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Author Topic:  My terrible right hand technique
James Wolf


From:
Georgia
Post Posted 15 Dec 2014 7:45 am     Reply with quote

I have been playing steel for a little over 6 years. I'm just going to be shameless and honest. This is what my right hand looks like. My left is probably bad too but ill get to that later. I have tried and tried to make my right hand look nice and round with my pinky out but I always fall back to this "knuckles position." While this worked for a while I feel like it is seriously limiting my flexibility playing scales. I would like to fix it. I think it may have something to do with my arm and wrist but I don't know. I would like to mention that I have fixed far worse long term habits on other instruments. What can I do to fix my right hand?

Thanks,

James
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post Posted 15 Dec 2014 8:04 am     Reply with quote

Coincidence! I've just been watching Jeff Newman's Right Hand Alpha video which arrived this morning. I'm only part way through but it already looks like just what you need.
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Ross Shafer


From:
Petaluma, California
Post Posted 15 Dec 2014 8:09 am     Reply with quote

I too had the flat hand, anchored palm, "knuckles" thing going on and had a hard time breaking the habit...full disclosure here....just about everything else I do on steel pretty much sucks, but I did finally get my right hand to behave properly which helped palm blocking and note position flexibility (what you're referring to about playing scales).

Other than paying close and consistent attention, I found rolling up a magazine and holding it under my right arm while I practiced to be a huge help. Keeping my elbow in close to the body did a lot to keep my right hand in a better position and has pretty much cured my flat hand "knuckles" tendency.

Good luck from a terminal beginner and Happy Hot Dang Holidays to all y'all!
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Mark Hershey


From:
New York, USA
Post Posted 15 Dec 2014 8:30 am     Reply with quote

I ordered the right hand alpha the other week and it should arrive soon.

A song I work on a lot is Wildwood Flower out of the Dewitt Scott book and there's a horizontal run down the strings in the song and one horizontal run up toward the end. I find that i miss some of the notes or don't pick them cleanly that consistently. I have the part down cold as in I know exactly what string I should pick and where the bar should be. Some times I nail it, some times I don't. I realize I'm leaving a lot to chance with my poor right hand technique.

Even though a lot of people end up deviating a bit from Jeff's approach, I think it's a good course to get you thinking about the right hand and working on it. I haven't started on it yet, but I'm also guessing a lot of perfecting the rh technique involves getting out a metronome and playing the exercises slow and accurately until you get up to speed.


Last edited by Mark Hershey on 15 Dec 2014 8:33 am; edited 2 times in total
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Bill C. Buntin


From:
Cleburne, TX
Post Posted 15 Dec 2014 8:32 am     Reply with quote

James, Reece Anderson taught me to play with my right hand that way only not with the knuckles so arched. But definitely with all fingers tucked under like a fist. As successful a player as he and as good of a teacher, it might not be a bad thing. I played that way for a lot of years, until I went to a double neck. after that transition, I opted for a more conventional right hand shape.

I think Reece used that right hand shape because he played with three finger picks instead of two.

So I don't know if it is really wrong, as I have seen others play with their hand shaped that way.

FWIW

~Bill
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Dick Wood


From:
Springtown Texas, USA
Post Posted 15 Dec 2014 8:48 am     Reply with quote

You need to relax and drop your shoulder to where your arm is more horizontal. I think your hand will also relax slightly if you do it that way. Some play with the fingers under and some with the little finger out.

You'll have to determine what works best with how you block the strings.

I think that palm blocking works best with the little finger out and pick blocking works good with fingers under.
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James Wolf


From:
Georgia
Post Posted 15 Dec 2014 8:51 am     Reply with quote

Dick Wood wrote:
You need to relax and drop your shoulder to where your arm is more horizontal. I think your hand will also relax slightly if you do it that way. Some play with the fingers under and some with the little finger out.

You'll have to determine what works best with how you block the strings.

I think that palm blocking works best with the little finger out and pick blocking works good with fingers under.


