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Absolute Beginners Question of Mechanics of Strumming

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(@pearlthekat)
Noble Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 1468
Topic starter  

Wrist or forearm?

I've always strummed from my forearm with the idea that you should use larger muscle groups for repetitive motions like strumming. I now have a new guitar teacher who wants me to strum from the wrist, like your shaking your wrist out, because you can get a faster strum that way. so is my way a bad habit that needs to be broken or is his way a bad habit that needs to be broken?


   
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(@jkf_alone)
Active Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 13
 

there are a lot of right ways to strum
http://www.tuckandpatti.com/pick-finger_tech.html

I think the teacher may be trying to get you to use your wrist more by isolating it. stiff wristed strumming, while steady, normally sounds harsh and is hard to adjust to a songs mood. You are on the right track though, starting with the big muscles, thene moving to wrist and forarm motion, then figuring out how to use finger joint motion to vary your rhythms. your guitar teacher is just trying to open your strum up.

Here are a few bad habits to avoid in your strum;

-pinky bracing
-holding the pick too tight
-rolling the sholder forward
-bending or locking your wrist at an unnatural angle

thats basically it for bad habits that I have seen. for me after learning the basic mechanics of the strum, you can pretty much go wild with it, as long as what you do wont hurt your body in the long run or cause you to lose your beat.

360.yahoo.com/jkf_alone


   
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(@pearlthekat)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 1468
Topic starter  

i actually don't think he was trying to get me to loosen my strum up as it was my first lesson with this person and the first thing he saw me do. i started strumming something and he thought he should "correct" me on it. i've been playing guitar for five years now and no one has "corrected' me on this. but it made me wonder if i had a bad habit that i didn't now about or if i was really right or if it doesn't matter at all.

i've also always used a hard pick and a light strum. he wants me to use a think pick and to dig into the strings more. again i thought this was a matter of preference and artistry more than a "correct" way.


   
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(@citizennoir)
Noble Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 1247
 

I think both ways are 'correct'.
If you can learn them both and have no problem retaining and separating them,
Bonus.

As you get more into playing, and you start writing your own stuff, or performing in different positions, like standing,
and under different circumstances, with different gear and different people....
They both might come in handy.

It's like trying to say - is using a pick correct, or your fingers????
Both at different times for different effect.

(%

Ken

EDIT - I like heavy picks - soft struming myself. (%

"The man who has begun to live more seriously within
begins to live more simply without"
-Ernest Hemingway

"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
-Orson Welles


   
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(@jkf_alone)
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Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 13
 

hmm, what a strange thing, digging into the strings in a strum is usually to be avoided. Do you like the way the teacher plays? if not, and he is teaching you his way of playing, you should probably find a different teacher. you should consider using more wrist and forearm muscles along with your elbow.

pick choice is a personal thing, i see no reason for you to change picks unless you are unhappy with the sound you are making now. I prefer thin picks myself, but digging them into a string just causes loud clacks in your strum. that is a nice sound for celtic and pop music, gliding them across the top of the strings like you do with your heavier pick produces a more pure chord tone, and less clack. it is variation, not right or wrong. for songs where i am doing a lot of heavier strumming i use a thinner pick, and for anything else i use the next size thicker (jim dunlop nylon, the white Xthin and gray medthin ones) but for mandolin i use either a 1.5 ot a 1.25 celluloid.

360.yahoo.com/jkf_alone


   
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(@citizennoir)
Noble Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 1247
 

There is always that.
Maybe try his way for a couple weeks, and if it just doesn't agree with you - move on.

Ken

"The man who has begun to live more seriously within
begins to live more simply without"
-Ernest Hemingway

"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
-Orson Welles


   
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(@noteboat)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4921
 

Pearl, it's true you can get a 'faster' strum from the wrist. But you'll also get tired sooner.

Small muscles are built to deliver small movements. Since small movements require less distance to execute, they take less time - you can snap your fingers faster than you can jump to a cross-legged position.

But big muscles move efficiently; once they're moving, they stay moving. The flip side of that is they also require more energy to reverse course, to overcome the inertia.

