clean flat picking on bouzouki

clean flat picking on bouzouki

I guess this could apply to guitar, banjo, mando etc. as well.

Hello all,

Struggling right now with getting clean playing on bouzouki with tunes, actual melodies. It’s mostly to do with open strings ringing out which don’t fit in the key of the tune.

For example, a jig I’m playing at the moment, Rakes of Kildare, once I’ve finished with the low e on the d-string at the very beginning and am playing a-b-c-d sequence on the a-string, the d string keeps on ringing (albeit faintly) once I’ve lifted my index finger off the low e (like a mini pull-off). I was wondering how I might remedy this kind of problem which I’m sure happens with other combinations of notes.

Furthermore, could anyone offer some advice about holding fretted notes and letting them ring whilst playing other notes, sometimes creating a nice harmony, sometimes being discordant? I hear it sometimes in banjo playing, good banjo players who get it harmonically correct. How to go about cleaning this area of playing up as well?

Thanks - and hope everyone’s doing ok, under the circumstances.

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Re: clean flat picking on bouzouki

Welcome to thesession! I don’t play bouzouki but I do play mandolin and octave mandolin (and flute). I sometimes have that problem of a previous note I’ve played ringing in a way that clashes with the following notes. More so on the OM due to the long sustain but it can happen on the mandolin too.

What I do is just lightly touch the offending string with a free finger to stop the resonance, while fingering the following notes. Just the briefest light touch will do it. That may sound difficult, but if you do it often enough it gets to be an instinct. I don’t even think about it.

Re: clean flat picking on bouzouki

If you’re playing the string next to whichever open string is ringing, you can use a left hand finger to mute the open string. Otherwise you can use your right hand to mute, similar to palm muting used by guitarists.

Re: clean flat picking on bouzouki

I find myself subconsciously muting strings with either my right or left hand, depending on the situation, as Conical Bore and Arthur mentioned. As far as letting strings ring as a harmony, I do a fair amount of that, and it’s mostly just a case of sensing whether the melody is still spelling out the same chord, or whether it has moved on to a different chord where the ringing note doesn’t fit…

I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be conscious of and to work on, as you’re doing, but to be honest, it was never something that I worked on consciously. For me, both the muting of strings and letting them ring are aspects of my playing that just developed on their own. You know… Magic 😉

Re: clean flat picking on bouzouki

More of an issue for me, in the past, was sometimes lifting the fingers too soon or placing them a fraction of a second too late.. i.e. just slightly out of kilter when I was picking the strings..
Unfortunately, I noticed this habit was starting to return recently. I think because I’ve been out of practice a little. However, it was just a case of slowing things down a little before I got back into the swing of things…

As for the intitial topc, it’s something I don’t think about it too much either. It’s sometimes good to leave an adjacent string ringing but other times it’s better to mute the notes. Sometimes, I may play a note on the seventh fret instead of an open string, use part fretted chords along with the melody and other things. I don’t tend to analyse what I’m doing too much as long as it sounds OK.

One book I found interesting was Dagger Gordon’s https://www.mandolincafe.com/news/publish/mandolins_001204.shtml

Of course, it depends on what stage you are but it is very good. It’s also written with Scottish music in mind but the techniques are very transferable.

Re: clean flat picking on bouzouki

Further, I’ve just had a quick run through of R of Kildare.

I’ve notice that I’ve been doing things like playing part chords with left forefinger holding down notes on the second fret of both G and D strings. However, I don’t lift them straight away until I play the G note on the D string. Then I don’t lift my finger off the G note straight away either.
I also seem to use my pinkie on the 7th fret at times.

As I say, I don’t analyse things too much and everyone will do things differently but I’d say, as a general rule, there’s not a need to lift your fingers off a particular note straight away especially if you are going to be playing it again shortly afterwards. A more economical use of fingering is a handy skill to develop.

Re: clean flat picking on bouzouki

Try forming chords shapes/part chord shapes in as many places as works comfortably while playing the melody. I started doing this as a ‘precaution’ against clipping adjacent strings accidentally but tend more to playing part chords deliberately now. Seems to help me remember the tunes better too.

It’s harder to do the faster the tune, but it’s more useful the slower the tune

P.S. I play mandolin and tenor banjo but I’m guessing the ideas work for bouzouki too

Re: clean flat picking on bouzouki

Let me first state, I’m not a Flat Picker on my primary instrument, Guitar, but had to learn to flat pick on Bouzouki, Mandolin and the other stringed instruments. So I adapted my use of the right hand pinky to mute/stop the ring of which you speak.
I don’t know if that’s the technique that’s taught or not. Just the way I learned to address the ring through issue.

Re: clean flat picking on bouzouki

Yes. All of the above. All good advice.

No matter what instrument you play there will always be small things you need to do and adapt for to make your playing sound clean. Take it slow. Learn to throw the pinky across to mute a string when you have to and definitely learn to keep harmony strings, and sympathetic harmony strings, ringing where you want them to. It all comes down to that arduous P word.

Can I suggest though, really work on right hand techniques. Keeping the heel of your picking hand ready to mute is a standard guitar technique and a good start. Your strumming/picking hand is what determines your style, drives your playing and controls all your sound. It is so important and so often overlooked. Give it the same priority as your fretting hand.

There are plenty of good youtube clips out there on "right hand techniques" (they assume everybody is right handed). One site I go to as a guitarist, and suggest having a look at, is Truefire. It is a guitar tuition site which mostly centers on blues and jazz but they have hundreds of varying video courses available in many styles and genres including one or two DADGAD. Unfortunately there is nothing for Bouzouki or Tenor Banjo, yet, but there are a few courses on "right hand techniques" which can be applied to all plucked picked and strummed instruments. One by Muriel Anderson the harp guitarist comes to mind. Another by Lawrence Juber who played with McCartney and Wings. Mostly each course is about US$30 - $40 but if you get on their email newsletter list and are patient enough they quite often have a run of $5 downloads. At $5 it’s truly worth even just skim watching through the videos to pick up ideas.

Who knows, you might eventually find that a full hand across the strings with a percussive slap will stop that pesky ring and give you a desired effect, in the right tune, at the right moment ….and an effective style all of your own. The crowd goes wild. Your manager slaps you on the back as you strut off stage ;)

Re: clean flat picking on bouzouki

Also on the zouk…. check that some of your rings aren’t coming from the small spans between the tailpiece and the bridge. It’s common. You may need some dampening under them. I use a small piece of suede under the string as it leaves the tailpiece.

Re: clean flat picking on bouzouki

I use 1cm strips rubber strips from car windscreen wipers to dampen the sound at the tail piece, simply slides between the double courses, works on floating bridge instruments, not on pin bridges of course.

Re: clean flat picking on bouzouki

Cool idea Sean. I’ll try that.