Right *arm*: Rest on the bout or not...

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John Kotopka

Right *arm*: Rest on the bout or not...

Post by John Kotopka » Mon Jul 26, 2010 10:35 pm

Question on the right arm: What do people mean by resting the arm on the bout of the guitar? That is, how much "weight" is placed when resting this arm on the guitar?

This might seem a terribly beginner question, and it probably is or at least should be, but as a re-beginner (or even someone with years under his belt), I don't think I've ever seen this question adequately addressed. Until recently I pretty much let the arm completely relax with the majority of the weight of the arm resting on the guitar (like an arm-rest in a chair), but I now realize that this technique has some serious flaws: It's difficult to adjust tone colors vis a vis tasto or ponticello, it's difficult to play long (i.e. 2+ octave) scale passages with a correct fingering addressing of the strings, the weight of the arm seems to deaden the guitar's resonance and volume, and there is a problem, with me at least, where the guitar bout seems to dig into some nerve center in the arm that makes the hand and fingers feel "weird" after a while.

Lately I've tried not "resting" the arm on the guitar, but lightly touching the guitar with that general part of the arm more as a point-of-reference. I think I am making progress, but I seem to have a newly developed problem with neck tension [that is, tension in *my* neck, not the neck of the guitar :) ]. To try to address this problem, I'm trying to play with "poise" and "posture" rather than any kind of strength, but I think I'm missing something important.

What is meant by "resting" the arm on the guitar, is it feasible to learn to play without the right arm even touching the guitar, and is this something that's been discussed here ad nauseum?

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freestroke
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Re: Right *arm*: Rest on the bout or not...

Post by freestroke » Tue Jul 27, 2010 1:04 am

I think you'll find some answers here:

viewtopic.php?f=4&t=51474

Gotta love Pavel! What a character! :lol:
Hell is full of amateur musicians -- GB Shaw

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Larry McDonald
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Re: Right *arm*: Rest on the bout or not...

Post by Larry McDonald » Tue Jul 27, 2010 1:18 am

jckoto,
This is a very good question, and not so much a beginner issue.

First, if I understand you correctly, a bout is simply a 'hip' and/or chest of the guitar. We speak of upper and lower left and right bouts.

First, if you are experiencing ANY numbness in the hands or fingers, you are doing something incorrectly. Most likely, you are putting too much pressure on the ulnar nerve. This is not a good thing and can result in a RSI (Repetitive Stress Injury) or ulnar tunnel syndrome. Be sure that the arm is resting on the large muscle group and not in the crook of the elbow.

There is a significant positive effect to resting on this muscle group, which contains the digitorum extensor profundis, the large muscle that extends the fingers. Pressure at this point will help extend the fingers without active use of the muscle group. I think (and it's only my belief, and I'm no physician) that this impulse to extend the fingers, along with gravity, the relaxing of the intrinsic muscles of the hand, and the elasticity of the tendons themselves, is enough -and quick enough- to extend the fingers without the big digitorum extensor profundis being used.

Now, regarding the difficulty of moving from sul tasto and sul ponticello, I had this same issue. I found that the commercially available "nylon guitar sleeve" allowed for my arm to easily move back and forth. I also use it for the rare (for me) "flat hand school" descending scales. I always wear a suit for performance -a good Italian one- so I don't need the nylon sleeve on stage. My good friend Steve Waugh uses a cut off sweat sock.

I recently had an arm rest installed by Michael Thames on my terrific Thames guitar, who is one of our members, bye the way. This was the best answer, especially when I use the guitar sleeve. The rest is a slippery unfinished Brazilian rosewood. It's was expertly cut and installed, and I've no discomfort. Plus, my sound improved because I wasn't muting the top with my arm.

I think lifting your arm off the guitar is not and answer because you will need to continuously engage the muscles in your shoulder. This often is translated as dysfunctional tension in the arms and hands. I haven't seen this satisfactorily done yet, but I never say never.

Lastly, there have been some recent experiments with devices that allow you to not rest your arm on the guitar. I haven't tried any of these so I cannot offer any advice about their success or failure.

All the best,
Larry McDonald

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Re: Right *arm*: Rest on the bout or not...

Post by Luis_Br » Tue Jul 27, 2010 2:04 am

I think the best way is not to simply let it fall down, but just gently touch the guitar.
But it vary acording to the overall posture you adopt. Those who play with guitar on the right leg, like flamenco guitarists, may let more arm weight over the guitar.
I've been trying a posture developed by my teacher, which has influence on Galbraith's style with his cello-like positioning, and I do not rest right arm on the guitar at all. On this posture elbow is much lower and it is easy to hold whole arm without needing to rest it over the guitar. To me, this arm freedom has been a major improvement to RH technique.

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Re: Right *arm*: Rest on the bout or not...

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Tue Jul 27, 2010 2:37 am

Larry McDonald wrote: I think lifting your arm off the guitar is not and answer because you will need to continuously engage the muscles in your shoulder. This often is translated as dysfunctional tension in the arms and hands. I haven't seen this satisfactorily done yet, but I never say never.

