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Warren Nunes' picking technique
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Henryrobinett



Joined: 01 May 2010
Posts: 180
Location: Sacramento, Ca

PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2011 2:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The thing that messed me up the most about Nunes was his great tortoise shell pick concept. All the guitar players at Spitzer Music, me included, bought all the last supply. When the law changed making it illegal to sell tortoise shell, the store manager rounded up all he could find any where and we bought them. My supply lasted about 10-12 years. The problem was once you heated the pick with a match in order to mold it to your fingers, the pick became brittle and would likely break in your pocket. They were too valuable to lose, so you never misplaced them! But even in my front pocket, keys or placing something on your lap, carrying amps or things, you'd hit it and it'd break.

The picks were triangular. You'd round off one of the points with a file and then 400-600 sandpaper. Then you'd take a match and light the center. This made the pick very malleable. Grab it like you would hold it and it took the shape of your thumb/forefinger. Perfect fit. Plus since it was tortoise shell, it sounded like a cross between your thumb nail and flesh.

It took me a long time to find something to replace them. I never really did, but I've settled on these cooper picks. Totally different. And even with that Dunlop has discontinued them! So I find someone who has a supply. I bought 50 packages, 3 to a package. I think I'll just go ahead, in case that doesn't turn out to be a life time supply, and buy the rest, if he still has any.
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Jazzy



Joined: 14 Dec 2004
Posts: 1660
Location: Norway

PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 8:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I bought his "Half moon bay" after hearing "Bach in blue". Great stuff!
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Jeffrey_Burr



Joined: 04 Jul 2005
Posts: 164
Location: california

PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 5:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

hey there's discussion here! Howdy all.

I apologize for breaking the img links. I'm not sure that I am in possession of them any longer. Anyhow, a video would show it better, especially when we're discussing the motion or lack of. I did not mean to say that anything is locked with this technique, but I did mention that the elbow is basically stationary in space, and the forearm is almost twisting, rather than pumping, to make the pick go up and down on the strings.

"Almost" because the axis of twisting doesn't quite line up with the structure of the forearm. Holding your pick, flex the wrist about 30║ from straight, and "throw" the hand with a twisting of the forearm. If your other muscles are basically loose, the angle of your wrist should cause the axis of twist to be very slightly offset towards the inner or palm side of your forearm. While doing this picking motion you may be able to locate a stationary spot in your palm or inner wrist area that you can touch with a finger from your left hand, without disturbing the motion. Depending on how you're built I guess.

The pick grip is important too, because you can't anchor your wrist or base of thumb on the guitar for a spatial reference, with the wrist flexed up off the guitar. The reference is the other fingers, which makes this position very well suited for hybrid picking techniques. They should not be flexed into a fist or curled next to the index, they should be relaxed, so nearly straight. It's kind of tricky at first to use the index to hold the pick against the thumb while really relaxing the middle finger. I practiced for a while with a balled up tissue wedged in between my first and second fingers, on Warren's suggestion. These fingers are also yet more mass to throw, that's off the axis of the twisting motion. As you throw the pick up and down on the strings, the tips of the middle and/or ring fingers brush lightly against the pickguard - this is your spatial reference. Yes you have to have a pickguard and ideally it should be raised off the surface of the guitar. If you're playing an archtop you've got other reasons for not having the pickguard bearing too much on the top anyway.

And yes, it's quite awkward at first, especially if you're used to a more of a Metheny pinch, with the wrist extended the opposite direction and anchored on the bridge. Aha, one more thing worth mentioning - the spot for picking is not back by the bridge, it's nearly at the end of the fretboard. With the rounded pick you can get a nice full Jim Hall-ish sound up there.

