1. #1

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    I started lessons with a guitar teacher after playing casually and teaching myself things for 2 years. One thing that I had seldom practiced during that time was rhythm, I had almost no sense of time whatsoever so a big part of the lessons I've had have been to gradually build up my sense of time. I'm trying to progress in the direction of being able to sight read music and my teacher has said that a picking/strumming style similar to Johnny Smith where the hand moves perpetually like a metronome is the way to go if I wan't to be able to sightread. He's prescribed a strumming/picking habit of always downstroking a downbeat and upstroking an upbeat.

    I understand the usefulness of this when playing chords as it makes your rhythm more solid and makes sticking to the beat easier since syncopation can be done by simply missing a stroke but hes recommended I do it with single note picking as well. I'm not sure if its simply to build up my sense of time with single notes or if I'll be picking like this forever but it has been incredibly difficult to maintain a metronome motion of the hand when picking single notes and be accurate.

    I play with a floating hand and rest my forearm typically on the top of my telecaster, every time I try to maintain this constant hand motion I hit incorrect strings and overshoot or undershoot many times. I just want to know from people who have learnt to sightread if this kind of hand motion is just training wheels for timing and rhythm or if its a standard motion to use while sight reading. It feels like an enormous amount of extra movement to have. It's been made all the more confusing by the fact that when I'm reading music I can hear in my head what the rhythm sounds like as I'm going along. I'm only reading rhythm lines at the moment written over ascending and descending scales.

    I'm happy to knuckle down for a few weeks at a 35bpm tempo and perfect the metronome picking and the ability to miss strokes while picking single notes but I just don't have any idea if its a valuable pursuit. I'm currently in school holidays and my teacher wont be doing lessons for a couple of months till the semester restarts.


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #2

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    Here are my thoughts:

    Tying downstrokes to downbeats and upstrokes to upbeats makes sense for certain kinds of styles when playing chords. A lot of pop/rock, and especially 16th-note funk. And for sight-reading, it's certainly one less thing to think about. For jazz, it's much less useful. There are plenty of times where you want to emphasize the upbeats, and it makes perfect sense to use a downstroke.

    I have heard that same advice for single-line picking from a couple different people. Garrison Fewell tried (and failed!) to get me to do it when I studied with him.

    The problem with this approach is that strict alternate picking is really, really hard. You say you're missing strings -- that's not surprising at all. To maintain strict alternate picking while crossing strings usually takes some very specific technical strategies to do it cleanly. Expecting you to do that without discussing how is doing you a disservice.

    The reality is there are very few jazz guitarists who use strict alternate picking, and fewer still who sync up their strokes with their beats. Playing bebop alone -- some of the most un-guitaristic music imaginable -- is already really tough. To be able to handle all that syncopation, unexpected accents, mixed rhythms, string crossing while maintaining strict alternate picking is a nightmare.

    Syncing up strokes with beats is much easier with music that's predominantly straight-eighth notes. Bluegrass is a perfect example, and many of their players do that. For jazz? You've got Pat Martino, people who want to sound like Pat Martino, and that's about it.

    The argument could be made that this approach might help with sight-reading, but I'm not particularly convinced. Sight-reading is about chunking and processing information really quickly. Maybe having a very consistent picking technique would be one less thing to think about. But judging by your struggles, it's going to have more drawbacks than advantages.

  4. #3

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    One-size-fits-all solutions rarely work well in my experience. Alternate picking in general is useful; so is knowing when to use something else to better adapt to the musical terrain at hand. Learn tunes, technique will develop apace.

  5. #4

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    Should be downstrokes on everything

  6. #5

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    Also try rest strokes

  7. #6

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    In seriousness what you are trying to do is very hard. Almost no one actually does it that way.

  8. #7
    It's pretty straightforward and easy if you learned it that way in the beginning. I've always played strict alternate picking that way. I've done a lot of work on legato picking style the way that Randy Vincent talks about , and for me, it's all alternate picking. yeah, that means multiple up strokes at times to phrase swinging a more accented upbeat into a legato-slurred downbeat.

