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Help for pickers. Give us a tip.

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Rick Fielding 21 May 00 - 03:47 PM
Rick Fielding 21 May 00 - 04:06 PM
Rick Fielding 21 May 00 - 04:14 PM
Art Thieme 21 May 00 - 04:35 PM
MK 21 May 00 - 04:37 PM
Art Thieme 21 May 00 - 04:54 PM
Mark Clark 21 May 00 - 05:57 PM
Mark Clark 21 May 00 - 07:52 PM
Rick Fielding 21 May 00 - 10:03 PM
MK 21 May 00 - 10:32 PM
Mark Cohen 21 May 00 - 11:01 PM
Mark Cohen 21 May 00 - 11:05 PM
Rick Fielding 21 May 00 - 11:13 PM
Sorcha 22 May 00 - 12:31 AM
Mark Clark 22 May 00 - 01:16 AM
Mark Clark 22 May 00 - 01:30 AM
Rick Fielding 22 May 00 - 01:12 PM
Fortunato 22 May 00 - 02:23 PM
Art Thieme 22 May 00 - 09:40 PM
Rick Fielding 22 May 00 - 10:08 PM
Racer 22 May 00 - 11:55 PM
Mark Clark 23 May 00 - 12:42 AM
McGrath of Harlow 23 May 00 - 06:33 AM
McGrath of Harlow 23 May 00 - 06:35 AM
Mooh 23 May 00 - 08:30 AM
Mark Clark 23 May 00 - 11:32 AM
Peter T. 23 May 00 - 12:10 PM
Rick Fielding 23 May 00 - 12:31 PM
McGrath of Harlow 23 May 00 - 01:28 PM
IvanB 23 May 00 - 01:36 PM
Whistle Stop 23 May 00 - 01:51 PM
Peter T. 23 May 00 - 02:17 PM
Sorcha 23 May 00 - 02:33 PM
Mark Clark 23 May 00 - 03:53 PM
Rick Fielding 24 May 00 - 01:02 AM
Mark Clark 24 May 00 - 01:46 AM
Mark Cohen 24 May 00 - 02:15 AM
Terry K 24 May 00 - 02:28 AM
Grubby 24 May 00 - 07:00 AM
Whistle Stop 24 May 00 - 08:41 AM
Peter T. 24 May 00 - 08:57 AM
Mark Clark 24 May 00 - 01:27 PM
McGrath of Harlow 24 May 00 - 01:37 PM
Mark Clark 24 May 00 - 02:05 PM
McGrath of Harlow 24 May 00 - 09:20 PM
GUEST,murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 24 May 00 - 09:58 PM
Mark Clark 24 May 00 - 11:54 PM
Terry K 25 May 00 - 01:05 AM
Whistle Stop 25 May 00 - 08:30 AM
Peter T. 25 May 00 - 09:19 AM
Mark Clark 25 May 00 - 10:16 AM
Whistle Stop 25 May 00 - 10:29 AM
Rick Fielding 25 May 00 - 11:46 AM
Whistle Stop 25 May 00 - 01:01 PM
Mark Clark 25 May 00 - 01:15 PM
Rick Fielding 25 May 00 - 06:40 PM
McGrath of Harlow 25 May 00 - 08:48 PM
Rick Fielding 26 May 00 - 12:21 AM
Mark Clark 26 May 00 - 12:46 AM
Rick Fielding 26 May 00 - 01:11 AM
Mark Clark 26 May 00 - 01:45 AM
canoer 26 May 00 - 02:09 AM
Brendy 26 May 00 - 02:30 AM
Peter T. 26 May 00 - 09:20 AM
Midchuck 26 May 00 - 09:36 AM
Mark Clark 26 May 00 - 10:20 AM
Rick Fielding 26 May 00 - 12:00 PM
Wesley S 26 May 00 - 12:20 PM
McGrath of Harlow 26 May 00 - 03:18 PM
Peter T. 26 May 00 - 05:05 PM
IvanB 26 May 00 - 11:05 PM
Rick Fielding 26 May 00 - 11:25 PM
Mark Clark 27 May 00 - 12:06 AM
MK 27 May 00 - 12:23 AM
Mark Clark 27 May 00 - 12:35 AM
Little Neophyte 27 May 00 - 07:34 AM
Mooh 27 May 00 - 08:18 AM
bbelle 27 May 00 - 08:53 AM
bbelle 27 May 00 - 10:06 AM
Mooh 27 May 00 - 10:50 AM
MK 27 May 00 - 11:00 AM
Little Neophyte 27 May 00 - 11:38 AM
Rick Fielding 27 May 00 - 12:31 PM
Peter T. 27 May 00 - 01:12 PM
Mark Clark 27 May 00 - 01:17 PM
Mark Clark 27 May 00 - 02:26 PM
MK 27 May 00 - 02:29 PM
Mooh 27 May 00 - 02:59 PM
Mooh 27 May 00 - 03:21 PM
bbelle 27 May 00 - 04:46 PM
Mooh 27 May 00 - 07:09 PM
Mooh 27 May 00 - 07:25 PM
McGrath of Harlow 27 May 00 - 07:26 PM
Mbo 27 May 00 - 08:32 PM
Mooh 27 May 00 - 09:39 PM
Mbo 27 May 00 - 10:36 PM
Little Neophyte 27 May 00 - 10:49 PM
Mooh 28 May 00 - 09:43 AM
Rick Fielding 28 May 00 - 12:01 PM
GUEST,whip 21 Jul 00 - 05:35 PM
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Mark Clark 30 Mar 01 - 12:07 AM
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Subject: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 21 May 00 - 03:47 PM

I've been asked to compile a permanent thread on playing tips that might be of help to newcomers, or veterans, for that matter. There have been so many great threads in the past dealing with just about any instrument we could imagine, and it seems a shame to choose one over the other, so don't worry about the specific instrument here, all are welcome.

If you've got a teaching tip, a way to make the instrument sound better, or anything you'd like to share with others, we'll all be richer for it.

Thanks

Rick


This is a PermaThread (edited thread), used for information about instruments and playing instruments. Feel free to post messages to this thread, but be aware that information in this thread may be deleted or edited to make it serve as a permanent guide.

Click here for Part 2


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 21 May 00 - 04:06 PM

Well, since I'm one of the mouthiest when it comes to technical suggestions, I'll start it off with a couple.

GUITAR: It's been my experience that the size and shape of your guitar can make a huge difference in the time it takes to learn to play. If you have the luxury of choosing your instrument, don't go for the biggest at the beginning. Many experienced players designate guitar sizes according to the model names used over the years by Gibson and Martin. The "D" size (Martin) and the "J-200" size (Gibson) are both very large instruments, and may be awkward at first to a beginner, or someone of smaller stature. If you're carryin' a few extra pounds, they can make learning more of a chore as well.

Keep in mind that virtually every company from low-priced budget up to super-expensive, usually have models that fit the Martin/Gibson designations, and staff in a music store will understand if you ask for an "0" or "00" (smaller) size, even if your price range is a hundred bucks. They can also show you catalogues, which every store has, and that should demystify some of it.

Classical Guitars have nylon strings which are easier on those beginning fingers...but have wide necks. There's always a trade off.

Of course many folks learned on instruments with VERY high action (strings need to be pushed really hard, equalling pain) or jumbo sized instruments, but generally it's easier on a smaller guitar, 'cause you can see over the top of the body and neck where your fingers are supposed to go.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 21 May 00 - 04:14 PM

Banjo too loud when you're practicing? If you have a resonator model, take the resonator off. Inside you'll see either a square dowel through the middle or one (or two) metal rods running the length of the inside of the pot (under the skin or plastic head)

Get a piece of round dowel about a half inch in diameter, and cut it just longer than the space between the banjo rod or dowel and the head. Use some rough sandpaper or a file to shorten it so you can just fit it in between the head and rod. It should have to be forced in a bit so it will stay. Position it right under the bridge and it will cut your volume to almost nothing. You won't wake a soul up with this "mute" on.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Art Thieme
Date: 21 May 00 - 04:35 PM

When I was just starting out on occasion I'd play in what we called "a basket house" just for tips. It was hard to count on making enough for the rent let alone food. Those days were, of necessity, my slimmest on record--and I'm referring to my waistline. After a while I was able to have a guaranteed wage even though that amount was usually way too low from my point of view. (It wasn't much better than playing for tips.) Even later, I could set my own price and then have the club owners decline or accept my needed salary. (Chris was in college by then.) Still, once in a while, someone would offer me the same amount I used to make when I was playing for tips and then I would usually say, "If that's all you can pay, then you need the money more than I do ! So let's just say I'll do a benefit for you. More often than not, they would accept. I'd feel good (and so would they.)

BOTTOM LINE: Their bank balance would look much better too (maybe). And I'd be in line for another gig or 3 down the road---and the fee would be my call (maybe).

Art Thieme ;-)


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: MK
Date: 21 May 00 - 04:37 PM

Setups and Action for Acoutic Guitars

With changing seasonal and climate conditions, most acoustic guitars will require adjustments from time to time to correct minor fluctuations of intonation and action, due to the slight expansion and contraction of tops (between the sound hole and bridge, and the area of the top just below the bridge) and, the fingerboard. This is normal as wood is a "living and breathing thing."

Before, having a set up done by your favorite luthier, it is very important to determine the gage of strings you use, and stick to that gage for a given instrument. (Feel free to experiment with different name brands of strings, provided you keep the guages consistent.)

The setup and adjustments completely take into consideration what gage of strings are on the instrument. If you should decide to change string gages once a set up has been done, know that it will affect not only the action but also the intonation, and, require a new setup to correct any new problems.

Separate Tip:
I also, strongly recommend against bridge shaving to correct neck angle problems.

Virtually every guitar is going to require a neck reset every 15 to 25 years. It is the nature of the beast. Truss rod adjustments can only do so much. Shaving a bridge is only postponing the inevitable (ie: a neck reset), and by doing so, ensures that you will also have to replace the bridge down the road as well. There is nothing to fear in having a neck reset done to your instrument, provide the work is carried out by a qualified luthier. It will enhance your playing and apprecation of the instrument as well as the tone, and will not devalue it in any way. It is the direct (but a little pricey) route to take.
The tell-tale sign of an impending neck reset, is that the saddle has been shaved down so low over time to improve the action, that there is virtually nothing left to shave, and, your action still remains high.


