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Jesus Joshua 24:15 Home  »  Forum Home  »  Music Discussions  »  Guitar Discussions  »  Lesson #4: Picking style



Guitar Weenie

740 Posts

Posted - 11 Nov 2005 :  21:29:53 Show Profile
Well, it has been a while since I produced a new article.So I will now enlighten all of you with my great wisdom yet again!Okay,must humble myself.

I would like to adress a more specific part of playing our beloved instrument: picking. I think that this merits some discussion, because #1) most new players focus on thier fretting hand (usually, the left hand), for the reason that it LOOKS like it is doing the most impressive feats and, #2) everybody picks differently,therefore the way a player attacks the notes will be very distinct.

I will say that I believe that your speed as a soloist, for the most part, is more fluid and accurate when you pick properly.But "proper" picking is, by and large, an individual process. Not everyone's hands are the same size and reach.Therefore, some of my opinions on this will be somewhat generic, and in no way all-encompassing.I will just use my own discoveries to put this issue into perspective.

Right off the bat, I pick using a very heavy (2mm thick) pick.I also get all of my motion from the wrist, not the forearm or fingers.I hold my pick between my thumb and the side of my first finger. The flat part of the pick is parallell to my thumb nail, and the point of the pick juts from where the first knuckle of my thumb and the first knuckle of my forefinger meet.The reason is simple: I do not like any give in the pick when I do single string work, and I use short strokes (more like 'glides')across the strings. This allows me more accuracy and control over dynamics, such as being staccato(snappy) or legato (smooth).

Another important ingredient is where I place the palm of my picking hand.My palm usually rests flat over the strings that I am not striking. My other three fingers are spread, or slightly curled, and resting on the body of the guitar.This allows me to mute unwanted strings or get a heavy palm muting sound, a la Metallica.One of the main reasons for me placing my palm in such a way is to allow my picking to be consistent with either up or down strokes.It also helps with keeping 'sweep picking' consistent and smooth.Since my hand doesn't have to travel very far, I can be more accurate switching strings, and reducing drag on my picking hand.This also helps with stamina.

Now, I tried many other ways of picking. And even though I am the biggest Eddie Van Halen fan, I cannot for the life of me, imitate the way he holds his pick and positions his hand for picking.But I will never criticize it, for obviously, the man got results! I just have to do my own thing. However, in studying most other players, I have found that they, with some slight variation,pick similarly to what I have discovered works better for me. And all of them, including Sir Edward, pick from the wrist.

And it is not just rock and metal players who find this way of picking useful. A lot of country pickers prefer from the wrist motion.Especially blue grass pickers. I've seen some incredibly fast,fluid, and accurate blue grass pickers that shame us rock players , and they do it WITHOUT distortion and high gain.Most do it on acoustic instruments, and that is very difficult.So to me, a solid picking technique is crucial to musical clarity.

Here is an exercise: Hold your pick your normal way, unique to your preferences.Set a metronome at a slow speed, say 70 beats per minute(slower if you prefer). Start picking on a single string, any one will do.Use strict alternate (up and down) strokes. Make sure to listen to the notes you strike so that each up stroke sounds the same as each down stroke.Pick four beats per measure,with sixteenth notes, which will count like this:ONE-ee-and-uh-Two-ee-and-uh-Three-ee-and-uh-Four-ee-and-uh.Do this for one solid minute (Get some kind of timer).Then move the metronome up a notch.Continue the process until you start to get sloppy.THAT is your top speed ceiling.Do this everyday for a few weeks, and your ceiling will go up. Try the exercise on different strings, because each string is a different width, and that creates a different feel.

The next exercise is similar, but with a twist.Do the same process, but this time use the fingers of the left hand to fret notes while you pick with your right hand. You can do the old faithful one-fret-per-stroke chromatic exercise, or a scale pattern if you like.The purpose of this is to synchronize both hands so that each note you play is a deliberate action, not the result of flapping your fingers on the fretboard, hoping to sound fast.I will tell you that controlled, even picking at slower speeds actually SOUNDS faster than chaotic,uneven, sloppy picking at higher tempos.

Oh, and by the way, DO NOT USE DISTORTION! Lay off the fuzz for these.That's cheating! I submit that if you cannot play these exercises clean and clear without effects, you will just sound sloppy and muddy when you have the effects on.And distortion actually masks inconsistencies, because the notes tend to bleed into each other.When I practice at home, unless I am working on songs for our set or learning a new arrangement, I almost never plug in.That way, I can instantly hear if I am on or off.

Till next sermon

"C'mon Dave, Gimme a break!"

Absent-minded Webmaster

621 Posts

Posted - 15 Nov 2005 :  21:14:58 Show Profile
Not to "pick" on you, but is this the only exercise to work on this or do you have some others? I ask only for the sake of variety.

There's no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you.
- Will Rogers
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Guitar Weenie

740 Posts

Posted - 17 Nov 2005 :  16:55:14 Show Profile
No, this isn't the only one. I just tried to get a basic exercise to strart the process.

"C'mon Dave, Gimme a break!"
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