In general, a typical strum motion uses the elbow as the pivot point. That takes little energy, and you can go a long time. Wrist involvement is turning the pick slightly so it glides across the strings - the 'loose' wrist. But in some strum patterns (I'm thinking of a couple Pete Townshend tunes specificially here), the muscles used in an elbow pivot simply can't react fast enough. So the elbow starts the motion, but the wrist reverses it - sometimes more than once during an elbow movement.

The same principle holds true for even smaller movements: single string picking is wrist generated, but faster detail (like circle picking) comes from still smaller muscles.

As to digging in deep, I wouldn't buy into that. In my experience, digging in deep is a bad habit, and the enemy of building speed. When you dig deep you're generating more drag from the pick... a thin pick has to flex more to get around the string, wasting energy. If the pick is thin, you'll get the 'clacking' sound Jkf_alone mentioned; if it's thick, string resistance can propel it right out of your hand.

You can achieve identical volume when you need it by gripping the pick closer to the tip and using more force.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


   
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(@causnorign)
Honorable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 554
 

It seems to me that no matter what may be labeled as a bad habit you'll be able to find a great guitarist somewhere who does it. My feeling is that whatever works for you is right.


   
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(@clazon)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 502
 

I think it would be best if you could provide a video with a far out shot face on, so we can just the guitar and your arm. The if you play some softer stuff, harder stuff, slower and quicker, we can see if you're to ridged or whatever.

As for the digging in thing, with lead playing, it will create a completely different sound (ESPECIALLY with distortion). Generally I think you should take the teachers advice and try and play his way whilst keeping your own way as well. Then you can pick and chose when necessary.

"Today is what it means to be young..."

(Radiohead, RHCP, Jimi Hendrix - the big 3)


   
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(@trguitar)
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Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 3709
 

What about wrist and forearm? Seems natural to me. :?

"Work hard, rock hard, eat hard, sleep hard,
grow big, wear glasses if you need 'em."
-- The Webb Wilder Credo --


   
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(@coloradofenderbender)
Noble Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 1106
 

I agree w/ TR. I use my forearm for the up/down steady sweep and the wrist movements are for emphasis in the strum, when needed.

Did what I wrote make any sense? I know what I am trying to say, but language failed me - again! :wink:


   
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(@pearlthekat)
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Joined: 19 years ago
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Topic starter  

makes sense to me. but i still think i'm right! although i'm going to give it a shot. so far all his way has done for me is to get my are tired. it's a first lesson with him...in general i think he'll be able to help me out. i just don't like that particular bit of advice.


   
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(@ballybiker)
Honorable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 493
 

It seems to me that no matter what may be labeled as a bad habit you'll be able to find a great guitarist somewhere who does it. My feeling is that whatever works for you is right.

100% agreement.....do what feels and sounds right to you...its your music..made by you...it should be YOU...i play with a biro pen like a drumstick sometimes..i like it...find it in a text book and i'll pay you a million 8)

what did the drummer get on his I.Q. test?....

Drool

http://www.myspace.com/ballybiker


   
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(@jkf_alone)
Active Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 13
 

if your strumming from your wrist correctly it shouldnt cause you to get tired. when you play mandolin, there is no elbow motion at all and all strumming, single note, and esp. tremolo (that quick alternate picking on single courses or chords) is done with the wrist. if you are expiriencing tiredness with it, its either because the technique is wrong or you are digging in too much.

heres the best way to use your wrist when strumming, start slow allowing gravity to "drop your wrist" and only use your muscles to bring it back up. this will use half the effort and give you a much more even down and up stroke volume wise. Also, make sure you arent gripping the pick too tight, that may stiffen up your wrist and cause fatigue and muscle damage.

with correct technique your wrist shouldnt get tired or even sore after practice. watch a ukelele players wrist or a drummers wrist, they work them much harder than you possibly can, because of the aggressive "snap" they add. The more i learn about playing other instruments, the more i find that technique on guitar is sorely lacking.

If something is even the mildest bit uncomrfortable for you (besides fingertips and barre chords) try and figure out a way to do it with the least possible effort, your audience and body will thank you.

360.yahoo.com/jkf_alone


   
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