One more disclaimer - this is only my best recollection of what Warren showed me. When I later started hearing different stuff, the technique evolved as needed, so I'm probably not doing precisely this, these days. Like I've said before, I took what seemed useful and ignored the rest. Honestly he bugged me a bit with his left hand prohibitions, and I'd bet I didn't take more than ten lessons with Warren. He didn't seem interested at all in hearing the music I was already playing, I guess because, in his view at least, it all had to be re-arranged anyway. In short, I wasn't an acolyte. He was a great player and he definitely helped me expand what I could do.
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Henryrobinett



Joined: 01 May 2010
Posts: 180
Location: Sacramento, Ca

PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2011 3:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another thing that Nunes was big on was the 7 Major Scale Patterns - 3 notes per string.

I know a lot of people hate this and at Berklee, I think, they call this the "speed scale" which is stupid. But I think it's a great way to standardize and visualize the neck. I designed all of my arpeggios to fit into these scales hand to glove.
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Tung



Joined: 20 Nov 2007
Posts: 203
Location: toronto

PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2011 4:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Henryrobinett wrote:

I know a lot of people hate this and at Berklee, I think, they call this the "speed scale" which is stupid. But I think it's a great way to standardize and visualize the neck. I designed all of my arpeggios to fit into these scales hand to glove.

I remembered one of my teacher was like that. He was a Berklee grad, total advocate of the CAGED Berklee system. He didn't want me to play "Donna Lee" with 3-note per string and wide stretches. Of course, I didn't listen to him Twisted Evil
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Jeffrey_Burr



Joined: 04 Jul 2005
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Location: california

PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2011 7:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

that's right, I forgot about the 3nps thing, Warren was all about it. And you had to do some particular pull off thing when you were descending the scale, I've forgotten exactly what. My attitude was (and is) if it's hard to do the down stroke on the b string then an upstroke on the g string, you should practice doing the down stroke on the b string then an upstroke on the g string. A lot simpler approach than just deciding it's impossible.

I thought of another way to describe the picking motion - it's a lot like shaking water off your hands when you don't have a towel. But less vigorous. And holding a pick.
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JakeJew



Joined: 30 Jul 2005
Posts: 2190
Location: Boston, MA

PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2011 3:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jeffrey_Burr wrote:
that's right, I forgot about the 3nps thing, Warren was all about it. And you had to do some particular pull off thing when you were descending the scale, I've forgotten exactly what. My attitude was (and is) if it's hard to do the down stroke on the b string then an upstroke on the g string, you should practice doing the down stroke on the b string then an upstroke on the g string. A lot simpler approach than just deciding it's impossible.


Jeffrey, I know this has been your Occam's razor point before with this issue. You might remember a thread I made a while ago about a certain picking orientation that allowed me to uh, go very fast, and your response was to simply practice the difficult movement more.

It seems more logical to just work on the weakness, but looking further into the issue I've found that certain pick grips lend themselves very well to certain picking scenarios and may be extremely poor for other scenarios, but sometimes the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. When I listen to Nunes, it seems to be the case for him - the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

I've been talking with some knowledgeable folk about 'high level' jazz guitar technique lately, and although having versatile and agile technique is the goal...for some of the insanely difficult stuff there sometimes has to be some specialization.

Being less cryptic, I've been encouraged to explore more of my strange picking scheme (never changing strings in a fast line on an upstroke, always on a down) and it will take some time but there's some pretty amazing stuff I can do with it...I'm still working on it, it needs control. But to give a comparison, I can refinger and sometimes pick scales as 16ths at 200 with this scheme, but doing it the conventional way it's stuck around 110-130 on a very good day, despite how much time I've spent practicing upstrokes.

The advice I've been given is...hey if you've got a technical anomaly, treat it as a strength and feel free to exploit it. I can think of a few players who have taken this path and they can do some pretty amazing things.
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Henryrobinett



Joined: 01 May 2010
Posts: 180
Location: Sacramento, Ca

PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2011 7:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Changing to a downstroke when you go to a new string never made any sense to me. And I believe you, kind of, when you say you can pay faster, at least for you -- maybe because you're not fighting what seems natural to you, but I can't see how the extra movement can be faster.

Also, mainly for me, would be the phrasing and articulation of hitting a downstroke, which emphasizes the accent for no other reason than going to the next string.

