Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Classical Guitar technique: studies, scales, arpeggios, theory
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msenecal
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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by msenecal » Mon Oct 29, 2018 12:13 am

I appreciate the tabletop analogy from a few pages back very much. People have been plucking strings for a really long time. And the idea that everybody comes to the guitar with a different body and a different history. That makes a lot of sense to me. I just need to do what comes naturally,, for the most part, listen to my body, so to speak, and fix the issues that arise as I improve, right? I hope I'm not oversimplifying. But on the other hand simplification is the goal, sort of. This was worth the read!

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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by kmurdick » Mon Oct 29, 2018 1:34 pm

msenecal wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 12:13 am
I appreciate the tabletop analogy from a few pages back very much. People have been plucking strings for a really long time. And the idea that everybody comes to the guitar with a different body and a different history. That makes a lot of sense to me. I just need to do what comes naturally,, for the most part, listen to my body, so to speak, and fix the issues that arise as I improve, right? I hope I'm not oversimplifying. But on the other hand simplification is the goal, sort of. This was worth the read!
What you are saying is true. However, only within certain parameters. You have to find these sensations of efficiency yourself, but you really need the direction of a qualified teacher.

kmurdick
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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by kmurdick » Mon Oct 29, 2018 1:47 pm

Let me add one more thing, Tom. Shearer used to tell me that if the free stroke (rest stroke as well IMO) was working well, it should feel like there are invisible rubber bands inside your hand moving the fingers. You might ask what were these rubber bands he was talking about?

Another thing that Shearer emphasized was the coordination of the middle and knuckle joints. He came to this conclusion because that's the way it feels; in fact that's the only sensation that you get from a good free stroke because the only voluntary motion that occurs is when the finger is about to strike the string. At this point one does essentially flex the middle and the knuckle joints at the same time. It also explains why Shearer was so successful teaching something that didn't actually happen.

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guitarrista
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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by guitarrista » Mon Oct 29, 2018 5:09 pm

kmurdick wrote:
Sun Oct 28, 2018 6:07 pm
But there are two kinds of flexion and extension: voluntary and involuntary. If you start with your fingers in mid range and rapidly close the fingers into a fist, this is voluntary flexion. It after closing the fingers into a fist, you relax the fingers, they will return to to mid range - this is involuntary extension. Voluntary extension/flexion will cause fatigue if there is no relief. Involuntary flexion/extension will not cause fatigue and can offer relief.
I don't know that all this is as established as you seem to present it. Some thoughts:

1. If you relax the fist it goes back to a less flexed state not because of "involuntary extension", but because it took a force to keep it in 'fist state' and as soon as you stop applying it (without applying any other muscle force - involuntary or not - it goes back to a stable state where various internal forces from tendon friction and elasticity are balanced. Therefore I don't think this example illustrates your concept.

2. I think by voluntary and involuntary maybe you mean conscious and subconscious (there is a difference). Insofar as subconscious relates to mental 'chunking', I agree that progress seems to require it in order to avoid one part of what we feel as fatigue.

3. As to the feeling of fatigue, it seems to have 3 components: a) conscious micromanaging of a complex motion (vs. chunking); b) not letting muscles have a break (vs. applying a very brief impulse-like force exactly when needed); and c) erroneously engaging muscles which are not involved in the motion (vs. only using the muscles needed). c) and b) can be compounded in using the wrong muscles and forcing them to fire without a break. All three aspects have to be worked on, not just a).

Somewhat related, I don't get the "ballistic motion" argument - which implies through its name that one's finger resets due to gravity. The fingertips are not akin to free-falling objects - there is resistance from tendons and muscles restricting a freely-unfolding finger; also a finger/tip unfolding has to pull on the flexor tendon and push the extensor tendon out of the way. This makes gravity a minor force in the mechanics of returning a fingertip to its pre-stroke position.

I think extensors are always employed to varying levels, regardless of whether the person feels that or not. More so when speed is important - there is just no time to wait for some sort of slow friction-mediated gravity "fall" to reposition the fingertip to its pre-stroke place. We also now have published studies involving actual measurements, and they show the extensor firing to return the finger. It is another matter whether we feel that.

What do people think about this?
Last edited by guitarrista on Mon Oct 29, 2018 8:20 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by Lawler » Mon Oct 29, 2018 7:02 pm

guitarrista wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 5:09 pm
...What do people think about this?
I too think the term, "ballistic" is misused re guitar technique. Unless a finger should happen to fall off the hand and drop to the floor. That's ballistic. :)

It seems many forum posts about right hand technique are really - bottom line - about wanting to play faster. It's good to keep in mind that we all have limitations in what we'll be able to achieve in that regard no matter how thoroughly we understand the mechanics of guitar technique. So go for your potential, everyone, but don't beat your head against the wall (or the car interior while making tremolo "I've discovered the secret finger movements!" videos)... or injure yourself... or lose your love of making music over it.