Bingo. My shoulder.
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Richard Sinkler


From:
Oakdale, California
Post Posted 15 Dec 2014 9:20 am     Reply with quote

I have seen MANY players that have a flat hand similar to yours, and they play fine. I think Ross and Dick hit on a couple of things with your shoulder and arm. But i have also seen many others that don't keep their elbow close to their side and they play well too. I studied the Jeff Newman way of picking with the hand looking like a ball was in your hand, and have my pinky sticking out. While I try to teach this to any students I get, I stress that my way is not the only way. Use what is comfortable and practice, practice, practice.

It might be worth it too you to go on YouTube and look at as players as possible. Check out their right hand, arm and shoulder. See if you can get some ideas from them. I have seen the Right Hand Alpha course, and it seems to be pretty good. It's pretty much the same as Jeff taught in his seminars (when he would walk by and slap your hand with a ruler if your hand wasn't right.).

With 6 years under your belt, it might be worth it to try and adjust what you are doing now instead of starting over trying a new way to hold you hand.
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Tom Gorr


From:
Three Hills, Alberta
Post Posted 15 Dec 2014 9:30 am     Reply with quote

I found going to a long bladed thumb pick helped rotate my hand forward to make my hand look more like the position piano instructors like to see. My control and accuracy improved a lot.

I was using a clipped blue herco because thats whatva local instructor recommended and now using the propik long. The visual in my mind of a natural hand is the piano hand not that contorted arthritic look that I see most players use. An even better visual is how you would shape your body if you were typing on a curved ergonomic keyboard. Those were designed by doctors.

Also to keep in mind..your are not driving on the autobahn. ..keep your back straight...don't lean forward...and if you are playing a single body guitar a double body guitar may be more suitable to your body dimensions.

My last remark is that there are a lot of very different philosophies about correct hand shape. No matter the expert...find another expert if the approach isn't comfortable to you.


Last edited by Tom Gorr on 15 Dec 2014 9:52 am; edited 1 time in total
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James Wolf


From:
Georgia
Post Posted 15 Dec 2014 9:45 am     Reply with quote

Richard Sinkler wrote:
I have seen MANY players that have a flat hand similar to yours, and they play fine. I think Ross and Dick hit on a couple of things with your shoulder and arm. But i have also seen many others that don't keep their elbow close to their side and they play well too. I studied the Jeff Newman way of picking with the hand looking like a ball was in your hand, and have my pinky sticking out. While I try to teach this to any students I get, I stress that my way is not the only way. Use what is comfortable and practice, practice, practice.

It might be worth it too you to go on YouTube and look at as players as possible. Check out their right hand, arm and shoulder. See if you can get some ideas from them. I have seen the Right Hand Alpha course, and it seems to be pretty good. It's pretty much the same as Jeff taught in his seminars (when he would walk by and slap your hand with a ruler if your hand wasn't right.).

With 6 years under your belt, it might be worth it to try and adjust what you are doing now instead of starting over trying a new way to hold you hand.


That makes sense. I guess I was only worried because I see so few players with a flat hand like mine. Buddy Cage comes to mind.... Ain't a thing wrong with his picking
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Johan Jansen


From:
Europe
Post Posted 15 Dec 2014 10:18 am     Reply with quote

1.
Buy a big mirror, put your steelguitar in front of that, against the mirror.

2 Put your hand and body in the position you think is right, or what you learned from a video, a course, a picture or whatever and mark that position very good.

Only look into the mirror at your hand, as if it would be someone else playing that you need to teach it right.

3 Play slow, when it is ok, play slower and slower,not faster! This way you will train your muscle-memory.Be aware of every little move you make with your fingers and watch it! Make small, ergonomic movements.

4 Only play songs and riffs, licks, songs , scales slow. That slow, that you can master it easy with your technique. When you get it, play it slower. Avoid all situations where you fall back in the wrong, old habits, like a band. A stage-performance with the nerves and tension can bring back old habits and once played wrong for a few songs, you can start from the beginning! Sorry to say, maybe you need to quit your band for a few months...

The word is discipline...

5 You can buy every lesson you want, but you are the one that needs to play by yourself. Now and then film yourself and watch it. When you do that once a week, you will see progress. One person goes fast, one slower. Take your time!

