The Right Hand In FingerStyle: To Brace Or Not To Brace
I received this letter recently by someone who is a bit confused about various things I have said in "The Principles Of Correct Practice For Guitar" , and what his teacher is telling him.........
Yesterday in my guitar lesson my instructor told me to actually place the right heel palm of my right hand on the bridge of the guitar rather than keep my hand floating over the strings. He said the placement of my right heel of the palm will anchor my hand and I will be able to finger pick hard and will have more control over the guitar.
Am I totally going against your principles and learning something terrible if I finger pick this way in the “casual” position? I’m still doing your right hand exercises (ie, thumb up, bouncing thumb,etc..) but my instructor suggested trying those exercises with the palm of my hand resting on the bridge.
My guitar instructor has about 25 years of playing experience but he does not play classical guitar and plays standard acoustic.
Boy, life sure can be confusing, can’t it?! That is a whole lot of confusion to clear up, and I must say you have every right to be so mixed up about this, because, on the face of it, it does seem confusing to the point of contradiction.
Your question is a very logical one, and I am going to take time with it, because I think many people have the same question. Your question, which is about technique, points to the reason I have been so careful to define “technique” the way I do. Technique is “what we do, and how we do it, to get what we want”. Everything depends, Theron, on what you want.
If you want to play as well as your teacher, and no better, ever, then, it will be perfectly fine for you to do as he does. I will guarantee you that there will be built in limitations in the use of the right hand by bracing it as you describe. You will never get as good a sound in terms of tone OR volume. So, all the dynamics of playing will have a more limited “range” in your playing. It is not true that the “braced” right hand is actually more suitable for playing while holding the guitar in the casual position. The free right hand is always better.
Bracing your right hand in the manner described is one of those things that “seems” like a good idea at first. It brings some immediate results, and lots of limitations down the road. I always compare it to a little baby about to take it’s first steps. He reaches over to a nearby table to steady himself, and finds that he feels a lot more in control, a lot more balanced. He takes a couple of steps and then grabs a chair to hold onto to guide his next couple steps, and continues along like that. He says “wow, this is great. I walk so much better this way holding onto things for support. I am walking way better than my friend Johnny. He keeps falling over after three steps. Maybe I should tell him about my new discovery!"
By bracing your hand you are doing the same thing. Yes, you will get some stability that will enable you to play faster. But you will never run with the big boys! The things that can be done with the right hand by training it to have it’s own balance will completely blow away the hand that needs to brace itself. And that goes for pick style too. (I am not saying never brace it, as you need to to get a muted bass line or something like that. I am saying do not always and only NEED to brace it). And, add this to your understanding. Any “bracing”, or, the touching of the guitar with parts of either hand or arm for “support” should be down as LIGHTLY as possible, to minimize the tying up of other muscles with tension.
So, in essence, I am saying that this bracing you are asking about brings short term benefits, and long term limitations.