March 2, 2008 7:40 PM

Here is a song without words, yet. I've got some questions on the inside.

The tuning is DGCFCC. I'm not quite sure what to do about the B string that has been turned into a C string. I like the way it sounds in parts, but it feels too obnoxious on others. Any ideas?

Skilled MeMu fingerpickers: how did you break out of easy picking patterns? What I mean is, when I pick it almost always seems to come down to some even number variation of four picks per beat, you know? How can I make new, less beat oriented patterns? Same goes for my strumming pretty much.

Thank you for listening!

posted by Corduroy (9 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

For me it has come as a result of learning to play different styles, and trying to write songs in those styles. For instance, the picking in this song is completely different from the picking in this one (which comes in at around 0:48).

Now, I gotta note, that from messing around with many styles without properly devoting to any of them, my guitar playing is some weird mixture that is never completely right in any of them. I can make my own quirky songs, but I could never do a pure rock song, like the ones you do, so careful with that.

I really like your style and the music you put together. Even super simple stuff like this has a very pure quality and it doesn't get tiring. (And in this one, for example, the motor of the tape recorder, or whatever is doing that cthchthcthcthchch sound, goes fantastically well with the rest.)
posted by micayetoca at 8:23 AM on March 3, 2008

Thanks for the guitar playing. Everyone is stuck with patterns. I think that the key is maybe to try to play a melody while sustaining a steady bass. Slow down as much as possible until you find your own way to play with the chord position. Sometimes it's not the right hand pattern that's a problem, but the way that pattern relates to the chord changes. I mean you might have to change chords just before the end or your finger pattern in order to avoid the mechanical feeling. The problem often is to maintain a musical tiling using right-hand finger pattern, melodic structure and chord changes. If you want to go for some reference, I think that the Kelly Joe Phelps's fingerpicking vid on homespun is great. Check some flamenco easy parts. It's amazing how the right-hand is used in really simple groupings. Trying to change the technique makes it impossible to achieve the correct rhythm. So even two measures can be full of technical wonders. All this is has been my own way to try to find solutions to the problem you've described in your post.
posted by nicolin at 11:24 AM on March 3, 2008

Oh man, I totally second the Kelly Joe Phelps video. I myself learned my fingerpicking from old audio tapes by Stefan Grossman (site), and later took lessons from a guy named Duck Baker who taught me a lot. Try playing some songs in 3/4; try alternating plucking one string, then three, then two (for example); try playing real slow like nicolin said; try inserting long silences; vary the order in which you pluck strings; etc. These are very simple suggestions, I know, but sometimes the simple changes can break you out of patterns. I still get stuck in my patterns too after playing for so long.

Nice tune... I wouldn't add any words at all!
posted by ORthey at 11:27 AM on March 4, 2008

I think your playing, your sound, your harmonies bear some resemblance with some Nick Drake's pieces. His arpeggios and strumming were both real simple and effective. Check it out. Btw, I've just listened to your piece once again. It's really nice. Thank you.
posted by nicolin at 7:09 AM on March 5, 2008

These are all really great comments, thanks a lot! I'm going to try the slowing down tactics both ORthey and nicolin referred to. This is really embarrassing, but I really don't quite understand what 3/4 time even really means. I'll wiki it later, and try to do that. and simple suggestions are exactly what I need right now so as not to be overwhelmed.

And I love the Nick Drake's Pink Moon CD, nicolin, so that compliment is really appreciated. If there was someone I wish I could play like, it would be him.
posted by Corduroy at 9:03 AM on March 5, 2008

but I really don't quite understand what 3/4 time even really means

think "waltz" or German oom-pah music. that's 3/4. the more technical explanations are just likely to be confusing...

this is a great little track. i don't think it really suffers for having a persistence rhythmic pattern. i can't claim to be a finger-picking expert but that's my take.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:34 PM on March 5, 2008

Corduroy, I just saw this explanation (with music) of 3/4 time and thought it might help. I think the song is wonderful and there's some really great advice above, but I wanted to at least try to help out (I suck at fingerpicking, but time signatures is something I can do).

Great song, though. Really.
posted by sleepy pete at 2:21 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Great comments. I like the idea of posting a question along with a song.

Working on the independence to play a melody while holding down the beat with your thumb is a big step. The other thing that I think makes fingerpicking patterns is the ability to cut across the meter. What I mean is, if the strongest pulse is based on groupings of two, then having variations that lean towards groupings of three will keep the feel of the song interesting. So if your thumb is playing a straight alternating bass, going between the low E and the D strings in standard tuning, then your fingers can sustain a pattern that cuts across that with parts that can be felt in 3.

It would make more sense if I could give you some examples. I really wish I could figure out how to change this comment to a font like courier where each letter is the same width so that I can type out some picking patterns in tab. Does anyone know if that's possible to do? I'm html-challenged.
posted by umbĂș at 8:22 PM on March 5, 2008

More details. A thread about time signatures. The guitar of John Martyn. Inspirational.
posted by nicolin at 10:32 AM on March 6, 2008

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