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  1. #1

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    Hi,
    I'm a HUGE Wes Montgomery fan (who isn't? ) and I always wanted to master his right hand technique because to me nothing sounds warmer and smother than your thumb. I always played everything Jazz related with a flatpick but recently I started to use my thumb pretty much everytime I grab my ES 165.
    Coming from years of Gypsy Jazz, apply the "rest stroke" technique to the thumb was relatively easy to do, but I want to go deeper into it and learn as much as I can.
    I'm looking for a good book about his right hand technique, do you have something to reccomend?

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  3. #2

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    I don't know of a book on this, I would just say keep doing it and it will improve. Over the years I've used my thumb quite a bit when I couldn't be bothered to look for the pick, and it's surprising how much facility you can get with it. But it didn't come overnight.

    I've found I can even do upstrokes a bit with the thumb now, it opens up a sort of limited alternate picking which is handy.

  4. #3

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    Wes Montgomery had a double-jointed thumb, let's not forget. I'm wondering how many folks are trying to copy what he did with their normal thumbs?

  5. #4

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    Jim Mullen does a pretty good job with a normal thumb as far as I know.

  6. #5

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    I'm not an anatomy expert so I can't say if having a double-jointed thumb would make things easier, but this technique is definitely doable with a "normal" thumb, at least for me. Or maybe my thumb is double-jointed too, I don't know. :P
    Playing this way forced me to rely more on melody, "context" phrasing, expressivity and less on licks and common arpeggios I would normally do. It's inevitable, if you think about it: you can't play as fast as you do with a flatpick so you're forced to give more attention to every note you play and develop a different kind of solo approach.
    The use of legato, hammer on, pull-off and sweep picking will come out naturally over time, as well as playing the fingerboard more vertically than horizontally. That makes things easier and helps developing decent speed.

    The reason why I'm asking for a book about Wes Montgomery right hand technique is because I feel stuck. I learned the basics but I'd like to play some exercises and get new ideas.

  7. #6

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    Double jointed or not, just about everything Wes did with that thumb was a downstroke.

  8. #7

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    So... recommend me a book. Why not?

  9. #8

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    I don't know of one.

    Personally, I'd grab a real book, work on some easy heads thumb only, then play them as octaves. Watch some Wes vids, see how he "anchors" his hand (though I'm not sure that part is necessary)

    See you in 1000 hours or so

    (Actually, this sounds like fun, I know what I'm doing today.)

  10. #9

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    I'm trying to imagine what a book on the Wes thumb technique would look like. Might be more of a pamphlet.
    What is making you feel "stuck"? Is it a speed thing? Fluidity?
    If you're just looking for exercises, any would work. Find some exercises you like and make the thumb technique work for them. To have them be "thumb specific" would defeat the purpose.

  11. #10

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    I play with my thumb and am not double jointed and am no where any where close to sounding like Wes I have noticed that the angle at which the thumb is striking the strings dramatically changes the tone . Striking the string with the thumb basically parallel to the string and using the side of the thumb produces a comparatively bright tone. If you angle your thumb so it is striking the string more at a 45 degree angle to the string and starting the stroke angled up at 45 degrees so when you down stroke you are now using the flat fleshy underside of your thumb and the tone is very Wes like- full warm and rounded.I have to angle my wrist in at maybe 30 to 40 degrees to get my thumb in the right position/attitude to get the tone I like. Perhaps that is where his double jointed thumb comes in as he looks like he naturally does the 45/45 degree stroke. Hope that helps

    Will

  12. #11

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    Buy Steve Khan's book and practice sections as "exercises:" The West Montgomery Guitar Folio: Steve Khan: 9780615397566: Amazon.com: Books

    I'm also not aware of any "Wes' Thumb" technique books.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont
    Watch some Wes vids
    I think this is key -- along with your observation that most of what Wes did was a downstroke. Anyone who wants to study his style will soon find that played most of his lines by moving up and down the neck -- not staying in one position for very long.

