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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Surf Musician »

Permalink One secret for strumming fast and accurately on rhythm guitar

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I've noticed, both among my students and some players I know, a poor technique that really inhibits their right hand strumming ability (for righties, left for lefties). What results is the player's hand gets fatigued very easily and quickly loses timing, especially with faster tempo songs. Unfortunately, most surf music is rather fast, so this can be very limiting.

After a little more observation, I've isolated the bad habit. Fortunately it is easily rectified with a little effort. I've found that they're resting the forearm on the body of the guitar, usually flat against the front. This locks the elbow, and only allows for flexibility at the wrist, which is what leads to the fatigue. The correction is to not lean against the guitar, but keep your arm completely away from the body. This way you can use the elbow in conjunction with the wrist and have far more freedom, as well as build up real momentum with your strumming.

Try a little air guitar to see, holding your arm against your stomach, pretend to strum, then hold it away and try. It's especially pronounced when you try to play a gallop rhythm.

One more tip, which I actually learned on this forum and has proven invaluable. Don't grip your pick too hard, you should hold it almost loose enough to drop it, almost! This really loosens up the muscles in your forearm and gives you further flexibility.

Hope this helps! Feel free to ask further questions if you like.

Danny Snyder

aka El Viejo Gringo of Combo Tezeta
aka Mycroft Eloi of The TomorrowMen
aka Shecky Shekels of Meshugga Beach Party

I want buns of steel. But I also want buns of cinnamon.

Last edited: May 02, 2013 19:45:53

Thanks, Danny! This is tailor-made for me. I often catch myself doing both these things, but I didn't know they were mistakes. I am certainly going to practice both your recommendations.

This is Noel. Reverb's at maximum an' I'm givin' 'er all she's got.

My technique might be kinda sloppy. I wasn't even sure what I was doing until I thought about it, but I seem to alternate between resting my forearm on the body, my wrist on the bridge, or my middle and ring fingers on the pick guard. I guess this is done subconsciously to relieve fatigue when needed.

Mike
http://www.youtube.com/morphballio

personally, before playing live it is very important to warm-up. playin like 10 mins before the show, some simple stuff with the unplugged guitar.

at firsts shows i got VERY tired in my arms and stomach (i'm used to stiff my stomach to have more control on the guitar.. i don't know how to explain it), after the 2nd or 3rd song i was playing very out of tempo, very soft. but i found that pre-warming it's great! i started to enjoy a lot more playing live.

Guitar Player in Nahuelaizers
http://nahuelaizers.bandcamp.com

Damn straight Danny. A lot of people hold the guitar with their forearm, they try to keep the guitar stationary with their arm. It just takes some practice at playing while standing and perhaps getting the strap in the right place.

I don't grip a pick hard, I don't chord hard, I don't make an effort to play aggresively(expect when I should) but damn do I ever get a ton of sound out of a guitar. It is something that comes eventually, just a very lax amount of tension in all of your muscles that creates a real efficiency and allows you to get a ton of strength into your playing but without the muscle fatigue.

Does floating the forearm off the guitar body work for trem-picking too? It's all I can manage to trem-pick more or less accurately if I use my forearm as the fulcrum of a lever.

This is Noel. Reverb's at maximum an' I'm givin' 'er all she's got.

Danny's points are well-taken and the argument for a relaxed pick grip makes sense. The only problem is that if I hold the pick "almost loose enough to drop it," I find that the pick has a tendency to move out of position in my hand - the pick rotates it seems. The only way I have found to keep that from happening is grip a bit harder. I am a lifelong finger style player so my pick skills are a work in progress and I have read everything I can find on the mechanics of using a pick. While a looser grip does seem to help with strumming (as long as I can keep the pick straight), I am still finding a tighter grip to help with tremolo picking. I also tend to make contact (while tremolo picking) with unplayed strings - either with my palm, the fingers on picking hand, or the edge of my hand - depending on which string I am playing. I'm using EJ Jazz III's and are pretty much set on them because I play a lot of hybrid style stuff. So that might be adding to strumming woes - but I feel that I need to learn to work with the eccentricities of using a small pick as a normal-sized pick feels unmanageable for much of what I play. Too bad Danny is on the other side of the country as I wonder if a few sessions with a teacher might help me gets the bugs out.

Regards
Ken

Last edited: May 03, 2013 09:57:03

I also suffer from pick slip. I've given some thought to following Nokie Edwards and trying a thumb pick. I can grip it like a real pick when necessary or use it for open-handed strumming, and it leaves an extra finger free for finger-picking.

This is Noel. Reverb's at maximum an' I'm givin' 'er all she's got.

Well, I wasn't planning on getting into trem picking here, as it's been covered countless times elsewhere, but I won't ignore your questions.

Noel, I think the arm on the guitar limits you no matter what you're trying to do. I use my pinky and/or ring finger as an anchor below the pickups. This also orients your hand in a better position.

Ken, all I can say is find the happy medium that works for you. Just be aware of the tension on your arm muscles, relaxed is better.

