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Thread: How to use more right wrist and minimal right arm?

  1. #1
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    Default How to use more right wrist and minimal right arm?

    Even though my playing is improving, Mike Marshall still tells me heís seeing too much of my motion coming from my right arm. He really wants me to take a step back and even just do RH single string exercises for a while to train myself out of this bad habit before it gets too much more ingrained.

    I totally agree with MMís diagnosis and prescription, but I wish there were a device or a training aid I could rig up that would force me to use only right wrist and just take the arm out of the equation ó allowing me to burn that feeling of all-wrist into my muscle memory that much faster until it becomes comfortable and habitual.

    I could just do MMís drills and watch my arm in the mirror, but I think Iíd get there faster if I could also FORCE myself to use more wrist instead of just trying to will that arm into submission.

    In golf, thereís an entire industry devoted to selling golfers some gizmo designed to help them keep a flat left wrist, transfer their weight, or any of the other mechanical aspects that help produce a good swing. Some of the best ones are free and can be improvised from household objects ó holding a beach ball between your elbows, for example ó and they really do work to help you feel the concept youíre trying to learn and ingrain. And when used properly, they can really speed up the learning curve.

    Back in my mando beginner days, I even borrowed a left wrist flattening brace from my golf gear and used it successfully for a little while to make my left hand stop palming the neck. Never had that problem again.

    So, has anyone ever contrived a successful home-made mandolin playing aid to immobilise the right arm? Maybe thereís some way to rig a belt or something around the back of my chair, but I havenít quite figured out what to use and how to rig it. Thought Iíd ask here in case someone already has tried it and has a sincere suggestion (please, no jokes!)

  2. #2
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    Default Re: How to use more right wrist and minimal right arm?

    I see there are medical immobilizing elbow braces that hold one’s elbow at 90 degrees, which might be just the gizmo that would work in this case — but they cost about $50, so I’ll probably just do my drills the harder and simpler way.

  3. #3
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to use more right wrist and minimal right arm?

    I think the key is to "teach" your muscles to know when you are doing the right thing. You have one the best mandolin teachers on earth. I assume you asked him, if you didn't why not ask him how to do it. If you are doing remote video lessons he should be able to tell you when you are flailing with the arm. I am assuming that what you are talking about is keeping your wrist very stiff and moving your arm up and down. I think the best approach might be to slow whatever tune you are playing down to dirge tempo and watch what you are doing. I would guess that being conscious of these movements or non-wrist flexing you can work thru this without gadgets in a day or two but you also have to be patient with yourself.
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    Default Re: How to use more right wrist and minimal right arm?

    After you take the brace off you still will not be trained. All your joints need to be loose and free to move even if they don't.

    Slow down your metronome to as slow as it can go, like 40 or 50 BPM. Then watch yourself. Go at a speed where your brain can issue orders and your arm follow them till you get the feel. Go so slow that you cannot go wrong. Then slowly speed up over a few days or weeks.

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    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to use more right wrist and minimal right arm?

    You can press your forearm a little tighter to the mandolin. You’ll rub it raw or move your right arm less.
    Play it like you mean it

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    Registered User Mike Buesseler's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to use more right wrist and minimal right arm?

    I would never argue with MMarshall, but watch David Benedict or Sam Bush when they play. Looks like nothing but arm movement from the elbow. Very little wrist action at all.

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    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to use more right wrist and minimal right arm?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Buesseler View Post
    I would never argue with MMarshall, but watch David Benedict or Sam Bush when they play. Looks like nothing but arm movement from the elbow. Very little wrist action at all.
    Watch Sam Bush when he was younger to see how he played before he broke his wrist. A very smooth right wrist.
    Play it like you mean it

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    Default Re: How to use more right wrist and minimal right arm?

    Hi Gina, I recently had to reset my right hand as I was getting too much arm into my playing. I just had to slow way down and remain aware of when I was doing it and work to quiet it down. I ran scales and played favorite tunes slowly until I was able to speed up and not involve my right arm. It really didnít take that long...I caught it before I spent years doing it though so best to change now rather than embed a habit thatís harder to change later.

    There is no one ďrightí way as evidenced by different players but I think in general itís best to have minimal arm swing while playing.
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    Default Re: How to use more right wrist and minimal right arm?

    I understand your frustration. I changed my pick grip about 10 years ago and felt similarly, but the payoff is worth the work. Unfortunately, the majority of the golf gadgets donít really work, either

    Chris Thile talks about this on his instructional
    video as well. If I have time tomorrow Iíll see if I can find his exact advice for you (which wasnít any magical secret, but some exercises for achieving the desired wrist motion). The gains will seem painfully slow at first, but, when it clicks your speed and fluidity will be much better...

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    Registered User mandomurph's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to use more right wrist and minimal right arm?

    Stand in a doorway and pin your right arm between your body and the door opening. Now move your hand up and down at the wrist to get the feel of how it should move.
    mandomurph

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    Default Re: How to use more right wrist and minimal right arm?

