Efficient free-stroke according to Philip Hii /2

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Johnny Geudel
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Efficient free-stroke according to Philip Hii /2

Post by Johnny Geudel » Sat Sep 16, 2017 9:52 pm

With permission of the author.
You'll find an illustrative video on his site: http://philiphii.com/
"
September 9th, 2017
They say a picture paints a thousand words. If that’s the case, a video should paint 10,000 words.

I shot a simple video with my phone showing the three different ways of plucking—from the knuckle joint, from the middle joint, and with the fingertip.

You can see that in all three plucking methods, all three joints are moving. Our fingers work as a unit, and when we say we are moving from one joint, it doesn’t suggest the other joints are completely stationary.

However, there is a distinct difference in sensation between plucking from the knuckle joint as opposed to plucking from the middle joint as opposed to plucking with the fingertips.

These differences are not psychological, they’re very real. You physically feel one specific joint activating the stroke and the other joints moving in support.

I use all three strokes but my primary and default stroke is the third one, playing with the fingertip, because it is so economical and efficient."

Johnny Geudel
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Re: Efficient free-stroke according to Philip Hii /2

Post by Johnny Geudel » Sat Sep 16, 2017 11:43 pm

Part 1:
" September 5th, 2017
An efficient free-stroke must incorporate several essential properties.

First, it must have a built-in rebound mechanism. Meaning that the stroke must not only pluck the string efficiently, but also has a mechanism to return it to plucking position again.

Second, it must occur in a continuous flow of action—the movement of the finger to the string, the plucking action and the rebound should all occur in one motion.

And if you have a series of notes (plucking actions) there should be no stops and starts between the actions. The series of notes should occur in one continuous motion.

Third, it must have a built-in tension-release mechanism.

All actions produce tension. This tension must be released dynamically as you perform the actions (otherwise it will accumulate and you will choke with all that tension).

Fourth, it must not impact the other fingers. In other words, minimal sympathetic motion between fingers.

Fifth, it must move with extreme economy. There must be no wasted motion. The purpose of the stroke is to pluck the string, nothing more. There must be minimal follow-through of the finger after plucking.

So how do you produce a stroke that incorporates these properties?

I’ve found that the key is the vertical stroke.

(Relatively speaking of course—vertical to the soundboard and relatively vertical compared to more traditional plucking methods.)

Most people think of the plucking motion as a horizontal stroke. The finger pushes through the string in a motion that is horizontal to the soundboard.

With the vertical stroke, the finger actually pushes into the string slightly before plucking it.

To achieve this, you’ll have to focus your plucking at your fingertips.

By plucking with your fingertips, you’ll have automatic economy in your movements. The movements will be so small, you’ll feel as if you’re not even moving at all.

The actual sensation of plucking is that of brushing upward across the string as opposed to plucking it directly.

Playing with the fingertips takes care of the fifth property, that of economy.

Next, the actual plucking motion must be the moment of release.

This is important. Think of letting loose an arrow from a bow. That’s the kind of release, a complete letting go of the tension at the fingertip.

This takes care of the third property, the dynamic release of tension.

With this stroke, the instant you pluck is also the beginning of the action to reposition your finger.

Think of the plucking action as a movement to reposition the finger. As soon as you pluck, your finger is already traveling back to playing position.

This takes care of the first property—the built-in rebound mechanism.

When we pluck, we’re essentially moving the fingertip from one point (the beginning point) to another point (the ending point).

How do you move back and forth between two points without stopping and starting every time we change direction?

By moving in circular or oval shaped trajectories.

Circular motion produces the continuous looping actions required in the second property.

When you push into the string, the release is upward rather than inward (into the palm).

This automatically produces the oval trajectory that you see in many good players. With this stroke, you don’t have to worry about trying to produce the oval trajectory. It’s built into the stroke.

Finally, the vertical stroke reduces sympathetic motion in the other fingers.

You can try it. Move one finger inward as if you’re closing a fist. You’ll find that the other fingers will want to move inward too. This is sympathetic motion.

But if you move your finger downward and upward (relatively speaking), you’ll find the sympathetic motion is minimal.

An additional note about these descriptions.

Firstly, the upward motion is not to be confused with the hooking up motion that some beginning players do. Your plucking motion should still be pushing through the string to pluck it, but as soon as the string is plucked, the fingertip relaxes and moves upwards.

Secondly, (and I’m aware I’m repeating myself here) the words vertical and horizontal are meant to be taken relatively. They refer to the plane of the soundboard and are not meant literally.