Lastly, there have been some recent experiments with devices that allow you to not rest your arm on the guitar. I haven't tried any of these so I cannot offer any advice about their success or failure.
Yet cellists, bassists, and every other instrumentalist do not rest their arm on their instruments. There is a point where you can allow your arm to "hang" without engaging the arm muscles to introduce excess. You have to learn where this point is, but it is achievable. I rarely play with my arm in contact with my instrument, and I use a system that was developed by my college professor. I can honestly say that it has freed up my playing a lot since converting to it about 4 years ago.

I've also recently bought an arm rest that is attached via suction cups (a temporary one until my Luither installs one). While I rarely make contact with my guitar, I've found it as a nice way of keeping my hand position in check as it is the perfect height (just a millimeter or so shorter then I need). If I do let my arm rest, it doesn't have a long place to fall thus keeping my right hand wrist still aligned.
Nick Cutroneo - Classical Guitarist, performer/teacher/suzuki instructor

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Larry McDonald
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Re: Right *arm*: Rest on the bout or not...

Post by Larry McDonald » Tue Jul 27, 2010 5:05 am

Nick Cutroneo wrote:Yet cellists, bassists, and every other instrumentalist do not rest their arm on their instruments. There is a point where you can allow your arm to "hang" without engaging the arm muscles to introduce excess. You have to learn where this point is, but it is achievable. I rarely play with my arm in contact with my instrument, and I use a system that was developed by my college professor. I can honestly say that it has freed up my playing a lot since converting to it about 4 years ago.
jckoto,

If Nick says it works, believe him. He is one of the very best teachers ever to post on this forum.

Nick,
I would love to see you play again. Simply hanging the arm would seem to be a great solution to a lot of issues, but I've never tried this. Do you have a video that shows your teachers system?

Lare

wianno

Re: Right *arm*: Rest on the bout or not...

Post by wianno » Tue Jul 27, 2010 12:27 pm

jckoto,

If you wish to barre correctly, you will need to apply arm pressure on the top of your guitar with your right arm to counter your pull on the neck with your left arm, so arm contact is essential at times. I have resorted with great success to an arm rest custom built for my guitar by luthier Kris Barnett (see this recent arm rest discussion viewtopic.php?f=71&t=47295 .) A properly designed arm rest will help you to keep most of your arm off the guitar top and help you to elevate your wrist.

Jack

Nick Cutroneo
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Re: Right *arm*: Rest on the bout or not...

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Tue Jul 27, 2010 12:44 pm

Larry McDonald wrote:
Nick Cutroneo wrote:Yet cellists, bassists, and every other instrumentalist do not rest their arm on their instruments. There is a point where you can allow your arm to "hang" without engaging the arm muscles to introduce excess. You have to learn where this point is, but it is achievable. I rarely play with my arm in contact with my instrument, and I use a system that was developed by my college professor. I can honestly say that it has freed up my playing a lot since converting to it about 4 years ago.
jckoto,

If Nick says it works, believe him. He is one of the very best teachers ever to post on this forum.

Nick,
I would love to see you play again. Simply hanging the arm would seem to be a great solution to a lot of issues, but I've never tried this. Do you have a video that shows your teachers system?

Lare
Thanks for the kind words Lare. My YouTube videos do show the system to a point, but it is quite hard to see, even 5 feet away. Perhaps I'll make an article and video to show how to the system works. It's quite simple. I have two suction cups on either side of the guitar, and use old guitar strings with loops at both ends. I use a slip knot to connect the old strings to my belt loops, and then just wrap the open loop around the end of the suction cups. I use two because I also use a guitar support to hold the instrument. If I were using a footstool, I'd probably only need one.
Nick Cutroneo - Classical Guitarist, performer/teacher/suzuki instructor

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freestroke
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Re: Right *arm*: Rest on the bout or not...

Post by freestroke » Tue Jul 27, 2010 12:55 pm

wianno wrote:jckoto,

If you wish to barre correctly, you will need to apply arm pressure on the top of your guitar with your right arm to counter your pull on the neck with your left arm...

Jack
I always thought so, but from what Nick Cutroneo and Luis_Br are saying, this seems to be passe. I understand how Paul Galbraith's position works (not that I can do it), with the force against the floor and the left shoulder, but I'm not quite grokking how you can avoid gripping the neck to make a barre without right arm force against the guitar. (It seems to me that Nick IS using the right arm, but the video is rather dark.)
Hell is full of amateur musicians -- GB Shaw

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Re: Right *arm*: Rest on the bout or not...

Post by Luis_Br » Tue Jul 27, 2010 11:16 pm

freestroke wrote: but I'm not quite grokking how you can avoid gripping the neck to make a barre without right arm force against the guitar.
In my case, I put a suction cup tied to my pants on the right side of the guitar so it prevents guitar from sliding away.

