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Zeppelinguy

Classical guitar technique.

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I've been playing with my thumb hung over the neck all my life. Recently I decided to adopt the classical left hand method. One concern though... If I play on the fingertips, and keep my wrist straight, the only way I can manage to keep my left thumb straight is to rest it slightly on its side (and sometimes almost entirely on its side) with the nail facing the headstock.

 

This feels kind of strange to me though. Does anyone else do this? My understanding previously was that the pad of the thumb should rest flat. I don't know if I have less mobility in my thumb joint than most people, but that's physically impossible for me. Any advice is appreciated. Thank you.

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My thumbnail position naturally faces the headstock as well. I play with it a little to establish the most comfortable efficient grip. No hard rule though, but all according to the flexibility of your hand's tendons and muscles. Go for comfort unless altering your grip significantly improves your playing.

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I'd recommend watching a bit of the Youtube Segovia master classes, especially those covering the Bach Chaconne.

 

For example,

 

 

It appears to me that functionally the thumb is in opposition to the center of effort of the fingers.

 

But then... <grin> I was accused in my couple of classes with Christopher Parkening ages ago - my only "lessons" for what otherwise was self-teaching - that my right had was doing well, but my left reflected too much bluegrass.

 

So...

 

I'd just watch a lotta classical stuff, first with Segovia's "lessons," then some other classical players.

 

Note also that if the thumb is not pretty much at the center of the finger effort on the fingerboard, that the wrist will be forced to be tilted at a greater angle - and note the movement of Segovia's left arm and forearm as well as the hand.

 

Anyway, that's what I try to think about when I'm picking up more stuff for the left hand.

 

m

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watch the angle of the neck relative to your body too. my teacher helped me immensely recently, by increasing the angle at which i was holding my guitar: almost 45 degrees in fact when seated. then, your wrist can hold a more natural position behind the neck and your fingers are more free to move as well. obviously this does nothing when standing up, of course. :)

 

if you're playing classical too, check out the Fernando Sor pieces as collected by Segovia: Estudio 5 (Sor Opus 35 No. 22) in particular is one I enjoy playing a LOT.

 

Here's Eric Henderson playing it really well (and demonstrating what I mean re: the neck angle too!):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aV2pCmAS8U

 

enjoy!

 

Don

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Don...

 

Hadn't entirely thought about the angle of the neck to the body.

 

I get pretty sloppy sometimes. But the angle is about the same. This is doing "Last Steam Engine Train."

 

Joe Pass, it appears to me, did an even greater angle... He'd be a good one to watch.

 

m

 

http://forum.gibson.com/index.php?app=core&module=attach&section=attach&attach_rel_module=post&attach_id=8519

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Don...

 

Hadn't entirely thought about the angle of the neck to the body.

 

I get pretty sloppy sometimes. But the angle is about the same. This is doing "Last Steam Engine Train."

 

Joe Pass, it appears to me, did an even greater angle... He'd be a good one to watch.

 

m

 

http://forum.gibson.com/index.php?app=core&module=attach&section=attach&attach_rel_module=post&attach_id=8519

 

 

I've been taking formal classical guitar lessons (you're never too old!), for a few months now: I figured my sight reading needed massive improvement, and I knew I was full of bad habits.

 

The first thing I started working on was posture and position.

 

My teacher emphasizes tone over technique (i.e. "hold that note longer", "no glissando", "watch changes in dynamics", etc.), but I found that some of the reaches and stretches were much easier as I watched the angle.

 

The Matteo Carcassi studies and the Segovia/Sor studies are progressive, and I can't rave enough about the effect it's had on all my playing.

 

my new hero, Ana Vidovic:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nx7vOb7GNBg

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSECkRnpsDE

 

simply amazing.

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I've been playing with my thumb hung over the neck all my life. Recently I decided to adopt the classical left hand method. One concern though... If I play on the fingertips, and keep my wrist straight, the only way I can manage to keep my left thumb straight is to rest it slightly on its side (and sometimes almost entirely on its side) with the nail facing the headstock.

