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> Mastering The Art Of The Pick!
Azzaboi
post Jun 18 2011, 12:35 AM
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Mastering the art of the pick!

Many guitarist go though practicing their licks and songs, ignoring what their pick is doing.

However the pick can...
  • Defines your overall tone .
  • If your a sloppy, thrash, rhythmic, creativity and/or accuracy player.
  • The amount of mechanical or emotional feeling.
  • How slow or fast you can play!


Lots of GMCers ask so here it is! Any questions feel free to ask.

Warning: This is for serious players only who wish greatly improve their techniques by focusing and analysing on this area down to the smallest details. You can be at any playing skill level, whether beginner or pro, and this is guaranteed to help you improve if you stick with it, but it's also a neverending improvement and will break you if weak and not determined possibly even to the point of giving up!


Pre-warmup stretchs
First of all make sure your hands are clean and grease free - they might get sweaty later on. If you wash them however, ensure they are dry and not too soft, or you could rip up skin when playing at speed. Do some hand stretchs - wrist rolls, lightly bending the hand back to the wrist, pushing apart fingers and holding the stretchs. These all help in more than one ways, to avoid any injury for starters and warm them up as cold hands tend to be slower. Remove your wrist watch or any possible constrains to the hands/fingers.

Tune your axe
Tune your guitar to standard tuning (EADGBE), make it a habit to tune before you play or practice anything! Even if it's just slightly off as this can develop your ear naturally and nothing sounds good out of tune.

Select a clean channel
Set your amp/effects to a reasonable clean and sharp tone, you want to be able to hear each note clearly from one another when practicing or shredding, too much distortion can burr or wash out your mistakes you should be attempting to resolve instead.

Type of picks
Various picks make different tones depending on material and shape, and most importantly have different flexablilty. The pick could determine your playing style and speed. Select a collection of picks and find one suitable to your style of playing. I personally like the pointed edge picks with a good thickness to avoid flexing - these are best for fast shredding. Less surface area and minimum flex however gives a sharper (like Dunlop Sharp 1.14mm, Jazz III XL and some V-Picks), faster note compared to a rounded sound as the string vibrates less. It comes down to personal choice, but note if the pick is too flexable, alternate picking at speed when coming back the pick might not of regain it's natural shape (and still bending), therefore fighting against the other direction.

Holding the pick
There's 100s of way to hold the pick, I've found two ways I personally think is best which can easily be switched between. Loop back the index finger and have the pick laid on top with just the tip pointing out over the nail, lightly clamp the thumb on top. The other finger I tend to spread or curl slightly. The hand should be placed down like a karate chop over the strings near the bridge. Centered in a position where you can rotate the wrist so the pick can reach all string without arm movement. Pinkie out straight to cover the lower strings when palm muting. Fold the hand gently over the strings, you can then raise and float it or move the position back off the bridge slightly to release the palm mute. Whatever feels natural and quicker to switch between. You will want to practice with and without palm muting.

Practice good muting from both hands, even if not palm muting. Silence the string that aren't being played. You can mute the lower strings by the palm of your picking hand or pinkie. You can mute the higher string by lightly resting fingers of your fretboard hand. Good muting helps your playing sound more smooth and relaxed.

Choke up on the pick. Regardless of what pick you use, learn to use just the smallest tip / surface area against the strings. The less the pick is sticking out, the less resistance and you wont get blogged down. Imagine the pick over grazing the surface of each of the strings. Granted there are time when you want to dig in for feeling but most of the playing will be just with the tip.

For different playing styles: the only different I do is keep the thumb flexable and the pick more flat to the strings for slower more emotional playing and actual flex the thumb to dig or lighten to notes tone - works best on a tube amp. When fast shredding or alternative picking, I change to keep the thumb straight and locked in place. Without the movement of the thumb, speed can greatly increase from the wrist (no arm movement). Rotate the angle of the pick around 45 degrees forward, so rather than playing against the strings side on it's almost an up and down movement (Paul Gilbert Style). This gives a better attack angle, sounds better, but overall more a mechanical sound. Therefore I have both to add favour, colour and emotion.