    Mark Stefani has a series called "Thumbprints" (I believe) where he teaches Wes-style lines using either pick or thumb. I once wrote to him about it, and he said one of the ways to introduce yourself to that way of playing is to take lines you already know, and restrict yourself to playing them at tempo, using only downstrokes. That way, you force yourself to find notes in different places along the neck. The series isn't advertised on his site, but available if you contact him and ask for it. Mark's very accessible by phone or e-mail, and I'm sure he'd be able to tell you more than I have about playing like Wes. He'd also most likely tell you that Wolf Marshall is the go-to guy when it comes to learning Wes note-for-note.

    Vision Music's "Contact" Page

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by morroben
    What is making you feel "stuck"? Is it a speed thing? Fluidity?
    Both things, mostly speed.
    When using my thumb I tend to use different fingerings. A vertical approach on the fingerboard is easier and more natural, I'd like to see some examples of the exact fingerings and techniques he used (legato, hammer on, pull off etc.) because I come from a different style of playing and tend to approach the fingerboard differently. Some times I get it by myself, some times I don't and struggle expecially with faster passages. I'm almost there but I'm missing something.

    Quote Originally Posted by WillMbCdn5
    I play with my thumb and am not double jointed and am no where any where close to sounding like Wes I have noticed that the angle at which the thumb is striking the strings dramatically changes the tone . Striking the string with the thumb basically parallel to the string and using the side of the thumb produces a comparatively bright tone. If you angle your thumb so it is striking the string more at a 45 degree angle to the string and starting the stroke angled up at 45 degrees so when you down stroke you are now using the flat fleshy underside of your thumb and the tone is very Wes like- full warm and rounded.I have to angle my wrist in at maybe 30 to 40 degrees to get my thumb in the right position/attitude to get the tone I like. Perhaps that is where his double jointed thumb comes in as he looks like he naturally does the 45/45 degree stroke. Hope that helps
    Will
    After a while I found myself anchoring my right hand on the pickguard exactly like he did and my thumb angle is just right. I don't have any problem getting a round warm tone, I need to find a way to be more fluid.
    Maybe I just need something new to practice over, without a "guide" I tend to play the same things that I'm able to play and that's why I'm stuck, I guess.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by snailspace
    ong.

    Mark Stefani has a series called "Thumbprints" (I believe) where he teaches Wes-style lines using either pick or thumb. I once wrote to him about it, and he said one of the ways to introduce yourself to that way of playing is to take lines you already know, and restrict yourself to playing them at tempo, using only downstrokes. That way, you force yourself to find notes in different places along the neck. The series isn't advertised on his site, but available if you contact him and ask for it. Mark's very accessible by phone or e-mail, and I'm sure he'd be able to tell you more than I have about playing like Wes. He'd also most likely tell you that Wolf Marshall is the go-to guy when it comes to learning Wes note-for-note.
    I didn't know about this series but I do know that Mark's a great guy and, although busy, responsive to those who write and ask him things. I keep hoping we'll see more of him around here...

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by emicad
    Both things, mostly speed.
    When using my thumb I tend to use different fingerings. A vertical approach on the fingerboard is easier and more natural, I'd like to see some examples of the exact fingerings and techniques he used (legato, hammer on, pull off etc.) because I come from a different style of playing and tend to approach the fingerboard differently. Some times I get it by myself, some times I don't and struggle expecially with faster passages. I'm almost there but I'm missing something.


    After a while I found myself anchoring my right hand on the pickguard exactly like he did and my thumb angle is just right. I don't have any problem getting a round warm tone, I need to find a way to be more fluid.
    Maybe I just need something new to practice over, without a "guide" I tend to play the same things that I'm able to play and that's why I'm stuck, I guess.
    Wolf Marshall's book has what you're looking for as far as slurs, hammer-on, pull-offs, etc. I have the book (in fact, I'm working on "Missile Blues" -- the first selection -- right now), but I don't recall that he says too much about fingerings. Any video will show that Wes mainly used the first three left-hand fingers for playing lines, although he did use his little finger from time to time.

    Best of Wes Montgomery, Signature Licks - Hal Leonard Online



    The 625 Alive book is reportedly even more detailed, and (because it was transcribed from a performance video) does include fingerings. I don't have this one yet, but -- because I've designated the next twelve practice months as "The Year of Wes" -- it's high on my list.

