Finger Picking vs Strumming

All strummers welcome!

Finger Picking vs Strumming

Postby fhonehome » Fri Sep 11, 2009 4:10 pm

I've recently learned to finger pick my dulcimer as opposed to strumming. I use a thumb pick to pluck the melody string and then pick the middle and base strings with my index and middle fingers. I also experiment with fretting chords with my left hand as I pick the melody string and pluck the others. Personally, I like the sound the instrument produces better that it does when strummed. My biggest problem, though, is determining how to handle longer notes in a song; how many strings to pluck and how often; etc.-you get the idea.
Nevertheless, I'm a novice. I would appricate learning what you other folks think about finger picking in general; what other fingering methods you use; how do you handle, for instance, a whole note as opposed to a quarter note; any thoughts, tips and techniques that you know-you get the idea free range the thoughts.
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Re: Finger Picking vs Strumming

Postby zanetti » Fri Sep 11, 2009 4:38 pm

I LOVE fingerpicking! There's something about getting to touch the strings with both hands that helps me feel very "in touch" with the instrument. And I love the gentle, mellow sound that comes with fingerpicking (especially bare finger style).


I'm not entirely sure what you mean by the "handle longer notes". If you mean how to fill in the "spaces" (that otherwise would be filled with strums), what you can do is alternate in picking the different notes of the last chord (this is called playing an arpeggiated chord).

I posted a bit on fingerpicking in response to a similar question last month, and will copy it below.


Postby zanetti » Thu Aug 20, 2009 7:12 pm
First, I'll mention a couple of ideas that I always present when teaching workshops on fingerpicking, and then a couple of references for resources at the end of the post.

Issues relating to fingerpicking:

FIrst:
There are several different styles or approaches to this style of playing dulcimer. Some of the differences in style (and therefore some of the decisions to be made as you find your own style) include:

1- Which RH fingers to use?
2- Use of fingerpicks vs. nails vs. bare fingers?
3- Whether to anchor the RH or not, and if so, on which side of the fretboard?
4- how to approach the string (RH): pluck or "rub" the string?

My own approach is (1) for RH use thumb on the melody string, index on the middle string, middle finger on the bass string; (2) bare fingers; (3) anchor RH by placing the pinky (LIGHTLY) against the side of the fretboard closest to the bass string; (4) "rub" or sweep the string, rather than an upward pluck.
But, some VERY fine fingerpickers use a different approach on some or all of these issues.

Next: some things that I believe are always important in fingerpicking :

1- Learning to read and interpret tab with arpeggiated (broken) chords. Tab for fingerstyle arrangements often appears very confusing at first, because there are so many notes. If you can learn to see that the notes really outline familiar chords, where the notes of the chords are simply spread out over time, then learning the arrangement becomes much easier.
2- Bringing out the melody notes. Fingerstyle arrangements often contain many "filler" notes, in addition to the notes of the melody itself. IF we play all these notes at equal volume, the effect can be rather like a machine gun, and listeners may complain that fingerstyle arrangements have "too many notes". The way to make a fingerstyle arrangement sound fluid but not "notey" is to always be sure that the melody line stands out. We can do this by making the melody notes louder, but it works even better to make the "filler" notes quieter!
3- Silence is golden, at least once in a while. That is, if you are working out a fingerpicked arrangement, it is good to occasionally stop the filler notes, to leave a little "space" in the music.

Anyway, these are the things that help me with fingerpicking.

For an excellent how-to book on fingerpicking, see Sue Carpenter's "Patchwork and Patterns", at
http://www.suecarpenter.net/

Linda Brockinton also has some good tips in many of her books. http://www.lindabrockinton.com/

I've got some tips in my "Softer Side of Dulcimer" book, or feel free to PM with questions.

Hope this all helps
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Re: Finger Picking vs Strumming

Postby dulcilora » Fri Sep 11, 2009 5:49 pm

I taught myself to fingerpick from Sue Carpenter's book and highly recommend it. In it you will find simple songs written out with different fingerpicking patterns, progressing from easy to more challenging. You can then apply those patterns to any song you want.

I also recommend taking a workshop from Sue, Linda or Nina if you ever get the chance to travel to a festival or event where one of them is teaching.

Keep picking!