Last Tip (for now)

If you have a guitar you cherish, or one that you have a sizeable investment in, or one that you simply want to keep in good shape, buy a hygrometer (measurer of relative humidty in the air) and keep it in the same room where your guitar(s) is/are stored. (Buy more than 1 if you have them all over your house. Most reputable guitar shops sell them.) You want the guitars stored in an environment of between 68 and 74 degrees F., and with a relative humidity setting of between 40 and 55%. If the relative humidity is less that 40%, purchase a guitar humidifier (ie: "Dampit" or other brand names" and refill them (wringing out the excess water so they don't leak inside your guitar) twice a week...usually during the winter months, unless you live near the equator or some place warm. Monitor your hygrometer settings on a daily basis. If the humidity starts to exceed 55% (as in the summer months) store your instruments in their cases when not being played, and in a cooler, dry area of your house. Your guitar top and braces will thank you, and you won't have to worry about cracks developing.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Art Thieme
Date: 21 May 00 - 04:54 PM

When playing in schools in our larger cities (in the U.S.A.) be sure to take along a packet of Kleenex in your back pocket 'cause there will undoubtedly be NO TOILET PAPER in any of the boys johns 'cause if that necessary commodity was left there for more than five minutes it would all be stuffed, whole hog, into the interestingly hued and putridly swirling water and the commode would soon be clogged so tight that even a magical clog dance wouldn't cure the problem. I've seen many-a-school janitor (Phil Cooper for one) red in the face with anger over the situation.

Well, I guess that's better than looking flushed.

A word to the wise...

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 21 May 00 - 05:57 PM

Practice tuning! This is a skill we must develop to a very high degree. Do it every day just like learning chords and licks. Postpone the purchase of an electronic tuner. Start with a good tuning fork; A440 is the most common pitch. Set your instrument purposely out of tune and re-tune it as follows:

Tune the A string to the pitch fork. Do this by tapping it on your knee and placing the ball end on or near the bridge. First sound the string, then add the vibrating fork. Tune the string and listen for the "beat" to disappear.

Now set the tuning fork down and tune each of the remaining strings in turn, using the A string as a reference. Don't note or fret the strings anywhere and don't use harmonics, just practice listening to the two strings sounding together and learn to "hear" when they are properly in tune.

Before tuning a string, be sure it's already below the proper pitch. If it's sharp, crank it down a full step or so and bring it back up. Never tune a string "down" to the proper pitch.

I know this is boring and maybe even hard but you'll be amply rewarded. Do this over and over as an exercise until you can crank all the strings into proper tune in just a few seconds. Once you master this, you'll never be satisfied with the results of an electronic tuner.

Of course all this depends on having your instrument properly set up and in good playing condition.

For guitar I tune the A string then tune the bass E and D strings by it in turn. Then I tune the treble E string, again using the open A as a reference. Next I tune the B string using the treble E as a reference and finally I tune the G string against the D. If I've been careful, the B and G strings will wind up exactly in tune even though I came at them from opposite sides so to speak.

For fiddle I tune the A string by suspending the instrument firmly under my chin and bow the A string while applying the tuning fork to the belly with my left hand. I find that tuning a bowed string is more accurate than tuning a plucked one. Once the A string is correctly tuned, I bow adjacent strings together while twisting the peg or the fine tuner with my left hand. Your ear will tell you when the string you're tuning has "dropped" into place.

For a five-string banjo it's tough to use the A440 fork since there is no A string. You can get pitch from another musician or simply learn to tune the fourth string by its interval from A440. In any case the basic tuning technique is the same.

This tuning method does not require perfect pitch or even relative pitch if you learn to hear the "beat" caused when the strings are close but not together. The vibrating string produces harmonics of the primary note at most of the common tuning intervals.

A side benefit of this method is that you improve your ability to listen.

Hope somebody finds this useful. Better yet, I hope somebody has an improvement to the technique.

Good luck and stay tuned,

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 21 May 00 - 07:52 PM

McGrath, I'm with you on the session bit. If a participant can't get in tune somehow one of us is going to leave.

I didn't mean to say that electronic tuners are inately bad just that a student will be well served by learning to tune accurately without one. I actually have an electronic one but I never use it. I "inherited" it from my daughter who acquired it when she was young to help her with intonation on her bassoon.

The experience I've had using electronic tuners makes me think the intervals wind up slightly different when set to laboratory precision than they do when set by ear using my method. This may be one of those tempering things or it may just be my imagination. Still, I find that using the electronic tuner takes me longer and requires more minor adjustments afterward.

Keep in mind that I can get totally absorbed in the setup of an instrument. I've been known to spend days "making" a fiddle bridge and setting the sound post exactly where I want it. I've also spent large amounts of time setting up my electric guitar, to the point of redoing the setup for a new brand of strings.

It just seems to me that instruments are so much more fun to play (and hear) when they're properly set up and tuned. Unfortunately, this simple truth seems not to occur to everyone. How many times have you been in a session where someone asked you for pitch, mistuned his instrument, smiled and said "Close enough for folk music."

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 21 May 00 - 10:03 PM

Capos: The greatest invention since sliced bread!

The biggest problem I've encountered with capos over the years is when folks (who are playing with others put 'em on too tight, and in the middle of the space between frets. This will ALWAYS make their instruments sharp compared to the non capoed ones. Often the other folks will quickly retune to the capoed one, and before you know it, they'll all be way off pitch.

If you're using a Shubb capo, set it up to fit your neck before putting it on. The instructions (which on this capo are vital), often get chucked out. Don't turn the thumb screw once it's on the guitar. Place it JUST behind the fret, so that it doesn't stretch the string (which it will, if it's too tight and in the middle)

If you REALLY want to get accurate tuning, you can take the rubber off, put 'er in a vice and carefully BEND it to exactly match the shape of your fingerboard. I've done this on every capo I've ever owned....consequently I've got a dozen capos that were bent for guitars I don't own anymore!

Kyser capos (if you can stand the big ugly handle) have great rubber and are pretty reliable, but it strikes me that most experienced players still prefer the Shubb. Me? I favour the Dunlop "C" clamp (quite a cheap one actually) and have cut down a few for use on banjo or Mando-cello.

By the way, folks rarely use capos on mandolin, but if you're just learning, and have mastered the G, C, A, E and D chords, use a capo, and you can play in most jams.

If you're new at this capo stuff, make up little charts for guitar (or banjo, mandolin etc.)

Play G, C, and D on the first fret, and it becomes Ab, Db and Eb. So on and so on up to about the 6th fret. You might want to get an experienced player to make it up for you.

Oh, last thing. DON'T LOSE YOUR SHUBB!! Ah, forget it, everybody does.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: MK
Date: 21 May 00 - 10:32 PM

Once again, for everything you could ever possibly want to know about acoustic guitars and other acoustic instruments, from the practical, to the highly technical, to the eclectic, with photos and descriptions galore, bookmark and visit Frets website, regulary.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 21 May 00 - 11:01 PM

Mark Clark, I'm with you on tuning by ear, but I'm not good enough to hear the open intervals (that is, I haven't practiced enough!) I use a method taught to me by John Knowles, in which you tune each string in turn to the A string: (1) Tune the A string to a 440 tuning fork. (2) Hit the 12th fret (octave) harmonic on the low E and match it to the 7th fret note on the A string. (3)Hit the 12th fret harmonic on the A string and match it to the 7th fret note on the D string. (4) 12th fret harmonic on A string matched to 2nd fret note on the G string. (5) Tune the B string to the 2nd fret note on the A string. (6) Tune the open high E to the 7th fret note on the A string.

Yes, I know it's not perfect. You have to know how to play a harmonic (pretty easy to learn), but more importantly, it assumes that the instrument's intonation is accurate enough that the 2nd and 7th frets are in the right place. But if they're not, no method is going to work. The advantage of this method for me is that you're tuning unison pitches, which makes it much easier (for me at least) to hear the beats, or just to hear when they're identical if you can't catch the beats.

My soon-to-be-ex-wife always used to rib me because I had an electronic tuner but never used it. In a noisy room, though, I went with the black box every time.

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 21 May 00 - 11:05 PM

By the way, I usually found that the second (B) string was the most difficult to get in tune with this method. I often "cheated" and tuned it to the first string. I presume this may have something to do with even-tempering, or maybe it's just my bum ear.
Mark


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 21 May 00 - 11:13 PM

Nope, Mark. The "B" string is a devil to tune. Every guitar is different. For many years I tuned the B on my Lowden a hair flat, or else it would play sharp on a few chords.

When you're playing in "dropped D" often you have to tune the sixth string a hair flat as well, cause the extra resonance makes it sound sharp when played hard.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Sorcha
Date: 22 May 00 - 12:31 AM

Fiddles: be absolutely sure your set up is correct for the type of music you want to play. This includes nut height, end of fingerboard height, bridge height,and bridge arc shape. Check out different kinds/types of strings to get the sound you want. Steels are very bright and brassy, "cored" are more mellow. "E" strings are a booger to get the right sound on, so check out lots, some of us use a different brand of E than the other 3.
Spend more on the bow than the fiddle if you have to. If the bow does not have a natural action, it won't matter if you have the fiddle to end all fiddles. Good bows start at about $200, classical type soloist bows will go for upwards of $10,000!
To break in any acoustic instrument, try hanging it in front of a speaker in a way that the vibrating body of the instrument touches NOTHING, and play music through the speaker. Can reduce Break in time to almost nothing.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 22 May 00 - 01:16 AM

Mark Cohen, I used noted harmonics to tune my guitars for many years. Two things caused me to search for another method: one was the problem of getting the B and G strings in proper relation and the other was the difficulty of tuning in a noisy room between sets. Using the method I describe, I can hold the guitar so as to press my left ear against the side of the guitar while I tune. This makes it sound very loud. When I play two adjacent strings, the natural vibration of the strings creates quiet little harmonics that, if you listen carefully, may be used just as you use the noted harmonics. The difference with open strings is that there is nothing to distort the note except perhaps the force with which the string is played. You want to be sure your are tuning with the same plectrum force and attack as when you play.

FWIW, here is my own theory about the difference in tuning methods. Keep in mind that I have no competence in the physics of music so I could be way off base. When you play a noted harmonic on a string, there is very little visible movement of the string itself. This means the harmonic is a function of the string pitch at very low volumes. When you are actually playing, the strings vibrate in a much wider arc. This wider arc means the tension on the string---and thus the pitch---is slightly different than the same string played softly. Using my method, the harmonics you hear are a function of the actual pitch you hear while playing. Test this with your electronic tuner. Tune the string to a precise pitch playing softly and then play the string hard and see if pitch reading has changed. I'll be interested in the result.

