Right Hand Technique

Continuing on with the Steve Baughman theme, I wanted to post about these two new videos of his on Youtube.

The first is an old time fiddle tune that Steve has rendered on guitar, which according to him is in Double Drop D tuning, or DADGBD. He plays it in the clawhammer style, which is exactly the same technique that one would use on the banjo. Clawhammer guitar comes across a bit differently to me, the guitar having more sustain and all, but it really works well for some tunes.

The second tune is a duet with his musical partner, Robin Bullock. It is a Breton tune, and appears on Steve’s latest cd, Life in Prism.

On his celtic guitar DVD Steve says something that I have tried to remember, and to me is really apparent on these videos.

The left hand is what you learn, but the right hand is what you are. – Steve Baughman

On the clawhammer tune even though he is playing quite fast, the music just comes flowing out, and his right hand is always relaxed. This can be the different between one’s music sounding effortless or plodding and forceful. I see the same thing in high level practitioners of any art, they make the difficult and impossible seem effortless and graceful.

So how to accomplish this? I don’t think there is any magic pill or potion that will give you effortless guitar technique. Time with the instrument is an important factor, I know Steve practices daily. I think mindful practice is also important. When I am learning a new technique or drilling a new pattern into muscle memory I am always trying to be conscious of tension in my playing. Am I gripping the neck to tight? Is my right hand relaxed or am I trying to muscle the notes out? A mirror may be handy at this stage, as you can analyze your posture and observe for tension in the face.

I will often take a break during my practices to let my hands relax. Go get a quick bite to eat, make some coffee, or whatever. Or if the music I am playing for that is to hard I might move to something easier, and come back to the more difficult stuff another day.

If you want to learn some right hand techniques that can help make celtic music on fingerstyle guitar more effortless I would highly reccomend Steve’s Celtic Guitar Solo’s dvd. I don’t have any financial stake in this, I just think its good instructional material and have gotten alot out of it myself. Steve teaches a nifty right hand pattern you can use to play Breton music, as well as some right hand techniques that can be applied to jigs and reels. Steve is a good instructor, and the video is entertaining and engaging to watch.



Comments 2

  1. Hi Anton. I agree with everything in this post. I've gotten alot out of Steve's DVD, especially with regards to right hand technique. I also recommend Steve's first book from more than 10 years ago "Celtic Fingerstyle Method" with transcriptions to his Drop of the Pure album. I learned (and still am learning) a heck of a lot from that book.

    I also play clawhammer guitar (and banjo), and agree that clawhammer guitar works great on some tunes, but not as much on others. I think it has alot to do with melody vs. brushing approach, and tempo. Notey stuff works on clawhammer guitar, as long as there isn't incessant brushing/strumming or heavy "bum-ditty". I REALLY like clawhammer guitar for slow tunes, such as Steve's version of Hard Times or Brushy Fork. The sustain really works with the overlapping notes.

    Thanks for keeping this blog going. I'm a loyal reader, just don't post much. I've also gotten alot out of your arrangments and lessons on arranging. Great stuff!


    Alan B, Raleigh NC

  2. Thanks for the comment Alan. I have have Steve's first Celtic Guitar Method book too, and really went through it in my earlier days. Learning his huge arrangement of Greensleeves was quite a fun undertaking. Being able to learn and dissect his arrangements gave me alot of insight into developing my own things. The Breton Riff section from his DVD is great too, it really allows you to play those tunes effortlessly once you get the basics down.

    I agree with your thoughts on clawhammer for guitar, some tunes work great, others not to so much. I worked up a passable version of the Fall of Richmond that Steve plays above, which is alot of fun. One thing i have enjoyed alot is high fiving my second guitar, replacing the fifth string with a first string. Check out my version of Lord Mayo, which i think came out well.

    Glad you are enjoying the blog.


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