David Grier 2019!

Man, this is so great! The mighty David Grier stopped by last week and we filmed some amazing stuff. Here’s some Wheel Hoss:

In the first interview, we focused on crosspicking technique and his signature arpeggio parts. This time around I wanted to take a look at more up-tempo single note playing. We’ve been doing a lot of work updating the Primer with motion tutorials, and when David kicks it into gear, he’s a textbook example of how you can use a pickslanting approach for bluegrass with fantastic results. What you see in the above clip should be pretty familiar to almost everyone here.

It’s not just the motions I wanted to talk about, but also all the other parts up the chain, and how they fit together. No matter what pick or guitar he’s playing, David always gets that crystal clear sparkly tone, and you can tell it’s him from the first few notes. So we talked about how that happens. It’s purely an edge picking / approach angle thing, so that he gets a mostly flat attack all the time. That’s one of the reasons the pronated approach works for him — it flattens out your edge picking.

All these pieces fit together, and you’ll see that lots of players in bluegrass are principally downstroke-escape players once they get moving. David, Jake Workman, kid phenoms like Presley Barker. Somehow, the need for projection, treble frequencies, and the need to play certain standard phrases like the G run, eventually lead a lot of players to a similar formula.

TLDR if you want to play bluegrass, a wrist or elbow DSX / UWPS technique is a good place to start.


Great news :smiley: looking forward to this!
Is there going to be a full-length tune among the transcriptions? (Just being spoiled).

PS: it seems a lot of these great cross-pickers don’t anchor or slide the unused fingers on the pickguard, is this an integral element of the technique or just an accident?

PPS: I just noticed that for the last phrase around 0:55 he instead does anchor the ring and pinky fingers - similar to what I do. Do you have a guess as to why he approaches this part differently, and could you see this last hand position working for the whole tune?

Thanks :slight_smile:

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Dave always plays tunes! This here is a complete tune — Wheel Hoss — actually with a few bars pulled out so it fits on Instagram. So it’s not too long but it’s long enougn to get the sense of the AABB structure of the song.

Re: form Dave has various mechanical modes. Wheel Hoss is the high speed form which is 2wps primary up, pronated version, as is pretty obvious. But at more moderate speeds he sometimes uses a mode which has only a forearm anchor, slightly supinated arm, lightly flexed wrist, sometimes with light fingers grazing, sometimes without. “As It Rolls To The Sea” from the last interview is a great example of this and you’ll see him switch between all of these in the first few bars:

David doesn’t use these alternative forms for his fastest playing but Carl Miner and Bryan Sutton both plant fingers on the guitar top and it works fine. Many, many ways to do this.


Great to see the ‘birds eye/player view’ camera angle in addition to the magnet and ‘audience view’. As much as the magnet view clearly shows the pick escape paths/slant etc, this other viewing angle is definitely more relatable for me (and perhaps others who don’t have a magnet?) to see roughly what the movements look like when observing our picking hand and arm. Personally, I was quite surprised by how it actually looked. In any case, great to see! When it was side by side with the magnet view on the screen it was most potent!

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Yep we have that set up in the studio now and can turn it on by default. In fact, we have it set up so the player can see it on a monitor. Most players hunch over the guitar and totally block the camera. So it really needs to be something the player can look at and adjust themselves.

David is an exception. He barely moves at all, and stays back behind the guitar body. So he never blocks the camera and the view is always dead-centered over the low E string so that it looks like he’s playing a one-string guitar. It’s uncanny. His footage will probably be the best footage of that we’ll ever get.

In David’s case, his playing looks pretty much exactly like what I would expect. His high speed mode is a pickslanting mode so you don’t see the big air gaps below the pickstroke any more on the upstroke. We hope it will help acoustic players to understand this. You don’t have to always make a crosspicking-style motion to play bluegrass, and when great players like Bryan Sutton and Jake Workman and probably lots of others click into high speed mode, they switch to a motion that probably looks a bunch like what David uses.

Hey troy. Is there an estimated time we will get to see the full interview. I need my David Grier fix.

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We’re behind! We have to get a few other things out first. Maybe a couple months? We have everything we need with David’s interview so it’s possible we could fast-track that. It’s always a struggle to find the hours, but we hear you.

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You guys are the only ones I’ve seen that get good information out of him. His playing is unlike any other flatpickers out there. I’m always excited when you guys get bluegrass players