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Building Picking Skill


Tone Taster

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Oh yeah. This topic can really border on snobbery like flyfishing, golf, or pool, etc . . .

 

Anyway, We are all fearfully and wonderfully made, so I am posting with all respect justly due to different hand structures

 

The only way I know how to appraoch this topic is by a chronological personal testimony and hopefully it helps

 

From my inception in '84 to '88, I was "formally self-taught"(Jaco quote), I anchored my wrist flush with the guitar around the bridge area in which the wrist line was completely vertical and hand horizontal, using just the finger muscles only.

 

I was mainly a legato/slur/pull off/ hammer guy

 

I forget how I tucked the pick

 

'88-90- studied Northeast Jazz style where I was instructed to remove the anchor, tuck the pick on the SIDE of the index finger(top Knuckle) between the thumbprint part of the thumb

 

They wanted the movement to come from the elbow in a vertical fashion (Just couldn't dig it)

 

Late part of '90 - was told to use my wrist more from a friend of mine who was studying picking skill

 

91-93 - tendonitis condition - No playeee !!

 

94 - 98 I played still w/ no anchor, but was using a combo of the wrist w/ elbow movement

 

Tucked pick the same way

 

98-02

 

I was starting to observe that I was getting some speed using circular movement, and that when I muted, I was forced to use the finger muscles of the top joints of my thumb and index

 

It was this muting that got me back to the anchor

 

03--04 I noticed that Jimmy herring, Metheny, and Morse held the pick w/ 2 fingers plus the thumb

 

I saw that Metheny and Herring didn't anchor, but used the wrist.

 

I tried tucking the pick this way and continued to play w/ no anchor

 

04-05

 

I saw Di Meola vids and noticed a wrist anchor w/ the pick tucked on the side between index, using the finger muscles

 

So this is where I am at now and I have increased my speed exponentially and Cleanly and I can accent at will also

 

I use the finger muscles w/ karate chop side of the palm anchored, with a combo of finger muscles and circular wrist movement

while the pick is tucked on the SIDE of index top knuckle sandwiched by the thumb

 

 

Once i get the FRNS together I will upload some video and audio so you will witness that this is not all talk.

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Wow! - I just thumbpick, pretty much just using the thumb muscles, plucking with fingers the odd time. I've learned to trill with it, and I attribute my speed to that, and I play 64ths at will, and my hand rarely cramps up.
Never a DUH! moment! Well, almost never. OK, OK! Sometimes never!
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Blue, I want to talk to you about using Thumbpicks..as you know I use both (you have see them in some of my pictures) However I want to encourage you to put in some time with a flat pick. My all time fav guitar player is Johnny Winter (he might be one of your favs too) however, Johnny is Johnny and not many guys can use a thumbpick like he can. So.. I learned my technique with thumb picks from a banjo player a long time ago and it affected my guitar playing in an adverse way as far as flat pick technique and wrist technique. I only use the thumbpick on very few things anymore except the Dobro. There are lots of material that is so cumbersome to try to use the thumbpick that it is not the way to go. The flat pick in 98% of all material is far better. Lets put it this way.. the better you get with the flatpick the less you will want to use the thumbpick! SO.. when your not gigging try forcing yourself to use the flatpick! use it in reharsal to get used to it ...then start to use it gigging and build confidence. Its a difficult transititon but BELIEVE ME it is worth the effort for your total playing skill. I have been thinking of making this post to you for along time since I realized you thumbpick, and I was going to just PM you about it but I thought someone else who is just starting out playing might benefit from the post? What do ya think, is this a possiability for ya........LEE
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Thanks for thinkin' of me, Lee. I can flatpick, but rarely do, so my technique is unevolved. When I saw Johnny Winter on Don Kirshner's Rock Concert show in my teens, I was already having trouble with dropping the flatpick a lot, and it always went under the bed, dresser, etc., as I was somewhat awkward then. Seeing Johnny was a revelation - wow - that works really well for him - I gotta try that. I was still pounding on crappy guitars back then, and was totally self-taught. To this day I've never had a lesson. Having a playable instrument might have made a difference then regarding flatpicking, but I was still using heavy strings with an action that Mini Me could cartwheel under, and I could not control a flatpick. The thumbpick was like a safety net for me, and I really strove to develop a technique which has become, in all modesty, very advanced, very accurate, and extremely fast.

 

I do agree that certain nuances, like sweep picking, are not accessible with a thumbpick, and will try to work out more with a flatpick, as your advice makes sense. I do find the thumbpick to be a liability when playing "Dueling Banjos", and certain other tunes where the rigidity of the thumbpick works against you. It's also harder to pull off those ZZ squeals, as the pick is much more static and stationary in your hand.

