Lute - Right Hand

Discussion of all aspects of early instruments, lutes, theorbos, vihuelas, Renaissance guitars and Baroque guitars.
Moderndandy

Lute - Right Hand

Postby Moderndandy » Thu Jun 20, 2013 12:08 pm

I know this is a guitar forum but it seems there are some lute players as well. I'm just starting with a Renaissance Lute. I'm trying to learn the thumb out technique (which I know most use the thumb under) but I'm having trouble being comfortable resting my little finger On the soundboard. I can play fine without doing it but know I'm supposed do. Do I have to? Will this cause problems if I don't?

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Michael.N.
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Re: Lute - Right Hand

Postby Michael.N. » Thu Jun 20, 2013 12:33 pm

Resting that finger on the soundboard serves two functions. It gives some security to the right hand (a little like thumb rest stroke) and it also goes some way to fixing the angle at which the fingers strike the strings - which is more from underneath the string in lute technique. The little finger should rest lightly on the soundboard and certainly not 'fixed'.
If you can get good tone from using more of a modern Guitar technique then all is well. Tone should decide everything.
Historicalguitars.

Moderndandy

Re: Lute - Right Hand

Postby Moderndandy » Thu Jun 20, 2013 5:41 pm

It seems though my hand wants to move in the position of thumb under technique when I plant the pinky? In thumb out technique do you still plant the pinky?

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Michael.N.
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Re: Lute - Right Hand

Postby Michael.N. » Thu Jun 20, 2013 7:36 pm

Sure you can, many do. I think it depends on your hand/wrist/forearm position. If you play with the side of the little finger resting on the soundboard you will find that the thumb has a tendency to go thumb under. If you play with the it's tip resting, you will tend to play thumb out.
Historicalguitars.

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guitareleven
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Re: Lute - Right Hand

Postby guitareleven » Fri Jun 21, 2013 1:10 pm

Moderndandy wrote:...with a Renaissance Lute... I'm trying to learn the thumb out technique (which I know most use the thumb under) but I'm having trouble being comfortable resting my little finger On the soundboard. I can play fine without doing it but know I'm supposed do. Do I have to? Will this cause problems if I don't?


No, it will cause no problems if you don't, especially if, as you say, you "can play fine without doing it". So don't worry about "supposed to"-- unless you have some professional aspirations that may be affected by how the Historical Authentics may view and remark upon your technical style.

But, setting aside "supposed" and "have" to, you might investigate it enough to give it a chance. Paul O'Dette, in this interview...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clxoDOwK-qI

... demonstrates and describes the technique. For him, and players like him, the little-finger-resting has a positive function in their approach, and is not the negative restraint that it would seem to be to others, myself included. There is no doubt that he and others achieve stunning results. I would do much more than the proverbial "walk-across-the-street" to hear him play. He is absolutely great. So, the example is not one casually to be dismissed.

However, the rather dire consequences of wildly uncontrolled action he would ascribe as resulting from not so resting the little finger do not necessarily follow as an inexorable result.

As in:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEoS_W35IHk

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

The control issue spoken of is purportedly in the use of thumb alternating technique, the forearm up-and-down action of which lute players continued as an application derived from earlier use of plectrums. In the first of the above, the thumb alternating technique is in the quick melodic interjections near the end of the piece, in the second, you get a closer look (the thumb alternation in these is "p-m", not "p-i").

Here, there is no little finger planting, but no uncontrolled action as a result. So, maybe Mr. O'Dette was speaking with a bit of hyperbole on that point (having said his hand would move a distance of "about a foot" on each stroke were his little finger not planted).

It should be said that the technique used in these videos is thumb out, rather than the thumb under as demonstrated by Paul O'Dette. Thumb out was used in the Renaissance, by vihuelists, and by lutenists as a development late in the period. But this does not necessarily negate planting the little finger, so you may find something worthwhile in it. The technique in the videos is obviously heavily informed by modern classical guitar study, not scholarly replication of late Renaissance approach, and there are consequences to sound production (primarily from use of nails) to which some would object.

However, it's worth noting that the techniques used on lute are not as monolithically codified as one might think, neither now, nor were they back in the Renaissance. There was, and is, individual variance. Though there are general prevalences, this can include such aspects as to whether or not to play with nails, whether the thumb is in or out, and, in regard to your question, whether one plants the little finger, and if so, to what extent. From what I can tell, Paul O'Dette seems fairly consistent in this regard, but I have seen other players who seem more free with it- they're more apt to move it around from spot to spot, or even lift it entirely for certain passages. Then there are mavericks who don't plant at all. So, it all depends on what you become used to doing, as justified in achieving the results you are after.

Moderndandy

Re: Lute - Right Hand

Postby Moderndandy » Fri Jun 21, 2013 10:17 pm

Thanks this is extremely helpful


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