This excellent post by Ryan (aka Ruhar) perfectly illustrates good right hand positioning (the lower picture)

Ruhar wrote:

I also don't prefer super heavy picks for trem picking. For me, an ergo friendly way of holding the pick (some call it the 'jazz' grip) has helped my trem picking immensely. I used to have a very ham-fisted self-taught grip. I basically re-taught myself how to hold a pick a few years ago because I was getting such incredible hand pain from trem picking. Now, I can pretty much trem pick endlessly. It's the best thing I've ever done for my guitar playing...

I went from holding a pick kinda like this:
image

To something more like this:
image

While he appears to be holding his arm against the guitar, I think that he's just holding it really close but not anchoring it. Big difference. Look at his pick grip, his index finger forms an almost perfect half circle, that's what you want. Then by angling the pick almost perpendicular to the strings and anchoring your pinky to space your hand away from the guitar a bit, your arm naturally moves out from the guitar. Your thumb should be parallel with the strings or angled out a bit at this point. Angled out meaning the tip of the thumb is closer to the strings than the heel.

Hope this helps...

Danny Snyder

aka El Viejo Gringo of Combo Tezeta
aka Mycroft Eloi of The TomorrowMen
aka Shecky Shekels of Meshugga Beach Party

I want buns of steel. But I also want buns of cinnamon.

Noel - if you can use one, more power to you. Over the last 40 years, I have intermittently tried to use a thumb pick but could never acclimate to it for straight finger-picking. I actually like the utility of finger-picking with a flat pick, but I've never done a lot with fast strumming until recently. But for me, I remain convinced that the flat pick is the way to go.

Regards
Ken

Last edited: May 03, 2013 10:12:54

Thanks, Danny. I think that part of my problem is that, over the past years, on the rare occasions I did use a pick, I tended to grip it with both my index and middle finger when strumming (obviously, I changed for hybrid stuff). So, I'm trying to break that habit as well. It's coming along. After reading your response, I would say that what I am doing is closer to "lightly touching" rather than "resting" my hand on the guitar. So maybe I'm on the right track and it's a matter of refinement.

thanks
Ken

again: good posture proves critical to success Smile

Great tips Danny, thank you!

Paul

DannySnyder wrote:

While he appears to be holding his arm against the guitar, I think that he's just holding it really close but not anchoring it. Big difference. Look at his pick grip, his index finger forms an almost perfect half circle, that's what you want. Then by angling the pick almost perpendicular to the strings and anchoring your pinky to space your hand away from the guitar a bit, your arm naturally moves out from the guitar. Your thumb should be parallel with the strings or angled out a bit at this point. Angled out meaning the tip of the thumb is closer to the strings than the heel.

This is pretty spot-on advice. However, the words "parallel" and "perpendicular" should be further clarified when talking with students, as the strings on a guitar form a sort of plane (therefore there are multiple ways to view what is parallel or perpendicular to them).

One of the most important lessons for me was "Don't strum and pick so hard!". Let your pickups and amp do the work. It really helps with "Popeye arm" when double picking.

I can't play this thing! It's got no whammy bar!

I practiced the rhythm part to The Ventures version of The Beatles' I Feel Fine today (Ironic, isn't it?) using the recommended technique of floating my arm over the guitar rather that using my elbow as a fulcrum. BIG improvement. Lots more control and far easier to play, plus it considerably lightened my touch with the pick over the strings. Thanks!

This is Noel. Reverb's at maximum an' I'm givin' 'er all she's got.

Last edited: May 14, 2013 19:36:41

Noel wrote:

I also suffer from pick slip. I've given some thought to following Nokie Edwards and trying a thumb pick. I can grip it like a real pick when necessary or use it for open-handed strumming, and it leaves an extra finger free for finger-picking.

noel, i used to suffer from run away pick syndrome but it's not been an issue for years now. i don't hold the pick tightly and i also play with a light touch, probably to a fault.

www.surfintheeye.com

Hmm... this might be a pretty difficult habit to break (after 30+ years), but I do anchor my wrist on the top of the guitar.
I can strum in a number of different ways, including having my whole arm free of the guitar, but when it comes to precise doublepicking, or even single note melody, I can't do it with my arm floating around out there, picking from the shoulder.
I also hold the pick very close to the tip, and 'roll' it in and out of the grip to expose more or less pick depending upon what I'm trying to do. Dave Wronski thought it was the weirdest thing...
But I always know where the string is that way. Hm...

https://gnarlymen.bandcamp.com/

Danny, thanks for this - I knew the SG101 search engine would yield.

I'm just having a blast playing notes, making echo'y noises in the house (wife's terminology), focusing more on guitar than gear, BUT...

One of the things I've always wanted to work on was this aspect; your ability to recognize this & post it is much appreciated. After watching your clinic at the last convention during the Atlantics tribute Worship I'm determined to get better. I figure if Jim Skiathitis and Ivan, Sr. can still truck along like that I should just take my old CO's advice and "Shut Up & Train!".

Thanks! Cheers

Wes
SoCal ex-pat with a snow shovel

DISCLAIMER: The above is opinion/suggestion only & should not be used for mission planning/navigation, tweaking of instruments, beverage selection, or wardrobe choices.

Last edited: Sep 07, 2014 08:00:29

Took awhile but I now consistently have a light or "loose" grip on the pick, did get some "pick rotation" but like everything else practice made it better.

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