I don't use arm on barres anymore, I think it is not necessary (finger muscle does almost the same job, since its muscle is still the one who holds the arm "weight" and transmits it to the barre). But I do use "arm weight" to some extent (to make accents on slurs, for example) and suction cup does the job holding the guitar...

Nick Cutroneo
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Re: Right *arm*: Rest on the bout or not...

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Wed Jul 28, 2010 1:43 am

freestroke wrote:
wianno wrote:jckoto,

If you wish to barre correctly, you will need to apply arm pressure on the top of your guitar with your right arm to counter your pull on the neck with your left arm...

Jack
I always thought so, but from what Nick Cutroneo and Luis_Br are saying, this seems to be passe. I understand how Paul Galbraith's position works (not that I can do it), with the force against the floor and the left shoulder, but I'm not quite grokking how you can avoid gripping the neck to make a barre without right arm force against the guitar. (It seems to me that Nick IS using the right arm, but the video is rather dark.)
Using my teacher's "invention" with the suction cups and old guitar strings, I don't have to worry about my arm weight moving the instrument. Also, if at any time there's contact with the guitar and my right arm, there is no pressure, but rather a light tackle sensation.
Nick Cutroneo - Classical Guitarist, performer/teacher/suzuki instructor

Luis_Br
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Re: Right *arm*: Rest on the bout or not...

Post by Luis_Br » Wed Jul 28, 2010 4:09 am

Nick Cutroneo wrote: Using my teacher's "invention" with the suction cups and old guitar strings, I don't have to worry about my arm weight moving the instrument. Also, if at any time there's contact with the guitar and my right arm, there is no pressure, but rather a light tackle sensation.
Nick,
I've seen your youtube video playing Sakura Variations (great interpretation, by the way) and I would say our way to hold the guitar is quite similar. I noticed the guitar is quite stable and you just gently touches it with right arm. I think even the way we use suction cups tied to pants or belt to hold the guitar may be similar. Actually it is an obvious thing to do if you just think a little bit on how to hold the guitar without using arms. Some students from my teacher liked the idea and they use 3 or more suction cups tied to some part of the body or cloth. They cannot say they play unplugged... :-? (terrible joke).

Difference between your posture and the one I am trying to learn is that I just twist the guitar with soundboard pointing a little bit up, which brings both elbows even lower. A lot of methods and teachers do not recommend twisting soundboard up and I agree with that if we use a traditional Segovian/Tarrega posture, because it will recquire a big wrist break. But if we use a higher neck in a more vertical way, like a lot of modern players, twisting up is actually good because you don't need to elevate hand that much.
Galbraith's position would be an extreme I don't like very much because it is too vertical and right hand angle is too perpendicular to strings. Guitar neck is almost touching Galbraith's neck. Allthough ergonomically, Galbraith's posture is wonderful, I can only obtain a good tone with more RH angle, so my position is some sort of intermediary between yours and Galbraith's.

Here we can see Galbraith:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l56n0-kUqpM
And here my teacher:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BFGJfL3Md0
And we can notice the latter put the guitar more diagonally, obtaining more angle to RH attack. I would say I use even more angle than my teacher, but I am just adapting myself to this postition. I've been trying it for a few months, but I really decided to keep it a few weeks ago.

Nick Cutroneo
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Re: Right *arm*: Rest on the bout or not...

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Wed Jul 28, 2010 12:25 pm

Actually I angle the guitar soundboard up quite a bit, and the neck of my instrument is quite high. I have the nut at about eye level (while most people talk about the headstock at eye level, which then creates a bunch of other problems...)

The system is effective, but I get many "weird" looks when I explain it to people. But personally, I'd rather walk on stage without worrying that I forgot something (like a footstool or a cloth to keep the guitar from moving). And I don't have to fumble to get myself ready. But it is an unconventional method, and people are always cautious and skeptical about change.
Nick Cutroneo - Classical Guitarist, performer/teacher/suzuki instructor

Kenny

Re: Right *arm*: Rest on the bout or not...

Post by Kenny » Thu Jul 29, 2010 2:48 am

This might seem silly, but resting my arm in the guitar bothered my tendons so i got a sock and stuffed it with cotton. then i sewed each end in a way that i could use the sock as a bracelet close to the elbow . IT allows freedom of hand and the guitar bout doesnt bother me anymore :D.

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Re: Right *arm*: Rest on the bout or not...

Post by Luis_Br » Fri Jul 30, 2010 3:25 am

Kenny wrote:This might seem silly, but resting my arm in the guitar bothered my tendons so i got a sock and stuffed it with cotton. then i sewed each end in a way that i could use the sock as a bracelet close to the elbow . IT allows freedom of hand and the guitar bout doesnt bother me anymore :D.
It is a common accessory, check David Russell using it:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMqCfKwH7kA
Here you will find one with a rigid part internally which, IMO, is even better, because the guitar corner bothers even less and the arm can slip very easily over it:
http://www.matepis.com.br/English/luva_armpad
I use the last one when I play in the "traditional" position and it is great.
It also protects the guitar against sweating...

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