Whatever works for you is great, but that wouldn't work for me. And I have pretty good right hand technique.
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JakeJew



Joined: 30 Jul 2005
Posts: 2190
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2011 1:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Henryrobinett wrote:
Changing to a downstroke when you go to a new string never made any sense to me. And I believe you, kind of, when you say you can pay faster, at least for you -- maybe because you're not fighting what seems natural to you, but I can't see how the extra movement can be faster.

Also, mainly for me, would be the phrasing and articulation of hitting a downstroke, which emphasizes the accent for no other reason than going to the next string.

Whatever works for you is great, but that wouldn't work for me. And I have pretty good right hand technique.


Let me be clear - I definitely don't advocate it. áIt's a personal anomaly.
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cjm



Joined: 16 Oct 2006
Posts: 369

PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2011 2:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

JakeJew wrote:

áIt's a personal anomaly.


That's how I felt about a catheter bag when they made me use one for a while. Razz

Sorry. Carry on with the actual discussion.
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Jeffrey_Burr



Joined: 04 Jul 2005
Posts: 164
Location: california

PostPosted: Sun Dec 25, 2011 12:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
if you've got a technical anomaly, treat it as a strength and feel free to exploit it.


This I think is very very good advice.

Whatever technical problems one is working on, there's gotta some musical reason why it's an issue to begin with, or else why bother? That's kind of how I felt about re-arranging my left hand stuff.

Can't say anything more right now, my boy is playing something cool sounding on the piano...
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Henryrobinett



Joined: 01 May 2010
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Location: Sacramento, Ca

PostPosted: Sun Dec 25, 2011 12:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

At a certain point you just gotta go with it. The problems you encounter trying to "correct" a technique can be far more troublesome and may never fully take. Nunes actually changed my right arm/hand technique. I'm glad I did, but it took many, many years to feel like I did the right thing. It's obvious to me now, but it took a long time of work to transition. And I was a kid then. The oder you get and the longer you've been playing the more difficult it is. IN this case I'd say work with what you got, unless what you're doing a truly hampering you.
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Henryrobinett



Joined: 01 May 2010
Posts: 180
Location: Sacramento, Ca

PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2012 6:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One of the things that really struck me about Warren was just how he looked. He looked more like a construction worker than a guitarist. He reminded me of Victor Mature. In his younger days I figured he could have been a movie star. Therefore I wondered why he never met with more success. Apparently he had anger issues, and might pick a fight after drinking. So he built a bad reputation as a player. You didn't really want him on your gig. Lol. Never knew what might happen.

But he was so big his L5 looked small in his lap. What a player though.
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Eddie Lastra



Joined: 16 Mar 2012
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 11:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glad to see this discussion of Warren's picking technique

Last edited by Eddie Lastra on Mon Jul 09, 2012 12:11 pm; edited 1 time in total
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rwmol



Joined: 11 Jun 2006
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Location: Washington, Utah

PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2012 6:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Henryrobinett wrote:
One of the things that really struck me about Warren was just how he looked. He looked more like a construction worker than a guitarist. He reminded me of Victor Mature. In his younger days I figured he could have been a movie star. Therefore I wondered why he never met with more success. Apparently he had anger issues, and might pick a fight after drinking. So he built a bad reputation as a player. You didn't really want him on your gig. Lol. Never knew what might happen.

But he was so big his L5 looked small in his lap. What a player though.


As I mentioned earlier, I took from Warren 46 years ago. Yes, he was rather "rugged" looking. Must have had a complexion problem whan he was young. Also, very large hands but moved softly. I remember more about him than the things he tried to teach me.

Not too long before he started his teaching career, he toured with George Shearing. He hated it and never went on the road again. He did a few gigs on Broadway in San Francisco but they were rare. The "gig" routine just wasn't his thing.

Great thread on his picking technique. I remember him well, sitting with me and custom fitting a tourtois shell pick. I remember him having his L5 in the shop to be refretted. He used my Guild A500 on a job. I could see his frustration using a different instrument. Oh, one other note. Your PG had to be almost even with your strings. Thanks everyone for such a great post.
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