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Danster
07-15-2002, 08:33 PM
Hi all,

Maybe you guys can keep me from going too far in the wrong direction before I get too set in my ways with bad technique. I have four questions on technique:

1. Should you avoid looking at your hands when you play? I know that piano teachers often tell you to do this, I s'pose cuz you're usually looking at the music. But for the guitar styles I'm interested in (blues and rock), you usually don't have music in front of you.

2. Is it OK to play power chords with the pointer and pinky? It seems most people use pointer and ring finger, but it feels more comfortable to me with the pinky. Is the choice of those fingers for power chords likely to limit me in some way down the road?

3. How do you avoid accidental pull-offs? I usually run into problems here when moving my fret hand from the bottom to the top strings. Going from top to bottom, it is easy to mute strings, but if I'm going from pretty rapidly from the 3rd or 4th string to the 1st or 2nd, its not so easy to mute those ringing strings which my fingers recently left.

4. How do you do vibrato with the left hand? I've seen this described in some articles, but they were unclear to me. I've seen how some players do it, but I haven't been able to imitate them very well at all. I know there is more than one way to do it, but do you have suggestions for a technique which would be a good way to start? When I try to rock my finger back and forth parallel to the neck, my finger often slides. When I try to wiggle my whole hand basically perpendicular to the neck (a la SRV or BB King), its a mess. Any pointers?

Cheers and thanks,
Dan

EricV
07-15-2002, 08:54 PM
Hi Danster...

Well, I´m sure the opinions differ here, but here are my answers to your questions...
1. I never tell my students not to look at their hands when playing. I let them decide. And what do you know.... they stop looking at their hands automatically once they get used to playing whatever they´re playing.
What I am trying to say is: Once you get used to playing something, you will most likely stop looking at your hands. Try to do so when you´re performing.
When I practise, it depends... when I am playing the same thing over and over again, I stop looking at my hands automatically. When I play something complex, I do look.
Once I am on stage, I tend to look around, have eye contact with my band mates or the people in the crowd. As long as I feel comfortbale with what I am playing, that´s easy. Once I do have to play something difficult, I consider it ok to look at my hands.

2. I sometimes do that too. It´s ok if it feels comfortable, but I usually try to play powerchords with 1st and 3rd finger so I have the 4th free to add notes, like i.e. the 9th etc.
Again, no simple answer, just try to feel comfortable. As long as it feels good and doesn´t sound sloppy, it is most likely the right way.

3. RELAX. I posted about that a while ago, and Jamey Andreas wrote about it in a recent article ( and it will be featured once more in one of my upcoming articles )
Most people tend to use too much strength with their left hand. It takes time and concentration to get away from it. Relax the hand, hold it straight and try to figure out how much minimum strength you need to fret the note accurately. Also, try to mute adjacent strings with both the left and right hand...
I used too much strength in the beginning... it created extra noise and also made picking pretty much unnecessary. So I tried to relax and minimize the amoutn of strength I use...

4. Well, there are several vibratos. The most common one: Fret a note with the left hand. Then slightly rock it up and down ( towards the floor / ceiling ), thereby raising the pitch and lowering it again when returning to the original position. Try to mute adjacent strings with both your right and left hand, otherwise you´ll get noise.
Experiment with different factors: speed of vibrato, width of vibrato...
It takes a while, but it´ll soon become second nature and a part of YOUR tone. Try not to overuse it. When I started out, I tended to add vibrato to almost every note, and that was just too much...

The other ways of vibrato: along a string... adds sustain, works best on classical guitar IMHO.
Or "circle vibrato" a la Steve Vai... Move the string up and down while moving along it, kinda drawing a small circle between the fretwires...
But the most common one is the one I described first....

Warm regards
Eric

NP. Vanessa Carlton- A 1000 miles ( track )

furiousnewf
07-15-2002, 09:37 PM
My favorite way to vibrato is using your first finger, and using the pivot part of your hand (between you thumb and first finger) to vibrate the note, its often described as rocking the note back and forth...

This works best on the "g" string

You, know.. Its really hard to describe these sorts of things in text. Much easier to demonstrate in person!

Danster
07-15-2002, 09:47 PM
Originally posted by EricV
Once you get used to playing something, you will most likely stop looking at your hands.

Hey, thanks for your reply Eric. That is true, I typically don't look at my hands for things I have played a lot. I notice that the playing of Jose Feliciano or many of the early blind Blues players didn't seem to suffer too much because they weren't looking at their hands.



RELAX. I posted about that a while ago, and Jamey Andreas wrote about it in a recent article ( and it will be featured once more in one of my upcoming articles )
Most people tend to use too much strength with their left hand.


Yeah, I read that article. I was a little skeptical, but I was surprised when I tried it and found that it really doesn't take too much fret-hand pressure on a string for it to sound well. I will still by default press too hard. It will take me awhile to get in the habit of automatically pressing lightly. And thanks for pointing out the connection between pressing too hard and getting the accidental pull-offs. I bet that will fix that problem for me.

Thanks for all your comments. I will try the things you have suggested. You (and many others here) are a valuable resource for me.