Vertical is not meant to be straight up and down.

It’s only the feeling of moving the fingers vertically. In actuality, the finger is still moving across the string to pluck it, but the sensation is that of pushing into the string vertically and releasing vertically."

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m0rt
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Re: Efficient free-stroke according to Philip Hii /2

Post by m0rt » Tue Sep 26, 2017 3:36 am

That is a timely post from my perspective. Something I have been thinking about recently. Thanks for getting the permission and posting.

kmurdick
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Re: Efficient free-stroke according to Philip Hii /2

Post by kmurdick » Tue Sep 26, 2017 1:16 pm

He is essentially correct but he could have written it in a lot fewer words. There is no beginning and no ending to the efficient free stroke. It is an ellipse.
1) the knuckle joint begins its flexion toward the string while the middle joint finishes its extension
2) the knuckle joint pushes the string perpendicular to the top of the guitar while the middle joint flexes parallel to the top.
3) the instant the the middle joint plucks the string, the knuckle joint begins it's extension.
4) the flexion parts of the stroke are created by a conscious impulse, but all extensions are natural and serve as a relief of tension.

That may sound pretty complicated but the most complex part, the release, happens automatically for most people. All you have to do is think "flex" and "release", and it happens.

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guitarrista
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Re: Efficient free-stroke according to Philip Hii /2

Post by guitarrista » Tue Sep 26, 2017 4:36 pm

kmurdick wrote:
Tue Sep 26, 2017 1:16 pm

2) the knuckle joint pushes the string perpendicular to the top of the guitar while the middle joint flexes parallel to the top.
How would the knuckle joint push the string only in the perpendicular-to-guitar-top direction?
Konstantin
--
1982 Anselmo Solar Gonzalez

kmurdick
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Re: Efficient free-stroke according to Philip Hii /2

Post by kmurdick » Tue Sep 26, 2017 6:04 pm

These are just approximations. When the tip hits the string, the middle joint/tip segment is more or less perpendicular to the top of the guitar so the knuckle joint supplies a strong vector of force on the string perpendicular to the top of the guitar. It would seem that the KJS's main function is to give the string the potential energy it needs to vibrate. Then the parallel force of the MJS, allows the release of this potential energy. The knuckle joint segment starts extending immediately after the tip passes over the string and probably doesn't contribute much to the parallel motion. In reality, it is likely that both knuckle and middle joints contribute some parallel and perpendicular force. And then there it tip joint segment.

Johnny Geudel
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Re: Efficient free-stroke according to Philip Hii /2

Post by Johnny Geudel » Tue Sep 26, 2017 6:24 pm

guitarrista wrote:
Tue Sep 26, 2017 4:36 pm
How would the knuckle joint push the string only in the perpendicular-to-guitar-top direction?
This question is answered by Marco Tamayo in his YT-video "Marco Tamayo shows how he files his nails", starting at 09.50 min.

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Re: Efficient free-stroke according to Philip Hii /2

Post by guit-box » Tue Sep 26, 2017 6:55 pm

If the MCP is mostly over the string it's pushing and you have a good amount of wrist arch, the combination of MCP flexion with PIP extension will push the string mostly perpendicular to the top and towards the back of the guitar. Then the release is mostly the opposite movement, the MCP is extending while the PIP/DIP flexion. This is basically what Philip Hii is saying by making movements that are vertical. (perpendicular to soundboard either moving towards the soundboard or away from the soundboard) but of course he says that's part psychological trick and the finger tip in reality moves in an orbital trajectory.
An eyewitness will often only see what he already believes to be true.

kmurdick
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Re: Efficient free-stroke according to Philip Hii /2

Post by kmurdick » Tue Sep 26, 2017 9:58 pm

Because the KJS moves up and down and the MJS moves back in forth (with the fingers in a mid range position), the tip moves in a type of ellipse (maybe close to a near perfect circle). This ellipse has a vertex where the the KJS has stopped completely and all the force is parallel to the top of the guitar. This is also the the point where the KJS begins its extension and the MJS begins its short (regenerative) follow through. It's the nature of a smooth curve with a vertex. That would explain the explosive extension of the KJS and its lack of any follow through. KJS moves the middle joint knuckle along the Y axis and the MJS moves the tip along the X axis. The critical timing of the free stroke may be that it must pluck the string at the vertex of the ellipse.

