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  #31  
Old 01-23-2022, 11:06 AM
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TBman TBman is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brooklyn Bob View Post
I' It actually would not be a bad idea to run thru the entire song with just the thumb and build from there.
That's exactly how I learned to Travis pick.
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  #32  
Old 01-23-2022, 11:07 AM
tbeltrans tbeltrans is offline
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Originally Posted by islandguitar View Post
I don't know if palm muting is too advanced or you haven't tried it, but I've found that with the muted lower strings it helps to bring your ear and your hands together more in sync. Many who do alternating bass also palm mute as well. It keeps the lower strings from ringing and helps separate the tones you're creating.
Hard to explain why it helps (at least for me) but you could give it a try and see if things click a little better.
I could never get palm muting working because years ago, I broke my right (picking hand) wrist such that it only rotates 90 degrees instead of 180 degrees. I feel extremely fortunate that I can play at all. But then, there are certainly extreme examples of fine players who had various physical impairments but overcame them by finding a way through. Django Reinhardt and Phil Keaggy immediately come to mind.

Tony
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  #33  
Old 01-23-2022, 11:09 AM
s2y s2y is offline
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Good setup, good posture, and a guitar that doesn't feel like a chore to play.
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  #34  
Old 01-23-2022, 11:31 AM
Silurian Silurian is offline
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Of course different approaches work for different people.

At first I tried various exercises designed to develop thumb independence. I found that I got very good at the exercises but it didn't really help for real songs.

I changed tack and just learned real songs. Slowly over time it gradually came together, there was no single moment when it "clicked" .

I found alternating bass much easier than monotonic.
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  #35  
Old 01-23-2022, 11:35 AM
tbirdman tbirdman is offline
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I learned Travis picking by playing about 6 songs from Justins Guitar app at about 50 bpm. I then slowly increased the speed but only when I could play at the lower speed.

I got better at it and one day I decide to record a video for my friends. I notice I kept looking at my picking fingers. The next day I discovered I could finger pick without looking at my fingers.

The idea is to be able to play without thinking. At first you are thinking about what finger and what string you need to play. You need to get to where that is automatic.
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  #36  
Old 01-23-2022, 12:09 PM
RLetson RLetson is offline
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1. Yeah, the thumb. As Pat Donohue put it, make it go back and forth.

2. Something I was told years after I managed to start doing it without realizing it's as crucial as #1: Either you pinch or you don't.

3. Thumb plus index or index and middle is less important than #2. You can follow Doc and Merle and Raymond Kane, but eventually you will probably wind up using as many fingers as you can get to reach a string on time. (It took me more than 40 years to get the ring finger to cooperate.)

4. Learn tunes you like. I know that some folks prefer exercises and etudes, but I learned to play by playing tunes I couldn't get out of my ears. Tab/instruction books helped, but the music is in your ears and fingers and gets there by repetition.

5. Don't be upset if you can't sound exactly like your heroes. Sixty years into this game and I still fudge the hard parts. In front of an audience.

6. (Optional) Consider some chord-melody arranging--it has a different-but-related set of challenges from alternating-thumb style.
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  #37  
Old 01-23-2022, 12:13 PM
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I really, really, really wish someone told me to slow down, really slow down when I was first learning. Itís in every Stefan Grossman/Happy Traum/Pete Huttlinger/Mark Hanson DVD. Srick mentioned it, but itís really, really slow. If you canít play it in perfect rhythm and time super slowly, youíll never play it fast. Kenny Sultan, a great blues player, and teacher told me that no one in the audience ever hears a muffed note if it's played in time, but everyone will notice the correct note played out of time. Think about it. It's the timing that makes you tap your foot or nod your head. I'm religious and my religion for learning after many years of struggling is now:

Guitar:
I play a 1 13/16" x 2 5/16" short scale, 12 fret guitar, capoed at the 2nd fret. This makes the reach dramatically less for both the shoulder and hand, as well as the least tension for the fingers. As I learn, I move the capo back, then eliminate it.

Seat:
I use a NeckUp to put my guitar in proper alignment and sit on a good seat (SoundSeat) for proper posture.

Slow:
I use Amazing Slow downer, GuitarPro 7.5, or VideoSurgeon to super slowdown the music but keep it in pitch and correct it for the capo.