Rick, I suspect that is what's happening with your bass string in dropped D. The string is less taught and, when played with any force, swings in a wider arc causing the sounded note to go sharp.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 22 May 00 - 01:30 AM

Sorcha, you posted while I was writing. Your fiddle advice is excellent. Setup is a very personal thing and bows are far more important than most beginning fiddlers imagine. One should only buy a bow after playing it, or hearing it played, on one's own fiddle. Several bows should be compared side-by-side for sound until the right one is selected.

I also like your idea about placing instruments in front of speakers. There is nothing like keeping those molecules moving to improve the sound of an instrument. If you can't be there to play it, at least play music at it.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 22 May 00 - 01:12 PM

Thanks Doug.

Great point Mark (about the vibrating string). Remember when choosing string guages...you always give up something to get something. A light guage string will be easier to fret but as Mark pointed out will vibrate more and be harder to keep in tune.

Mike's point about not messing with the guages once you've set up your guitar is excellent advice. This applies mainly to people who are striving for "perfection" or want to get absolutely the "best" from their instrument. Ya don't have to be such a nurd about it to have fun, but A WELL SET UP INSTRUMENT WILL BRING OUT THE BEST IN YOU.

Instrument buying and selling:

If you spend 250 bucks on a Korean (or Chinese, or Taiwanese) guitar, you'll get between 50 and a 100 bucks when you sell it (even if it's only a year old. Japanese guitars usually hold about 50 to 60% of their initial sale value (this has gone up a lot in the last few years)

American and Canadian made instruments such as Martin, Gibson, Taylor, Collings, Guild, Santa Cruz, Larrivee, Dunn, Laskin, and a few others will not only hold most of their value but may (not in all cases) appreciate in value by the time you want to sell or trade. Newer brands like Takoma or Seagull, may do the same thing but they'll take another 5 years or so for word of mouth to put them in the same league as the others.

The sturdiest guitar? In my opinion, the big Yamahas from about 10 to 15 years ago are pretty well indestructable. (and often sound as good as the best Martin) Guilds are built like tanks as well. The Collings instruments are gorgeous and sound fine...but I wouldn't tour with one 'cause of their beautiful finishes...too easy to scratch up.

Best, sturdiest, most reasonably priced 12 string? Gotta be the old Guilds. You can find them at ridiculously low prices for what yer gettin'. Often in the 400 dollar range. Warning though, get a neck re-set before passing it on to your grand kids.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Fortunato
Date: 22 May 00 - 02:23 PM

Good thread, Rick.

Great advice, Art about the toilet paper, it's absolutely true and valuable.

When accompaning a singer or in a jam session people take turns with the 'lead' vocal or instrumental, don't play over the vocals. Typically melody or intrumental lines are not played over top of the vocal. Fit yourself around the phrasing of the song. Comp (that is play cords or use a comping lick, eg, boogie woogie) on your instrument during the vocals, and when you're up to it play fills between the phrasing of the vocal. Learning to be a "side person" will open doors for you, it teaches you to listen to the other performers and sync.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Art Thieme
Date: 22 May 00 - 09:40 PM

For sure, some things like toilet paper , condoms, merde etc. are, some feel, best swept under the rug. But know this all:

(I have just been heavily edited.)

I just wanted to post a very helpful tip.

If anyone wants to know how very easy it can be to drill a few extra holes down the tuning stock of a dreadnaught Martin and, therefore, after inserting planetary banjo gears into those holes in order to turn your vintage guitar into a 9-string model, just ask and it shall be done.

On the other hand, putting new groove guides for the strings into the saddle of the bridge and also in the nut----well, that's a whole other can of worms. (Please pardon my imagery. I'm watching Men In Black right now.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 22 May 00 - 10:08 PM

Right now Fender are making the best cheap mandolins I've ever heard. They appear to be far superior to other brands in the 200-300 dollar range. Now don't think for a moment that it's THE Fender. Unh unh, these are as oriental as Kentucky, Johnson, Washburn and the rest. They just sound very good and have straight necks.

I've played some new Gibsons (around 6000 dollars) and some high end Japanese (2000 dollars) and these Fenders are not totally outclassed in sound.

Kentucky used to be a great buy but since they switched from Japan to Korea, the quality's dropped quite a bit.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Racer
Date: 22 May 00 - 11:55 PM

This hint is for the really green guitar players:

Many people buy guitars and either find a teacher or a friend to show them a few things. Often, this teacher or friend will immediately start teaching this musician in the making about keys, music notation, modes, scales, and theory. Then this teacher of friend will take a breath and start into resonance, and the harmonic/overtone series.

The new musician will go home and start playing his/her scales, learning his/her chords, and studying his/her music notation.

This poor soul realizes that all of this is boring and difficult. S/he gets intimidated and overwhelmed and quits playing.

Musicians who are just starting out should play what they like to hear. They can worry about the technical aspects of it later. All a new musician needs to know is how to read chord diagrams. Initially, they can pretty much sort out the rest on their own.

I'm completely self taught. I can remember working three hours a day, seven days a week for about two months on "Stairway to Heaven". I was twelve at the time. I never play the song anymore (I can't even stand to listen to it) but I can still remember how to play it.

The important thing is to pick up the instrument everyday. Get used to the way it feels, play what you want, and don't time yourself. Above all, play. If it was supposed to be work, they wouldn't call it playing.

-Racer


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 23 May 00 - 12:42 AM

Racer, I think you bring up some really good points. I never give a new student any theory. I draw a few simple chords that are specifically used in the song being learned. Beyond that, I'll introduce some type of rhythmic strum that's easily mastered. That's it for starters.

When a lot of us began to learn to play, there were no teachers of folk styles. Our heros were all self taught and we figured if we weren't self taught as well, we wouldn't be authentic or valid or something. The first time I met anyone who could sing and play the guitar, I asked him how he learned to play. I wasn't very old so I was thinking music lessons, scales, recitals, years of very slow progress. He told me no one taught him, he just bought a book with chords in it and put them to the songs he wanted to sing. Well, that just blew me away. It had never ocurred to me that one could learn something without going through a long, formal and unpleasant process. The good news is that he was right.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 23 May 00 - 06:33 AM

I really like that idea of playing music to an instrument so that it can learn how to sound better while you are doing something else. Whether it's true or not, it's a beautiful image. Now I wopnder would it make any diffeence what music it was exposed to. Could youirreparably damage your instrument by playing (you name it, I'm not starting a fight here) to it?

Anyway it certainly seems true that an instrument that has been played a lot seems to sound better, and play more easily.

As for capos, Kyser may be ugly, but they are the only capos I've ever come across where you can shift them around in the course of a tune, and still be in tune with other people.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 23 May 00 - 06:35 AM

Oh yes - there's a little device I've come across which I swear by now - it's called a Pub Prop, and it's a little pocket-sized clamp you stick on a table to hold your guitar (or other string instrument) steady while you're talking or getting a drink or whatever. It's a lifesaver in a crowded session. Here is a link to the man who makes them You get a few funny looks when you attach it to the table for the first time, but it's not long and you get someone asking you "where can I get one of those things?"


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mooh
Date: 23 May 00 - 08:30 AM

There are a variety of ways of curbing feedback when playing amplified, including...turning the volume down (amazing that it's not more obvious)...covering the soundhole...eq adjustments...alternate signal sources (magnetic, piezo, mics et al)...moving or directing away from speakers...but here's one thing not to do...

I once saw a guy's guitar literally explode because it couldn't endure the solution to feedback. This happened during a gig, in his hands, while he was playing. The amplified explosion stopped the band cold. Seems the player had, just before the gig, filled the guitar with expandable foam insulation, somehow sealing the soundhole. The glued seams of the flat-top couldn't withstand the pressure and let go with a bang. I don't remember what make of guitar it was, but I seem to remember that it was blamed for the accident. (As you've guessed, the guitar did sound like crap.)

The moral of the story is, GET PROFESSIONAL ADVICE, and don't do anything to your guitar that you can't undo.

Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 23 May 00 - 11:32 AM

McGrath, I guess if the pub is otherwise closed for business and there are just a few very trusted friends about, the Pup Prop could be useful. I'd want to make sure no one was wearing shoes. I have my own protective device... a hard shelled case.

Tip for new players:
If your instrument doesn't require the protection of a hard shelled case when not in your hands, throw it away and buy one that does. Keep your instrument latched inside it's hard shelled case any time you are not actually playing it. If you are in a public place of any kind (pub, festival, theatre, airport, wherever) keep your hand or at least a foot on the case at all times. When you walk over to the bar for another pint, carry your instrument with you safely latched in its case.

Trust me on this. I've seen fine instruments lost, stolen, dropped, kicked, doused with beer and otherwise damaged by failure to follow this simple rule.

Related rule: You're not Johnny Cash and you're (probably) not on television. Never sling your instrument over your back suspended by its strap from your shoulder. That is unless the cost of a replacement instrument is not important to you.

Don'tworry, be happy.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Peter T.
Date: 23 May 00 - 12:10 PM

As a relative novice, I have to disagree with Racer. I went nowhere playing the guitar until I started to learn even some rudimentary theory. Even knowing what keys are, that most songs have a I-IV-V7 format (or the equivalent) and that there are natural minors, puts hundreds and hundreds of scattered bits of information into order, let's you memorize songs 100 times easier, and makes it easy to figure out what a capo can do for you, and that one song shape with chords can be in another key and changed over. This is about half an hour's serious work to learn. If I had even those rudiments twenty years ago, I would have saved immense amounts of wasted time and grief. People learn things in different ways: but a very little theory goes a very, very, very long way.

yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 23 May 00 - 12:31 PM

Seems like a neat little device McGrath. I'd like to be on-side with Mark on this one BUT too many times I've been lazy....and lucky.....so far!

I wish a few other folks would join in here. As mentioned this is NOT just about stringed instruments. It's to be a permanent thread showing newbies that we discuss ALL instruments on Mudcat.

Cases: You rarely see folks with the old fashioned black cardboard cases any more, as they've generally been replaced by soft gig bags.

There are a lot of different hardshell cases on the market, but if you're travelling by plane a lot you should have one of the "Calton" style. Several companies make really heavy-duty form fitted cases that (are said to) withstand anything that an angry baggage handler can dish out. They're usually in the 500 dollar range.(but if your axe costs 5000 bucks it's worth it) They're heavy though.

Just remember though that an "arched" case is stronger than a "flat" one.