    WesMontgomeryBook.com *

  17. #16

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    I've wondered for a long time how he fingered West Coast Blues. I know he used position shifts a lot. Here and there, I've been able to figure out something that suddenly made one of his lines easy to play -- usually involving slides and position shifts rather than being in one position and stretching.

    But, for West Coast Blues, I can't seem to find the key. I can play it my own way without difficulty, but when I try to use three fingers, I can't figure out how he must have done it. Unless, he used his pinkie for this tune.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    I've wondered for a long time how he fingered West Coast Blues. I know he used position shifts a lot. Here and there, I've been able to figure out something that suddenly made one of his lines easy to play -- usually involving slides and position shifts rather than being in one position and stretching.

    But, for West Coast Blues, I can't seem to find the key. I can play it my own way without difficulty, but when I try to use three fingers, I can't figure out how he must have done it. Unless, he used his pinkie for this tune.
    There's a few seconds of Wes seen playing it at 7 minutes in on this video:


  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    I've wondered for a long time how he fingered West Coast Blues. I know he used position shifts a lot. Here and there, I've been able to figure out something that suddenly made one of his lines easy to play -- usually involving slides and position shifts rather than being in one position and stretching.

    But, for West Coast Blues, I can't seem to find the key. I can play it my own way without difficulty, but when I try to use three fingers, I can't figure out how he must have done it. Unless, he used his pinkie for this tune.
    I found a tab online and I changed some fingering patterns to make things more fluid using the thumb. I'll post a tab as soon as I learn the theme.

  20. #19

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    Here is an article I found on Wes Montgomery's "sound" that includes some discussion of the thumb technique. Don't know if it will help or not, but I hope it does.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  21. #20

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    I've wondered for a long time how he fingered West Coast Blues. I know he used position shifts a lot. Here and there, I've been able to figure out something that suddenly made one of his lines easy to play -- usually involving slides and position shifts rather than being in one position and stretching.

    But, for West Coast Blues, I can't seem to find the key. I can play it my own way without difficulty, but when I try to use three fingers, I can't figure out how he must have done it. Unless, he used his pinkie for this tune.

  22. #21

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    There was an article about Wes's right hand and thumb technique in the August '98 issue of Guitar Player magazine. The issue was actually a Wes tribute.

    The article itself is just a few paragraphs long, really just mentioning how he extended his index and middle fingers, and rested them on the guitars sound board, (hence the mother of pearl decoration on the upper bout cutaway side, where he'd actually worn through the guitar finish).

    Here's a copy for sale,
    GUITAR PLAYER MAGAZINE WES MONTGOMERY SONIC YOUTH RARE

    I have a copy of this issue somewhere.

    To be honest, I would suggest watching some videos of Wes playing live. Some close scrutiny of his hand will probably give a better idea than a written description.

  23. #22

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    Lots of infos, thanks guys.

  24. #23

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    The best Wes Montgomery book -- hands down, no question -- is "625 Alive: The BBC Performance Transcribed" by Tim Fitzgerald.

    WesMontgomeryBook.com *

    Tim took Wes' BBC video and transcribed everything with the exact fingerings.

  25. #24

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    Just out of curiosity, and relevance to this thread on Wes's right hand technique, I wondered if anyone might be familiar with either of these items about Wes,

    Firstly, a book,titled the "Wes Montgomery, Jazz Guitar Method". This was published in 1968, and as far as I know, was the first book on Wes's style. Anyone familiar with it, or know if it describes "the thumb" technique ? (Good pic of "the thumb" on the cover BTW),
    Jazz guitar method: Amazon.co.uk: Wes Montgomery: Books

    Also, author/teacher/player, Adrian Ingram did a DVD some years back, anyone know if this has any relevant info?
    The Guitar Style of Wes Montgomery [DVD]: Amazon.co.uk: Adrian Ingram: DVD & Blu-ray

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by dasein
    The best Wes Montgomery book -- hands down, no question -- is "625 Alive: The BBC Performance Transcribed" by Tim Fitzgerald.

