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Basic techniques that we sometimes forget...


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I just had a great practice session. I had been struggling over the last few weeks playing my classical stuff. I thought it was from lack of motivation but I think it was really a technique thing. I rewatched part of Scott Tenant's "Pumping Nylon" DVD and was reminded of something that I know about but don't always work on. He stresses using as little pressure on the string with your left hand as needed to produce a good tone.


I had worked on this awhile back but slowly over the last few months I have been creeping back into pressing way to hard. I was fatigued at the end of practices and was really having a hard time playing some passages. Well after wathing the DVD, I devoted the whole practice session just being aware of left hand pressure. It made a big difference instantly. I was able to play through the trouble spots easily and my mind was freed up to think about tone.


The "Pumping Nylon" DVD has alot of great information on it. I have a hard time watching it as it is presented very slowly, he isn't boring, its just that he plays through the material slowly very meticulously and I always fall asleep hehe. It has several exersizes that would be applicable or adaptable to any style of guitar playing.


I wonder what other little key basic things that we all forget about that could really help us get past our stumbling blocks. Its almost like golf, anyone can hit a golf ball right some of the time, but its so easy to get off track. All it takes is a different mental approach to get back on.

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How you hold the guitar will affect fatigue levels, not too low, not too high. I always wear a strap, even while sitting, which is a good idea while playing an Ovation, cuz it wants to slide off all the time.
Never a DUH! moment! Well, almost never. OK, OK! Sometimes never!
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One thing that I do sometimes is get my thumb out of position relative to my number two finger. I like to keep my thumb pretty much in the middle of my four fingers and I will tend to run my thumb toward the head. I notice it the most when I do three finger chords using my thumb over bass, I use three finger chords alot.
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I'm missing my nylon string guitar - haven't had one for a year, and I've decided to get another one and work on the classical stuff for a while. The point of not having one in the first place was to work on my fingerstyle steel string technique, which is mostly thumb and two fingers and pinky touching the guitar; I wanted to get as far away from classical hand position etc as possible.

I noticed today my pinky has started to curve inwards from pressure against the guitar - not good! And I miss playing tremelo on nylon strings.


I've had my eye on a moderately priced Takamine cutaway, and you can't argue with a bent pinky can you.

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God...there are so many.


on electric and steel acoustic...


-Remembering to use pick strokes to accent, and especially the "light touch" to get more dynamics.


- Where you play on the strings. I used to love picking the strings up on the fretboard for a kind of "bubbly" sound. Playing WAY back at the bridge for a really weird, cool sitarlike sound.


- Left hand, as you mentioned.


- starting with guitar vol at "low solo" level...i.e. you cut through but have plenty more vol in reserve, and you increase intensity, AND volume as you go.


- bends. I use to think once you learn them, they stay learnt! No way. Heard a recording of myself and while others liked it, all I could hear was so many times I bent just short of where I wanted it to go. I hadn't heard it either, that is was too shallow.


- Double stops. Rarely use it now. But it needs mainentance to be good..


There really are too many...


Check out my original music at



"In theory there is no difference between theory and practice,

but not in practice."

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Ok, I have gone back on electric and applied this same awareness of finger pressure. Its not quite as noticable as on nylon string but again it was so much easier to play. Also it takes a bit of pressure to hold and vibrato a bend so that factors in also. I am still surprised I could forget such a basic technique concern.


Of course there are styles of music and sounds where playing hard might be more appropriate such as blues. Some of that string noise is part of the equation in some peoples tone. But knowing this lets you do whatever fits the need for a particular sound.


Philimic, good to hear your jonesing for a nylon string. If its within your budget check out the Godin Multiac line. They make electric nylon strings that sound really good. They have a traditional classical flat neck but also make one that has a curved fingerboard.

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Originally posted by Gruupi:

I wonder what other little key basic things that we all forget about that could really help us get past our stumbling blocks.

Well, I've never been able to do arpeggios and now that I'm learning to fingerpick I find them a lot easier. When I use a pick I'm always hitting the wrong string and all that. I've always chucked them in the "too hard" basket and concentrated on strumming.


Being able to do arpeggios, for once in my life, is a huge step forward because so many guitar parts are simply full of arpeggios.


The only problem is that it's so easy to just "tread water" and do these fricking arpeggios all evening and nothing else. Creatively, I'm sort of "lying fallow" until I get these arpeggios off my system. If I want to actually play something I need to grab a pick.


But it's like a huge new window's been opened and I'm still taking in the view. The big problem that I can see is that fingerpicking stuff sounds like... fingerpicking stuff.


It's too easy to try for that whole Michael Hedges/Ani Difranco thing and spend ages on thumb slaps and fingerpops and other stuff that, deep down, I'm not even remotely interested in doing.


It's going to take a while to incorporate the fingerpicking into my playing style, but I guess it'll be worth it.

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Originally posted by ellwood:

Vince, I dunno if you do this but.. and it's not a big deal but it's one of my fav. things to do in some blues things, do your major A arpeggio over A major and on the last note of the appeggio run your pent. blues scale from high to low..that is a good lick.

I'd never thought of it, but it sounds like it's be interesting! :D
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