Cheers,
Dan

Danster
07-15-2002, 10:06 PM
Originally posted by furiousnewf
My favorite way to vibrato is using your first finger, and using the pivot part of your hand (between you thumb and first finger) to vibrate the note, its often described as rocking the note back and forth...

Hey Steve, thanks for your reply. What you are describing sounds to me like what I see SRV and BB King doing. I make a mess of things when I try that, but I haven't really worked on it too much. If I understand correctly, the pivot part of your hand is resting against the back of the neck, and remains basically stationary while the rest of your hand is moving. Is your forearm also rotating back and forth with this type of vibrato?


You, know.. Its really hard to describe these sorts of things in text. Much easier to demonstrate in person!
Well, next time you're in South Texas, you're welcome to drop by. :D

I got a chuckle out of your "Other Interests" in your profile. But you're male, so that interest goes without saying, right? :p

furiousnewf
07-15-2002, 11:23 PM
Ok here's an example...

The first bend is with the third finger and this is the basic rock bend followed by a vibrato of the D note, 7th fret of the G string. That vibrato is being made by mostly pulling down on the string, or bending towards the floor, you can bend up, but I find that the way my hands are its easier to pull down and rock the note back and forth.

Then there's some gobbly gook, followed by a vibrated C note (5th fret, G string) with my first finger and then a vibrated A note (7th fret, D string). The C note is being rocked back and forth with the first finger, but it feels like I'm pulling the note towards the floor and then releasing it towards the orginal note.

It took me awhile to get this down. And its alot easier to understand when you see it up close. Have you tried watching any videos. A good one is Stevie Ray Vaughan "Live at the El Macombo". You get to see some pretty cool bends and vibratos in that one!

szulc
07-16-2002, 04:29 AM
Learn the traditional methods, but when playing do what you want to get a good sound. If you like pinky and index for barre chords, cool just remember you might not be able to duplicate some other peoples music that way ( Remember the HM band 'RATT'?, Dokken?, JP not to mention Thrash type stuff).
Don't limit the different ways to look at things or play things, but when the clock is ticking just play.

ZEN
Try to have an empty head when improvising, don't over think, just play and enjoy playing, this will relax you and your vibrato and bends will be more loose and expressive, also you will more in tune with your creative side this way.

Danster
07-16-2002, 02:14 PM
Originally posted by furiousnewf
It took me awhile to get this down.
Well you do have it down now. Sounds sweet! Your vibrato was very regular (i.e., not irregular), and you have a lot of sustain on the notes you're shaking.


And its alot easier to understand when you see it up close. Have you tried watching any videos. A good one is Stevie Ray Vaughan "Live at the El Macombo". You get to see some pretty cool bends and vibratos in that one!
I don't have that SRV video, but I do have another by him. And yeah, he's great with the vibrato, does it great while bending notes too. It'll take me awhile before I can overtake him technique-wise. ;)
Cheers,
Dan

Danster
07-16-2002, 02:19 PM
Originally posted by szulc
Learn the traditional methods, but when playing do what you want to get a good sound. If you like pinky and index for barre chords, cool just remember you might not be able to duplicate some other peoples music that way ( Remember the HM band 'RATT'?, Dokken?, JP not to mention Thrash type stuff).
Ooh, I had better mend my ways. I really liked RATT and Judas Priest. I've messed with a few JP riffs without being limited by my choice of fingering thus far, but thanks for the heads up on that.


ZEN
Try to have an empty head when improvising, don't over think, just play and enjoy playing, this will relax you and your vibrato and bends will be more loose and expressive, also you will more in tune with your creative side this way.
Thanks for the tip. I appreciate your input.
Cheers,
Dan

Bongo Boy
07-21-2002, 05:04 AM
Originally posted by Danster


1. Should you avoid looking at your hands when you play?
Dan

Being a total newbie who's never had lessons, I don't know what the 'right' answer is--probably already have here anyway. But, I found that the need to look at the left hand has led to a need to hold to headstock back further. So, if you were' to view the player from directly above, the neck would be closer to parallel to the player's shoulders.

This has led, in my case, to agonizing discomfort in the left forearm.

So--I've spent a lot of practice time getting used to NOT leaning my head down, pulling the neck back and looking at the left hand. I've tried to allow the neck to move forward. This has become more comfortable for BOTH arms.

So...for me at least, it's top priority to get familiar enough with the feel of the left hand on the fingerboard so I only have to check occassionally.

Please keep in mind--I'm an idiot, and I can't play guitar to save my life. But I DO know what tendonitis feels like, and I don't like it!!

Chickenman
10-03-2004, 01:25 AM
Every guitarist will look at theirfingers when they're trying some thing new... it can be part of the performance too.

Watch Vai on "I know you're here" from the Denver G3 DVD.
Also gives you a good close up of his vibrato and picking.

One of the most important things about vibrato is the ability to build it up over a note... you don't want to just go wobble for the whole note(but sometimes you do). So practice keeping the same speed of vibrato and varying the depth, also practice it very slowly... especially on bends because they are soooooo important. I've just come back to the guitar after a big break (I was teaching so still played but couldn't be ****ed actually playing for me) and my hands are a little weak. Click the link in my sig if you wanna hear my "weak" vibrato. Hopefully after a couple more days I'll be back to a more powerful and controlled style.