    Quote Originally Posted by mandomurph View Post
    Stand in a doorway and pin your right arm between your body and the door opening. Now move your hand up and down at the wrist to get the feel of how it should move.
    I do recognize that many great players play with only wrist motion, but there are some great players who don't. Why don't they? I don't know but I do think it's possible that not everyone can play fast using only wrist motion. I certainly can't - over about 110bpm I have to switch from wrist motion to arm motion. I wish i could stay with working only from the wrist, but I've tried and I find for speed I need to get the whole arm moving! Maybe it's possible with lots practice I could speed up my wrist... but I doubt it. So what I'm suggesting is... keep working on both. If you ever get the wrist thing going fast, then good for you, but if like me, you can't just use the wrist motion for the high speed stuff, don't worry about switching to moving your whole arm. You won't be the only one!

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    Default Re: How to use more right wrist and minimal right arm?

    Well .... fiddlers have the same issue to a degree. Too much elbow not enough wrist. One fiddle trick is to trap your arm against a door frame or sit in a corner and trap your arm against a wall and play for a bit. Feel the differences in movement and touch on your instrument and work being able to mimic that. Also loosen up .... both on your pick grip and at your wrist. Be patient with yourself. Good habits take time to build. Luck ... R/
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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to use more right wrist and minimal right arm?

    I doubt seriously that locking one's arm in place and using only the wrist is what Mike was after, that would suck as much as locking your wrist and using only your arm. IMO re-read Jim Garber's advice. I doubt a gizmo is necessary, and I don't think you should eliminate any looseness or movement in your arm, just need to train and utilize the wrist more.
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    Default Re: How to use more right wrist and minimal right arm?

    Here's a suggestion along the lines of what you requested. If you are really flailing with your right arm while picking, just try putting it in an improvised sling. You can make this sling from cloth, or more simply, from a long shoelace or loop of cord (e.g., paracord) placed over your shoulder and around the forearm, near the back of your wrist. The sling will not prevent you from flexing your elbow altogether (you need that motion!), but it will provide you with a lot of "biofeedback" about whether you're using the forearm excessively, since you'll come up against the sling on each downstroke. Give it a shot, I'd say, and see what happens.

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    Default Re: How to use more right wrist and minimal right arm?

    Second ampyjo

    I tried to play with wrist only for 14 years, and although I would not say my playing was bad, there were several shortcomings looking back. One particular thing was playing medium/fast fiddle tunes or kickoffs, where I changed from let say the D to A string, and the first note on the A string begins with an upstroke (Road to Columbus kickoff). It just sounded weak and chopped up. Another problem. was overshooting the E and G strings when doing up and down successions. My hands are not very big and might have been a reason, at least for the latter. Mike M seems to have frying pan size hands and probably has a better reach across the fretboard using wrist only.

    Couple of years back I started looking at clips of Michael Cleveland, and figured it wouldn't hurt to try more arm movement (with Michael probably being on the extrem end of the scale hehe). The first thing that really stood out was the volume I got out of the instrument. This is important for me as I only play in Jams. Then I started relearning all the tunes thinking arm motion instead of wrist, and it feels like I'm on a totally different level today what confidence and control is concerned.

    Looking at clips of my playing it doesn't really look like I'm primarily driving from the arm, but in my mind I focus on that the motion should originate there. Looking at Compton I would also say that he has a fair bit of arm drive.

    So to conclude, there is not an universal technique that works for everyone. If I was to teach I would still recommend wrist only. If that doesn't work, experiment more with arm. But never play with a technique that induces pain or is obvious limiting your capability.
    Last edited by Galley nipper; Feb-04-2021 at 10:00am.

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    Registered User Tom Haywood's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to use more right wrist and minimal right arm?

    Gripping the pick too tightly can reduce wrist motion and cause you to use more arm. Practice a light pick grip.
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    Default Re: How to use more right wrist and minimal right arm?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gina Willis View Post
    So, has anyone ever contrived a successful home-made mandolin playing aid to immobilise the right arm? !)
    You could practice planting forearm on solid body electric with arm bevel like Strat, maybe you can do this on mandolin with a towel rolled up over the instrument body's sharp edge
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    Default Re: How to use more right wrist and minimal right arm?

    Mike told me the same thing, so I assume its pretty common with people who did not start with a mandolin instructor from the get go. I don't think Mike is saying pickers who play from the arm and not so much the wrist are bad, he is just trying to encourage what he believes is the proper way to play the instrument (which I am sure is as valid as it gets). He also suggested using a foot stand, I found that useful for mandola and octave and mandocello, but not so much for mandolin, watching the Sam Bush and Ronnie McCoury video of "forked deer" both pickers who "play the mandolin right" have very different stances and physical methods of making the box talk.
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    Default Re: How to use more right wrist and minimal right arm?

    My belief after a LOT of years teaching is you will get what you want RELAXED if you just practice slowly in front of the mirror. Any kind of device would probably make you strain against it, training tension. You don't want that.

    Best of luck!
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