Over the years I've done quite a bit of "psychological preventive medicine" in regards to travelling and safety of instruments. This may sound silly (or tacky) but I put a "Teamsters" bumper sticker on one of my cases that constantly had to go through the hands of baggage handlers. Why? Most handlers are union guys, and are probably gonna have more respect for the property that has that sticker, than a case that says "Flower Power" or "Marx Rules!"

When crossing borders and asked "what do you do?" I've often said "I sing Gospel music"! I have no idea whether this stuff actually works or not, but logic tells me that a uniformed official is going to be less suspicious of a "Gospel singing Teamster" than a "folksinging hippie!" (although personally I'D me more suspicious of the former)

Rick


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 23 May 00 - 01:28 PM

Well, the pubs and the sessions I frequent must be a lot more folkie friendly than yours sound, Mark. If I want a drink, I just hook the guitar onto the pub prop, so it won't fall over, and nod to the fella next to me to keep an eye on it. And when it's his turn I'll do the same for him.

Customs - I've said this before, but I've been advised that if you are taking a bouzouki through customs, it's best to describe it as "a kind of guitar". Customs officers aren't allowed to have a sense of humour, and bouzouki sounds too like "bazooka" - it's like joking and saying you've got a bomb in your bag. You'll likely get strip-searched.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: IvanB
Date: 23 May 00 - 01:36 PM

I "learned" guitar in my teens and early twenties (completely self taught). However I never did manage to get by the d**m F chord and stopped playing for over 30 years, getting immersed in a career and other mundane interests. Never lost my love for folk music, tho' and decided upon retirement I was gonna learn to play guitar! The first thing I did was find a teacher, in order to learn things right before I had a chance to get bad habits ingrained.

My teacher worked with me from the standpoint of working out songs that I liked to play, with advice on proper playing techniques and a modicum of theory sneaked in, almost without my knowledge. Although I'm often frustrated at my progress (or seeming lack thereof), I'm glad I started with a teacher. Yes, he even sneaked in the F chord, bit by bit! I'm afraid without his help, I'd have continued on my course of 30+ years ago and become frustrated. Now my biggest frustration is finding enough time to play everyday.

So I guess I'm agreeing with both Racer and Peter T. Although it's fun doing the things you want, I think a teacher can do wonders setting you on the right track. And a basic bit of theory can certainly accelerate your ability to find comfortable keys, fingerings, etc.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 23 May 00 - 01:51 PM

Racer and Peter T, I think you're both right. Racer is right because a fledgling musician needs some immediate gratification, or he/she will probably give up pretty quickly ("I wanted to learn to play because I like music, but this seems more like accounting!"). Peter T is right because a little structural knowledge goes a long way, and gives you a foundation to that allows your learning to progress.

But I think you need to have an ear to put the abstract structural stuff ("what's I-IV-V?") in context. If you learn a few simple folk songs first, then your teacher can say "let me show you what these three songs have in common...". Suddenly I-IV-V makes sense, and you're off and running. You can get both the immediate gratification and the beginnings of theory in your first month or so of learning your instrument, so you needn't worry about falling too far behind in the theory department.

It's like learning any other language. We learn to speak before we learn to read and write, and that comes before we learn the rules of grammar. As long as you don't try to get too far on speech alone, you should be able to go as far as you want with your chosen language.

However, there are exceptions even to this, because a lot of people are able to put this stuff together intuitively. I remember reading an interview with Peter Townshend once, during which he demonstrated this principle by crumpling a piece of paper and tossing it across the room into a wastebasket. He told the interviewer that, at some intuitive level, he had calculated the lift needed to overcome gravity, the force needed to move the ball of paper across the room, the arc needed to drop it into the wastebasket, the amount of wind resistance it was likely to encounter, and several other physical properties. He confessed that he didn't have the education needed to truly quantify any of these parameters, but somehow he had managed to calculate them sufficiently that the paper actually went into the wastebasket. This sounds kind of silly, I know, but think about it -- we all do this stuff, whether we're trained in it or not. And there are lots of musicians out there who play brilliantly but know next to nothing about theory.

I'd be interested in others' views of this. Another thread, perhaps?


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Peter T.
Date: 23 May 00 - 02:17 PM

Not to hijack this thread, but to be clear I agree completely with Racer that starting most people off with scales and deep theory is totally offputting. That is what killed piano for me. But I am someone who played amateur guitar for 20 years, reading TAB all the time, had all the nice fingering, could do an F chord quite happily, and strummed along, and never got anywhere because there was no cumulative learning -- I knew there was more going on in "BIG MUSIC", but that all pop and folk songs had a structure that made it pretty likely that Xchord followed Y chord a lot of the time was actually a revelation! And that choruses shifted very often predictably, etc. People don't know any of this stuff anymore.

A half an hour with theory, at the right moment, and it all fell into place for me. That is all I am saying. People don't even know that a 7th chord is the secret to getting to the tonic. Why does a G7 show up so often in songs that start in C? I mean really basic stuff. Incredibly helpful.

yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Sorcha
Date: 23 May 00 - 02:33 PM

RE: TEACHING--I have discovered that with most people, the best place to start is by ROTE, ie, listen to this, then play it (The Echo), after a few times of this, introduce Simple Visuals--"D D DDD", (which would play as long note, long note, three short notes) while the student LOOKS at the paper, not the fingers. Then when this is going good and student knows the sound and names of several notes/chords, put them on a staff and say, this is what you have been playing looks like in music notation. Go as slowly as your student needs you to and work in REAL songs that Student Wants to learn. My students have all been playing appealing tunes by the end of the first lesson. Says something about either my students, or me, or my method, don't know which!


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 23 May 00 - 03:53 PM

Reading the recent posts, I realize that I overlooked the obvious fact that chord families and keys are part of theory. Of course the new player needs to understand them; I always teach those things to a beginnig student. Things I leave for later include scales, chord construction, chord substitution, harmony, sight reading, etc. Still, if I think a prospective student will require much coaching on those basic ideas, I'll politely decline the student before that becomes a problem.

Tip for new players:
You need an obsessive personality. If music is simply an interest you'd like to add to your already crowded life, you can have a great time singing and playing with friends. On the other hand, if your goal is to stand out among musicians, be in demand for sessions and get the big hand for an instrumental break, you need to be obsessive. Very few "great ones" in any field are well balanced personalities. They do what they do pretty much to the exclusion of everything else and they do that not by design but because they can't help it.

Having a great time playing with friends,

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 24 May 00 - 01:02 AM

Mark, I hope you don't mind if I repeat that last paragraph of yours. It's so filled with truth, it's bursting at the seams.

"Tip for new players: You need an obsessive personality. If music is simply an interest you'd like to add to your already crowded life, you can have a great time singing and playing with friends. On the other hand, if your goal is to stand out among musicians, be in demand for sessions and get the big hand for an instrumental break, you need to be obsessive. Very few "great ones" in any field are well balanced personalities. They do what they do pretty much to the exclusion of everything else and they do that not by design but because they can't help it."

(Rick here again) I'm glad that this thread is going to be a permanent one, because I'm going to let as many of my students as possible see these words.

I make a lot of time for my hobbies and "semi-vocations" such as Leather-carving, article-writing, and cartooning, but I play A LOT because I "can't help it".

REPAIR TIP:

Once you take your instrument in for repairs you've usually lost 50 bucks right off the bat. There are several good books on doing home repair and set-ups. It really isn't difficult. Get to know "Elderly Instruments" in Lansing Mich. Find their web-site and send for their catalogues. Also Stewart-MacDonald. Different company, great catalogues on repair (and EVERYTHING ELSE)

Every musician should know about these two companies.

rick


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 24 May 00 - 01:46 AM

Rick, be my guest. Oh, I see you already were. *BG*

You're right on about the repair advice too. The local music store hired a part-time guy who just lost his job at the TV repair shop but is pretty handy with tools. They keep him busy by contracting the band instrument repair business for the local school district. You probably don't want this guy working on your instrument. Learn to do as much as possible yourself but find well known professionally trained craftsmen to handle the big stuff.

Rick, maybe you'd be willing to provide lists of the sort of things a player can safely attempt and another of the things that should be left to widely known professionals.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 24 May 00 - 02:15 AM

Rick and Mark, I've really been enjoying this thread. Are either of you familiar with the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop? It's a heavenly week in the Northwest woods (actually 3 successive weeks) with some of the best acoustic musicians and teachers around, focused mainly but not exclusively on guitar. Daily classes, nonstop jamming and informal instruction, faculty and student concerts, and swimming in lovely lake Flora. Some of the faculty I remember from the late 80s: Eric Schoenberg, Gordon Bok, John Knowles, John Cephas, Del Rey, John Reischmann, Betsy Rose, Scott Nygaard, Linda Waterfall, Bob Brozman... Sounds like both of you guys should be on the staff some summer. If you'd like to learn more, drop me a personal message and I'll put you in touch. Same for anybody who wants to give their musical ability and enjoyment a huge jump start.

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Terry K
Date: 24 May 00 - 02:28 AM

Having bought my first guitar a month ago, I'm particularly interested in tips for beginners!

I generally agree with what has been said - I actually like to know some theory and am lucky that I have struggled (not very successfully) with piano for the last 5 years - I find it remarkable how much this helps with guitar.

I tried to find a teacher but there don't seem to be any in my area, so I bought two tutor books. They seem about the same as my piano tutor books - not a great deal of help other than general guidance.

My breakthrough has been finding the Charanga PC based tutor which I am finding an enormous help and really enjoyable too. The great thing is that it is multi-dimensional and works similar to a live tutor. It has recordings of all the tunes so you can play along with any part (melody, strum, fingerstyle etc). It has just enough theory to keep you up to speed.

Only criticism? - it may be a criticism of guitaring generally but why do you have to use tab when notation makes so much more sense!

