(Part 2 in a series)
That worked pretty well for a few years, although I never quite got to the Mahavishnu buzz saw that I would have wanted to have. Then I went to Musician’s Institute (then GIT) and I knew right away I was in the deep end of the pool and it was adult swim. One of the first people I got to know in my class was a guy named Gilles Renne from France, and he had the effortless buzz saw right hand of doom. After a couple of months of being around him, both myself and instructor Ron Eschete decided to switch our right hands based on a couple of sessions with him trying to figure out how he did what he did. What we got out of this is that Gilles used what I call a Rotary Wrist Action (that I will call “RWA” from now on), which I believe to be one of the few UNIVERSAL things that work for all people in right hand picking technique, simply because it takes advantage of how all our bodies are constructed and as such is natural & easy when mastered.
The RWA is easily demonstrated to yourself by something you already know how to do: take a salt shaker and spill a bunch of salt on a table, and then try to whisk it away from your body into an imaginary dust bin in front of you – you are now doing the RWA. Your wrist bone on the lower side of your right hand should be naturally rotating back and forth in an easy quick back and forth motion, and almost as a side effect, turning your right hand back and forth which would easily make a guitar pick into a blur in your grip if it was there.
You can be sure that you’re using a RWA if you see that wrist bone twisting when you are picking – it may be a really small motion, but that’s good, that brings us to the other of our three UNIVERSAL attributes of right hand technique: Economy of Motion (EOM). EOM is just a very logical concept that says that the shorter the distance you have to travel, the faster you can make the trip. Here’s what that looks like in terms of playing the guitar: you want to train your right hand to A) not travel more than a couple pick’s thickness back and forth then you are playing an up-down picking motion on one string, and B) the distance you travel when skipping strings should also be kept to a minimum.
This is of course easier said than done, but the absolute BEST way to make sure that this is happening is to practice slowly enough so you can control your motions to the point that you can repeat accurately these small precise movements until they are second nature, or habits. To make something into a habit, it needs to be repeated the same way many times. OK, there is a certain number but I forget what it is, it could be like 128 times with out a mistake but the point is to NOT PRACTICE MISTAKES because your brain that is recording all of this practice actually DOESN’T KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MISTAKES AND CORRECT ACTIONS. Yes, believe it or not, your brain assumes everything it is asked to do is what you “meant to do”, so don’t ever fall for telling yourself say “I know this isn’t really how to play it, I’m just doing this for now” – you’ll just have to undo it later. But the really good part is that if you can relax that “need to be good right now” that we all have yelling at us all of the time and slow down and get all of this stuff together, you can’t help but get to be fast along the way. Which brings me to another of my little sayings I have made up as I found them to be true: “Speed is the natural byproduct of accuracy”. I was going to say “waste product”, but thought that wouldn’t somehow be as sexy as the other saying 😉