Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Classical Guitar technique: studies, scales, arpeggios, theory
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Jack Douglas
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Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by Jack Douglas » Sun Jan 08, 2017 2:54 pm

I've played the classical guitar with some teaching and a lot of trial and error since about 1990. The Use of my right hand would get discussed in the first two or so lessons and then whatever piece I happened to be playing became the focus of the lesson. I've been fortunate that I've not injured my hands, though age is catching up with some post football playing left thumb arthritis. That aside I have practiced sporadically and have assumed that the flat right had wrist and stroking the strings at an angle in line with my wrist is 'The' way to get the best tone and play injury free.
Now my present tense is at 70, after acquiring a very fine new guitar I decided to get serious and study with a 76 year old PHD retired classical guitar teacher who uses the Aaron Shearer technique. I'll admit that I have all of his technique books that I acquired years ago but never bothered with since my goal was to learn new pieces to play. Anyway, now is different in that I want to get the pure tone my guitar is capable of.
At my first lesson my teacher said that my flat right hand and stroking the strings at an angle was causing tension in my hand and a less than pure tone. I was shown how to let my wrist relax and simply hang and play using some flesh and the left side of my right hand nails. The next thing that got adjusted was the horizontal angle of the fretboard away from my body. The one thing I had right was the roughly 45 degree vertical angle. I'm struggling with the relaxed wrist, catching my I nail occasionally, using this 'Shearer' method.
I did some You Tube searching and came across an older Alice Artz, Presti Right Hand Technique, but little showing Aaron Shearer technique. There are a number of flat right hand, striking the strings at at angle Videos.
I've been practicing daily attempting to get the guitar placement angles correct and a pure tone with my right hand.
Many of you are professional players and I am most definitely a 'hobbyist' player. Please weigh in on right hand technique and angles (vertical and horizontal) of the guitar from the body. And there are pros and cons about the foot stool, suction cup supports, and cushions (Dynarette). I've noticed professional players using all these, but some world acclaimed players still using a plain old footstool (including my new teacher)
So, are Aaron Shearer and Ida Presti (Alice Artz demos) still accepted techniques?
My apology for this lengthy post, but I think it's a topic worthy of discussion!
Thanks.
Hauser III 2014!

ronjazz
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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by ronjazz » Sun Jan 08, 2017 3:30 pm

It's certainly a relevant discussion. The Presti technique is for those few whose wrist can bend at that rather abnormal angle, and not recommended for someone such as you. The Shearer Method is solid and well-researched, and I would highly recommend Christopher Berg's "Mastering the Guitar: Technique and Essence" from Mel Bay publications; Chris studied with Shearer, and has a very deep understanding of current methodology based on sports medicine research. If you nails are catching, they may be a little too long or not filed in the appropriate shape for your approach.

I have played for 50 years, and I find the footstool to be fine, but many have problems with it. I like to use a strap and stand up while practicing as well, it's better for your back and general posture. I also recommend very slow practicing for 5-10 minute segments to realign your position and improve your tone. Check our Frederic Hand's instructional video on Youtube, it's very well-done and he has a relaxed and no-BS approach with some great examples of simple exercises to get the right hand into a good attitude. Good luck!
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Jack Douglas
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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by Jack Douglas » Sun Jan 08, 2017 4:12 pm

ronjazz wrote:It's certainly a relevant discussion. The Presti technique is for those few whose wrist can bend at that rather abnormal angle, and not recommended for someone such as you. The Shearer Method is solid and well-researched, and I would highly recommend Christopher Berg's "Mastering the Guitar: Technique and Essence" from Mel Bay publications; Chris studied with Shearer, and has a very deep understanding of current methodology based on sports medicine research. If you nails are catching, they may be a little too long or not filed in the appropriate shape for your approach.