    Anyway, I'm not a serious player in jazz, but there are several serious pros who've talked about this technique as not only being okay and doable, but as actually being VITAL to groove and feel in jazz. Reg and Henry Robinette are the two I can definitely remember on the forum talking about it that way. I would say they're probably 99% alternate pick players if I had to guess, from the way they talk about it. You can definitely see it in reg's videos. Other than the occasional sweep, it's all alternate. He advocates all alternate for beginners as well, and emphasizes working on large string skips while doing so, on arpeggio patterns etc.

    From reading multiple threads, I mostly get the feeling that it's hard to see and understand what this style of picking really is in practice, if you don't play that way already. My take away is that alternate picking and hybrid picking each compromise on one element while taking advantage of another. Both sides tend to talk about "the other way" seeming impossible or harder etc.

    If I had to guess, I would imagine that it's like most things which are highly technical and unfamiliar: like hybridpicking or playing finger style for the first time, you're not really going to see what the potential benefits MAY be until you put in enough time to actually PLAY that way without thinking about it to a large extent. It's not going to be gradual, linear progress or something that you can immediately see the benefit of. Completely new techniques require time and somewhat pay off in miniature breakthroughs as opposed to gradual linear progress.

    If you're really interested in exploring what this technique actually might hold for playing jazz, budget a certain amount of time to practicing it on a regular basis , and do so without judgment for immediate results. I have "wasted " tons of time over the years doing all sorts of things with the guitar which were very enjoyable in the end. They pay dividends far beyond whether you actually use them the way you thought originally or not. Hal Galper's statement that "All learning is global" really resonates with me in this regard. He would basically contend that if you work on alternate picking enough, you might end up with the unintended consequence of better hybrid picking as well.

    I see paralysis by analysis and needless worrying over "wasted time" as being a huge deal in a lot of these forum discussions on technical things. I did so myself on the forum for probably five or six years. I put off pursuing things which I thought were "for better players or more technical players" etc. Wasted a lot of time honestly that I could have spent at least finding what I wanted to do next. I have probably learned more in the last three years than the previous 10 or 15.

  9. #8

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    Argghh. Did a long post then realised it came a cross as really high handed and like I was questioning your teacher etc.

    OK. So this forum is a really bad place to learn technique but I wanted to give a few points
    1) there's more than one way to do it
    2) I have no idea who your teacher is or how they play
    3) I do it one way that works pretty good and I see some famous players also doing it that way
    4) I think Johnny Smith might be doing a similar thing judging from videos

    5) you are struggling so I want to help, because that's my job
    6) I can't in this medium
    7) it's OK, you aren't my student

    But - what I would say is - there is a way to pick that makes string crossing not too much of a big deal. I have learned it and can play technically pretty well. I am a professional guitarist and educator.)
    Last edited by christianm77; 01-24-2020 at 06:15 AM.

  10. #9

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    All the talk about string crossing can be put into only couple of simple rules:

    1. If you want to skip the string, you must not hit it (this one about covers 90% of Troy Grady's (free) clips. You never hear much more from him, no matter how much he talked).
    2. You do not have to skip the string, you can go through it, but in that case, you'd better mute it.
    3. For skipping, you should use/ add different set of muscles to those used for picking. For example, if you pick from wrist, you should skip from elbow, arm, or fingers. What Grady says is solution is actually a consequence (remaining 10% of his (free) clips).
    4. To do it effectively, mind have to precede your body. You have to know at least one move in advance what your next move will be.
    5. So you should take a look at what you are doing naturally and where your natural way puts you into trap, or makes you miss. If you are getting trapped, use/ add different muscle for that move. If you are missing, change trajectory.

    It won't come out of it self. You have to figure it out and work on it.

    EDIT: I only mention TG because Christianm77 talked about him in his above post, but later he edited out that part, before I found some spare time to click "submit reply".
    Last edited by Vladan; 01-24-2020 at 08:02 AM.