Cheers, Terry


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Grubby
Date: 24 May 00 - 07:00 AM

No problems with the F chord ( We all discussed this a few threads back didn't we) but I have trouble hitting that B7 every time. Grubby


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 24 May 00 - 08:41 AM

Terry, you don't have to use tab. Lots of guitarists, myself included, prefer standard notation if we're using written music at all. Sometimes the two are tied together -- a standard staff on top, tab underneath. This can really help if you're in an altered tuning, and need to think a little more about where on the fingerboard each note lies. But whatever approach is preferred by this individual or that, standard notation is not dead. I personally feel that it is easier to load more "instruction" -- finger placement, inflections, dynamics, etc. -- into each measure of standard notation than the same measure of tab.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Peter T.
Date: 24 May 00 - 08:57 AM

Terry -- some of us use TAB because if you are at all visual, when you come to doing barre chords or much moving around on the guitar, the chord shapes really help. The chances of my learning and remembering the individual notes of the diminished chords, for instance, are zero -- I can do this with TAB for all of them in microseconds. And so on. I would think TAB is pretty important for most novices who want to use relatively sophisticated chords early on.

yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 24 May 00 - 01:27 PM

Mark Cohen, Yeah, Rick has a way of starting really interesting threads. They suck me in nearly every time. One of the really cool things about a forum like this is that I get to post what little knowledge I have but I don't have to list the things I don't know. And let me assure you, what I don't know would span volumes compared to the odd paragraph on what I do. The Puget Sound Guitar Workshop sounds good though, it would be fun to attend as a student. (Right after I find time for the Woodenboat School in Maine)

Tip for mastering difficult chords:
      Practice.
I don't mean practice the song for which you learned the chord, I mean practice the chord. Over and over and over. If it hurts your hand to make the chord, practice more often. If it doesn't sound right, practice. If it takes too long to make it, practice. And when you practice, think with your ears more than with your fingers. And learn to ignore pain. Thirty minutes of real concentrated practice will leave you drained. If it doesn't, you're just going through the motions.

Go through some related changes. See how many different chords you can reach without repositioning your hand. See if you can make other chords by moving a single finger or two. Look for ways to move between chords using a planted "pivot" finger that doesn't have to move. Make chords with the fewest possible number of fingers so you have fingers left over for the fun stuff.

Here is a gratuitous chord exercise for the ambitious beginner. (If I haven't blown the HTML) It moves up and down from G6 to G7 to Gmaj7 and back down again. The trick is this: only two fingers may be lifted from the fingerboard for any single change! Under no circumstances may you reposition your hand. I'm assuming you are using a flatpick and all strokes are down, 4/4 time, two beats per chord. They are four-string chords so the unplayed strings must be muted. Keep this pattern moving until it's smooth.

Have fun,

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 24 May 00 - 01:37 PM

"Novices who want to use relatively sophisticated chords early on" - but I think one of the most important tips for a novice is, don't try and do this. It's so much better to keep it simple and get it right and take your time. You've the rest of your life to add in the extras.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 24 May 00 - 02:05 PM

McGrath, I agree with your advice from the standpoint of learning arcane theory. That was not my intent here, I only wanted to provide useful calisthenics. Everyone should feel entirely welcome to ignore my advice as they choose.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 24 May 00 - 09:20 PM

I wasn't really disagreeing with you Mark. Learning to put your fingers into peculiar shapes to make difficult chords is great exercise.

But I see people trying to use chords they don't need and that aren't ready to use, and losing the fun. And the rhythym.

Much of the time the chords with the strange names and the funny look are just a matter of moving a couple of fingers in a straighforward chord. I never consciously learnt a lot of the chords I play, and don't even think of them as different chords. More theory would help - I tend to think the theory comes out of the practice and after it rather than before.

That's largely a matter of personal style and taste, and it's probably got something to do with what side of the brain you got up on on the day you were born. Sometimes I think we fail to appreciate how very fundamentally people can vary in that kind of thing. It's as basic as the diifference between being left-handed and right-handed.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: GUEST,murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 24 May 00 - 09:58 PM

Very good thread, Rick!

I want to agree 100% with Mark C about learning to tune by intervals. My wife is a violinist who is well versed in this method of tuning. She can tune up my guitar in about 10 seconds, whereas it takes me minutes. I am a relative beginner, and here is the way I have been doing it. I tune the "A" string to a tuning fork as Mark describes. Then I sound the "A" and (try to) sing the "D" one fourth higher. Then I fret the "D" on the "A" string and try to match it with my voice and try again. When I think that I have it, I tune the "D" string to the "D" I sing. Then I play the "A" and "D" together and fine tune so they sound "right" together. I repeat this with all the higher (in pitch) strings. Finally, I tune the bass "E" to the treble "E" by playing them at the same time until it sounds like one "E". Then I take out the electric tuner and see how I did. Nowadays, after doing this for about nine months, I am usually within ten cents of the tuners opinion. I think it is important to have a tuner, wife, or teacher who can tell you when you have it, else you can learn to hear things wrong. Eventually, I hope to do away with those intermediate fretting steps and just sing the intervals to myself.

About what Art said about waistlines and what Rick said about size of guitars. If you have a larger waistline (like me) you will have more trouble playing a guitar with great depth. That is where one with a larger body size and less depth (to get the same bass response) is good--for example the Martin "OM" shape. I solve the problem by holding my guitar in a classical position. That is with the waist of the guitar resting on my left knee which is elevated. I think you get better left-hand mobility that way anyway. If the body is too big, though, you have to hold your left hand too high for comfort.

As Rick says, there is always a trade-off.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 24 May 00 - 11:54 PM

McGrath, I totally agree with the different cognitive styles thing and with the desireability of learning to play more accesible music and get accustomed to playing in time and making transitional runs before getting into advanced technique and theory. Still, sixth and seventh chords are about as basic as they come. In bluegrass music dominant sevenths are rarely played by the guitarist but a sixth chord will actually pop up once in a while. Major sevenths are admitedly rare in bluegrass. The reason I chose the exercise I did was because, for all the finger movement, only the D string actually moves. The others remain unchanged throughout the exercise. I guess I secretly hoped that some inexperienced but obsessive new guitarist would see it someday and get excited about it.

Murray, I have to say, I'm really impressed. Your method of learning to tune by intervals is probably some of the best ear training you can do. When I was a child, my father would try to teach me to tune his violin by singing "my dog has fleas" and tuning the strings to the sung notes. I never told him that he could't hear (or sing) the difference between D and C#. *BG* He loved playing his violin but he really shouldn't have been allowed to touch one.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Terry K
Date: 25 May 00 - 01:05 AM

McGrath, I totally agree about novices not taking on too much. I have no natural talent and need to learn things logically and progressively. I wasted so much time on piano trying to play "cool jazz" numbers (my ultimate ambition) which are simply too hard.

It took some help from the Mudcat to show me that it's OK to play Clementine, My Bonnie and The Ash Grove and my playing has now improved immensely - and my enjoyment with it.

Cheers, Terry


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 25 May 00 - 08:30 AM

I agree that this is an excellent thread. However, one of Mark's suggestions on learning chords is "If it hurts your hand to make the chord, practice more often." I would suggest being careful about this one. Very often, pain is a sign that something is wrong, and pushing through the pain is the last thing you should do. I've had this experience myself, a few years ago, when I started to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. The solution was NOT to "practice more often" -- that would only have made it worse. The solution was to analyze why my playing was causing me so much pain, and find a different approach (in my case, changing my hand positions), so that the pain would go away.

Just a word of caution about one point in Mark's otherwise excellent advice.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Peter T.
Date: 25 May 00 - 09:19 AM

Well, when I was speaking about chord shapes, I wasn't aiming at Gm7sus4, I was thinking about things like Am and Bm. But otherwise I of course agree.

yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 25 May 00 - 10:16 AM

Whistle Stop, Thanks very much for bringing up the carpal tunnel issue. No one should inflict serious injury on themselves to play music. As you rightly guessed, the pain I was referring to is that caused by stretching in a new way to make an unfamiliar chord, or maybe the pain in one's finger tips; the sort of pain that can be "worked out" through exercise.

Guitar Exercise Tip:
A good way to warm up your hand and improve it's ability to make long stretches is to play scales. A two-octave scale in A beginning with the middle finger on the fifth fret of the bass E string is a good warm up exercise. Each noting finger covers only it's "assigned" fret with the middle finger assigned to the fifth fret. Work the scale up and down without pausing. If you have never done this, you will soon feel your hand tiring. Some players carry a small firm, but not hard, rubber ball with them and use it for finger exercise throughout each day. Books have been written outlining specific exercises with the ball although none comes to mind at the moment.

No pain, no gain.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 25 May 00 - 10:29 AM

Thanks Mark. Again, excellent suggestions. Part of my carpal tunnel problem was probably exacerbated by neglecting to warm up before gigs -- load in lots of heavy and awkwardly-shaped equipment, set up, check levels, sit around, and don't actually play until you're "on". The exercise and warmup advice you give is definitely worth noting.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 25 May 00 - 11:46 AM

I can't think why I didn't mention this before. If at all possible, find a BUDDY to play with. It'll cut your learning time substantially. A lot of musicians I know are basically solitary folk, but a musical partner can really help if you want to be "goal-oriented". The simplest run or scale can take on wonderful new meanings with a chord pattern running behind it.

Just coming up with a simple vocal harmony to someone else's melody is a great feeling.

Most of the actual playing I do is solo, but when I'm at home, I often program back-ups into my Yamaha keyboard, and play them back twenty or thirty times. It really helps when learning fiddle, mandolin or banjo, to hear that chord structure in the background. Helps with tempos as well.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 25 May 00 - 01:01 PM

Rick's mention of harmony singing with a partner reminded me of a tip. If you don't have a partner, but want to learn to sing harmony, a great place to start is by listening to the Everley Brothers. First listen to what they did, then try singing along with one part, then the other, and get comfortable with how they fit together. Then when you're ready for the next step, try adding a third vocal line of your own. The songs are "standard" enough that it is generally apparent what is "right," but they're inventive enough that it's not a cakewalk. Start with the easy ones -- Bye Bye Love, etc. -- then move on to Devoted to you, Crying In The Rain, etc. Guaranteed to develop your ear, and your singing prowess.

There are other people out there that may be equally valid to do this with, but it's hard to go wrong with the Everleys -- and the fact that there's only two of them means that there's always room for a third line.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 25 May 00 - 01:15 PM

Whistle Stop, That's a wonderful idea. Not only should a beginner always find someone else to practice with as Rick suggests, but finding examples of accessible harmony singing to emulate is a great way to develop that skill. In addition to the Everley Brothers, I could also refer people to the newly reissued Scaggs and Rice CD mentioned in another thread recently. Also, John Roberts and Tony Berrand are good singers to glean things from.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 25 May 00 - 06:40 PM

Still wondering where some other folks are. I think I should have titled this "Help for PLAYERS". I suspect the term "pickers" has scared off 90% of 'em. As you're aware I used some fraudulent headers to get folks into threads for chord construction a few months back. Sneaky, but it worked.

Picks: If you're going to use picks, try the Golden Gate thumb pick, it's far superior to anything out there. The company may have been taken over by Dunlop, but they're sort of textured...like bone.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 25 May 00 - 08:48 PM

Playing in a noisy friendly and non-competitive session is a great way to move ahead in all kinds of skills. "Noisy" because that way you can work your way into a tune by just playing a little bit of it, and adding in the rest as it goes along. And you can find out what kind of mistakes are ok, and what kinds aren't.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 26 May 00 - 12:21 AM

Thanks Mag.

