Wednesday 21 October 2009

Pull that guitar in tight!

Yesterday I was talking to a mate who is learning the guitar, and I remembered to remind him to pull that axe in tight.  It's something that you don't hear enough about often enough.  In fact I think I spent the first 20 years playing without being told specifically; fortunately I was already doing it unbeknownst to me, so when I was told it made total sense.

Let me drill it into you for a moment, I consider it fundamental, and after this little read you can go away with an exercise to try and be informed up ready to pass on to other guitarists! ;) why do you think it is the big burly fella struggle to grip out a bar chord for more than 30 seconds, and the little seven year old girl play them all day?  It because most of the pressure you need to adequately fret a note should *not* come from your hand, it should come from your arm and shoulder.

Look at that wimpy little thumb muscle in front of you.  Now look at that rippling biscep.  Which one would you rather you were using to apply pressure?

Basically if you were to fret notes only using the clamping force of your hand, you won't have much playing stamina.  If you pull the guitar in tight your left arm is the pulling force - your fingers are just forming the chord pattern - and your right arm is counterbalancing your left.

Not too sure what I'm talking about? Okay, here is the exercise. Form up a chord, whatever you want.  Now, take your thumb off the back of the neck.  What you'll find you need to do is what you should be doing - that is, pulling the guitar in and exerting all the fretting pressure with your arm.  You should be able to fret without buzz, in fact play any tune you know, without touching the neck with your left thumb.

Of course the thumb is important to guide, help with dexterity/fine motor skills/accuracy, offer a bit of structural support/grip/pressure and occassionally fret a bass note - but it isn't where the majority of the force comes from.  Playing a song without your thumb gives you an idea of where you should be applying pressure from, it's a bit of an eye opener if you've never tried it.

Good luck, and hopefully armed with this knowledge you will be able to play all day without getting fatigue in your thumb and fingers (if not at least pressure lines in your chest because you pressed the guitar so firmly into it!)


Tuesday 6 October 2009

What's happening October 2009

...maybe one person who reads this may have seen me - I was busking at the Murray Street Mall, Perth Western Australia, Murray Street train station end, between about 12:15 and 13:00 WST 6 October 2009.  An interesting and positive experience.  A few quick notes, in no particular order:

  • A kind little old lady smiled and dropped a $2 coin in as she passed by, midway through my first song.  Thank you - for the first coin I ever got from busking!;

  • Lugging around a guitar and a heavy battery powered amp is not much fun, not to mention you feel a bit wierd doing so;

  • Had the jitters for a while, playing was mediocre but solid enough, no terminal song stops but more dropped notes and even a few dropped phrases than I'd normally do;

  • Was unable to get a sound I was happy with - the concrete pavers caused boominess in the bass and a weak treble.  It sounded _okay_ from where I was sitting, but a colleague of mine who stopped by told me the treble dropped quickly as you moved away, which is no good, the melody is in the treble.  This time I was more concerned with the "public performance" side of things, next time I'll try to improve the sound;

  • The overall noise level in Murray Street Mall is higher than I expected.  I was pushing the boundaries of what I can achieve with the amp before getting feedback, volume wise.  There is plenty of oomphf left in the amp, the trick is to get it without feedback. Overall I think the volume was adequate so I'm not concerned, besides I have a feedback buster I can fit, I just don't really like using it;

  • One guy recognised me from youtube and had a quick chat - g'day mate, thanks for letting me know (he loves my "Wish You Were Here", he just missed me playing it);

  • Couple of guys hung around on the sidelines listening in for several songs; I'm used to that now, whenever I play in public I get that.  I figure they are all guitarists interested in how I play, they don't want to get too close, but they want to know what's going on.  If you are one of those sorts of guys - tell me what the story is!;

  • A mummy and a little girl "go on, pop the money into the hat" - very sweet; my kids are all yawn ho-hum about guitar playing they see it all the time, but some kids would have never seen someone playing a guitar close up, so that's great!;

  • After about 45 mins of playing the sun was on my head and I was only supposed to play for 30 mins before moving on (shhh) so I packed up; I wanted to play about another 5 or 6 songs, next time.  Grand total was $19.55.  Nearly paid for my busking pass in one hit ($23/month).

I'll do it again maybe later this week or next week, but long term I don't think it is for me - I'm fairly sure I'm a cafe/restaurant player.  I've got until 1st November on my busking pass, I'll get a few more in yet!