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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by kmurdick » Mon Oct 29, 2018 9:04 pm

Guitarista says: "1. If you relax the fist it goes back to a less flexed state not because of "involuntary extension", but because it took a force to keep it in 'fist state' and as soon as you stop applying it (without applying any other muscle force - involuntary or not - it goes back to a stable state where various internal forces from tendon friction and elasticity are balanced. Therefore I don't think this example illustrates your concept."

Ok, if you hold your hand out in front of you and move the fingers away from your body; that's extending the fingers. It doesn't matter what does it, it is extension. If you move the fingers toward the body, that's flexing the fingers. When you consciously flex you fingers, and then relax them, the fingers extend of their own volition, or as I call it, involuntary extension!! The reason this happens is, that the elasticity of the muscles and tendons involuntarily bring the the fingers back to equilibrium. In the language of physics, when you move the fingers from equilibrium, the muscles and tendons act like rubber bands and store the some of the energy expended (potential energy). It is probably necessary that this energy must be used a relief mechanism or the fingers will fatigue after a short burst. For example, lack of using an efficient relief mechanism is probably the reason most people can't master the tremolo or play an i and m free stroke alternation continuously at 144 mm (four notes to the click). Provost told me that his hand doctor (I think he was a student) stated that it is impossible for the fingers to play an i and m free stroke alternation continuously at 144 mm if they were forced to change direction in such a short amount of time, i.e. extension must be either completely or partially the result of expending this potential energy, again what I call involuntary extension which is not only unconscious, it is outside the nervous system (not chunking). As far fatigue goes, it is not a just feeling, it is the oxygen starvation of the muscles when they don't get relief.

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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by guitarrista » Mon Oct 29, 2018 9:21 pm

kmurdick wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 9:04 pm
Guitarista says: "1. If you relax the fist it goes back to a less flexed state not because of "involuntary extension", but because it took a force to keep it in 'fist state' and as soon as you stop applying it (without applying any other muscle force - involuntary or not - it goes back to a stable state where various internal forces from tendon friction and elasticity are balanced. Therefore I don't think this example illustrates your concept."

Ok, if you hold your hand out in front of you and move the fingers away from your body; that's extending the fingers. It doesn't matter what does it, it is extension.
Well if you use that as a definition i.e. that 'extension' does not necessarily imply using extensor muscles, than we are talking about that same thing about the fist I guess. I have to re-read it all now with that in mind. In any case, nothing's wrong with what you call voluntary extension
(it may be 'voluntary' but not noticeable/felt by the person); that by itself is not making one fatigued. I gather you disagree.
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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by guitarrista » Mon Oct 29, 2018 9:46 pm

kmurdick wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 9:04 pm
For example, lack of using an efficient relief mechanism is probably the reason most people can't master the tremolo or play an i and m free stroke alternation continuously at 144 mm (four notes to the click). Provost told me that his hand doctor (I think he was a student) stated that it is impossible for the fingers to play an i and m free stroke alternation continuously at 144 mm if they were forced to change direction in such a short amount of time, i.e. extension must be either completely or partially the result of expending this potential energy, again what I call involuntary extension which is not only unconscious, it is outside the nervous system (not chunking). As far fatigue goes, it is not a just feeling, it is the oxygen starvation of the muscles when they don't get relief.
But flexors and extensors are physically different muscles. If each provides a very short impulse force at the precise moment it is needed, each has plenty of time to rest. I posted once a figure showing exactly that from a study comparing professional to amateur piano players.

BTW, speedy scales would not rely on aerobic metabolism - more likely anaerobic (glycolysis) or a mix. Sure, physiological fatigue would occur - maybe quickly when topping 240mm i-m alternation. Not sure what 'continuously' means above, but if it is literal, then it is a trivial statement - you would exhaust yourself at some point for sure. In playing guitar, we don't need continuous, but rather 5-10-20, 30 seconds at the most, for intense(*) passages.

It seems we are talking about very similar things, just in different way. One difference is that I don't limit relief to require what you can involuntary extension - it can be actual use of the extensor muscles, which does not affect the time the flexors get to rest; and vice versa.

(*) I would not call tremolo at 144mm intense; each finger's flexor and extensor has plenty of time to rest. For me tremolo is chiefly about learning the precise coordination between fingers rather than about speed.
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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by kmurdick » Mon Oct 29, 2018 10:04 pm

Involuntary extensions does not require any electrical/chemical process to shorten the muscle. It is purely a mechanical process based (I suppose) on the fact that the actual substance that tendons and muscles are made of also have some of the same properties as rubber bands. BTW, I was wrong about the chemical reason for fatique. It might (or might not) be caused by a build up of lactic acid.

If you can play an i and m free stroke alternation on the 2nd string at 144 mm (four notes per click) for at least 40 notes, you probably have an efficient free stroke. That's what I mean by continuous. I would guess that fewer than 10% of classical guitarist can do this.

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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by Crofty » Mon Oct 29, 2018 10:04 pm

What is clearly true is that the fingers "enjoy" being in mid-range position and fairly close to each other although they can do an extraordinary amount of other complex things with the use of directed force.

