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View Full Version : Whats more important, the strumming hand, or the fretting?



oldetymey
04-13-2013, 04:31 AM
Heres an interesting question Ive been pondering. Which hand is more important to have good technique with, the fretting hand, or the strumming hand? You would think the fretting hand so that you could cleanly make many different chord shapes would be the obvious choice. Lately though Ive been finding that I feel like its more important to develop a good strumming hand. The strumming hand is actually the heart and soul of a song. You could have a 2 chord song that sounds awesome if you have a good strumming hand, but conversely you could have a 10 chord song that sounds like garbage even if you can finger all the chords cleanly if you dont have the rhythm in your strumming hand.
So what do you guys think?

And no fair saying both, of course its good to have excellent technique in all aspects of playing, but I think you could still be a good player with a weak fretting hand. (look at Django Reinhardt) Im not so sure you could be with a weak strumming hand. It totally reminds me of this scene from the movie desperado, I always thought this scene was really cool.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sW-rhAb1MiA

OldePhart
04-13-2013, 04:34 AM
Definitely the strumming hand. You can use an open tuning and a butter knife for a slide if you have to, but you gotsta have a little rhythm in the strumming hand. :)

John

anthonyg
04-13-2013, 04:37 AM
Well I might be biased but I have excellent picking technique but pretty average fretting technique. Its amazing what you can get away with if you keep the rhythm tight.

Anthony

hawaii 50
04-13-2013, 04:39 AM
I think both hands are equally important..for me hard to concentrate on both at the same time..but I have only been playing for a year..hoping to do better

SailQwest
04-13-2013, 04:43 AM
Well I might be biased but I have excellent picking technique but pretty average fretting technique. Its amazing what you can get away with if you keep the rhythm tight.

Anthony

Wise words. :D

oldetymey
04-13-2013, 04:51 AM
Well I might be biased but I have excellent picking technique but pretty average fretting technique. Its amazing what you can get away with if you keep the rhythm tight.

Anthony

totally, you explained it better than me.....I was watching a video of a guy doing Hank Williams "Jumbalaya" the other day, guy made it sound so complicated even though it literally was just C and G7. It was all in the rhythm......

bborzell
04-13-2013, 05:13 AM
The strumming hand is obviously very important. Without it, there would be little or no sound. The fretting hand is also very important as, without it, the uke would be rendered a percussion instrument. But then, on the other hand...

mm stan
04-13-2013, 05:22 AM
Lefties who play right handed does have an advantage....:)

xzcuzxme
04-13-2013, 05:44 AM
When I first started playing guitar many years ago - like most beginners I think - I thought the fretting hand was the most important element and put most of my initial attention into learning chord shapes etc.

Over the years though, the strumming hand has become much more important to me as I started to learn finger picking techniques and more complex strumming patterns.

I think even more so on the Ukulele. Triple strums, one finger strums, multiple finger strums, rolls, advanced finger picking patterns. The dexterity, speed and rhythm that great players maintain with their strumming hand is what more often blows me away and inspires me!

I'll'd take either though! :D

hawaii 50
04-13-2013, 05:47 AM
Stan I am a letftie..but it doesn't help me >>hehe

oldetymey
04-13-2013, 05:47 AM
Lefties who play right handed does have an advantage....:)

actually if were talking about the importance of the strumming hand vs. fretting wouldnt it be the other way around? I play lefty, so my dominant hand is my strumming hand as it would be for anyone else. I would think a lefty playing righty would be (technically speaking) sort of handicapping himself as he/she isnt playing the natural way. The argument could be made that rightys should play lefty to gain an advantage (hows that for a can o worms statement?) :)Though everyone is different, and theres no right/wrong way in my book....so maybe for some that would be an advantage.

oldetymey
04-13-2013, 05:48 AM
When I first started playing guitar many years ago - like most beginners I think - I thought the fretting hand was the most important element and put most of my initial attention into learning chord shapes etc.

Over the years though, the strumming hand has become much more important to me as I started to learn finger picking techniques and more complex strumming patterns.

I think even more so on the Ukulele. Triple strums, one finger strums, multiple finger strums, rolls, advanced finger picking patterns. The dexterity, speed and rhythm that great players maintain with their strumming hand is what more often blows me away and inspires me!