I have played for 50 years, and I find the footstool to be fine, but many have problems with it. I like to use a strap and stand up while practicing as well, it's better for your back and general posture. I also recommend very slow practicing for 5-10 minute segments to realign your position and improve your tone. Check our Frederic Hand's instructional video on Youtube, it's very well-done and he has a relaxed and no-BS approach with some great examples of simple exercises to get the right hand into a good attitude. Good luck!
Thanks very much, Ronjazz, for your kind reply. And thank you for the Aaron Shearer affirmation. I've known Christopher Berg for many years and have attended several of the workshops he used to be allowed to do as part of the USC summer programs. USC changed the game and that was the end of a great classical guitar offering. I do have a copy of that book which I'll retrieve. I will take a look at the Frederick Hand videos.
What is abundantly clear to me is that Christopher and others demonstrated a sound right hand technique that I monkeyed with until the way I was doing it was 'THE' way and now years later I'm aware, abundantly aware, that I need my current instructor desperately.
I'll not mention his name, but he was a contemporary of Aaron Shearer, taught by him and subsequently taught with him. In volume 1, Classic Guitar Technique, the guitar on page 4, describing the parts of the guitar, is the guitar he uses in our lessons. He has two, a 62 Velazquez and Hauser II, both well worn and played, from about the same years. He told me he uses his Hauser in ensemble playing because it's considerably louder than The Velazquez. He was delighted when I showed up with my new Hauser III for lessons.
All the best,
Jack
Hauser III 2014!

astro64
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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by astro64 » Sun Jan 08, 2017 8:25 pm

I don't quite understand. The Shearer technique very much involves NOT relaxing the wrist to let the hand hand down, as far as I know. See e.g. how Scott Tennant or Manual Barrueco play. Manuel studied with Shearer at Peabody. The Alice Artz and Ida Presti technique is completely different. It involves relaxing the wrist and playing off the right side of the nail. Some French players still do this, to great success, but not many others do. it puts a lot of strain on the wrist and unless one has gotten used to it from young age on I would not recommend it. Segovia somewhat relaxed the wrist and played off the left side of the nail, however, that relaxed position for me does not work at all since the index nail will always catch in the corner. For me the best video on how to get good sound was Scott Tennant's Pumping nylon DVD.

2handband
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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by 2handband » Sun Jan 08, 2017 8:47 pm

For a dose of modern right-hand technique I recommend Charles Postlewate's book of exercises for five right-hand fingers.

kmurdick
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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by kmurdick » Sun Jan 08, 2017 11:31 pm

As a ex-Shearer student, I've known Berg since he was a kid. What astro64 is saying is correct.

Jack Douglas
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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by Jack Douglas » Mon Jan 09, 2017 12:12 am

kmurdick wrote:As a ex-Shearer student, I've known Berg since he was a kid. What astro64 is saying is correct.
Thanks, guys. Out comes the Berg book along with the Shearer book. I made good progress today. Change inspires!
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guit-box
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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by guit-box » Mon Jan 09, 2017 1:56 am

I find some things in the Shearer technique books great, and other things not so well explained. There are also older methods that differ from the newer versions and I don't know which versions you have. Most guitarists are playing off the left side of the nails these days and keep the wrist from bending too far to the right (like John Williams), that said, there are a lot of variations in hand positions and angles that work and there's not one right way. I've been watching a lot of your competition level players who do the opposite of what shearer recommends. Shearer recommends pronating the forearm to compensate for the difference in lengths of the index and middle fingers, but many amazing new players actually supinate the forearm so the pinky is closer to the soundboard. Check out videos of the last 10 years of GFA winners (with the exception of Thibaut Garcia) and you'll see what I mean.
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kmurdick
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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by kmurdick » Wed Jan 11, 2017 2:17 am

gitbox, you are right. The angle of the hand is not as important as was once thought. However the concept of flex/release in both rest stroke and free stroke is critical.

Joe de V
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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by Joe de V » Wed Jan 11, 2017 5:00 pm

I started learning to play CG using the early edition of Shearer's "Concert Guitar Teqnique" a 1937 publication by G.Ricordi & Co. of New York. In later editions nothing much has changed except the price. ( My 1937 edition cost $1.00 ! I still consider this method after using several others I have acquired one of the very best for learning to play CG for the first time student..
The two best (for me anywhay) that i have seen , practiced, and learned the most in technique and understanding of what is being explained are these...Shearer's Classical Guitar Technique, and the 2001 volume "Play Classical Guitar" by David Braid. published by /www.backbeatbooks.com
San Francisco CA.

astro64
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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by astro64 » Wed Jan 11, 2017 8:54 pm

I would just add, if you are interested in getting good tone and good habits for RH position etc, a good video is worth more than a dozen books. You just can't get the information from a description and a few photos or drawings.

