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to float or not to float

PostPosted: Thu Aug 21, 2003 11:52 pm
by felixcharlock
hello all. i've been enjoying this forum quite a bit lately. lots of good info. i had a question for you lot that i hadn't seen addressed: how important is the gypsy 'floating hand' picking technique to this style of music? i've been playing guitar for close to 20 yrs now (jazz, blues, fingerstyle, etc, etc) and i'm finding that a picking style change this radical seems impossible for me. i'm fine playing django style rhythm with my right hand a-floated, but when i attempt a solo--shit, even 2 notes--everything just crashes and burns worse than marion barry... i've learned a couple django solos note for note picking the way i always have, that is with my middle, ring & pinky anchored on the pickguard, and they sound just fine. so i guess what i'm asking all you learned djangophiles is: is all the practice to re-train my right hand to float worth it? it seems like such a mighty transition this late in the game for me. and on the philosophical tip: wouldn't i be sacrificing what makes me sound like 'me' by learning someone else's technique? isn't my picking technique inherent to my sound and style? wouldn't django just tell me to play like myself and try to be original? woah. big tangent there. sorry to drift. questions, questions, questions. i just love this style of music so much. your feedback is apreciated. thanks, jesse

PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2003 12:35 am
by Zoot
To change right hand technique at any stage of the game is a total mind bender and can be quite a tall mountain to climb.

You can spot a player a mile off who has his hand resting. It's volume and tone.

Don't get me wrong there are a multitude of players who rest the fingers who play nicer lines than ever hope to do but I know the sound I project has more vibrancy than those that don't. (upon analising my technique i see that i do have fingers resting on the board but they are for reference only. I'll have to do something about that)

I am coming at this from an acoustic standpoint (around the fire, late at night) when someone takes up the call and proceeds to tinkle away nicely while everyone else gets a beer and has a chat.

Play a few notes with the fingers tucked or splayed but not touching the board and you will instantly realise how much of your effort is lost.

PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2003 8:05 am
by justjack

A friend who's been playing for ten or fifteen years (blues, rock, etc.) had just the same question, or problem. Rhythm was fine, but he always felt like he had trouble soloing, even though he could tear it up in all those other styles. The thing that changed it for him wasn't so much 'the float' as the way he held his pick-so that now, the first knuckle of his thumb is what anchors the topside, and the first knuckle of the index finger anchors the bottom (rather than holding it between the pads of the fingers). The amazing part is that it wasn't something he had to work at; we were watching the Legacy tape and he had a good enough eye to notice that the picking on that wasn't what he was used to doing. Five minutes later, his eyes lit up, and his lines had that sort of rippling vibrancy you hear in this music (that, I think, is a lot of what's lost when you anchor-not just because of the deadening of the top, but also because there won't be as dynamic a range of motion in your picking arm).
The exact physical reasons for this new ease of playing I can't explain. If you're interested, there's a book just about gypsy picking techniques at
Philosophically, I think that a certain style of picking provides a lot of this music's bounce, and I don't think you need to sacrifice your musicality to use it, any more than a straight-ahead jazz cat sacrifices his by learning chord melody, or walking bass lines. Or maybe I'm up too late again.

all best, Jack.

PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2003 1:15 pm
by bwilkins
All I might add is: patience! Give it more time. The tone is critically dependent on it. I know plenty of fine guitar players, in a variety of other styles, and everyone of them who has ever picked up my D'A to try gets nothing but a weak and wimpy sound out of it.

I - thankfully - discovered, after getting the Horowitz book, I already had a pretty good right-hand technique. A firm, confident, attacking "rest-stroke". So what I'm working on is developing more accuracy, and better down vs. up-stroke picking.

Believe us Jesse, you'll find it's worth the effort and time!!!


PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2003 3:43 pm
by Jan Primus
I even brought my "Gypsy Picking" book to work with me so I can listen to the CD while I work. Kind of puts me in the mind space, so when I am practicing later it gets me going much better. The difference in tone picking that way is substantial.


PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2003 4:36 pm
by angorawol
You can give more power to your 'attacks' and hit the string better, to my opinion. Floating is the right way, it becomes more fun.

PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2003 10:07 pm
by felixcharlock
thanks for the suggestions everyone. and jack thanks for the djangobooks link--i ordered the horowitz book today. i understand the 'why' of the floating hand, but the 'how' continues to elude me. it has become my nemesis. i just don't get it. it's like i'm completely guessing where the string is when i try to pick it. so awkward and totally frustrating. but i will keep trying. after a few more beers that is. peace, jesse

PostPosted: Sat Aug 23, 2003 1:03 am
by bwilkins

It's the old, basic rule for learning anything new: Slow Down! You'll even see how Horowitz stresses this. I know it's a hard discipline for me, always wanting to play it up to speed. But we must force ourselves thru the slow methodical rudiments, training those reluctant muscles where and how to hit each string. (Dont be thinking Im any expert, but have come a long ways in the last couple of years (only 28 more to go :wink: )


PostPosted: Sat Aug 23, 2003 2:00 pm
by mobiegobie

Can i Just nod and agree with what everyone else has said?