I'll'd take either though! :D

totally! good points!

mm stan
04-13-2013, 05:50 AM
actually if were talking about the importance of the strumming hand vs. fretting wouldnt it be the other way around? I play lefty, so my dominant hand is my strumming hand as it would be for anyone else. I would think a lefty playing righty would be (technically speaking) sort of handicapping himself as he/she isnt playing the natural way. Though everyone is different, and theres no right/wrong way in my book....so maybe for some that would be an advantage.
I'd rather have a more coordinated percise fretting hand, for my preference....:)

oldetymey
04-13-2013, 05:52 AM
I'd rather have a more coordinated percise fretting hand, for my preference....:)

Very interesting thought, so youd like to learn to play lefty if you could?

mm stan
04-13-2013, 05:53 AM
I am a soft lefty.....

oldetymey
04-13-2013, 05:57 AM
I am a soft lefty.....

Interesting, I wonder if well hear from some leftys playing righty and see if they feel they have a edge. Though Im loathe to take this thread in a lefty/righty direction
but it is a piece of the equation I suppose. I would really be interested in meeting a righty playing lefty on purpose......

Dan Uke
04-13-2013, 06:00 AM
I am a soft lefty.....

did your parents try to make you use the right hand? I known that case with Koreans in the past.

PereBourik
04-13-2013, 06:08 AM
Seems to me that we think fretting is most important since the first thing we learn is, "three chords then strum." I've been playing about 6 months. I have more chords than I have strums and my strums usually breakdown by mid song. In fact I strum so poorly that I'm shopping for another uke just to feel better. Surely I'd strum better if I had that pineapple...

UkeKiddinMe
04-13-2013, 06:12 AM
Both. ;) But if you make me choose - it's the strumming hand.
Nothing kills music more than - bad rhythm.

Gillian
04-13-2013, 06:37 AM
Both good strumming and fretting are necessary, but I think fretting is more important. After all, it is the fretting that makes the song. You can have great hand technique like George Formby, but if you can't form the chords or finger the melody notes properly and cleanly, you'll sound awful.

mds725
04-13-2013, 06:42 AM
I think there's a reason most people use their dominant hand for strumming.

BIGDB
04-13-2013, 07:06 AM
I think it depends a lot on what you are playing

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
04-13-2013, 07:18 AM
James Hill once reminded me that the ukulele is basically a percussion instrument.
I like to think of it this way. I can place the fingers of my left hand in any chord shape I want or move about with lightning speed dexterity, but if I don't use my right hand at all I'm not making any music. With the right hand your chord selection is limited (!) but at least you can get some rhythm going and actually play something.

sukie
04-13-2013, 07:32 AM
My teacher is making me work on my strumming. It is my biggest weakness. And I hate having to work on it. 5 years of ignoring my strumming now has me working really hard on it. Don't let this happen to you.

TheOnlyUkeThatMatters
04-13-2013, 07:38 AM
Most of the expressiveness and musicality of a well-played ukulele (or guitar, mandolin, banjo, etc.) comes from rhythmic and dynamic strumming/picking.

Imagine if you and Jake Shimabukuro were playing one ukulele together. Which would sound better: your left hand fretting and Jake's right hand strumming/picking or vice versa?

Loudster
04-13-2013, 07:40 AM
James Hill once reminded me that the ukulele is basically a percussion instrument.
I like to think of it this way. I can place the fingers of my left hand in any chord shape I want or move about with lightning speed dexterity, but if I don't use my right hand at all I'm not making any music. With the right hand your chord selection is limited (!) but at least you can get some rhythm going and actually play something.

Years ago I had a guitar teacher express the exact same idea to me, it's basically a percussion instrument with melody.

Dan Uke
04-13-2013, 08:36 AM
Most of us wont venture past the 5th fret so the strumming hand

Hippie Dribble
04-13-2013, 10:24 AM
Most of the expressiveness and musicality of a well-played ukulele (or guitar, mandolin, banjo, etc.) comes from rhythmic and dynamic strumming/picking.

Imagine if you and Jake Shimabukuro were playing one ukulele together. Which would sound better: your left hand fretting and Jake's right hand strumming/picking or vice versa?
Yes these are great points Ralf.

Of course you need both but were I to choose mastery of one or the other, then for me it's all about the rhythm. You can get away with an average fretting technique but the weakness and/or skill level in your playing is always determined by the right hand...That is what is driving the music, the expression, the energy, the tonal dynamic and emotion. Variations in strumming and picking technique create the real meaning in a song. As someone else mentioned, folks who have command of this aspect of performance can make 2 chord songs as colourful as the sunrise.

pulelehua
04-13-2013, 10:53 AM
I'm left-handed but play right-handed. I started learning guitar right-handed before it occurred to me that maybe it should be the other way around (the guy who first showed me didn't ask what handedness I was). By the time I worked it out, it seemed too late to switch.

