitka combo has won me over.
Another couple of good tools to have is Transcribe! which slows things down, can apply a tuning adjustment up and down for you, etc (like a capo) and other tweaks and the 4k Video Downloader which downloads youtube videos for you so you can open them in Transcribe. To view videos in Transcribe all you have to do after installing is to download and install GStream.
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Barry



Avalon Ard Ri L2-320C, Furch Yellow Gc-CR, Gibson J-45, Guild D-120, Larrivee OM-05, Martin D-16GT

An Daingean {Guild D-120}:


Celtic covers - videos

https://soundcloud.com/barry329

Enjoying guitars since 1964.
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  #15  
Old 03-22-2021, 01:47 PM
brianlcox brianlcox is offline
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Looks great! I too have a few tunes from Carl Miner demos in my regular practice routine. He has a great mix of picking and strumming. I've seen a lot of progress in the past months by trying to copy his tunes. My next goal is to learn some hybrid picking, which Carl uses really effectively at times.

keep up the good work!
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