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Re: Efficient free-stroke according to Philip Hii /2

Post by kmurdick » Tue Sep 26, 2017 10:03 pm

Because the KJS moves up and down and the MJS moves back in forth (with the fingers in a mid range position), the tip moves in a type of ellipse (maybe close to a near perfect circle). This ellipse has a vertex where the the KJS has stopped completely and all the force is parallel to the top of the guitar. This is also the the point where the KJS begins its extension and the MJS begins its short (regenerative) follow through. It's the nature of a smooth curve with a vertex. That would explain the explosive extension of the KJS and its lack of any follow through. KJS moves the middle joint knuckle along the Y axis and the MJS moves the tip along the X axis. The critical timing of the free stroke may be that it must pluck the string at the vertex of the ellipse.

If any of what I'm saying is true, the optimal position for free stroke might be the middle joint knuckle directly over the string being played.

davekear
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Re: Efficient free-stroke according to Philip Hii /2

Post by davekear » Wed Sep 27, 2017 3:46 am

A lot of what everyone is saying here is true. If put under a microscope you can observe exactly what all parts of the finger are doing. However I have found that you can lose a bit of perspective if you over analyze and give too much significance to every little movement. If you're practicing techniques are good, your fingers will automatically be as natural and effortless as possible. And if this is so, the exact movements of your fingers need not be so scrutinized as to take your concentration away from more important things. Not to say that you shouldn't be aware of these things, just not too obsessed. Practice with proper techniques, correct hand position, planting etc., and just do it. The fingers will naturally do what they need to do. Effortlessness is the key. And this is accomplished by as little hand motion as is necessary. And since this is of interest here, most of the movement will come from your middle joint. But you really don't even need to be aware of that.
Here's my version of J.S. Bach BWV 998 Allegro. Although this piece is a monster, you'll see very little movement in my hand. And whatever my fingers are doing, it's simply what's necessary for the effortlessness that's called for.

Youtube

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guitarrista
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Re: Efficient free-stroke according to Philip Hii /2

Post by guitarrista » Wed Sep 27, 2017 6:02 am

Johnny Geudel wrote:
Tue Sep 26, 2017 6:24 pm
guitarrista wrote:
Tue Sep 26, 2017 4:36 pm
How would the knuckle joint push the string only in the perpendicular-to-guitar-top direction?
This question is answered by Marco Tamayo in his YT-video "Marco Tamayo shows how he files his nails", starting at 09.50 min.
Not really. Actually in his mind and with his words he describes the opposite - he says/explains that it is the horizontal force plus a ramp which results in a vertical component. That makes sense if it were a complete and accurate analysis - but of course there is also a vertical component to begin with; and you don't need a ramp or a nail at all to make a nice sound (which is a clue that his analysis is at least incomplete, if not deficient in some significant way). Anyway. The particulars are not important in any one specific case since they depend on the chosen hand-to-strings configuration and on the given fingertip and nail 3D shape and nail length. There are many ways to derive a beautiful sound - even with the same fingertips and nails configuration.
Konstantin
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1982 Anselmo Solar Gonzalez

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guitarrista
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Re: Efficient free-stroke according to Philip Hii /2

Post by guitarrista » Wed Sep 27, 2017 6:06 am

kmurdick wrote:
Tue Sep 26, 2017 6:04 pm
These are just approximations.
Well OK, never mind then.
Konstantin
--
1982 Anselmo Solar Gonzalez

PeteJ
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Re: Efficient free-stroke according to Philip Hii /2

Post by PeteJ » Tue Oct 17, 2017 12:43 pm

davekear - Very nice!

What's the guitar? Does it have a p/up? I'm looking for something like this.

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Re: Efficient free-stroke according to Philip Hii /2

Post by davekear » Tue Oct 17, 2017 6:15 pm

PeteJ wrote:
Tue Oct 17, 2017 12:43 pm
davekear - Very nice!

What's the guitar? Does it have a p/up? I'm looking for something like this.
Thanks PeteJ. That's a Kenny Hill La Curva. Not a bad guitar, clean sound, leaves a bit to be desired, but it's all right.
I'm an old rock-n-roller, got to have that cut-away. I think tradition gets in the way of function. I've had many luthiers
tell me that cut-away's can have just as good sound as traditional. But pretty large hurdle to get over. I know Byers and
other's have the raised fingerboards; just not the same though. (C'mon, where'd Hendrix be with only 12 frets)? :D
I have a lot of pop tunes in my repertoire, over 50 hours straight playing, and I'm gettin old and lazy. So all of my guitars
have a cut-away. And yes, I stuck a Fishman pick up system in there.

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