Logically, I've got pretty strong fingers on my left hand. So, for pull-offs and rapid chord changes, and barring, it's great. I can also get some weird stretches which might take more work otherwise. But I have to say, trying to play some flamenco right-hand stuff with my off-hand is murder. I can rasgeado, and do some reasonably complicated finger-picking, but a lot of techniques take me ages to learn. My 8-finger roll looks like a chicken stumbling. I'm not too bothered at this point. I can play what I can play. But I think I would play differently left-handed.

And as for what would seem the great advantage, fretting speed, you still need to co-ordinate with your other hand, or as Chuck says, no sound.

Shazzbot
04-13-2013, 12:05 PM
Harkening back to my business consulting days....
The most important is the weakest link.
It is the limiting factor no matter what it is.

grownupboy
04-13-2013, 02:03 PM
i remember seeing a doc about ukes a while back and one quote stuck out...

"anyone can put there fingers in the right spot on the fretboard. but the strum is where the music lives!"

that's a paraphrase, of course. but i have to agree...

k

Mxyzptik
04-13-2013, 02:21 PM
Well, I'm a lefty playing right and I certainly doesn't sound or feel like an advantage to me. Perhaps what you did to your hands over the course of your life plays a role as well. That nasty alcohol related axe to my right thumb incident in the 80's hasn't proved very helpful. Can't even hitch hike any more because of it.

I am weaker at strumming than fretting so sure. I am watching for Ken's threads on strumming, without hijacing the thread would someone suggest sources of information for improvement ?

anthonyg
04-13-2013, 02:24 PM
We are talking about a grey area here. Not black and white.

You need both hands yet if we consider one hand being SLIGHTLY better or worse than the other I thinks its better for your strumming/picking hand to be stronger. Rhythm is everything.

I've practiced to see how SLOW I can make a chord change and still have it sound OK. As long as you keep on nailing the rhythm it's amazing at how slow or how LATE you can be with your fretting hand and it still sounds OK.

Anthony

Wicked
04-13-2013, 03:36 PM
Pitch, without rhythm is just noise. Rhythm is the only part of music that can stand alone, and still be considerred music.

That being said, it is a mistake to think that only the strumming hand can provide the rythm. Both of my hands are always very much involved in rythm. The more complex the rythm, the more your fretting hand must contribute.

TheCraftedCow
04-13-2013, 08:52 PM
If you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance, baffle 'em with bull.

Go through all of your pickin' you can possibly do, but if the notes are not correct, it is just noise. Hit the proper chord with just a down strum or an up strum, and people can sing along with you.What you are doing is recogniseable. This question is like wondering when one claps their hands together, which one makes the noise. Fancy fingering and no fretting is a one handed clap.
Fretting and no fingering is the other one handed clap.
Semper Fi ! Be all you can be with both hands. Even the butter knife takes some skill to place it over the fret rather than between it.

drbekken
04-13-2013, 09:07 PM
Interesting, I wonder if well hear from some leftys playing righty and see if they feel they have a edge. Though Im loathe to take this thread in a lefty/righty direction
but it is a piece of the equation I suppose. I would really be interested in meeting a righty playing lefty on purpose......
I am left-handed, and I play right-handed. When I started playing guitar, there were only 'regular' instruments available. So, I stuck with it. I don't really know if it gives me any advantage, other than that I find fretting fairly easy. As a pianist (my main instrument), it has been a great advantage. As for the original question in this thread; I don't believe that one hand is much good without the other.

Katz-in-Boots
04-13-2013, 10:52 PM
Lefties who play right handed does have an advantage....:)


Interesting, I wonder if well hear from some leftys playing righty and see if they feel they have a edge. Though Im loathe to take this thread in a lefty/righty direction
but it is a piece of the equation I suppose. I would really be interested in meeting a righty playing lefty on purpose......

When I played violin/viola/cello, the question never arose. Left hand for the notes & vibrato, right hand for bowing. I am fairly ambidextrous but play right handed. Yet my DH is completely LH and would always play cello left handed. He said once that the bowing was the 'voice'. He is so right, I can't believe it. Now with uke, it seems to me that I still put far too much emphasis on hitting the notes, and that my right hand just doesn't bring out the 'voice' as I would like.

I guess it's whatever feels right for you, but these days I do feel I might've been better off the other way around. I can't play the uke left handed for anything.

bborzell
04-14-2013, 03:07 AM
Of course, on the other hand...

roxhum
04-14-2013, 03:37 AM
I watched a video on guitars awhile back and the vid said that the guitar was made by a left handed person and originally was meant for the dominate hand to be strumming. So apparently we all have it backwards.

lozarkman
04-14-2013, 04:03 AM
very interesting thread. if you can't accomplish rhythm, you have nothing ! of course both hands are important, but as said, you can learn to fret any number of chords, but without right hand rhythm and technique, you have confusion. and as an added thought, throw in picking, and then fretting becomes much more important for meaningful sound. left hand fingering for chords and notes become more tied to right hand technique. but again, rhythm is the key. lozark

mm stan
04-14-2013, 04:15 AM
Rhythm can be accomplished with the fretting hand too...such in jazz pieces...