 

As for the beginner, the flatpick is the much more accepted way to go, and almost all teachers are going to be coaching flatpicking technique. You're absolutely right in that you can never stop learning, and must always be open to things you haven't done.

 

Thanks again,

Reif

Never a DUH! moment! Well, almost never. OK, OK! Sometimes never!
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WOOPS..ON Albert Collins there Reif, Albert did use a flat on SOME things especially in the studio..my buddy Robert Noll was his sideman for 4 years on the road. But yes mostly he didn't use picks, Robert said that when he used a sideman who picked normally he never used one because he had the pic percussion in the mix.. also Robert said Albert tuned in F#Minor..go figure!!!! :rolleyes:
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Originally posted by Caputo:

Thing is, Kevin Eubanks uses no pick -- never did

 

Really pissed off the Berklee "picking only" snobs

Speaking of Berklee, check out this article from Terry Syrek. Terry and I were at Berklee around the same time, though I didn't really know him. His observations on picking technique are right on the money.

http://www.terrysyrek.com/doorway2.html

 

Oh, and I had one of Kevin Eubanks teachers and he said that the guitar department, who all worship Wes Montgomery, wanted to fail him for not using a pick. :confused:

www.myspace.com/christondre
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Originally posted by GtrWiz:

Speaking of Berklee, check out this article from Terry Syrek. Terry and I were at Berklee around the same time, though I didn't really know him. His observations on picking technique are right on the money.

http://www.terrysyrek.com/doorway2.html

 

Oh, and I had one of Kevin Eubanks teachers and he said that the guitar department, who all worship Wes Montgomery, wanted to fail him for not using a pick. :confused:

I needed to poke around to read his entries. Look for the one about the infamous Disney incident! I went to the one in Florida, in 2001. Nothing like that ever happened to me! :D

 

In any case, I see what you mean by it. The last article is very enlightening.

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GtrWiz, thank you so much for Terry's web site. Very insightful and "nail on the head" regarding picking technique

 

Those picking exercises are alot like what I practice

and beyond

 

Relf, Benson did use the pick, but he has a lateral, sweep style which makes his speed sound so smooth

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Originally posted by Caputo:

GtrWiz, thank you so much for Terry's web site. Very insightful and "nail on the head" regarding picking technique

 

Those picking exercises are alot like what I practice

and beyond

 

Relf, Benson did use the pick, but he has a lateral, sweep style which makes his speed sound so smooth

Glad it helped. Also check out GP's own Rusty Cooley: http://www.rustycooley.com/lessons.html

 

Rusty was one of my teachers when I was in High School and, while I'm no shredder these days, my lessons with him set me up with pretty good chops fo life. :thu:

www.myspace.com/christondre
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Okay, i was just getting this insight while practicing today:

 

When doing fretting hand slurs (i.e. pull offs/hammer ons / legato playing), it requires more strength to press down or pull off with those fingers in order to produce the next tone

 

When picking a note and fretting it at the same time, less fretting pressure is required

 

Since i am by nature a legato player, it has taken me years to develop clean speed picking.

 

I pinpointed a problem that's been holding me back:

 

I am fretting with the same pressure as if I was hammering, when i am picking the note. This unnecessary pressure is keeping my fretting fingers from going to the subsequent note(s). so it follows that I could be applying less pressure which would therefore allow the fingers to move to the next notes at a faster rate.

 

So here is an exercise:

 

using the index and ring fingers of your fretting hand, pick a note on any string, with your index finger fretting it.

 

Hammer On to the note 2 frets up w/your ring finger

 

LISTEN to the volume/dynamic of the hammered note

 

Now pick the index finger note again

 

BUT this time PICK the ring finger note, applying less pressure from whence you hammered, yet at the same time, achieving the same previous volume/dynamic WITH YOUR PICKING HAND

 

If it wasn't a psychological placebo effect, i was able to boost my picking speed/fretting speed and coordinate it at a faster BPM on the Met CLEANLY

 

Enjoy

 

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i used to try and hammer and pull most of the stuff i was playing. but i tend to pick more stuff.

i am way more brutal in my pick hand. i can riff for hours, i love heaviousity. i used to choke up on the pick but now using big stubbies i don't.

i don't know if i am normal or not.

but my index finger is curled into my palm with my pick between it and my thumb. finger pointing to my wrist, thumb pointing away from my wrist. the other three fingers are straightened most of the time, if i happen to be playing a humbucker equipped guitar i anchor my pinky aroung the bridge bucker ring.

but that is just my way.

i don't get cramps, haven't had any problems with my hands. my job is quite repetitive and has caused many to develope Carpal tunnel syndrome. i have been lucky.