Does hard work pay off? Yes it does! This afternoon, banjo Bonnie (the nickname was originally part of her self-depricating humour) wrote and played an original jig, and participated (with Peter T. and I) in an old time up-tempo hoedown. She frailed away with good timing, abandon and skill. Thirty seconds into the tune I forgot that she's just learning and had a hell of a time myself. Not many months ago she didn't know anything about the instrument, but I think from now on, the music she plays will make a lotta folks happy. Oh of course she's gonna find out that there are people who HATE banjo playing as well!

OK, what about those people? Obviously banjo is a loud instrument and I've already discussed ways to quiet it down, but if you really want to practice noiselessly, stuff a medium sized towel inside the thing. Only a total neurotic will get annoyed.

Guitar muting? That's another story entirely, but there are a couple of things you might try. A small piece of foam about 6" by 1" by 1" squeezed under the strings right up against the bridge will usually do the trick, but the best thing is to spend a hundred bucks on a cheap Korean made solid body electric, get some headphones and one of those little practice amps that are the size of a walkman. Should be completely noise-free and won't wake those sleeping babies. Spend the bucks, it's worth it.

The foam will work on a mandolin and dulcimer as well. Hammer dulcimers? Beats me.

WHEN ALL ELSE HAS FAILED: The baritone Uke is a GREAT instrument for anyone who's had trouble learning guitar (and relax...you're in the majority. If you weren't, the world would be FULL of guitar players...and it's not)

The uke is easy on the fingers, the chords are simple, you can sing to it, and I guarantee you...play it for a few months and the guitar will seem much less daunting than it did when you first struggled with it.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 26 May 00 - 12:46 AM

Rick, I've never heard of a Golden Gate thumb pick. I don't live at the end of the world, mind you, but one can see it from here. Dunlop, Martin, Fender... I think that's about it... but they're available in colors.

I'll ask around and see what I can find. Maybe Bill Nix (Somewhere in Iowa Guitars) will have them. I haven't been around to see him in a while.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 26 May 00 - 01:11 AM

Mark, you can identify the Golden Gates by a sort of cream colour with thin light brown stripes running down it. Sort of "fibrous" like. I'm almost sure that Dunlop has taken them over. After trying one about 3 years ago I was completely sold. The Twelfth Fret here in toronto is always running out of them...but they keep getting them in again so I know they're available. Golden gate used to make one of those "designer capos". High priced and pretty good.

Fingerpicks: Dunlop seem to be the most easily available. If you're going in that direction I'd suggest you get the .025 guage, rather than the lighter ones. Once you really get pickin' the lighter ones almost seem to "melt"...well they start bending. That's a better description

Flatpicks: Many of the really good pros play heavy Tortoise-shell-style picks and use the rounded edge rather than the point. I go for a lighter one. Usually Dunlop .88s. for outdoor playing and .73s for livingrooms and folk clubs. It's a good idea when first experimenting with flatpicks to buy a light, medium and heavy...and then just screw around with them for awhile, til one seems (reasonably) comfortable. It WILL take a couple of weeks to get the hang of it though.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 26 May 00 - 01:45 AM

A couple of weeks! Hell, I'm still trying to get the hang of it. *G* Many years ago, I used tortise shell picks taken from actual tortae; they were magic. Now I use the standard plastic ones made to look like tortise shell. I hold it with the sharpest corner aimed at the base of my thumb and pick with one of the rounder corners. I've also been playing a heaver pick and closer to the bridge lately.

Thanks for the thumbpick tip. I'll find some way to get hold of one and try it out. Failing that, we may be in Toronto sometime in late summer and I can check at The Twelfth Fret myself.

A man I studied with some years ago used to make his own picks. A toolmaker friend made him a punch and die device that worked rather like a bottle capper. The picks it made were roughly the size and shape of the Fenders but with three holes clear through the pick to aid in holding onto it. He would make picks from every stray piece of plastic he found just to see what materials were best. I still have one he gave me. It was made from a polyethelene waste basket and is just great on an electric for jazz.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: canoer
Date: 26 May 00 - 02:09 AM

For Golden Gate thumbpicks, go to Elderly.com, click on Gear, then on Picks, then on Thumbpicks, then down towrd the bottom are the golden gates. (sounds heavenly, no?)

I couldn't use them because of extra-fat thumb. Tried to heat one in hot water, thinking to re-set the bend -- and the darn thing straightened out flat, Zap!

I love my Acri. (top of the Elderly list.)


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Brendy
Date: 26 May 00 - 02:30 AM

One thing I have found that can really put a beginner off when learning the guitar (or other stringed instruments, for that matter), is the 'pain threshold'. When, after a few lessons, you realise that your chording hand, and especially the tips of the fingers, are getting really sore. This comes before any eventual hardening of the fingers, and MUST be endured. It is all to easy to give up learning an instrument like a guitar for these kind of reasons, but it has to be remembered that the initial 'pain' is only part of the conditioning process; Step 1, so to speak. And I do say 'initial pain', for it returns time and again during your playing career to haunt you. Difference is, is that by then you have been conditioned a bit more, and so on.

I only mention this because I know of many people who, before they could be inspired to greater heights, gave up because the whole learning process was too painful and they hadn't learned to play like Clapton by the time they had lost whatever motivation they had.
So, don't give up too easily.

Further to Kevin's mention of the Kyser capo. I have a couple of Shubbs, and indeed, Rick, I have had to replace them many times over the years!, but when accompanying Trad in DAGDAD, I use a Kyser with a 3in. length of thickish dowel rod fastened to the finger grip with duct tape. When you have to change key within a beat, this extra length gives a greater target for the hand to grab, and increases leverage into the bargain.

As far as the Shubb capo is concerned, it is wise never to overtighten one. I have always placed my capos a little at an angle to the fretwire, where the bottom E has the capo tight on the fretwire (not covering it), while the top E has the capo a little behind the fretwire (The line of the capo is at a slant). This compensates for any loss of intonation on the B and top E strings.

There was something else as well; can't think of what it was now.
Ah well!

B.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Peter T.
Date: 26 May 00 - 09:20 AM

[classic example of frustrating guitar language for beginners -- is Top E the top of the guitar or top of the range of notes (i.e. the highest string, top E)? This happens all the time when you read guitar books -- could you guitar pros get together and standardize the language for the rest of us dopes please!!!]yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Midchuck
Date: 26 May 00 - 09:36 AM

"Whistle Stop" said:

Rick's mention of harmony singing with a partner reminded me of a tip. If you don't have a partner, but want to learn to sing harmony, a great place to start is by listening to the Everley Brothers. First listen to what they did, then try singing along with one part, then the other, and get comfortable with how they fit together. Then when you're ready for the next step, try adding a third vocal line of your own. The songs are "standard" enough that it is generally apparent what is "right," but they're inventive enough that it's not a cakewalk. Start with the easy ones -- Bye Bye Love, etc. -- then move on to Devoted to you, Crying In The Rain, etc. Guaranteed to develop your ear, and your singing prowess.

There are other people out there that may be equally valid to do this with, but it's hard to go wrong with the Everleys -- and the fact that there's only two of them means that there's always room for a third line.

Another duo that are good for this is Ian and Sylvia - the recordings from the 60's are mostly in reissue on CD. An additional advantage, that I discovered when one channel on my car stereo broke, is that those recordings were made when stereo was new, and they didn't really know what to do with it yet, so they recorded one of the vocal parts on each channel, rather than the whole business on both.

That means that you can use the balance knob on your stereo to listen to just one part, then just the other. A great study aid. (Unless they remixed for the reissues.)

Peter.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 26 May 00 - 10:20 AM

Peter, I normally use the designations, treble and bass rather than top and bottom just to eliminate the confusion you noticed. Having said that, I most often see the term top string used to mean the treble string; the one closest to the floor. In the same vein, we talk about moving up the neck of a stringed instrument to reach higher notes when proper posture usually dicates that the higher pitched frets are closer to the floor.

I think my terminology is generally used by most people who post here.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 26 May 00 - 12:00 PM

Bottom=Bass

Top=Treble

6th=Bass

1st=Treble

Thanks Canoer. Good old Elderly strikes again. Ya GOTTA know these folks, folks!

Rick


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Wesley S
Date: 26 May 00 - 12:20 PM

There is some great advice here. One tip for beginners I got off of a Pete Seeger TV show { and I've posted it to the Mudcat before }. If you are having trouble learning something new don't ever put your instrument down in disgust. Instead - always finish your playing session by performing something you do well so that your last "memory" of playing your instrument is a good one.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 26 May 00 - 03:18 PM

This is silly but it can be fun: get a bit of crinkly silver paper, and weave it in and out of the strings up near the bridge. Then strum across the strings, and do some fake flamenco, or whatever.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Peter T.
Date: 26 May 00 - 05:05 PM

Anyone have any advice for doing scales practice to improve one's reasonably elementary fingerpicking? Some of the books seem to work with straightforward E to E on basically the first three frets using both the closed and open notes (for example, C on the second string, 3rd fret from the bottom bass to the C on the second string, 1st fret, on the top, or sometimes to the C high up on the top string (where you have to move your hand) to complete the second octave). Others give you closed note patterns that you can move up the neck as you go (and these seem to differ depending on where the tonic note starts). Another question is: do you change your right hand fingering as you go up while practicing, or just stick to one finger, thumb, or use a pick, or whatever? Etc. Do you recommend working through all keys early on, or just C, G, D,A,E, and I guess F. Anyone have anything that they would recommend for starting scale exercises? (Not wild modes or whatever -- just ordinary major/minor scales)

yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: IvanB
Date: 26 May 00 - 11:05 PM

Rick, don't know how many hammer dulcomer players are watching this thread, but in response to your post about 'muting' various instruments, I have a set of hammers with heavy felt tips (much like piano hammers but a bit softer). They are great for late night practicing!


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 26 May 00 - 11:25 PM

THANK YOU IVAN! Great tip.

*****************************************************

Peter, scales tend to be usefull if you're playing Classical style, or Jazz/rock lead. If you're playing any kind of chordal style and want to incorporate scales (melodies etc.) as part of your accompaniement, the fingering becomes COMPLETELY different. I would tend to learn the scales through melodies first. If not, any music store has hundreds of books on scales. You're close to Long and McQuade, at Bloor and Ossington.