    WesMontgomeryBook.com *

    Tim took Wes' BBC video and transcribed everything with the exact fingerings.
    I contacted Tim to get the book, it seems a great resource.
    I can't understand if audio samples are included in the book or do I need to get the DVD? An audio CD would be enough for me, just for reference.

    PS: I did some online research and I discovered the my thumb is probably double jointed. I'm not 100% sure and I don't care that much, I was just curious.
    Last edited by emicad; 01-18-2017 at 10:16 AM.

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by emicad
    I contacted Tim to get the book, it seems a great resource.
    I can't understand if audio samples are included in the book or do I need to get the DVD? An audio CD would be enough for me, just for reference.

    PS: I did some online research and I discovered the my thumb is probably double jointed. I'm not 100% sure and I don't care that much, I was just curious.
    Pretty sure most, if not all, of the clips are on YouTube.

  28. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by dasein
    Pretty sure most, if not all, of the clips are on YouTube.
    Oh, well... that's great. Thanks.

  29. #28

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    Ok, after a little bit of research, here's what I've got,

    It would appear that Wes's default position is,

    the point of thumb contacting the strings is apporox 1 inch behind the neck pickup, ie. completely clear of both the pickup and the mounting ring. This is going to affect the amount of resistance that the strings offer at that point in their scale length.

    the index finger is fully extended, when at rest, the fingertip is basically on the pickguard binding, more on this later,

    the middle finger is fully extended, and touching the guitars soundboard,

    the ring finger is fully extended, right down to the waist of the guitar, often at rest on the top binding,

    the pickguard mounting bracket is in between the ring and little fingers !

    the little finger is fully extended, down to the waist of the guitar, often at rest on the binding, often placed touching the rear side of the pickguard bracket,

    the wrist is lifted clear off the strings at all times,

    the thumb itself is curved back, and all motion is generated from the large base joint,

    the whole hand, is relaxed at all times.

    The main point of the short Guitar Player magazine article is to point out that when the thumb makes a down stroke, the index finger, actually moves upward,
    the article describes this motion as being like a birds' beak,
    however the upward motion of the index finger is really down to the relaxed nature of the right hand posture. The index finger motion is not used to sound any strings at all. The article suggests that if the thumb is moving down by 2 &1/2 inches, the index finger is only moving up by about an inch, The whole movement being controlled by the muscles of the palm.

    From the clips that I watched, I'm not sure if I would consider this to be quite correct, particularly when Wes is playing single note lines, however his index finger does seem to move more when he gets into the octave playing.

    That's about as much as I can offer personally, but this clip has some of the most enlightening camera angles on the right hand,

    R.I.P. Ronnie
    Last edited by pubylakeg; 01-19-2017 at 02:54 PM.

  30. #29

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    I don't consider myself an expert but I'll share my experience based on practice and study of the thumb technique.
    Despite the fact that my hands are probably half the size of Wes' hands, I use pretty much the same "default" position.
    It came by itself over time, I never forced myself to use my thumb in a specific way except for the attack angle which I developed in order to contact the strings with the flesh of my thumb, not the nail. Use the blisters on your thumb as a reference to see if the angle is right, you'll have to deal with that.
    Picking with a "free" thumb like classical guitar players do, can produce quite some stress on the thumb's nerve if you use the flesh of your thumb instead of the nail. The attack angle is completely different, the motion is way wider and you're picking both chords and single lines using only your thumb. That's pretty strenuous and uncomfortable for most people.
    If you anchor your picking hand to the pickguard and/or guitar body, your thumb's nerve will work a lot less and the hand's mucles will do most of the work. I don't know if it's important how much fingers you use and how you use them to do it, honestly. I put my entire hand there and it works for me. My hand is relaxed and I don't think I move any of the anchored fingers during the picking.

    EDIT: A couple of infos about right hand positioning.
    I use 012-050 Thomastik flatwounds and I usually flatpick between the fingerboard and the neck pickup of my ES-165 (see my avatar to get an idea). This helps removing some of the pick attack and gives you a mellower, almost "thumby" sound, if you choose the right pick. I use a Dunlop JazzTone 204.

