Thumb Pick Force

This forum will provide lessons for getting started and exercises for gaining proficiency.

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Andy
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Thumb Pick Force

Post by Andy » Wed Feb 28, 2018 11:33 am

Hey everyone!

I was wondering about how much force, or lack there of, you should be striking the strings with the pick. I have found that as I am starting to introduce the accompaniment into one of these melodies, it is much easier to play the strings together without the pick, because it eliminates the difference in force needed to pluck the strings at the same time, however I am afraid that I am going to learn some bad habits this way.

Any advice on force, or how to approach the difference between the melody and accompaniment strings?

Thanks!
- Andy

NutmegCT
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Re: Thumb Pick Force

Post by NutmegCT » Thu Mar 01, 2018 8:10 am

Hi Andy. I'm looking forward to hearing from the experienced players about this. I'm still trying to figure out how to find the accompaniment strings!

My take: the thumb pick gives a completely different energy to the melody strings. Your right hand bare fingers on the accompaniment strings "brush" across, or softly "pluck" the string. But the thumb pick actually strongly "plucks" the string, and thus imparts more energy (force) to the melody string.

And of course, the thumb moves in the opposite direction from the other fingers. That also makes the thumb energy easier to control, compared to the accompaniment fingers.

It's all very subjective, unless you have an experienced person sitting right next to you for guidance.

I don't understand when you say "it is much easier to play the strings together without the pick". Are you talking about melody (griffbrett) strings together? If so, I assume you *could* brush the melody strings with your thumb without using a pick, but the standard practice is to use the pick on the melody strings.

Say, what zither book(s) are you using? and what lessons (exercises) are you on now?

Tom M.

Andy
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Re: Thumb Pick Force

Post by Andy » Thu Mar 01, 2018 11:39 am

Hey Nutmeg!

When I say "play the strings together without the pick", I mean plucking the melody and pulling the accompaniment at the same time. The reason seems to be that it equalizes the amount of force your thumb and fingers are exerting. With the pick, the melody string requires significantly less force to sound, and the accompaniment more force, so to me it feels clumsy... pull hard with the finger but strum lightly with the thumb it seems like.

As for books, so far I’ve used the Tabsorsky PDF found on this site to figure out how the griffbrett works. I’ve also been using an old copy of "Volkstümliche Zitherschule" by Adalbert Albrecht which was in my Great Grandfathers pile of books.

Picture of the page I am currently working on.
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NutmegCT
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Re: Thumb Pick Force

Post by NutmegCT » Fri Mar 02, 2018 10:54 am

Andy - why not make a short YouTube video, close up of your hands while playing, and post the link here? Then you could get experienced members to comment on your questions.

I did that last year, and one member was very helpful in getting me started.

By the way, did you ever hook up with any central Texas German music groups?

Tom M.

Andy
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Re: Thumb Pick Force

Post by Andy » Sat Mar 03, 2018 11:15 am

Ask and you shall receive: https://youtu.be/csR-Zq9Vjtg And please pile on all the feedback. If I'm doing something wrong I'd rather know and fix it.

Video is without the pick. I spent yesterday playing around with the pick some more, its getting easier, I think I just threw myself off track a bit by learning how to play the melody without it (I was afraid I would disturb the neighbors).

Haven't looked at the Texas German Music group yet. I wanted to get down some basics and understanding before going in completely unprepared.

- Andy

NutmegCT
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Re: Thumb Pick Force

Post by NutmegCT » Sat Mar 03, 2018 1:42 pm

Andy - jeez - that is quite some progress in only two months! You might want to record the same thing with the thumb pick, then compare the recordings' sounds.

Here's about where I am after almost a year:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GiqPDDhjRDA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05d4oFxarYE

I find it interesting that some methods teach individual notes for both melody and accompaniment, and others seem to teach notes for the melody, and "chords" for the accompaniment. Probably evens out after the student gains experience.

By the way, you might want to make contact with a German music group sooner rather than later, to get a zitherist contact. Even one short meeting might prevent you developing any long term bad habits.

OK Forum - what other comments do you have for Andy?

