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Picking Hand Position


DocPate

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I remember my daughter discussing her right hand position when playing Mandolin as being critical in her growth as a mando player. It makes me think about my hand position for the various instruments and styles of music I once played. It is a very important, and often overlooked subject IMHO.

 

It's kind of natural for us "Pickers" I think. You just rest your hand where it naturally falls which is around the upper part of the bridge, letting the pick fall at a small angle to the strings - just above the bridge pickup on a tele or LP. Don't know about the Strat. This seems for me to set up a good attack and give a good position for palm-muting. For rhythm, it's more about the flexibility of the wrist and I usually don't rest my hand at all, just lift my hand and attack the strings more from a perpendicular position.

 

What can you add? I know we all have our little idiosyncrasies for each style - rock, blues, country, etc.

 

Let's discuss

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Hand position totally changes based on what tone you need. Any place from where the neck meets the body to just in front of the saddle.

 

I found I work farther away from the bridge on a Strat than other guitars. My poor old Strat paid for it. I guess it is because the single coils give more clarity and allow you to do that without getting too woofy.

 

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I change my picking hand position depending on whether I'm playing lead or rhythm and depending on the tone, palm muting, strumming, finger picking, 4 note chords, etc., that I want to use. For the most part, my hand position just comes naturally. I usually like resting my palm on the bridge saddles. Using the whammy on the Strats and the Bigsby on my Taylor forces me to play further up from the bridge, but I use the whammy bars sparingly, if at all... :cool:
Take care, Larryz
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I always have to warm up to get my picking hand in tune with the instrument. The position of my hand naturally falls into place after 10 minutes of scales. What I find most important in the picking technique is; how hard I hit the strings with the pick, and how deeply into the space below the string I place the pick. The more shallow my stroke is, the better I can play, the deeper I go towards the wooden top of the guitar the more I "miss pick". I try to keep my pick in line with the strings, and not hit the string at much of an angle to the string.
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I've gotten so used to the carved-top contours of my Les Paul that my hand-position feels a little odd when I play a Strat or Tele. I've also found that I really like the feel of a "top-wrapped" set-up on my Les Paul, with the tail-piece lowered all the way and the strings routed over its top; with a Les Paul's tail-piece raised up a bit as per the usual set-up, it feels almost 'in the way'.

 

Whatever your position and approach, consistency there is a key to improving your playing.

 

I get a LOT of tonal and dynamic range out of just where I pick along the strings' length, and just HOW. For me, it's gotten to the point of doing so on 'auto-pilot' without thinking about it. I can be using the neck-pickup and a guitar-playing listener hearing a recording will assume that it's the bridge-pickup, and vice-verse; that's happened several times before.

 

Dig that '60's British-Blues lead-tone often heard by the likes of Eric Clapton, among others? Pick with somewhat light up-strokes from the underside of the string, near the neck-pickup or between the pickups; notes produced this way will actually sound bigger and fuller and louder with more 'bloom' than those picked hard, which sound constricted by comparison.

 

My pick-less/fingerstyle approach has me doing some things very differently, to the point that a strummy reinterpretation that I did of a Bob Dylan tune was impossible for another guy to replicate with a pick. Even though I wasn't doing any finger-picking, the way that I kinda flailed (frailed?) around strummingly and percussively just couldn't be done the same way with a pick.

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Regardless, either on my acoustics, and even back when I had an electric, I had(and STILL have) the habit of holding my pick between my thumb and first finger and resting the tips of the remaining fingers on the pickguard. No matter WHERE between the neck and bridge I chose to play.

Whitefang

I started out with NOTHING...and I still have most of it left!
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I remember my daughter discussing her right hand position when playing Mandolin as being critical in her growth as a mando player. It makes me think about my hand position for the various instruments and styles of music I once played. It is a very important, and often overlooked subject IMHO.

 

What can you add? I know we all have our little idiosyncrasies for each style - rock, blues, country, etc.

 

Let's discuss

 

IME, hand position is critical for Mandolin players looking to get that constant tremolo-stlye picking motion. I know that for me, with my somewhat limited experience, my right hand isn't as free to change position on the Mandolin, as on the Guitar.

 

When I'm working on fast, tremolo-style picking on the Guitar, I find that I gravitate to one hand position, in order to conserve motion and energy. The very tip of my right little finger touches the pickup ring of the bridge pickup, allowing my hand to 'float' just between the pickups, slightly closer to the neck pickup. FWIW, many Guitar teachers disapprove of 'anchoring' the right hand on the body.

"Monsters are real, and Ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win." Stephen King

 

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I know finger pickers that anchor their pinky on the guitar while finger picking to keep their hand in the right position. Two of them have manicured nails on their right hands that are acrylic and used as picks. They won't let you use a pick if you get to play on their guitars as you might scratch them up. However when you look at their guitars you'll see where that pinky nail has scratched the sh*t out of them LOL!

 

I think the reason I like hybrid picking is it allows me to get the soft finger pad sound on 4 note chords and double stops and the pick brings out more bass volume while finger picking or doing little bass runs. I can go back and forth from pick style to finger style and move up and down the strings for more bass, mids and treble on both electrics and acoustics. I really like using the pick alone and keeping it handy for strumming or doing some fast boogie lead and scale stuff...

 

+1 Winston, I don't worry about anchoring my picking hand... :cool:

Take care, Larryz
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I don't either. I studied Classical guitar under Dr. Wehrman for 5 years. In guitar you don't anchor because you need to use all five fingers.

 

In banjo the majority anchor pinky and ring finger against the head for stability because Earl Scruggs did it. But I don't. There is a common tendon shared between the middle and ring finger and anchoring the ring finger can restrict the movement of the middle finger. All the stability I really need comes from the arm rest. In finger style guitar I sort of do the same thing by resting the arm on the bout of the guitar. The angle of the wrist totally different between classical and Country because of the thumbpick though.... even more so with the flat pick in the case of hybrid picking.

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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Hand position totally changes based on what tone you need. Any place from where the neck meets the body to just in front of the saddle.

 

Yeah... it totally changes depending on what I want to hear, and where that will come from on that particular guitar or bass of mandolin...

 

I did see something a while ago where a famous shredder had a piece of plastic in between pickups, right under the strings, to help him speed pick faster because it forced him to pick shallower... so if I need to do a speedy rockabilly or jazzy run or something I pick on the fretboard in front of the neck pickup for that reason, and it works.

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For about 30 years i was a "thumb bent up" guy in how i hold my flatpick. Some of you will know what i mean. Then a couple of years ago i started holding the pick with my thumb bent down. It is alot smoother, faster with less attack. Ive about mastered that and now i switch between both when i want more definition or smoother speed.
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So, it seems no one position works for everyone, no does one position work for EVERYTHING, as many change their position depending on what they play, or the sound they want.

 

As one who only plays acoustic, I can say(as you all already know) that changing positin from over the sound hole, to back by the BRIDGE, will get you a different tone, which might be more suitable for something else, as will positioning closer to the neck.

Whitefang

I started out with NOTHING...and I still have most of it left!
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