    When I use my thumb I contact the strings approximately 1/1,5 centimeters behind the neck pickup.
    Since the sound is already pretty mellow, it gives you more attack and definition during single lines. For chords and octaves I pick near the fingerboard sometimes.
    You can get similar results using roundwound strings like Jim Mullen do or open the guitar tone a little bit.
    Wes tone was very mellow, but definitely brighter than you think.
    Last edited by emicad; 01-20-2017 at 04:18 AM.

  31. #30

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    It looks like he may sometimes use the thing that some guitarists call economy picking (Frank Gambale comes to mind) sweep the thumb (downstroke) on 2 adjacent strings ex A 7th fr D string to B 4th fret G string then either pick the next note C with an up thumb or hammer

  32. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by WillMbCdn5
    I play with my thumb and am not double jointed and am no where any where close to sounding like Wes ...
    Me, too.

    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont
    Double jointed or not, just about everything Wes did with that thumb was a downstroke.
    That has been my MO since day one. (Don't have a double jointed thumb, BTW.) I think more than anything else it is a natural comfort type of thing. Strumming, plucking, etc. can't really get any simpler than thumb downstrokes. No gripping, pinching, plastic contacting with strings, etc. as with using a pick. Now, that said, I have changed my style to incorporate both upstrokes with my thumb and upstrokes, or alternate picking, with my index finger. I use other fingers as well but for single line note playing I use my thumb and index finger predominately.

    And, like you I am not aware of a book about Montgomery that just concentrates on his right hand technique.

  33. #32

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    Quote Originally Posted by guitarfitch
    It looks like he may sometimes use the thing that some guitarists call economy picking (Frank Gambale comes to mind) sweep the thumb (downstroke) on 2 adjacent strings ex A 7th fr D string to B 4th fret G string then either pick the next note C with an up thumb or hammer
    Yeah, that's exactly what he did. It's some sort of rest stroke technique applied to thumb.

  34. #33

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    what brilliant camerwork capturing his genius...wonder what the british guitarists thought..no books around then...now theres plenty on the market to study with...thnks for sharing that

  35. #34

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    I've watched other players (up close) doing Wes-style single-note lines. While I've no idea how they did it, I'm pretty certain that 'being double-jointed' is a red herring. "What one man can do, another can do!" If you're going to go down that road, "Kill the bear!"

  36. #35

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    You're absolutely right.
    Having a double-jointed thumb helps finding the best point of contact with the strings for this kind of picking (and Benson picking too), but it's not mandatory at all. There are plenty of guitarists who do this with "normal" thumbs.
    You can clearly see that Wes' thumb was double-jointed but I'm not sure that he was "able to strech his thumb backwards until it touched his hand", like some people seems to believe. It's useless for guitar playing, why would he do something like that?
    You can be double-jointed in many ways. My fingers joints (inclunding my thumb) are hyper-extendable so I'm pretty much double-jointed, but the rest of my libe are not. There's a lot of confusion about this matter.

  37. #36

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    Can't think of one. Basically if you are serious, study Wes's technique for a decade or two mining for knowledge any way you can from old videos, recordings, interviews with those who saw him play etc.

    If you or anyone wrote a book I would totes read it :-)

    Good luck!

  38. #37

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    Funny, when I was 8 years old I started playing the banjo. I switched to guitar a few years later but found that I was quicker using a thumb pick rather than using a regular guitar pick. It just felt more comfortable because I was used to the banjo technique. Over the years, the guitar pick felt fine and I eventually nixed the thumb pick for several years. It wasn't until I started playing jazz about 10 years ago that I nixed all picks and returned to using my bare thumb. It took some getting used to again, but it eventually felt natural. Of course Wes Montgomery was my biggest influence and still is my favorite jazz guitarist. One of the things I've noticed about Wes is the way he holds his guitar. It's not sitting straight up, a lot of times it's sitting almost at a 45 degree angle and probably the reason he uses a guitar strap while he's sitting down. Mileage goes a long way, the more you play, the more comfortable and faster you will become. For me, I mostly play for the therapy, the fun is not particularly playing fast but appreciating every note and the mellow vibe it brings.