Tom M.
(former Texan, now in New England)

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Dave
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Re: Thumb Pick Force

Post by Dave » Sat Mar 03, 2018 5:50 pm

Hi Andy, pretty song. My Oma used to play that.

A few words on terminology: You wear a zither "ring" on your thumb, and use it to "strike" the strings.

You're doing very well! Try not to lift your left hand when playing. What type of zither ring are you using? Is it a proper ring, or is it a plastic guitar thumb pick? How loud you strike the fret board strings really calls for the occasion and what the music dictates. Are your working toward a crescendo? Are the measures forte or piano? Are you playing the second part of A in a folk song with a group of other musicians? If you're trying not to wake the neighbors, then fine. Other than that, I'd suggest you practice with a thumb ring. :-D

I'm "zitherus" on Skype. If you'd like to take a few moments to cover some basics, I'll be happy to assist you. Just let me know when would be a good time.

Keep up the good work!

Dave
We do not take humor seriously enough. —Konrad Lorenz

kenbloom
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Re: Thumb Pick Force

Post by kenbloom » Sun Mar 04, 2018 9:26 am

Hi Andy,

First of all, you're doing great! I wish I had sounded as good after such a short time playing. I do have a couple of suggestions for you. When you use a zither ring, the thumb can move in a more natural position. Since the fingerboard strings are steel, they need the more precise attack you get with a zither ring. That way you can maintain a better balance. You will get a better tone from the fingerboard strings if you use a rest stroke, meaning that the pick comes to rest on the next string after plucking the note. You want to play into the instrument with the pick, not across it. If the pick hits the string at a 45 degree angle instead of perpendicular, you get a much richer and fuller tone.
All this can be helped if you do not rest the heel of you hand on the bridge. I realize that doing so gives you a secure anchor but it also promotes a lot of tension in your arm and hand. It also restricts the movement of your right hand up and down the fingerboard which means that you can't get as many expressive tones. You get a sharper, mor treble sound close to the fingerboard and a more mellow sound when you are away from the bridge. Listen to some of the acoustic recordings of Rudi Knabl and you can clearly hear how he uses this technique to play so expressively. Keeping the wrist more elevated will give you a better tone, better control and an easier access to the contra bass strings. If you use a rest stroke with the thumb as well as rest strokes with your other fingers you can use that contact as your anchor. Getting away from resting the heel of your hand on the bridge is not easy but so worthwhile. If you'd like more info on any of this, just let me know.

Ken Bloom
http://www.boweddulcimer.org

Andy
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Re: Thumb Pick Force

Post by Andy » Thu Mar 08, 2018 12:58 pm

Thank you all for the feedback! This has been incredibly helpful. I am going to use the ring exclusively now, never going to learn to feel and control it unless its attached to my thumb.

Tom: It is funny to see the different styles in the older books vs the newer books. I’m just starting to look at some of the first cords in the book. Striking 4 strings at the same time is so much harder! Also I’m surprised you can play standing, it seems much more difficult to me.

Dave: Thank you! I have to get my camera situation a little better setup here, but after that I would love to take you up on that. Working on taming my left (and right) hand, they keep wanting to do their own thing when I stop paying attention. As for rings, I have four of them that came with the zither. They are sizes 3 - 6 and all have ‘Silberstahl’ etched in them. I’ve been waffling between 3 and 4, so far 4 is winning.

Ken: Rest strokes and 45 degrees into instead of perpendicular, this is a game changer. I’ve slowed down my pace, adjusted my angle and have been forcing myself to use the rest strokes. The sound is so much cleaner and consistent. Better to be slow and correct than fast and sloppy.

Additional, I downloaded some software called MuseScore. It allows you to input music and play it back. I’ve done this with the next two songs I want to work on in the book (“Kukuck! Kukuck!” & “Hansl und Gretl”), hearing the songs helps me demystify the written music.

- Andy

Andy
Posts: 52
Joined: Sun Dec 03, 2017 10:36 am
Location: Austin TX
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Re: Thumb Pick Force

Post by Andy » Fri Mar 16, 2018 3:12 pm

Afternoon everyone!

Follow up using the zither ring, and incorporating as much feedback as I've been able. I have been putting in about an hour or so every morning.

https://youtu.be/J9Z6l-3MB1Y

- Andy

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