 

This feels kind of strange to me though. Does anyone else do this? My understanding previously was that the pad of the thumb should rest flat. I don't know if I have less mobility in my thumb joint than most people, but that's physically impossible for me. Any advice is appreciated. Thank you.

 

Are you playing a traditional classical guitar or an electric?

 

Traditional classical guitars have a nut width of about 2", flat radius and if there is not truss rod like in the old days the neck would be very thick, with all of these factors you have to use a different form on those guitars.

 

With the skinnier neck, nut width of about 1.6875" and 12° radius neck of a Gibson for instance I don't see why one would have to use the classical form.

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Riffster.

 

As anything else, it's a matter of what you want to do with the instrument.

 

Joe Pass and Chet Atkins ended up using very similar technique to "classical" on electrics (others too) when using certain types of solo playing because that allowed what I end up calling "playing keyboard on guitar." I can't imagine playing "ragtime" otherwise. Leo Kottke and other "sortafolkie" fingerstyle pickers ditto... etc., etc.

 

Classical guitar technique isn't so much a response to older-style necks and a wider, flatter fingerboard, but rather something necessary for almost any playing from more full chords to counterpoint to a guitar version of piano's ragtime, stride and even jump styles.

 

It can't be done using the same technique possible and perhaps even in ways preferable for one who only does single string or even double stop flatpicking.

 

OTOH, I do "stuff" that involves a thumb on bass and open and moving treble strings where I take yet another type of technique.

 

It all depends on the picker and what's going on musically. When I'm playing my little bit of Bach, regardless of guitar, my left hand is functionally in a classical style. Playing "rhythm" for old style country, another left hand as well as right hand style... etc., etc.

 

No way, though, can you do certain types of solo playing with three or more notes concurrent (not arpeggiated as with a flat pick) without basically doing finger style and then with the left hand in something similar to how the classical picker plays.

 

m

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I agree,

 

What I am trying to say is the design of a guitar goes hand in hand with the style they are aimed to, while not a strict rule it is a factor.

 

A guitar design aimed to finger pickers will have a different design than one aimed to strummers, it is minor nuances but they are there.

 

You can play anything on any guitar but...will it be comfortable long term? that is why I was asking what is the goal of playing a guitar on classical form. Some folks think that in general taht is the "correct" way.

 

May be I am mistaken but there is a reason the general specs of electric guitars and even steel string acoustics are so different than a classical guitar.

 

My brother plays classical guitars exclusively and trust me, when he does riffs that require full bends that thumb is wrapping the neck.

 

My brother in law plays a Spanish classical from turn of the 20th century that has a huge neck,(think of grabbing a can of soda) and that definitely dictates how you can hold that guitar and what you can play on it.

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Actually my 1950s "jazz" box has a neck like a coke can too...

 

I do agree to the point that I've never cared for Fender and other short radius necks after starting on a classical guitar.

 

Nowadays technically I don't own a classical guitar although my early 1970s Ovation "Country Artist" is nylon stringed. It's built more like a steel string in ways.

 

The guitar shapes I'm most comfortable with include the 175 with a modern neck and frankly the "cheapie" Epi PR5e that's almost a flattop version of the same.

 

But I'm comfortable with various dreads, etc., 335 size and my old 1970s Guild version of the SG.

 

Each does take a bit different physical geometry, but... I think setup and strings on a "Gibson style" neck can allow them to do just about anything I'm every likely to play.

 

m

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Thanks for the help guys. Still experimenting with different arm/guitar angles. I enjoyed those videos, Milod, thanks.

 

What I also don't quite understand is how to mute the bass notes for chord changes when your thumb is behind the neck. E.g. I'm strumming an E major and I go to a D major. How do you simultaneously mute the bass strings while switching to the D major? With my thumb over I just moved it in a bit, thus blocking the strings.

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Some of the most useful 'muting' of any note or chord comes from the heel of my picking hand if I can't reach with the fretting hand. It's also real handy for percussive technique

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