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oldheartofmine

Did Charlie Christian and B.B. King rely solely on the downstroke?

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Obviously from the BB King video the previous poster linked us to, he's using upstrokes.

 

I doubt Charlie Christian used only down strokes.

 

A lot of the old-time gypsy jazz guys used a lot of downstrokes:

 

Down stroke to start every beat and down stroke every time you change strings is the rule for a lot of those guys. Also, many of their down strokes are rest strokes (pick rests into the next string after picking).

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I've transcribed Charlie Christian and I seriously doubt that. Then again, I would never believe that Django was only playing with two fingers if I didn't know it to be fact.

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"His index and middle fingers were likely stiff and difficult to control, but he could move them"

 

"He pushed his paralyzed fingers to grip the guitar as well, his smallest digit on the high E string, his ring finger on the B, and sometimes barring his index finger to fashion chords of four to five notes."

 

from "Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend' by Michael Dregni

 

dregni.jpg

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Obviously from the BB King video the previous poster linked us to, he's using upstrokes.


I doubt Charlie Christian used only down strokes.


A lot of the old-time gypsy jazz guys used a lot of downstrokes:


Down stroke to start every beat and down stroke every time you change strings is the rule for a lot of those guys. Also, many of their down strokes are rest strokes (pick rests into the next string after picking).

 

Is this "economy picking" that you are describing?

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Is this "economy picking" that you are describing?

As far as the rule about making each string change a down pick:

 

If you are going from low pitch strings to high then it works itself out just like economy picking as far as the string crossings.

 

However if you are moving from high pitch strings to low its kind of like "anti-economy" picking.

 

 

The other rule of starting each beat on a downstroke throws a few more twists into this, especially if you are doing odd numbered rhythmic groupings, such as triplets, quintuplets, ect...

 

When I read about the gypsy jazz picking method, I thought it had to be wrong, as you could not play fast with that many consecutive downstrokes. It wasn't until I actually saw a guy live do this that I realized how cool it was. Unfortunately, now I have to untrain 30 years of alternate and economy picking habits... *sigh*

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I've transcribed Charlie Christian and I seriously doubt that.

 

Apart from the fact that it's well documented that Charlie Christian used mainly, if not solely downstrokes, you should know if you've transcribed his solos because for one thing you can hear it (and I don't mean to sound aggressive here, OK). Two things are very appearant. His tone and his (lack of) speed. He's not slow but dammit, he's not fast. Not in the modern sense of the word. And his tone is always great. It's big, fat, punchy. There's only one way to get that tone, we all know it, it's from a downstroke. He also used only three fingers on his left hand.

 

As far as learning this, Charlie Christian had the same teacher as T-Bone Walker, a guy called Chuck Richardson I think, and it's obvious to anyone whose ever heard or seen Bone play that he didn't use only downstrokes. It's not really alternating picking but it's closer to that than "downstrokes only". On the other hand, as far as guitar playing is concerned Bone can't really be compared to Christian, who was the much better guitarist of the two, by far.

 

In any case, Eddie Durham was, according to himself, the man who taught Charlie to use only downstrokes to get "a more horn like sound" if I remember the quote correctly. If that's what it gives you I'm not sure but it's the best damn tone you can get out of a guitar, that I do know. Charlie Christian has the jazz gutiar tone of all times. Especially on those live recordings.

 

If you find it hard to believe I think the more strange thing is that Wes Montgomery used a great deal of downstrokes too. If not exclusively then at least to a very large extent. And with his bare thumb too. On the other hand I've seen flamenco players, or flamenco based players, tear it up using only a downstroke, because for all I know the technique is well known in classical guitar playing too.

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On the other hand, as far as guitar playing is concerned Bone can't really be compared to Christian, who was the much better guitarist of the two, by far.


 

In your opinion, that is.

 

 

Charlie Christian has
the
jazz gutiar tone of all times.


 

Again, in your opinion.

 


...I've seen flamenco players, or flamenco based players, tear it up using only a downstroke, because for all I know the technique is well known in classical guitar playing too.

 

Flamenco and classical players use all (or nearly) all down strokes when using their thumb, yes. But that's because it's a thumb. But they use nearly all upstrokes with their fingers, which account for the majority of faster scalar runs. The main exception would be downstrokes with the fingers for rasqueados.

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In your opinion, that is.

 

I'm not sure it can be called an opinion. Since they were so close musically they can really be compared, something that is otherwise pretty hard to do. They came from the same place, had the same teacher, played together... both were dancers but as far as I know only one of them was a singer before he was anything else.

 

T-Bone Walker is in his finer moments one of my absolute favorite blues singers of all time. I don't think there is any man whose voice I like more for the the blues, not even Muddy Waters.

 

He was fine musicians but as a guitarist Bone was rather limited. He was msart though and used his limitations wisely. He played within them, knew what he could do and what he couldn't. His snese of timing was good enough to save his somewhat struggling fingers in a lot of situations.

 

All of his solos stay within the same range, about two octaves (in G it's be from D to G to G an octave up to about Bb). I mean, he played in any key but he just moved a fingering pattern up and down the neck and as far as his single note lines go he could have used a capo in the same way Albert Collins did.

 

While his timing was really good it wasn't as great as Charlie Christians and it's really hard to argue this point. Also Christian knew his way aorund the guitar a lot more and had more variation in his lines, this is also very hard to argue. Whether or not that variation is a good thing is perhaps what could be debated, but saying that repetitiveness is better than variation in music is also a very hard point to argue.

 

All of this is said by a someone who has been and for the most part still is a huge T-Bone Walker fan. Sometimes I think he has a feel that nobody else comes close to... except Charlie Christian.

 

Again, in your opinion.

 

Well... he's the one who sounds like hes playing guitar to me, while nearly everyone else sounds either like they want to play a horn or a piano and seldom succeed. If indeed ever. Charlie Christian has a lot of power and punch.

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Terje,

 

I'm not disagreeing with your choices of who you like better. My point was that statements of opinion that are portrayed as statements of fact can sometimes promote misinformation.

 

- Jasco

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