Rest Stroke Study

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INFO & EXPLANATION

IS THE GUITAR MORE EXPRESSIVE THAN THE PIANO?There are basically 2 popular instruments that allow you to play melody and accompany yourself at the same time, the piano and the guitar. If you're a mandolin player or an accordian player, I don't mean to leave you out but for the sake of discussion we're going to stick to the piano and guitar.

Guitar...
The thing that can really set the guitarist apart from the pianist is the ability to be extremely expressive in note execution. Guitar allows you to get many different effects such as pitch-bending, vibrato, sliding on the strings resulting in a glissando effect, hammer-on's and pull-off's just to name a few. Also, expressive guitarists have an endless bag of tone-variations at their disposal by playing towards the bridge for a brighter tone, playing closer to the neck for a warmer tone, using the flesh of the thumb for a soft tone or using the fingernail to give a distinct attack.

Piano...
Let's analyze the pianist's tool bag for expressive playing. First, they have a sustain pedal allowing them to simultaneously sound as many notes at the same time as they desire simply by pressing the pedal. The piano also has a "soft" pedal that shifts the hammers over to hit fewer courses of strings providing a "softer" tone. Beyond that, the pianist must rely on his/her touch- in other words, how hard or soft they play various notes.

The Haunting Question...
Why then, if the guitar has so much expressive ability, does so many classic guitarist's playing sound so dull and lifeless when so many pianists are able to create incredibly expressive music? A good pianist will use their ability to vary the intensity of the melodic line to cause it to sound like a separate "voice." I think sometimes the guitarist forgets about the variance in intensity between a melodic line and the accompaniment. The rest stroke is a great way to make that difference happen.THE REST STROKEThe rest stroke is demonstrated in the HANDS movie so there's no need to go into a big description of what the rest stroke is. What I want you to see here is the way the rest stroke can bring out the melodic line as distinct from the accompaniment you're playing on the other strings using the free stroke. To see and here the difference play the movie below.

Notice that the sound of the melodic line isn't distinct when played using the free stroke. It just gets lost in the sound of the accompaniment. I over-emphasized the free stroke to make the point but you can clearly see and hear how much more powerful and clean the melodic line can be when using a rest stroke. If you attempt to play "harder" using the free stroke you risk distorting the vibration of the string because you are forced to somewhat pull upwards to miss the adjacent string. This can cause the string to slap against the neck of the guitar. The rest stroke allows you to exert a little more force in striking the string because you are purposely coming to rest on the adjacent string. The string isn't pulled away from the neck and released like you're trying to shoot an arrow from a bow.USE THIS STUDY AS A PRACTICE TOOLMemorize the study so you can watch your right hand closely. Try to stay very relaxed and make your strokes even and smooth. Think like a piano player who is bringing the melody out from the accompaniment. Some guitarists work on their rest stroke for years before they feel they have it under complete control. Don't get impatient. Just use this study as a practice tool and work on it a little every day. In the long run you'll begin to see results. Your playing will become much more expressive as you're able to focus on making music rather than struggling with the notes.

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