Sheet music:
I transcribe everything into GuitarPro. This makes me go measure by measure. If a song is at a tempo of 120, I generally start at 60. You might need 30. GuitarPro has a built-in metronome, has looping features, and makes you learn rhythm and music even if it's TAB. It has features that allow your loop to increase by any percentage you want and at the end of the day, I change the TAB to my new tempo. There are tons of YouTube videos of how to use its features. I use less than 10% of them, but itís priceless to me. I never bite off more than I can chew and practice sessions should be intense and no more than 20 minutes as you'll lose concentration. It's amazing when you repeat one measure 100x, then gradually add 3-4 measures to get one phrase, and then loop that 100x, and keep going day after day. You'll be adding 3-4 measures a day at 1/2 speed. You'll get the song in a week and you'll get it to your best speed in a month. At the end of the year, you've got 12 songs at a good pace. By next year, it'll take you 2 weeks a song, and then 1 week a song. In 5 years, you'll have it down. Plus, you'll have all the songs you know in a book, or on an iPad with the same format at your tempo.

Don't bite off too much at a time. Go slow (have I said that enough). Practice what you DON'T know. Separate practice from playing or from goofing around or noodling. If you're playing a song, but goofing up the same spot, you're teaching your brain to goof up. "Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect" - Vince Lombardi.

Ready to commit? Best of luck!
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  #38  
Old 01-23-2022, 12:26 PM
pszy22 pszy22 is offline
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This may go without saying - you need to practice the technique, not learning a song. Practice something simple, rather than having to think about chord changes and voicings.

It is Wax on / Wax off time until you become comfortable with the technique. Once that happens, you can start thinking about learning a simple song.

have fun, and buy your wife some earplugs, the repetitiveness can drive normal people mad.
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  #39  
Old 01-23-2022, 12:51 PM
PaulVA PaulVA is offline
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Fingerstyle guitar is one of those things that can look easy, especially to non-guitar players, but it is much harder than it looks. I have had many guitar-playing friends who are very accomplished guitarists, but who cannot seem to master finger-style. I think the best advice for learning, and what worked for me, is as suggested by many here - start working with your thumb only. Since you mentioned John Prine and blues style playing, being able to get that alternating bass going with your thumb is the key. When I first started I did not worry about learning any fingerstyle songs, I first learned to play alternating bass (using only the thumb and only the bass strings) within a chord form, and learned the key variations needed for the major chords. For example, the thumb may play 6-4-5-4 in a G chord form or E chord form but it needs to shift to 5-4-6-4 for C chord to keep the first bass note of each measure as the chord root. I have to admit this kind of practice is one-dimensional and boring especially for a guitar player with some experience, and I found it's best taken in small doses. I worked at it for only 10 minutes or so in each practice session, reverting to a flat pick and having more fun for the rest of the session.

But, in working with just the thumb four or five days a week, I found within 3 or 4 weeks I could play that alternating bass pattern for each major and minor chord without thinking about it, and that is where a player needs to be I think to really launch into fingerstyle. Once I had those patterns down to allow my thumb to work without conscious effort, then I worked on the finger parts. I still did not concern myself with learning songs, I was just learning to make the thumb and fingers work together when playing chords - if you're in a chord shape, don't worry - it will all sound good and musical when the strings are activated whether by thumb or finger. I learned to use two fingers first, and then three fairly soon after, and I did not worry about speed, I just worked on accuracy while making chord changes and keeping that bass and fingers pattern going - the speed came later with a bit more practice. But back to John Prine....once you can play alternating bass and add some treble notes with a finger or two (that part seems to require more active and conscious thought), you'll be able to play "Hello in There" and eventually about any other Prine song that uses finger-style. And with that as a platform you are on your way to acoustic blues pretty quickly also. I think at that point where you've mastered the basic mechanics then it helps to work with some tabs and videos to learn songs. With your strong desire to master this, no doubt you'll get there more quickly than you think - you'll be amazed at the progress that comes after that thumb goes on auto-pilot!

Last edited by PaulVA; 01-23-2022 at 01:06 PM.
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  #40  
Old 01-23-2022, 12:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pszy22 View Post
It took me many months before I could somewhat rely on my thumb to keep the beat going. The investment is worth it.

If you are interested in the blues, I suggest you google lessons by David Hamburger. For me, he plays the type of music I want to play, and there is no better educator that I have found.

Have fun, keep the faith.
Thank you for the David Hamburger suggestion. Just watched a bit of this stuff. Very tasteful blues... right up my ally
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  #41  
Old 01-23-2022, 01:02 PM
RJack RJack is offline
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Originally Posted by E-OM View Post
This fellow has a fingerpicking course that would be great for you.

https://my.bluesguitarinstitute.com/

He has helped me improve and is a great teacher.
Yes I have watched this guy a good bit. Lots of good stuff on his channel
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  #42  
Old 01-23-2022, 01:29 PM
Glennwillow Glennwillow is offline
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Give me your best pro tip for learning fingerstyle...