Luis_Br
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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by Luis_Br » Thu Jan 12, 2017 11:01 am

IMO, inner tensions are by far more important than the outside view. In my experience and with two other very important teachers I know here, wrist not enough relaxed is commonly the main technical problem, the second is the shoulder. Relaxed wrist is important no matter you use Presti or Shearer style of wrist. Even to a straight wrist, you recquire just a tiny bit of tension to keep it straight. Even with an overrelaxed falling wrist, there is some tension to adjust finger position and angle.
I would recommend practicing different wrist and finger angles. Work researching and discovering different ways rather than trying to find a "magical" instantaneous solution. We tend trying to find out a position that seems ok and then start repeating it a lot. This gives a quick return of aquiring some basic reflexes and being able to play something more or less okay. But in longterm, refining perception of touch through varied approaches and research is more efficient than simple repetition.
About sitting and footstool etc., I think not raising the foot is certainly ergonomically better, but more than 80% of the problems do not come from the accessory used.
There are also several ways of wrist position in between extremes of Presti or straight wrist. I don't think Segovia has any similarity with Presti style. He is somewhere in between modern straight wrist and Presti's. Segovia's RH remmembers me a violinist holding the bow. Other important technical players like Pepe Romero or John Williams also do not have a totally straight RH wrist approach.
Don't forget Carlevaro School, which I think has much more influence around the world than Shearer's. All South American school come from Carlevaro somehow. The Far East and Eastern Europe also have a strong influence of Carlevaro school.
Personally I think straight wrist with more finger angle is easier to find a nice tone in the beginning, but the other way offers more sound flexibility for different angles and tones. Good sound comes from a lot of things, not only angle and position, but also the way you attack, the nails etc. A high level advanced player should be able to play well with different wrist and finger angles, choosing the way he likes the most due to his musical choice.

dihang94
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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by dihang94 » Thu Jan 12, 2017 11:40 am

Personally, I think the Presti Right Hand position is still very valid to this day. I for myself am using it with great results. I was classically trained for 11 years now and I had a music performance diploma in Singapore, majoring in guitar, if that helps with my credibility. I used to play with a wrist parallel to the arm for a good 10 years of my life, and i manage to play pieces like Lobos Etude no. 2 at 120-130 bpm without any strain. Now, I am using the presti Right Hand position, for about 10 months with my new teacher, and I feel that the Presti Right Hand allows for better balance of the thumb and fingers. The rest stroke is still on the left side of the nail, but the free stroke is more natural on the right side of the nail as the wrist is roughly perpendicular to the string. While I admit that the tone is not the best tone that could be produced on the guitar using Presti's Right Hand position, the balance that the technique offers works very well for beginners in terms of control. The stability of the wrist is also a plus point for the technique. As for the problem with a sweet tone, just switch to the straight wrist whenever is required.

Jack Douglas
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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by Jack Douglas » Thu Jan 12, 2017 1:51 pm

Thanks all for your thoughtful and detailed comments. I have practiced diligently concentrating on playing off the left side of my RH fingers using some flesh and nail. The last two days my tone has dramatically improved. I'm working hard on relaxing my hands and arms.
I made a 'support' discovery that's really helped and I have a regular footstool in order. I've had mixed success with the combination of a very low footstool and a Dynarette, but I'm yet to figure out how to keep the Dynarette in position. I have several supports, ergoplay, neck up (gift from a Kentucky friend) and a custom olive wood support I got from my friend Zupfgeiger. For my music room the olive wood support works great and the suction cups don't fail. For travel to my teacher it's a bit awkward. The 'Neck-Up' is an all leather support with very large suction cups and stores flat. I've really taken a liking to it and it's suction cups also stay put. Both the custom made support and the neck-up are great. I'm waiting on a regular footstool to give that a try. I used to use a footstool, but switched when so many high profile players began espousing the benefits of the various guitar supports.
In this re-learning process I've become acutely aware of the angle of the guitar neck away from parallel to my chest. I think Method books ought to place more emphasis on this one aspect of technique.
I'm working very hard at making my technique re-working a comfortable and improved way of being. I've taken time out from playing any pieces until I have confidence in my changes.
Again, thank you for all your comments.
Jack
Hauser III 2014!

robert e
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Re: Current Right Hand Technique: Are Shearer, Presti still valid?

Post by robert e » Thu Jan 12, 2017 6:55 pm

astro64 wrote:I would just add, if you are interested in getting good tone and good habits for RH position etc, a good video is worth more than a dozen books. You just can't get the information from a description and a few photos or drawings.
And a good teacher is worth a hundred videos.

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