Back to basics - Ragtime, Piedmont blues, then to the limits of fingerstyle

Discussion in 'Jazz, Acoustic, Classical & Fingerstyle' started by Explorer, Jan 4, 2016.

  1. Explorer

    Explorer He seldomly knows...

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    A few years ago, I started losing full use of my hands due to stenosis. My style started changing to accommodate the physical restrictions. Eventually I couldn't even open the middle and ring fingers on both hands, and so I had surgery.

    (During that period, I also had one or two topics closed by the mods, created on pain meds, about a guy who had written a book about his personal experiences with dolphin sex, and about how I had explosive diarrhea at the same time as I was vomiting, collapsed on the floor of my kitchen. It was good times. Thanks, pain meds! *laugh*)

    Anyway, once my physical therapist and my surgeon signed off on it, I started working electric 8-string again, but I never really went back to where I had started on guitar, acoustic six-string in a variety of fingerpicking styles.

    So over the holidays, I started working my way through the excellent Art of Ragtime Guitar by Richard Saslow, working things with a metronome and really paying attention to strong and efficient technique.

    After this I'll be working through the Homespun Tapes course Advanced Fingerpicking (also known as Ragtime Guitar) by John James.

    After that, I have some Leo Kottke and Michael Hedges books to remaster.

    Then, Chris Proctor, another excellent and extremely tasteful player and composer on six- and 12-string.

    That will be followed by the Pierre Bensusan books, which are in DADGAD.

    And then, I'll be working on playing 12-string while incorporating ideas from kantele/kokle, plucking individual strings of the octave courses to get more legato arpeggios.


    ----

    This doesn't mean that I won't do other music when it appeals to me. I do love playing other instruments, including ERG, and experimenting with different combinations of effects to get new textures and voices, exploring what can be found.

    And, of course, I always love when friends get together and when we just play an acoustic guitar and sing whatever someone calls out. Instant karaoke accompaniment is a joy and a challenge, getting some reasonable facsimile out there at a moment's notice, and people get drawn into singing and sharing, something which guitar playing alone rare does.

    ----

    It's funny to be recapitulating my acoustic journey after so many years. It's my hope that my perspective has broadened, and that I'll not only regain my previous knowledge and ability, but will find different parts coming together in new ways and sparking new discoveries.

    Although I play out when pressured by friends who want me to do something with them, I no longer make a living through music, so this is going to be a journey and expedition motivated purely by my love of how these strings ring. There's no defined end point, no motivation to make a name or to gain attention, just the joy of exploration.

    I just turned off the metronome for the night, having been absorbed in the playing until way too late, and wanted to post these thoughts. Maybe some of you have stood in this same place.

    If any of you *have* been through the whole fingerstyle journey, I'll be interested in hearing about it. I know there's a whole crop of folks who now occupy the niche started by Hedges, although I don't know if I've heard any compositional works at his level. I'll be interested in hearing of any players who not only bring the style, but the substance.

    Greetings to you, fellow explorers!
     
    asher, ElRay and OmegaSlayer like this.
  2. OmegaSlayer

    OmegaSlayer SS.org Regular

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    I'm really interested in this.
    Many times I tried to get back to play fingerstyle in a way that makes sense but never knew where to start from.
    I will keep an eye on this thread and have it as an inspiration, if you don't mind.
     
  3. ElRay

    ElRay Mostly Harmless

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    I haven't been through the whole FingerStyle Journey -- I'm still on it. I feel disconnected playing with a pick. I've been wanting to focus on "Finger-style Blues" and electric "Modern Primitive" (Leo Kottke, etc.), but keeping in sync with the kids lessons are taking more time than I have.

    I will have to look at "Art of Ragtime Guitar by Richard Saslow", because the oldest is getting tired of the standard classical-focused piano repertoire, and really likes ragtime - "The Entertainer", other Sousa/Joplin/etc. and is a bit envious about the time I spend practicing with the youngest, who is taking guitar lessons. This might be a good way to tie things together.

    Right now, my queue contains Bartok arranged for guitar (Classical, but not typical 4/4 with the occasional 1/2 or 1/8 notes thrown in) and the Galbo Finger-Style Blues book.

    EDIT: Found some links for "Art of Ragtime Guitar by Richard Saslow" Stuff:
    • GP3 Tabs
    • MP3s
    • A PDF of the 1974 version of the book is out there, but I'm not sure of the copyright expiration, etc..
     