5 You will see, if you can play slow, (very relaxed without paying attention to your hand and without having tension in arms, shoulders and wrist) you will see that you can play fast too!

Yes, I also studied with Jeff Newmann.
I don't bend my picks, just a little plying where it hurts my cuticle.

Good luck with it! Johan




Also, see this:
To me Buddy C had a very nice smooth technique

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViY2WXvVXYU


Last edited by Johan Jansen on 16 Dec 2014 4:51 am; edited 7 times in total
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Paul Sutherland


From:
Placerville, California
Post Posted 15 Dec 2014 12:38 pm     Reply with quote

I like Johan's suggestion and especially his picture; very good hand position.

Consider this:

Stand in front of a mirror and close your eyes. Now relax and shake your hands and total upper body to make sure everything is relaxed. Now open your eyes and look at your right hand.

I bet it is NOT in a position like James. James' right hand is far from being natural and relaxed. It looks tense and awkward. When in life do you ever use such a hand position, other than playing steel guitar?

A much more relaxed hand position is what you see in Johan's picture. That's what you want. Tucking the pinkie finger under or sticking it out shouldn't make any significant difference to the overall hand position. I stick the little finger out.

There certainly are some players, including some famous ones, that have done quite well with the crab hand position. But I believe they would have been even better players if they had a rounded more relaxed hand position.

If you can somehow learn to play with such an awkward hand position, it should be equally possible to relearn with a more relaxed and rounded hand. It will be worth the effort.
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Last edited by Paul Sutherland on 15 Dec 2014 4:38 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Mark Hershey


From:
New York, USA
Post Posted 15 Dec 2014 12:54 pm     Reply with quote

I have another question, and perhaps it is covered in 'Right Hand Alpha' video. What do you do to shape your picks with a pliers? I haven't done this yet with any my picks and I'm sure this would make a difference with my technique.
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post Posted 15 Dec 2014 1:05 pm     Reply with quote

Jeff Newman talks early on about picks and their shape. In particular he says don't use Dunlops as they have a wide flange which can catch on the string above. Funny, I thought, I use Dunlops and they're fine. But the minute I copied Jeff's hand position correctly guess what - my second finger pick did start catching! I've filed it down.
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Lane Gray


From:
Topeka, KS
Post Posted 15 Dec 2014 1:05 pm     Reply with quote

I've never used pliers. Just gently bend them against my thigh.
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David Mason


From:
Cambridge, MD, USA
Post Posted 15 Dec 2014 3:16 pm     Reply with quote

If you're telling yourself that your hand positioning is what's keeping you from playing certain strings of notes, you may want to work hardest - on what you tell yourself. It's quite easy to draw up your OWN exercises that involve playing mixtures of odd, and even, numbers of "hits" moving up and down across strings. Nobody can do it for you, because it basically consists of figuring out what you can't do first, and then do it until you can. Not even the cat wants to listen to that. Whoa! But work backwards from the music, not upwards from obtuse technical exercises? Teachers start students with a song.
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chris ivey


From:
california - r.i.p.
Post Posted 15 Dec 2014 3:38 pm     Reply with quote

my unnecessary questionable advice would be to sit a little closer to your steel and pull your right elbow in closer to your body.

favorite excellent player, jaydee maness, plays with a pretty flat hand.
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post Posted 15 Dec 2014 3:40 pm     Reply with quote

Lane, do you have a tin leg? Pliers are good if you want to bend the tabs other than where they bend easiest (by the holes).
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Bill Moore


From:
Manchester, Michigan
Post Posted 15 Dec 2014 5:37 pm     Reply with quote

I'm a believer in the Jeff Newman picking style. There are some very good reasons to try and adapt to this style. Jeff said, and I believe him, that you will get better tone by using this style. You can prove this yourself. Hold your hand in the "claw" position, then pick the 4th or 5th string repeatedly with one finger as you rotate your hand to the right into the the Newman" position. In the claw position, the sound will be thin, and you will hear more pick noise. As you rotate, the sound will thicken and the pick noise will diminish. Your hand will be in a better position to block too. From looking at your picture, I'd say, sit up straight, don't lean in on the guitar, pull your right elbow in towards your body, and keep the first knuckle of the right hand pointing up and the edge of the right hand in position to block. Practice this and always be aware of what you are doing. I think it's worth it to spend the time needed to make this your default position.
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Brett Day