  39. #38

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    Wasn't Jeff Beck a thumb-only guy?

  40. #39

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    i mostly play for the therapy, the fun is not particularly playing fast but appreciating every note and the mellow vibe it brings.
    .......... Me too...that was Stan Tracey on piano in that clip... what an honor to play for Wes...not sure who others were...
    Last edited by voxss; 02-01-2017 at 09:22 AM.

  41. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by goldenwave77
    Wasn't Jeff Beck a thumb-only guy?
    I think that he has used a variety of right hand techniques, but has never been a thumbs only guy. The last few years he has shunned a pick.

  42. #41

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    If there was a book on Wes right hand technique it would probably be one page long.

  43. #42

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive
    If there was a book on Wes right hand technique it would probably be one page long.
    Either that or it covers things besides guitar playing.

  44. #43

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    Quote Originally Posted by lammie200
    Either that or it covers things besides guitar playing.
    Right. Titled something like 'Things You Can Do With Your Thumb'

  45. #44

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive
    Right. Titled something like 'Things You Can Do With Your Thumb'
    I'm all ears!

  46. #45

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive
    If there was a book on Wes right hand technique it would probably be one page long.
    Yeah - with just a thumbnail sketch...

  47. #46

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    This thread is going down the drain, I see.

  48. #47

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    Quote Originally Posted by emicad
    This thread is going down the drain, I see.
    Aww, it's gonna be fine

    Wes Montgomery right hand technique book-ec63257a-2bbb-48d0-9b74-0e27f8b25ac9_text-gif

  49. #48

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    Quote Originally Posted by pubylakeg
    Ok, after a little bit of research, here's what I've got,

    It would appear that Wes's default position is,

    the point of thumb contacting the strings is apporox 1 inch behind the neck pickup, ie. completely clear of both the pickup and the mounting ring. This is going to affect the amount of resistance that the strings offer at that point in their scale length.

    the index finger is fully extended, when at rest, the fingertip is basically on the pickguard binding, more on this later,

    the middle finger is fully extended, and touching the guitars soundboard,

    the ring finger is fully extended, right down to the waist of the guitar, often at rest on the top binding,

    the pickguard mounting bracket is in between the ring and little fingers !

    the little finger is fully extended, down to the waist of the guitar, often at rest on the binding, often placed touching the rear side of the pickguard bracket,

    the wrist is lifted clear off the strings at all times,

    the thumb itself is curved back, and all motion is generated from the large base joint,

    the whole hand, is relaxed at all times.

    The main point of the short Guitar Player magazine article is to point out that when the thumb makes a down stroke, the index finger, actually moves upward,
    the article describes this motion as being like a birds' beak,
    however the upward motion of the index finger is really down to the relaxed nature of the right hand posture. The index finger motion is not used to sound any strings at all. The article suggests that if the thumb is moving down by 2 &1/2 inches, the index finger is only moving up by about an inch, The whole movement being controlled by the muscles of the palm.

    From the clips that I watched, I'm not sure if I would consider this to be quite correct, particularly when Wes is playing single note lines, however his index finger does seem to move more when he gets into the octave playing.

    That's about as much as I can offer personally, but this clip has some of the most enlightening camera angles on the right hand,

    R.I.P. Ronnie
    So this guy posts one of the most revelatory things I've seen on the forum, and now he's banned.

    I hope it was for a bloody good reason.

    Also, downward thumb slanting... Gypsy thumbing....

  50. #49

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    ... downward thumb slanting...
    Like that idea a lot - don't like my heavy flatwounds so much (nor the fact that pubylakeg isn't around).

  51. #50

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    outrageous..Banned.. jazz guitar forum claims that its klatch of feebleminded, addlepated gutter-bloods is a colony of heaven called to obey God by controlling your bank account, your employment, your personal safety, and your mind. While that happens to be pure fantasy from the world of make-believe, one important fact to consider is that its most snarky tactic is to fabricate a phony war between witless roisterers and sticky-fingered bludgers.. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than beating jazz guitar forum at its own game, I beg God to forgive me.