BrettMidwest
04-14-2013, 04:18 AM
Strumming hand is more important, especially when you are just starting out. The fretboard can seem complicated to decipher for beginners, but I think everybody gets the jist of what the strumming does, it keeps time with the song.
Also having strong rhythm can help you in cases where you are jamming with other people, and they bring up songs that you don't know, can't play. Many times in that circumstance I will simply deaden all the strings with my fingering hand and just flick out the rhythm to help fatten out the song.

Wicked
04-14-2013, 04:20 AM
Rhythm can be accomplished with the fretting hand too...such in jazz pieces...

My point, exactly.

Johnny GDS
04-14-2013, 04:28 AM
Yeah I agree, the strumming hand is what makes the difference between being able to play a "song" vs. just a bunch of chords. I've seen a lot of people develop their fretting hand much more meticulously than their strumming hand. Nobody likes a band with a bad drummer and essentially the strumming hand is the drummer in this band.

GaryC1968
04-14-2013, 05:14 AM
Most of us wont venture past the 5th fret so the strumming hand

I sometimes think of how much of a discount I could get if I just got the first five frets done. ;)

UncleMoon
04-15-2013, 08:00 AM
When I started guitar lessons a couple years back, my teacher told me "The left hand is where you keep your brains, and the right hand is where you keep your personality."

caukulele
04-15-2013, 08:10 AM
When I started guitar lessons a couple years back, my teacher told me "The left hand is where you keep your brains, and the right hand is where you keep your personality."

Love this....never quite thought of it like this....but good description...

Ken Middleton
04-15-2013, 08:35 AM
Some interesting responses. however, I don't really agree with many.

Both hands are equally important, in my view. The right hand is important for all the reasons that others have given. And, the right hand would certainly be more important if you just used the left to fret chords. However, even when you are strumming, it is really important to keep the left hand moving, usually on every beat (or half beat even). Movements can include slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs, runs, acciacaturas, mordents, scales, muting, harmonics, etc, etc ...

Pundabaya
04-15-2013, 08:45 AM
Movements can include slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs, runs, acciacaturas, mordents, scales, muting, harmonics, etc, etc ...

Come on, Ken... don't dazzle us with big words... 'hammer-ons?'

sukie
04-15-2013, 08:56 AM
Come on, Ken... don't dazzle us with big words... 'hammer-ons?'

Hammer-ons and pull-offs aren't really big words. They are what I like to call "tricks". They help jazz up your playing.

Craig Chee
04-15-2013, 06:30 PM
Even with the right hand going up/down at a constant tempo, we have the ability to create really cool syncopated rhythms by allowing certain strums to ring and 'muting/scratching' the rest. I definitely feel like technique and skill will push one hand to a certain point then will push the other to catch up as more advanced techniques require the precision in both.

On a side note, I love techniques that use the hands in almost opposite roles.

xzcuzxme
04-16-2013, 01:40 AM
Im a lefty playing left-handed. I initially played guitar right-handed for about five years then switched. Interestingly when I played with my dominant hand fretting I was much more of a rhythm guitarist. Chords, barre chords and simple strumming patterns was the order of the day. I never really developed any finger-picking and complex strumming techniques.

Playing lefty I very quickly got into finger-picking techniques and more complex strumming patterns. However, I still struggle with some barre chords that came much more naturally playing right-handed.

I think I definitely learned quicker after I switched but that is perhaps just me. I guess the point I am making is we probably adopt our playing style based on our own strengths and weakness with either hand bringing out the best of each hand discipline wherever we can!

fumanshu
04-16-2013, 01:50 AM
For sure both hands are important, but I think the strumming hand is the one that opens up more possibilities to your playing....it gives a lot of way to do variations to what you play...

I actually even took some flamenco guitar classes to improve my right hand techniques and bring it back to the ukulele.....

allanr
04-16-2013, 04:05 AM
Whats more important, the strumming hand, or the fretting?

... Yes

AndrewKuker
04-16-2013, 08:02 AM
A few times at NAMM I've seen this guy that plays pretty good guitar with his feet. That might be a little ambitious, but this is a fun exercise-

http://vimeo.com/64167015

RichM
04-16-2013, 08:28 AM
Good pitching alwyas beats good hitting, and vice-versa.

----Yogi Berra