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RE: that's the way I hold my pick, also

 

I read that tuck article someone posted iearlier in this thread and he was not in favor of it

 

I guess my index doesn't go all the way, but the middle & top knuckle of th index is tucked under the thumb

 

I don't care how anyone holds the pick, but There ain't NO CHEATING triplet picking

 

Definitely a guitarists Arch nemesis, no doubt

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the side of my hand is a little rough and dry from the rubber we use at work. i should use a moisturizer, because my hand tends to make noises when i mute. not all the time. when i get really warmed up my hand tends to hover above the strings as opposed to anchoring.

but i find i do alot of things that i don't realise i do until i stop and analyze it.

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Pat Martino has an interesting approach to picking, with his hand completely free and with his pinky extended. And his right hand is like a steamroller, but very clean,too!

 

Another great alternate picker is Clint Strong, and some of the flatpickers.

 

But there are other approaches. I got an instructional video on mandolin picking technique, and the guy taught that we should approach the figures we wanted to play in different ways - cross-picking (down-down-up-up across three strings) as well as strict alternate picking - for versatility, control and because they sound different!

 

And then there was Charlie Christian, who employed strictly down strokes - but we can't all be him!

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I set my hand completely relaxed, so my fingers will curve and my thumb will rest on the SIDE of my index finger's tip. That's where I put my pick, holding it w/ the pad of the thumb and side of index finger's tip w/ very little surface protruding, its tip pointing at a 90 degree angle in respect to the thumb. It feels very natural, although I'm not sure it's the best for super fast picking.

 

I don't think I anchor either the pinky or the wrist, I just lay the hand on the plain of the strings, my thumb aligned with it, dampening the lower strings when playing w/ distortion.

 

Thanks for the tips and the links to the lessons...

"Without music, life would be a mistake."

--from 'Beyond Good and Evil', by Friedrich Nietzsche

 

My MySpace Space

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Originally posted by MILLO:

I set my hand completely relaxed, so my fingers will curve and my thumb will rest on the SIDE of my index finger's tip. . .. I just lay the hand on the plain of the strings, my thumb aligned with it, dampening the lower strings

RE: Cop that, yup that's it !!!

 

I believe that's How AL D, does it.

 

Those finger muscles are the deallio, yo !!

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IMHO, one of the best (if not THE best) pickers today is Steve Morse. Clean, yet powerful style employing both rest strokes and free strokes with the pick, with an unorthodox technique to boot. His website (stevemorse.com) has a lot of info on his technique, as well as lessons that have been uploaded to work on alternate picking, triplet picking, etc. I believe that he is, by far, the best at triplet picking that there is.
"I look for whatever will cut the deepest... whammy bars and wah wah pedals can't be used as just gimmicks. They have to reflect and express your feelings." - Jeff Beck
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I should also add that a common problem among guitarists seems to be that their upstroke is not as strong as their downstroke. For me, I love the sound of upstrokes, especially with a really melodic ballad, and like to have them at least as strong as my downstrokes, if not stronger. The upstroke coupled with a rest stroke can make for some muscular, tasty playing.
"I look for whatever will cut the deepest... whammy bars and wah wah pedals can't be used as just gimmicks. They have to reflect and express your feelings." - Jeff Beck
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Dimebag Darrell used to use lots of upstrokes, contrary to the typical 'metal' mentality of 'as many dowsntrokes as possible'.

 

I don't think I've ever heard of anyone using rest strokes for picking, except us fingerpickers. Thanks for the info, I'll check out Morse's website.

"Without music, life would be a mistake."

--from 'Beyond Good and Evil', by Friedrich Nietzsche

 

My MySpace Space

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Originally posted by MILLO:

Dimebag Darrell used to use lots of upstrokes, contrary to the typical 'metal' mentality of 'as many dowsntrokes as possible'.

 

I don't think I've ever heard of anyone using rest strokes for picking, except us fingerpickers. Thanks for the info, I'll check out Morse's website.

That's true. I actually first got the idea from my classical guitar teacher. Then, I was reading an article in an old GP magazine (Aug/87, I think) where Rik Emmett explains the approach of using rest strokes with a pick. I've never heard (or read) Morse saying literally to use rest strokes but I've seen him do it, in DVD performances where there are close ups of his picking hand.

 

Used tastefully, I think rest strokes can get a great sound with nice articulation.

"I look for whatever will cut the deepest... whammy bars and wah wah pedals can't be used as just gimmicks. They have to reflect and express your feelings." - Jeff Beck
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