You have to want it really badly. I think the key is desire combined with tenacity. These are what make a person go back, again and again, to figure out the timing, the coordination, the fingering... whatever it takes.

I remember hearing Tommy Emmanuel at a workshop asking the group there, "What is it that makes a person spend two months learning to play a piece of music? I drive myself crazy, working and working at this,... I'm gonna get that down!!!"

You have to want it badly.

- Glenn
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  #43  
Old 01-23-2022, 01:31 PM
RLetson RLetson is offline
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I'm finding the advice on technique acquisition interesting. It's clear that repetition is central to learning a physical skill (or an intellectual one, for that matter), but what is not clear is the nature of the "practice" that gets the neuromuscular systems to cooperate.

I've spent my entire life as both student and teacher--the former of a range of skills and disciplines and the latter of writing and related activities--and I have watched myself acquire new skill sets and extend existing ones. I know that conventional methods for teaching music are rooted in what I think of as abstract physical practice, followed by exercises--etudes--designed to deploy various skills. Finger exercises and such. That is not how I learned to play guitar. My first teacher was a junior-high (now "middle school") music teacher who did not, as far as I could tell, play guitar. Instead, she walked me through the first third or so of an instruction book that did not require me to read music, instead offering simple songs with chord diagrams. (Later she taught my 7th-grade class the basics of standard notation, which to this day, after repeated attempts, I still can't read the way I read English.)

Thereafter, everything I learned was rooted in learning to play a tune, and I acquired the digital skills as I attempted to produce what I heard on records (Kingston Trio, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, et al.). It's not the way my formally-trained friends learned piano or violin, but then they weren't trying to play along in a song circle. (And to this day, I still encounter well-trained players who can't get off the page comfortably.)

All this is to say that there's practice and then there's practice. I have never had the patience to go through a practice regimen, though I am willing to work my way through a tune that has ear-wormed me. And the most dramatic jumps in my playing have come from playing with others, especially in public. Nothing like having to learn a new tune to get your attention. For decades I didn't "get" "Scotch and Soda," until my playing partner wanted to include it in our sets and I had to work it up*. Now it's part of my solo repertory. (And every time I play it I wish my now-disabled old partner were there to take the lead and sing the daylights out of it.)

* BTW, almost nobody gets the original Bob Shane intro right. Neither do I, unless I sit down with the chart and practice it.
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  #44  
Old 01-23-2022, 04:04 PM
Macpage Macpage is offline
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So much wisdom here. In applicable theory, I too think it comes down to getting the feel of the thumb working for the rhythm, as has been suggested repeatedly. The metronome and going slowly can get one there if having trouble.

Quote:
Originally Posted by s2y View Post
Good setup, good posture, and a guitar that doesn't feel like a chore to play.
Nice point. In practice, I think this is just as important because it requires lots of time and hard work. You have to be enjoying the experience and comfortable. You are going to be there a while. At least, I am!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Glennwillow View Post
You have to want to want it really badly. I think the key is desire combined with tenacity...

I remember hearing Tommy Emmanuel at a workshop asking the group there, "What is it that makes a person spend two months learning to play a piece of music? I drive myself crazy, working and working at this,... I'm gonna get that down!!!"- Glenn
I subscribe to this camp in working on pieces that seem just a bit out of reach. This keeps it interesting and lets me know that "most" music is in reach with the effort. Of course, you bettter like the chosen work! Othrerwise, it can get old in a hurry when you are playing that same measure for the 500th time.

Best,

Mac
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  #45  
Old 01-23-2022, 04:10 PM
Koamon Koamon is offline
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Learning Travis picking for me forces your right thumb to alternatively play the root bass octave notes on the lower strings as a constant against whatever treble picking pattern you play on the treble strings. As a rule, Double picking bass and treble strings together in a pattern still has to comport with that constant alternating bass pattern. (Like Stills' 4+20 or Kansas' Dust in the Wind) I learned from playing 4+20 in drop D tuning. It made the alternating bass easier for me.
That being said, get proficient just playing the alternating octave root bass within all the major open chords with you thumb, get proficient at it until it becomes second nature. Then get comfortable playing the root chords and transititioning through the 1.4.5 progression chord changes just alternating the octave root bass notes as you change chords. Pick a few easy songs you like and practice until you can do it effortlessly and it will come in time.

Last edited by Koamon; 01-23-2022 at 09:52 PM.
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