****************************************************

The best "Travel Guitars"? Although several companies are now making small bodied instruments (Taylor, Larrivee, Takoma etc) the "children's size instruments" which over the last few years have gotten awfully good are a great investment. Fun too. I found one in a junk store last week for 20 bucks, made by Aria. It's a fine instrument.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 27 May 00 - 12:06 AM

Peter, All the scales I practice are flatpicked. I don't think I've ever seen or heard anyone play scales by fingerpicking. Not that one couldn't, I've just never seen it. I think that's because my own fingerpicking is all based on folk and traditional forms. I've never studied clasical or flemenco guitar. I started out using thumb and three fingers with picks on each. Eventually I dropped the use of finger picks. Then, one by one, I droped the use of my ring and middle fingers. Now all my finger picking is thumb (with pick) and bare index finger, often with the heel of my hand resting lightly on the bass strings.

I was at the local B&N today over lunch and discovered a book by Arnie Berle called Patterns Scales & Modes For Jazz Guitar. What a great reference and guide. Lots of interesting scales and exercises. On page 6 he lists four prerequisites to successfully using his book:

  1. A guitar that plays comfortably above the twelfth fret.
  2. An ability to read music notation and rhythmic figures of all kinds.
  3. An understanding of music theory.
  4. Great patience and determination.

It struck me that those are basically the prerequsites for any serious approach to a musical instrument. You need a playable instrument, communication skills, some knowledge of how you expect to proceed and, above all, great patience and determination. I thought he summed it up pretty well.

Berle includes a wonderful quote by jazz guitarist and teacher, Barry Galbraith. Barry was asked how much of what the jazz player playes is truely spontaneous? His answer was: "You practice for about fifteen or twenty years and then it comes out spontaneously." I think most folk music is like that even if it is more accessible than jazz.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: MK
Date: 27 May 00 - 12:23 AM

Rick,
Forgive me for the thread creep, but to those nerds of us who like to keep our fingers on the pulse of the guitar world, and with rumors abound for the past 6 months over the demise?...of Dana Bourgeois' company, I think you will find this article interesting and very insightful.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 27 May 00 - 12:35 AM

Tip for beginning string players
Keep your fingernails carefully sculpted and free of nicks. The nails on your noting hand should be kept very short, as close to the "quick" as you can get without causing pain. After so many years, the finger tips of my noting hand extend a full eight inch past the ends of my finger nails. This is necessary so your finger nail can't contact the fingerboard first and prevent the tip of your from properly engaging the string. Of course you want to be sure you can still execute a pull-off easily and accurately.

The nails of the picking hand will be shapped differently for various instruments and styles. I cut my thumb nail all the way down because I use a thumbpick when playing finger style. My little finger likewise has its nail cliped down as far as it can go since I don't ever use it to pluck strings. The nail of my index finger is cut and filed smooth to match the contour of my finger tip. I treat the second and third fingers similarily to the first since I sometime use them to pluck strings while holding a flatpick. Perhaps the nail of the ring finger doesn't extend out quite as far as the finger tip.

If I remember to do it, I'll leave a little squarish corner of the nail of my middle finger, on the thumb side of the nail. This little protrusion, properly shapped, can be helpful when playing banjo clawhammer style.

Merle Travis and, I believe, Chet Atkins left their nails somewhat longer than I do but mine aren't strong enough to be kept too long. The idea, though, is to use the pad of your finger when actually pulling the string sideways for a note but let your nail be the last thing that actually touches the string during release.

You'll need lots of experimentation to get this worked out just right for you. With luck, lots of folks who have already worked this out for themselves will come in and share their finger nail tips.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 27 May 00 - 07:34 AM

Just to add to Whistle Stop, Mark Clark and Brendy mentioning of the pain experienced as a beginner.....
I have found it helpful to play until my hands are kind of sore but not in pain. That is when I stop.
I am not speaking of painful chord positionings, I am referring to just playing for a period of time until my hands get tired. I figure if I stop before I am feeling pain, then I have less of a chance to develop an injury. So instead, I make it a point to break up the times I play. I play until my hands feel tired, then I put down the banjo and pick it up a bit later. I also believe I get a lot more playing time in this way and it suites my daily routine.

Bonnie


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mooh
Date: 27 May 00 - 08:18 AM

Does your guitar sound dull, even with new strings? Assuming the strings are fastened to the machines and seated at the bridge properly, and the nut and saddle are in good order, a set of brass bridge pins (see Stew-Mac reference above for a source) will brighten the sound for alot less coin than a new guitar.

Does your guitar sound dull still? Maybe the top is overbraced. Try a slightly heavier set of strings, like medium-lights instead of lights, to drive the top a bit more. Be careful not to overdo this, it could cause some distortion in the top and cause the opposite effect.

Are songs written too high for your vocal range? Try tuning down a half or whole step and using the same familar chord shapes. This may require a slightly heavier set of strings. Just capo up if you need to play with others who can't/won't adapt. The other advantage of this compared to capoing up and/or transposing is you won't loose so much of the bass range of the instrument. (An aside here: I keep a guitar tuned a minor third low (3 half steps) and strung with heavy strings. It's also a bit longer scale at 27 inches. Sounds fantastic.)

Is it hard to balance your guitar on your knee or from the strap? A strap with a rough surface (like the underside of leather) against your shirt will grip better than a smooth surface. Machine head knobs can be replaced with ebony or plastic (faux pearl is nice) to reduce the weight of the headstock which is increased by the leverage of the neck...metal knobs are heavy. Some find it comfortable to tie one end of the strap to the headstock which moves the centre of gravity to a more balanced place, and has a more old-time appearance. A wider strat may also be more comfortable than a length of rope. But to each his own.

More later. Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: bbelle
Date: 27 May 00 - 08:53 AM

Even though I've been playing for 35 years, I am dealing with horrendous blisters on both hands. My first thought was to not play at all for a while, but couldn't keep my hands off the guitar, so I play until the hurt is too intense, put it down for a few hours, and do it again. It's working ... the blisters are turning into calluses and while the soreness goes deep, it has become much less. For beginners ... I would suggest not playing until you have blisters, in the event that you might "give up," but to follow Bonnie's advice, and play until there's a little soreness, then rest for a while, and play again.

BTW ... Please keep the tips and "educated" knowledge forthcoming! I have picked up so much good "stuff" and check everyday to see "what's new" ... moonchild


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: bbelle
Date: 27 May 00 - 10:06 AM

Oh ... and speaking strictly from a woman's viewpoint ... I'm working out with 3 lb free weights to help build strength in my arms. Any thoughts on this? Also, summers in North Florida are ... well, think of Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and that will give you an idea ... sultry (hot and humid) ... so I keep a packet of Damp Rid in my guitar case. It's great stuff.

moonchild


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mooh
Date: 27 May 00 - 10:50 AM

Flatpicks and thumbpicks can easily be re-shaped using an emory board, fine files, fine sandpaper, or a fish hook sharpener. Some picks develop a slight burr along the edge which doesn't sound too good. Some others just wear down and need reshaping, depending on your preference of shape. Many thumbpicks are simply too long when new and filing them back and rounding over the edges will make them more comfortable to use. Likewise for fingerpicks.

Keep an extra flatpick secure and handy woven in the strings at the headstock.

Post-it notes are great for song "cheat-sheets" or set lists or other reminders, fastened to the guitar side.

More later. Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: MK
Date: 27 May 00 - 11:00 AM

When breaking in a new set of fingerpicks, in this case metal ones, I find it useful to take a pair of needle nose pliers and slightly bend or twist the bottom half of the picks, to match the angle of attack that my fingers strike the strings. You'll have to experiment with the angle to determine the amount of bend to apply. But by doing this it gives you a cleaner sound, and it lessens the scraping and clicking sound as the metal strikes the strings.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 27 May 00 - 11:38 AM

When learning the fingering and location on the fretboard for new chords I have found it helpful to draw the chord configuration & location on the fret board on large pieces of construction paper. I have them propped up nearby where I can view them while I play.
Colouring helps too. All G chords in blue, D chords in green, C chords in yellow etc.....
I seem to learn best visually and these kind of props have been helpful, and make the learning process fun.

Bonnie


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 27 May 00 - 12:31 PM

Great tips folks.

Mike's tip about "bending the picks" is interesting. Everyone's hand positions are a little different, and that will really help the clarity.

Love the "post-it" notes...problem is I can't READ them from that distance any more!

*******************************************************

Re PAIN!

Make absolutely sure your instrument is "set up" properly! I can't emphasize this too much. You MUST learn what the parts are and what they do. There are many good books and websites on this. A badly set up instrument causes pain! You've gotta trust your local repair guy...or learn to do it yourself. If your "action" is 1/2 mm. too high it will make the difference between playing well and pain free, and agony (which ain't gonna help your chops)

I do set ups on my instruments at least every couple of months to co-incide with weather changes. You don't have to do it that often, but once a year is CRUCIAL.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Peter T.
Date: 27 May 00 - 01:12 PM

Useful metaphors, anyone? I note in reading that, for instance, some people say that when you are fingerpicking, the right hand should not be thought of as plucking a peach (say) where the whole hand works together, but with the thumb independent, while the fingers hang down and curl up, and so on. Anyone have thoughts about how (this is in guitar) the right hand (or left hand, for that matter, or the wrist, or the shoulder, or whatever) could be described so as to give one a good visual picture of how the underlying musculature should feel or be positioned.
I am probably not asking this right, but you may get the idea. For instance, some people talk about thinking of the left hand thumb (on the neck) as being mostly directly opposite to the fingers, and others talk about it being like holding a tennis racket except you should never feel the "web" between the thumb and fingers touching the guitar, and so on. yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 27 May 00 - 01:17 PM

I agree with Rick... a great bunch of tips. Now this thread is starting to roll.

Mooh, I like your tip about using heavier strings. Sound is produced by getting the top of your instrument to vibrate and the energy transmitted to is is proportional to the mass of the string. Some people think that using heavier strings can shorten the life of a guitar but I figure if an instrument doesn't sound right, I don't want it to last too long anyway.

Good advice about the strap as well. I use a soft wide strap made entirely from leather. The wide part has as series of slots where the narrow part hooks in so the length may be adjusted. A button for the strap should be added to the heel of the neck rather close to the body but set to point toward the floor when you play. That way the heel is cradled in the strap and the strap can't slip off. If you install the button yourself, be sure to drill a properly sized hole for the screw. Forcing the screw into wood of the heel without such a hole could cause the wood to split.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 27 May 00 - 02:26 PM

Peter, I'll be anxious to see the metaphors up with which folks come. (Apologies to Sir. Winston) I can't think of a single one. All the rules, like keeping your thumb squarely on the back of the neck, seem to go out the window in folk and popular styles of playing.

