An efficient free-stroke/2

September 9th, 2017

They say a picture paints a thousand words. If that’s the case, a video should paint 10,000 words.

I shot a simple video with my phone showing the three different ways of plucking—from the knuckle joint, from the middle joint, and with the fingertip.

You can see that in all three plucking methods, all three joints are moving. Our fingers work as a unit, and when we say we are moving from one joint, it doesn’t suggest the other joints are completely stationary.

However, there is a distinct difference in sensation between plucking from the knuckle joint as opposed to plucking from the middle joint as opposed to plucking with the fingertips.

These differences are not psychological, they’re very real. You physically feel one specific part of the finger or joint activating the stroke and the other joints moving in support.

(In the video, I mentioned plucking from the tip joint. That’s not wholly accurate. When it comes to the tip joint, it’s really more accurate to say that I’m plucking with my fingertip rather than the tip joint.)

I use all three strokes but my primary and default stroke is the third one, playing with the fingertip, because it is so economical and efficient.

4 Responses to “An efficient free-stroke/2”

  1. Slow Moe Says:

    Very interesting post and video! I can’t tell in the video, are you collapsing the tip joints or keeping them firm?

  2. Philip Hii Says:

    I can feel a slight give at the tip joint when I play and I control the amount of that give. If I want a light soft touch, I allow the joint to give more. If I want a louder tone, I stiffen it slightly. The ability to control the amount of give at the tip joint is crucial. I don’t think I would completely collapse it. I’ll try to post another video demonstrating this soon.

  3. Marcos Villanueva Says:

    Hello Mr. Hii.
    I’m agree with all the things you say in your articles and with your method of teaching. It’s fantastic! For 42 years I was guitar professor at Conservatorio Municipal de Música de Barcelona (Spain). And I applied a very, very similar methodology. I’m very happy reading you.
    I have an interesting quote:

    “Los dedos en todos los casos deben herir las cuerdas con absoluta independencia y con la fuerza nece- .
    saria producida únicamente por la última falange de los mismos” T. Damas: “Método completo y progresivo de guitarra” [1867]
    I translate for you:
    “Fingers, in all cases, must to pluck the strings with absolute independence and only with the necessary strength produced by the fingertip”

    I use round movements (like you said elsewhere). I focus on the fingertip and I make little circles with it.
    I think the more we implies the flesh, the better sound we have. So the flexibility of the last joint is very useful because it allows to put more flesh without risk of hooking the string.
    Also we can consider that there’s not too much space between strings, so is better to use the last joint because that implies a smaller radius.
    Of course, all the joints are moving. Suppress movements is not a good idea, as you said.
    Every joint has is own work and they do his work at the precise moment, one after another.
    I find that it’s interesting to practise it very slowly, specially when the finger is already in contact with the string and the last joint is bending backward before plucking. Then we can feel flexibility and how we move the last joint for releasing the string.
    Thank you very much.

  4. Philip Hii Says:

    Dear Professor Villanueva,

    Thank you for your comment. I am gratified to hear that we share a similar approach and pedagogical philosophy. Thank you for that quote from T Damas. I too like to go back and find inspiration from teachers in the past.

    All the best.