Tom Poore wrote:
Regarding Alice Artzt, it’s been a while since I watched her videos on the Ida Presti right hand technique. So I went back to refresh my memory:
It’s not long before Artzt says something with which I disagree. Skip to the 5:30 mark, where she describes the power grip. At 6:11 she says “your fingers basically come in toward your thumb—like wringing out a dish rag.” But why does she advocate this? It’s a more complex, less comfortable movement. If my fingers flex in a relaxed way, they go straight into my palm. They don’t flex toward the thumb—not if I flex them in the most comfortable way. Of course, I can flex them in the twisting manner Artzt describes. But why is this the preferred manner for a guitarist’s right hand technique? Artzt doesn’t justify it in any way. She merely says this is the way the hand works. To which I’d reply that this is one way the hand can work, but it’s certainly not the most comfortable way.
Artzt’s explanation of Presti’s right hand technique assumes an extremely questionable premise.
Sorry. I don’t buy it.
South Euclid, OH
I haven't watched again Artzt vídeo, but I think there is some misunderstanding or maybe she really wasn't able to do it totally clear.
I think you regularly make quite great points, but it is also quite easy to simply find out some wrong word or faulty scientific basis to disaprove some technique. But in my experience, there are several great players and teachers who fail to explain to enough scientific detail, nonetheless in practical lessons they can teach and show their experience better they can explain through words. Actually a practical approach is by far better, in my experience. My last teacher has a great teaching experience, he also has background in Alexander technique and other things, several people ask him to write something, but he answers he probably never will. He sais the reason is that a text is not as effective as presential demonstration and he thinks it is not even effective enough to make a point writing it. In his opinnion a book of hundred pages wouldn't address properly a problem a few minutes of live discussion and practical demonstration could reach. So he thinks it will only help increasing the misunderstandings and it wouldn't solve anything practically.
But in a forum and textual debate, there is no way to do it different than a scientific approach. I think trying to explain things at least makes us think in a clearer way in our search and even though I agree it may not directly solve issues, but devoloping the way we think might give important clues to get out from several traps.
So back to Presti technique, first I would like to say I don't use this techique, but I've tried for a while, totally on my own. I just want to make the Devil's advocate and trying to clear up things. First, besides what Artzt sais, she also shows. Remembering the famous "slow motion videos" topic, sometimes people don't exactly do what the say. we also know that finding effective words to explain is quite difficult.
About sound result, first thing I would say is that I agree we should be able to get similar results with both nail sides, since finger and nail are symetrical. Except those who have particular problems with nails, with hookings etc in different non-symetrical points, which is not so unnusual. So some might get better sound on either side according to personal details. Nonetheless, please tell me some players which adopt more regular technique with tone quality similar to Presti, Abiton, Assimakopoulos etc. There are great sounding players with regular technique, like Segovia or Bream, but they don't sound like the former. I am not saying who are better, they are just different.
About Artzt comments, the best image I've got from her explanation was the comparison of gripping a screwdriver. I think this may be the right physiological explanation for the different movement and it is something we find in physiology books. There are two things there: thumb against pinkie and some rotation or supination.
It is not true that fingers against thumb is worse, specially pinkie and ring finger against thumb. I don't know if it is better when applying to play the guitar, but it is an usual daily movement. It is so important you find in several physiology books as a basic hand movement group, it is considered a very powerful grip, and books demonstrate the special muscle groups in use, which are different from those for the toward the palm movement. Sorry I am not at home now, I don't have the books and I don't remember the correct name for the move, so I will call the "screwdriver grip", but this might not be so accurate. It is important to notice it is not actually a thumb-pinkie pinch grip. It is a mainly a grip from palm at the base of the hand.
Besides the pinky against thumb powerful grip, another important movement from this screwdriver analogy that Artzt comments, it is some sort of lateral wrist and arm supination movement. This movement works fine with Presti position, she demonstrates it in repeated chords explanation. Using a symmetric analysis, it would be equivalent to the opposite pronation movement for a regular technique. But then the Presti positioning is better because the supination helps thumb going down together, while in regular technique a pronation would collide thumb and fingers. I see some more use of a kind of pronation in Lute tehcnique, like in the index and thumb alternation, it seems to work better with so called thumbs-down lute technique.
So besides nail symmetry, supination and thumb against pinky movements do not have really the same results in a regular wrist positioning. I also noticed that the thumb against pinkie grip together with some pronation helps adding some lateral slide to the attack, which generates more round type of sound than a direct attack, like in the so called Segovian slip finger attack. This is what makes, IMO, this technique to generate a robust sound with different tone color when compared to regular "straight-passing" attack over strings.
Finally, both movements, the fist (regular technique) and the "screwdriver grip" (Presti technique) are natural ones, but I agree a straight fist movement approach seems simpler to digest how to apply to guitar playing. I also think the Presti technique is more dangerous in a way it is easier to get injury when doing wrong, while a straight fist is less sensitive to "wrong internal tensions".