When I play finger style I lead with my thumb and most of my thought process actually centers around the bass line rather than the syncopated melody being played independently by my index finger. Often this sense of rhythm is carried more by very slight movement of my forearm than by any concentrated movement of the thumb itself. It seems to take more thought, while playing, to keep the rhythm steady and unbroken than it does to play the melody notes.

One thing I'll never understand is how rock performers are able hang their guitars down around their knees and still form chords. I tend to adjust my guitar strap so the neck is nearly in a classical (seated) position while I'm playing. I don't have to go for what looks cool on MTV, I just try to position the neck so I can play.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: MK
Date: 27 May 00 - 02:29 PM

Tuning Gears

If your guitar has the closed back type (ie: Martins, Grovers, Shallers, etc.) no maintainance is required since they are self lubricating.
If these tuners become loose or slack, and you notice this when tuning your strings, tighten the screw in the side of the part your finger grips, just enough to remove the slack. The gears should have a nice easy feel when tuning, but without any slack or waggle to them. You might want to play around with the screw adjustment to get it just right.
If on the other hand you have open, or "butterbean" tuners (ie: Waverly, Martin, or classical style tuning gears) 1 drop of sowing machine oil per gear once a year, is all it takes to keep them in good shape for many years to come.

Anyone want to add anything about gear ratios?

One other thing, and to clarify for novices, the areas that are actually (and generally) adjusted during a "setup" are the saddle (white piece of plastic or bone, that the strings cross over on the bridge) and, the nut, (white piece of plastic, micarta or bone that is just above the first fret on your guitar.)

For more corrective measures that the above setup might not entirely alieviate, a "fret dressing" (planing, smoothing, leveling and filing down of the frets) can help a lot, and make the neck feel even more comfortable, as your fingers won't be as inclined to "catch" the frets when sliding up and down the fingerboard.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mooh
Date: 27 May 00 - 02:59 PM

Mark Clark, Yes. And make sure when installing that strap button on the heel that you stay clear of the neck mounting bolts which are becoming quite common. Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mooh
Date: 27 May 00 - 03:21 PM

Always put your guitars and other instruments in a safe place when you're done with them. Sound obvious? I thought so. I always put mine away, but two nights ago I inadvertently left one where the cat (yup, cat) could get it. It tried chewing on the headstock. Now there's two puncture marks and some chipped finish, not major damage, but enough to piss me off. This may be a good reason to wipe an instrument clean also, so it doesn't attract pests, and so the finish is preserved to look good under stage lights.

The guitar eating cat. What next? Anyone want to adopt a cat?

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: bbelle
Date: 27 May 00 - 04:46 PM

No thanks ... I still have my original case ... and the original chew marks from my miniature dachshund. I did have a tiny, new kitten wheedle down into the sound hole ... so now, instead of cats and dogs, I just raise dust bunnies ...

I travel quite a bit and have a stash of soft, shoe wiping cloths, from various hotels, that I toss into my case for emergency shine-ups.

moonchild


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mooh
Date: 27 May 00 - 07:09 PM

Mark,

What brought that about? Primarily Taylor Guitars, but many other fine builders are adapting to the bolt on neck. There's arguments either way regarding bolt-ons vs various tenon/dovetail connections, and maybe that would make an interesting thread sometime. Bolt-ons are easier to service and faster to make etc, or so I'm led to understand. Given the price of Taylors these days, it's hard to make an argument for it being cheaper.

I hope this next statement doesn't offend anyone, but it's a general caution. Do not believe everything you read about guitars on the internet! The advantage to this forum is that if someone posts something really ridiculous, others will issue their dissent. On most sites there is no authoritative editor, no checks and balances, so alot (!) of pure unadulterated crap is sent out into cyberspace. Bad tabulature, chord changes, and advice. At best we get illinformed opinion, at worst unknowledgable and dangerous advice. There are some decent sites, but they're outnumbered by wannabes. My guitar students often show me stuff they can't understand, or stuff they will have to correct.

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mooh
Date: 27 May 00 - 07:25 PM

Here's a short list of ways to spice up your single note lines, lead breaks, solos, or whatever. This is guitar stuff, but may be transferable to other instruments.

hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, slurs, bends, tremolo, vibrato, whammy (ever try a Peavey acoustic with a whammy?), harmonics, behind the nut or tailpiece bends, chords including double-stops, power chords ("5" chords), octaves, fingerpicking, volume and tone swells, bottleneck, detuning on the fly, staccato, legato, pauses, interval leaps, chromatic runs and accidental notes, arpeggios, muting, percussive scratching, pick scratchs, etc...

Even the most banal lead break could be improved with subtle use of some of these tools. One caution, don't sacrifice the note(s) to weird techniques. Sometimes it's better to spend your thought on choice of notes/harmony than on tricks. Other times tricks are what works.

More later. Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 27 May 00 - 07:26 PM

When you're using a plectrum, and you want to make it a bit stiffer half way through a tune, to get a bit more volume, you can curve it with your thumb against your first and second finger, and it firms it up.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mbo
Date: 27 May 00 - 08:32 PM

For what it's worth, don't know how helpful this is, but if you use a dime as a pick when you're playing slide guitar, the all-metal execution makes for an awesome sound.

--Mbo


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mooh
Date: 27 May 00 - 09:39 PM

Mbo, His name escapes me at the moment, the guitarist from Queen, uses a coin for a pick. I agree too, an all metal approach is awesome. Which brings us to the next tip...try different types of picks, sizes, shapes, materials, for different sounds. There's a cool multi-pick called the Strum Rose which can sound like more than one guitar playing the same part as several picks actually strum the string in quick succession. It's loud too. Aluminum, various plastics and synthetics, wood, felt, shell, stone, bone, all have different timbres. As with anything, experimentation can surprise.

Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mbo
Date: 27 May 00 - 10:36 PM

Yep Mooh! Brian May, guitarist from Queen and one of my idols (yes, another one)is where I got the idea from! "One thin dime," he says, "one thin dime." Also you can use the rough edge to get some neat effects. I've used stuff from plastic handle to pencaps, pencils, strips of metal, and screws as picks. I've also used anything from cassette tape boxes, bulldog clips, AA batteries, soda bottles, and paper clips as slides. Eddie Van Halen has been known to use chainsaws, sandpaper, and velvet strips to produce desired effects!

--Mbo


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 27 May 00 - 10:49 PM

Peter T. the best metaphor I can come up with is that my fingers feel like they are dancing to the music when I am finger picking. Once I relax more, I bet other parts of my body will start dancing along too.

I suggest for those who are just beginning and may have some difficulty understanding some of the content on this thread, that if you have a printer, print it off. I have done this with several other technical related music threads and what I may not have understood a few months ago, now makes much more sense when I reread it.

If you are really new like I was and had never picked up an instrument, I suggest you do get a hold a a repair manual just to understand the instrument you have chosen to play. Although much of the manual I read was way over my head I got a deeper appreciation of the components to my banjo and how they related to each other.
The best test was when Rick told me to pull by banjo apart, change the head and put it back together. After doing that I was not so fearful of trying to fix some part that might be causing me some troubles.
Mind you, we are talking about a banjo which is built more like a machine.

Is it possible to start a Part II for this thread. The posting content is substantial and it is getting more difficult to bring up the thread as it gets longer?

Bonnie


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mooh
Date: 28 May 00 - 09:43 AM

Guitars are pretty good percussion instruments. Drumming and tapping on the various areas of the body and neck will yeild drum tones of various sorts. Scratching muted strings has its place too.

When playing chords which require you to mute certain strings, for example the open D chord, the muted low E string will lend a definite thud with each strum if it's not avoided altogether. This isn't bad, it just colours the sound differently. Same if the low E string is muted while playing an open C chord. Sometimes by concentrating on strum patterns, and the strum effort, on the lower pitched strings, this will give a very percussive sound to your playing.

Use the above technique alternating with fretted lower bass notes for those D and C chords, (F#, and G or E respectively), and you've really spiced up your strums.

Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 28 May 00 - 12:01 PM

Hi Mac. I'm told that a "permanent thread" is one that will stay on the current forum, to let newbies know how info like this is discussed on Mudcat. I've spoken to Leej and Joe about doing a bit of editing on this one so that only the tips are there. I mentioned this at the beginning. Max is putting together a number of "permanent threads" on different topics.

No reason someone else can't start another dozen "instrument tips" threads. I'm glad folks are finding it useful.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: GUEST,whip
Date: 21 Jul 00 - 05:35 PM

Mark, read your post about the picks...I bought my banjo at Somewhere in Iowa Guitars...just wondering if you were in the Cedar Rapids area?

Also, a question for all the guitar players. How do you hold your picks? A friend of mine holds hers between her thumb and the side of her index finger and she's having a bit of trouble with it. I tried to get her to try something else but she's being stubborn. I just wanted to know if you think it makes a difference and any siggestions for helping her get used to using a pick (right now she thinks she stinks so strumming really quiet with her fingers is fine with her).


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Subject: RE: Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 26 Jul 00 - 06:37 PM

whip, I missed seeing your post because we've moved the discussion over to a continuation thread as you probably noticed in the link just above your post. This was done so this thread won't become to large to load quickly.

The answer is yes, I live in Cedar Rapids. Not to far from Nix's shop. Of course in all of Cedar Rapids there is nothing too far from Nix's shop. <g>

Why don't you repost your question at the end of the continuation thread. I'm sure there are several folks here willing to share their technique.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Instruments
From: Mark Clark
Date: 30 Mar 01 - 12:07 AM

Joe, Thanks for starting this thread. This will make it much easier to find information related to playing our instruments. Finally I can start deleteing some of these links from my personal page.

Here is a list of links I've been saving. I don't claim that all the instrument discussions are here but it includes a bunch of them.

      - Mark

Weird chords
Rick's Pickin' tips. Questions & Answers
What the 'F' is goin' on at Mudcat?
Does Mudcat Seem to Be flat Right Now?
Chord diagrams in threads?
Eeeee! Flat breads are delicious!
Chord Diagram Primer
Bluegrass G run
BS: Mudcat Seems To Be Diminished
Help for pickers. Give us a tip.
Help for Pickers - Give us a tip II
I Love Major Seventh Chords!
Is Cm7sus a real chord?
Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
Guitar Fingerpicking Fun
Where's your thumb?
Naming chords for capoed instruments
Help: Learning blues guitar
Help for pickers young and old. part 3.


Click here for Part 2


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