But if you hold a relaxed had out and relax the fingers, when you push one of them down with the opposite hand then is automatically springs back. Personally I find it does that more fully if I am pushing a finger inwards than outwards but the difference is minimal.

What that tells me is that it makes no sense for players to deliberately go against that natural action if it serves no purpose. Especially since, once you deliberately restrict the return impulse - even for a second - then the natural return impulse is lost and you have to use muscle power to achieve the same result.

I wonder if the habit of teaching rest strokes first, which many players do, is part of this problem. The very word is wrong suggesting, as it does, that the plucking finger is actually required to stay against the lower string, "at rest", rather than simply bouncing back.

Another element in that is [what I regard as old fashioned] advice to slightly flatten the wrist when playing rest strokes. In my view this tends to inhibit the return impulse. My own rh technique - and advice to pupils - is that one should be able to play both rest and free strokes without any deviation of the rh position and with the thumb either almost touching the i finger or possibly just against the adjacent lower string.

I was discussing this with a close friend yesterday - a really fine player and scholar who also plays lute - and he reminded me about Gordon Crosskey saying that any rh position which did not allow easy use of a rest stroke thumb was wrong - something we both agreed with and which also fits into the points raised in the previous paragraph.

I'm interested to hear what others do - and why.

Paul

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guitarrista
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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by guitarrista » Mon Oct 29, 2018 10:20 pm

kmurdick wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 10:04 pm
Involuntary extensions does not require any electrical/chemical process to shorten the muscle. It is purely a mechanical process based (I suppose) on the fact that the actual substance that tendons and muscles are made of also have some of the same properties as rubber bands.
No that's fine, no argument there once I understood what you mean by involuntary extension.
kmurdick wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 10:04 pm
If you can play an i and m free stroke alternation on the 2nd string at 144 mm (four notes per click) for at least 40 notes, you probably have an efficient free stroke. That's what I mean by continuous.
I guess both the intensity and duration matters, so this is 9.6 strokes/sec, for 4.2+ seconds. ok.
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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by astro64 » Mon Oct 29, 2018 11:15 pm

Interesting discussion. I had noticed just recently watching Tennant's tremolo how fast his fingers return to the string. Then the same point was emphasized in Pepe Romero's video on the tremolo (Scott studied with Pepe, so no surprise there). This is very different than what I had read in the past where the tremolo was described as a "sympathetic movement of ami, like drumming the fingers on a table". As part of this description "a" would not return to the string until "p" plays. At fast speed, it still looks that way but the key point (the need to relax that finger immediately after it strikes the string and not until later) remains. I will be practicing the single finger stroke/release sensation for the next months. Already I can tell that just a bit of this is making the tremolo more even. It will also be interesting to see if this realization makes the "im" or "ma" alternations in free stroke faster.

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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by kmurdick » Tue Oct 30, 2018 2:41 pm

Lawler says, "I too think the term, "ballistic" is misused re guitar technique. Unless a finger should happen to fall off the hand and drop to the floor. That's ballistic. :) "

The physics term is "impulse". It's a near instantaneous force. When a gun goes off, the bullet receives an impulse from the explosion and then the bullet is on it's own. I believe the same thing happens with a guitar stroke. The actual flexing begins a short distance before the finger touches the string and then ceases the moment the finger passes through the the string -and explosion of force, so to speak. The rest of the stroke is involuntary. ( I'm talking main about very rapid movements here.)

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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by kmurdick » Tue Oct 30, 2018 3:02 pm

Crofty says; "What that tells me is that it makes no sense for players to deliberately go against that natural action if it serves no purpose. Especially since, once you deliberately restrict the return impulse - even for a second - then the natural return impulse is lost and you have to use muscle power to achieve the same result."

You might be on to something here. I think rest stroke should be taught the same way free stroke is taught. The fingers should never remain rested on the rest string. The should be allow to return naturally to their rest position. Also, I like the statement, " it makes no sense for players to deliberately go against that natural action if it serves no purpose."

My current view on tremolo is that you start slow doing these steps.

1) the fingers are suspended above the strings
2) a flexes and then naturally returns
3) m flexes and then naturally returns
4) i flexes and then naturally returns
5) P plays
Don't try to stop any unused fingers from flexing or extending of their own volition. Once this sequence of impulses is totally natural at a slow speed; increase speed and don't worry about what happens. Whatever degree of sympathetic motion needed, will happen. From here on out you must rely on feel not theory. The trick is to NOT artificially extend or flex any fingers.

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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by Lawler » Tue Oct 30, 2018 3:43 pm

kmurdick wrote:
Tue Oct 30, 2018 2:41 pm
... then the bullet is on it's own. I believe the same thing happens with a guitar stroke...
Personally, I use "ballistic" to describe an object in free flight, whether its initial propulsion happened rapidly (bullet fired) or more gradually (ballistic missile). Since my fingers stay attached to my hand as I play, I don't think of ballistics as applying. You've described in text and vid how you think of finger movements, so I'd say whatever term you want to use matters less than having done that. Not worth arguing over. :)

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