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What is the best right hand position for flatpicking

i rest my hand on the bridge but then its hard to reach different strings

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Hi Mathew,

This is one of those questions that in my mind has no correct answer, but only opinions that stem from what works best from the opinionator. Did that make sense? Kind of like "what strings do you like and what pick do you use" questions. I see many of the pros plant a pinky on the guitar for their pickin', I can't do this at all. I tried what your doing only to suffer the same thing and slows down the right hand. I settled for straight out of the air picking at all speeds, no planting of the pinky and 3 fingers tucked in... but like I said, this is what works for me. My suggestion is try everything and do what works best for you! Have fun!

Hi Matthew,

Here just my personal experience.
When I started flatpicking I was absolutely selftauhgt, my right hand used to move in a "Sam Bush" - manner. This gave me the control I needed at higher tempos but it seemed like I sacrificed tone and my playing always felt knotted. With the support of a good teacher I have been working on developing the "free right hand". This did not take me weeks or months but it is still a process which has been going on for maybe two years or more. At least I feel able to use it at slow and medium tempos and I am catching up. The good news is, that the "bad technique" and the "good technique" begin to become friends and I find myself switching between the two of them when playing in a band context. Sometimes I try to use the pinky as support but I do not spend too much time on it. For me it all was worth the effort also because now I feel hat the time needed for the warm-up exercises is reduced.

after almost 40 years of flatpicking i've tried all the known right hand positions.some of them only briefly others for extended periods.i presently play with the position i started with,which is to anchor the heel of my hand on the bridge.i feel this position affords the most control and allows the greatest speed.the fingers anchored position takes a long time to develop speed with due to the fact its a poor anchor.the best example i can think of is tony rice.i know i'll get some flack for this and that's ok.i am the biggest rice fan in the world.i have played every note tony plays for 30 years he is by far my biggest musical influence,but i have always felt that one of tonys' weaknesses is speed.from watching him time and time again avoid solos on fast songs.part of this is due to the complex nature of his licks speaking from experience.his licks are easier to play fast anchoring the heel of your hand.playing with no anchor at all is very difficult,but some people can.i have been told kenny smith plays this way and he is very fast,so there's an exception if that's true.sorry to be so long winded,but this takes a little explaining.try triplets at 140 beats a minute without anchoring.there's my 3 cents worth.

You are correct. I've been doing some "timing" exercises, i.e. 1/4, 1/8, 1/16 and triplet counts with the metronome. Get that rascal much over 126 bpm and your average guy can't do 1/16 notes out of free air. My problem is the same as Mathews, maybe you can help. I get noticeable control and speed improvement when I anchor on the bridge, but I just seem to loose "range of motion" if you will.
range of motion is limited,but that can be a good thing because you're usually doing triplets back and forth between adjacent strings in a variety of patterns.once you get the hang of it you'll see that a very controlled and compact range of motion is helpful.i have a younger brother who i taught to play and he can do triplets at 180 beats a minute.of course he really concentrated his practice on that specifically.he and i both use what i would describe as a controlled spasm in the wrist and forearm.i know that sounds crazy,but that's the only way i know how to describe it.
I have been playing long enough (35 years) to invision exactly what your talking about. After some more thought, there are songs I could give this a try on, like Lonesome Fiddler's Blues, but other stuff like Norman Blake's stuff, where you need full range of motion from top to bottom with lots of struming and cross-picking, I'll have to stick with the free right hand.
Hey Folks,
My right hand tends to use the bridge pins as a point of reference more than an anchor. I stay close enough to feel like I have a "home" position, just brushing over the pins. For me, when I truly anchor at any point, I tend to tense up & we all know that tension is BAD. So from this floating position I find I'm more relaxed (faster) & have a better range of motion than when I did anchor on the pins.

I had my right hand on the bridge for a long time, but have moved up into a pinky-anchor (and would like to go free-floating, but no dice so far). In Bryan Sutton's video, he points out that you lose some volume when you're on the pins, and it's hard to have your pick in the strings- it's more like you're "pecking" at them (he says). David Grier has a completely free-floating right hand, and he is durn speedy. I'm no role model, but I can definitely pull better tone when the heel of my hand is not on the pins.

the problem i see for free-floating is a lack of volume.which for me personally is a big deal.i started flatpicking in 1971 my biggest influence by far was and is tony rice,and if you've ever heard tony in those early days he hammered the guitar.even when he joined grisman playing more jazz oriented stuff he still hammered.he is a much quieter guitarist these days.i say all of this to get to the point that i believe that kind of power needs an anchor somewhere.i've heard david grier play live a couple of times and even with a good mic i had to strain to hear him.a great player,but very very quiet.i think you need all the volume you can get to compete with banjos and mandolins.i anchor the heel of my hand just behind the pins.i disagree with bryan sutton about pecking,though it can appear that way that's not what's happening.to sum it up whatever works for you is the way to go.if you practice smart and hard you will make any method work.
I saw David Grier in a workshop 3 years ago. He did not use any microphone at all but his playing was very loud and clear. Though I believe that some kind of anchoring (necessarily) always takes place. At least some part of the right arm will be pressed a bit against the body of the guitar.
i agree tom,even if that anchoring is somewhere along the forearm.wherever the contact point may be,such as doc watson,someone whose anchor seems to be far away from the flatpick.if i watch docs' right hand for very long my own forearm tenses,but he makes it work for him.i would like to add something that i keep forgetting in this discussion thats' near and dear to me.i use alot of movement thats' only my thumb and index finger comingled with wrist and hand movement to manipulate the flatpick.almost looks like writing,one of my students said.i believe in being as efficient as possible with right hand movement.but then there are exceptions to that for instance clay jones who use to be with mt.heart who uses wide sweeping strokes,and i was his guitar teacher when he was about 16,but he had that right hand then.he is a great guitar player with totally different right hand technique from mine.he makes it work.this is one of my favorite subjects so i tend to go on and on.thanks for the feedback.
I've seen Grier play both workshops and shows and while his playing was very clear (and amazing!), loud is the antonym of the adjective I would use to describe his playing. In fact, almost all of the famous flatpickers I've seen haven't been that loud. Notable exceptions would be Russ Barenberg, Robert Shafer, and Tony Rice, although as previously mentioned, Tony doesn't seem to be near as loud as he was in the past.


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