  4. ElRay

    ElRay Mostly Harmless

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    I think the #1 decision point is the kind of music you want to play. If you want to play Blues, Modern Primitive, Ragtime, etc., but you start with Classical or a standard "Folksy" Finger-style focus, you're going to have a harder time motivating yourself.

    Let me dig-up what I have and edit or follow-up this post.
     
  5. OmegaSlayer

    OmegaSlayer SS.org Regular

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    Mostly I like to express myself on the guitar.
    I play in my room, for me and no one else, it's something I do for my soul, and I like to study the guitar, I love the joy of going through the process of learning new ways to express through the instrument.
    So yeah...I love to learn, what I want to play is secundary.
    The point that the lack of musical knowledge of some genres (I don't know any genre or artist you mentioned to me...) is a hindrance though.
    But yeah, from classical to contemporary I crave to learn and to play.
    Example, I'm a total metalhead but I jam more on samba, jazz, funk backing tracks than on metal ones.
    So yeah, music is music.

    Thanks a lot for the links :)
     
  6. ElRay

    ElRay Mostly Harmless

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    :bowdown: :agreed:

    This is what I have, and none of them are stinkers. They're all pretty good, and whether you think the songs are good, it's up to you:
    • Begining Fingerstyle Blues by Arnie Berle and Mark Galbo - My favorite from the bunch
    • Solos Flamencos by Juan Martin -- this one is suprisngly difficult to start.
    • Contemporary Travis Picking by Mark Hanson
    • Solo Finger Picking by Mark Hanson
    These are the ones that are most "Suzuki-Like" without going to Classical or too pedantic/pedagogical.

    I also have:
    • Classical Guitar Method by Jason Waldron
    • Right-Hand Studies for Five Fingers by Charles Postlewaite
    • A PDF of Giuliani's 120-Right Hand Studies - The one I have is arranged in a good pedagogical order.
    These are definitely more heavy on the exercises and less on playing music.

    Ray
     
  7. Explorer

    Explorer He seldomly knows...

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    You know, I do have the Beginning Blues Guitar by Berle and Galbo, and Contemporary Travis Picking as well. I used to assign stuff out of the Berle book all the time.

    Seeing that list reminds me of Fingerstyle Jazz - Teaching Your Guitar to Walk, by Paul Musso, another great book along these lines, if a little more focused on the walking part. I'm glad you reminded me, because something else I was working on for a friend was programming some patches on the Zoom G1xon, utilizing the Z-Organ and Rotary Closet patches, along with a pitch shifter, to cover various kinds of jazz organ. I wanted to look into sources to get that kind of walking organ bass, but forgot about the Musso book.

    I have to wait though, because I really want to try to work on skills in a linear fashion, so that everything is practiced on a solid foundation. Otherwise, what's the point of redoing all this?

    ----

    One thing I'm definitely getting out of this, besides a complete lack of sleep because I'm playing too late, is more legato phrasing. Since this is a form of review, I decided that there's no reason for my form to be anything but perfect, so for 4/4 my metronome is set at 60 or below, and I'm really working volume, string balance and letting strings rings as long as possible. That's something lacking in many of the videos I see of Hedges covers, so this work at the front end should really help when I get to that material.

    This is like when I took that Tai Chi Chuan class to practice perfect form. I took the class at a school where they actually sped it up to normal speed and applied it as a fighting art once the form was perfected. In the same way, doing the hand motions allows me to examine if I'm really moving efficiently or not, and to experiment with different ways to make things even easier.
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2016
  8. OmegaSlayer

    OmegaSlayer SS.org Regular

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    ElRay.
    I'm very picky with food, but as far as it is guitar themed, I eat everything :)

    I get where you come from Explorer.
    I hadn't played guitar for almost a decade due to mild depression and stuff, so nothing as bad as your stenosis, but I had to start back from scratch.
    I was self thought and learnt to play like an a$$hole, so I wanted my form to be good if not perfect when I started over again.
    You want that metronome fits at a tempo where you can do things in total relax.

    No one really thinks about it because everyone wants to get better soon.
    But if you exercise with method and consistence, even raising the metronome tempo 1 bpm every 3 days, you can achieve A LOT, with very few efforts.
    Especially if you plan your studies well and you develope your hands and techniques evenly, as every movement you perfect helps with something else you're studying.
     
  9. ElRay

    ElRay Mostly Harmless

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    I should clarify. It's tough at the beginning, because he dives straight into thumb-stroke-heavy, easy-for-flamenco pieces. The way it's laid-out makes sense, but my daughter and I have not delved too deeply into this one. We'll likely revisit it after she finishes Suzuki Guitar - Book I.
     

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