From:
Pickens, SC
Post Posted 15 Dec 2014 6:01 pm     Reply with quote

I've always kept my ring and pinky fingers tucked in, but sometimes I'll extend the ring and pinky fingers. Tim McCasland said in his Pedal Steel Guitar video that the best thing to do is to do what works best for you
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Ray Montee


From:
Portland, Oregon
Post Posted 15 Dec 2014 8:21 pm     A question about 'posturing'............ Reply with quote

Is all of this controversy about how to sit, how to tuck your right arm, how to hold your hand flat, how to 'claw' your notes, how to hold your pinky out straight, etc......... REALLY, REALLY Necessary????

This stuff was never really a controversial issue during the many years I've been playing. Joaquin Murphy, Noel Boggs, Leon McAuliff, Roy Wiggens and the rest of them were never observed with these grotesque hand configurations. That is, until I first attended a Jeff Newman seminar.

All this 'wrist cramping', finger cramping, sore shoulders, etc., seem to be such a waste. I've never used pliers or any other mechanism to bend, twist or distort my finger picks. As suggested above, my merely place the picks into my thigh and with regular playing, they will ultimately form the shape you desire. After about twenty years, I found that my two finger picks were worn toward the right side of the pick and were FLAT..............


WHY NOT just sit down at your pedal steel, and forget all of this jazz about how to sit?

Put your bar hand on the 5th fret. NOW,.....simply rest your right hand on the strings nearest you. Be relaxed! Let your right forearm freely cross your body at about an approximately 45 degree angle. Leave the right arm hang loose, so you're free to make quick movements in order to deliver a different picking stance.......from palm to finger harmonics.

Let your hand RELAX and curl under the rest of your fingers. Instead of grasping or clawing at the strings, gently allow your thumb and index or middle finger to roll the strings as you pick.

Don't expect a miracle overnight but with time it will come to you. Give it a try. You might possibly find success.
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Johan Jansen


From:
Europe
Post Posted 15 Dec 2014 11:52 pm     Reply with quote

Ray,very few people are blessed with a good right hand technique. You are one of them. You sound beautiful.
Most people don't have a technique where they are happy with and like to learn something that fits their needs. And how you also mention: It doesn't come overnight Smile
Happy Hollidays!
Johan
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Gordon Hartin


From:
Durham, NC
Post Posted 16 Dec 2014 5:50 am     Reply with quote

James,

You should take a Skype lesson with Joe Wright. In my opinion he has redefined "right hand technique".

Gordon
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Charlie McDonald


From:
out of the blue
Post Posted 16 Dec 2014 6:17 am     Re: A question about 'posturing'............ Reply with quote

It's true, Ray, you look like you were born to it in the video.
You have a point: too much instruction may not be a good thing.
Too much attention may be counterproductive.

But--James, you see Mr. Wood's shoulders in his avatar and have grasped what he said. He appears firm, but he's also relaxed.
An assist would be sitting over the pelvis loosely. The accompanying relaxation in the back will drop the shoulders. Occasional progressive relaxation will help imprint the posture and reinforce relaxation of the shoulders and neck; arm movement will be more free. Each muscle group down the line will benefit down to the hand and fingers.

Ergonomics wasn't a study until fairly recently; it's more important now with so many people at computer keyboards.
Ray's advice to RELAX seems to be most important.
It's something that sometimes has to be relearned, taking time, as Johan and Ray said.
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John Ely


From:
Minneapolis Minnesota, USA
Post Posted 16 Dec 2014 6:47 am     Right Hand Reply with quote

Dude, if it's something you can afford, you need a lesson!
Connect with (the other) John Ely for a skype lesson.
His website is: http://hawaiiansteel.com/
He does lessons over Skype which works great.
He'll get you on the right track in no time.
(For clarity's sake I point out that there are two of us here on the forum named John Ely who play steel guitar. He's a Grammy-winning TSGA Hall of Fame member; I'm a hack.
He'll get you on track in no time.
John
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