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Re: Finger Picking vs Strumming

Postby mrchips » Fri Sep 11, 2009 8:52 pm

Ill highly second one of sues workshops. She gets a sound out of a MD that you wouldnt think one was capable of...
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Re: Finger Picking vs Strumming

Postby fhonehome » Sat Sep 12, 2009 2:43 pm

Thanks for all the good input. Sounds like I need to get a copy of Sue Carpenter's book as soon as possible. I truly like the sound that my dulcimer makes when I finger pick a tune.
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Re: Finger Picking vs Strumming

Postby folkfan » Sat Sep 12, 2009 2:52 pm

fhonehome wrote:Thanks for all the good input. Sounds like I need to get a copy of Sue Carpenter's book as soon as possible. I truly like the sound that my dulcimer makes when I finger pick a tune.


Though, I never finger pick, I do like the sound. Good luck in you endeavors.
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Re: Finger Picking vs Strumming

Postby byfaith » Sat Sep 12, 2009 6:28 pm

Fingerpicking is a great way to add variety to playing dulcimer. I agree with Nina arpeggiated chords are great fillers when holding a whole note. If you are holding the note on the melody string try wiggling the string up and down while holding the note. This gives a different sound. Sue's book is great. Steve Seifert also has a DVD and book that explores fingerpicking. I think it's #3 in the series. I find seeing the techniques on DVD makes learning easier for me. Fingerpicking is my favorite way to play dulcimer. For me making your music expressive is easier when fingerpicking then other methods.
Have fun!
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Re: Finger Picking vs Strumming

Postby zanetti » Sat Sep 12, 2009 10:53 pm

A question and a comment for "byfaith"

1. you wrote: "If you are holding the note on the melody string try wiggling the string up and down while holding the note." Did you mean away and toward you in the plane of the fretboard? This sound like a kind of vibrato that (I think) some guitarists do, but I've never been able to achieve on dulcimer. Or did you mean up, away from the fret board and then down? Just curious; perhaps you could explain a bit more about this for us?

2. You wrote: " For me making your music expressive is easier when fingerpicking then other methods".
I don't know why that should be so, but I find the same thing about fingerpicking and playing expressively!
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Re: Finger Picking vs Strumming

Postby MT Player » Sun Sep 13, 2009 1:59 am

I'm a finger picker, too, and when you mentioned that you had strummed before, one question popped into my head. When you're playing a finger picking song that has chords, are you brushing your right hand across the strings in an inward direction, towards your body or is your right hand moving across the strings in an outward direction, away from your body? The sound and resonance of the chord will be entirely different depending on the direction. If you're finger picking a song, you should be moving your right hand in an inward direction when making chords. You can extend that sound even more by simply brushing the strings of the chord at an angle, moving from left to right across the fretboard. I wasn't sure if you were talking about individual notes or chords but thought I'd mention this.

There is a FP technique, however, that does extend the sound of a single note. Just keep your finger pressed down on the fretted note until you need to pluck another note on the same string. In other words, don't lift your finger off the fretted note until it's necessary. This will give lasting resonance to each plucked note and better flow to your song. I can't remember for sure but I think I picked up this technique from Stephen Seifert's finger picking book.
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Re: Finger Picking vs Strumming

Postby southernmiss » Sun Sep 13, 2009 5:08 pm

I've just started fingerpicking and would like to thank all of you for your really helpful tips. Great thread!

Lee
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Re: Finger Picking vs Strumming

Postby byfaith » Sun Sep 13, 2009 8:45 pm

Sorry to be unclear earlier. :oops: I was attempting to describe the kind of vibrato you mentioned Nina. I tried to think of the proper term but was having a senior moment. I can get the effect but I have to move the string more than you would expect to achieve it. I'm still working with that technique myself.
I just love the soft soothing sound the dulcimer has when fingerpicked.
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Re: Finger Picking vs Strumming

Postby zanetti » Sun Sep 13, 2009 10:58 pm

A couple more thoughts:

1- MT player wrote: "There is a FP technique, however, that does extend the sound of a single note. Just keep your finger pressed down on the fretted note until you need to pluck another note on the same string. In other words, don't lift your finger off the fretted note until it's necessary. This will give lasting resonance to each plucked note and better flow to your song." This approach (never lift a fretted note until absolutely necessary) is important for smooth playing of all kinds, flat-picked or fingerpicked. It's a really good habit to cultivate, if you want connected (legato) playing.

2- By faith, no need to be embarrassed. I THINK a guitarist friend of mine calls it "slow vibrato", but otherwise, I wouldn't know what to call it either.

3- Linda Brockinton has some nice videos on you-tube. They show her fingerpicking technique nicely:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W782nG_12lQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72Z9F6UN ... re=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEjhsJqB ... re=related
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