Fretboard hand
There are two positions for the thumb: one is with the thumb behind the neck and the other is with the thumb hooked over the top. The position behind the neck in the middle gives greater reach, wider stretch and allows your fingers to be more evenly controlled. This should be used most times, specially on scale runs and riffs. The other position over the top allows more strength and control in bending strings. Don't make it a bad habit for your thumb to climb up the neck when playing.

If your applying too much finger pressure or the thumb is moving around, try removing it completely for a bit. This is wierd at first but helps you work out the correct amount of pressure to apply. Then just rest the thumb back in position.

With the thumb in the middle, the hand should rotate so the fingers can reach all strings with moving thumb position. This is much quicker, you can still slide the thumb left and right.

Finger position should be floating in correct positions even if not in use (all four of them) and as close as possible. They should be just behind the metal fret. This gives your hand more certainty and exactness. Play on your fingertips (you can still lay your fingers at enough of an angle to hold the adjacent strings mute), there are exceptions but mostly your be playing via finger tips. Eliminate having them flip up too far when hammering or pulling off another finger. It's too late if already happened and should be corrected before it occurs.

Take it slow and easy
Don't try to work through many exercises all at once. You should approach it with patience and take regular breaks (15 minutes to 30 minutes bursts tend to work best) if doing an hour or more, then wait till the next day (rather than doing 5 hours straight). No one becomes a great guitarist overnight. It will take time. You shouldn't overwork yourself and burn out, or practice all one day and skip others. Some time away helps you work it out as your brain is still processing it, too much time away however could loses those skills. Keep a regular time free to practice and also to let yourself rest and absorb it.

Figure out if you work better at morning or night. Learn to budget your time, don't jam when you should practice or via versa. Jamming referring to what you can play in your sleep. I normally jam after a good practice as after a good warmup your'll be surprised how better and relaxed it sounds.

Get the exercise under your belt before moving onto the next, lots of guitarist tend to skip over what is hard for them and play what they already know. This is a waste of it and you should focus on your weak points mostly.

Don't play the same stuff over and over, not only does it get boring but you don't learn as much. Mix it up, try combining fragments. Once your got it down, ask yourself how you can use and apply or twist it to something you would enjoy. For music sake: experiment and stay creative! You might like your guitar hero, Slash, and want to play like Paul Gilbert, but you should be still creating your own style and become an unique voice in the world.

Invest in a metronome to help keep timing. Your worst and best friend. Knowing how to play against a beat and in rhythm is most important for a guitarist!

Stay relaxed! If your locking up or tense, stop! Shake it out and only continue when your ready. The worst thing you can do is continue playing tensed, it will slow you down, cause you to use too much force and injure or tire yourself out.

The most absurd and demaining situations you put your fingers though in practice, the more easier things will come in real-world playing.

It will demand dedication and patiences, think of these are finger twisters. Once your've solve the puzzle move on to the next.

Also remember it is playing music, not working music. It should always be fun, never take the fun out of the guitar!

Exercise 1

E ---------------------------------------------------1-2-3-4- | -5-4-3-2---------------------------------------------------
B -----------------------------------------1-2-3-4----------- | -----------5-4-3-2-----------------------------------------
G -------------------------------1-2-3-4--------------------- | ---------------------5-4-3-2-------------------------------
D ---------------------1-2-3-4------------------------------- | -------------------------------5-4-3-2---------------------
A -----------1-2-3-4----------------------------------------- | -----------------------------------------5-4-3-2-----------
E -1-2-3-4--------------------------------------------------- | ---------------------------------------------------5-4-3-2-

E ---------------------------------------------------3-4-5-6- | -6-5-4-3---------------------------------------------------
B -----------------------------------------3-4-5-6----------- | -----------6-5-4-3-----------------------------------------
G -------------------------------3-4-5-6--------------------- | ---------------------6-5-4-3-------------------------------
D ---------------------3-4-5-6------------------------------- | -------------------------------6-5-4-3---------------------
A -----------3-4-5-6----------------------------------------- | -----------------------------------------6-5-4-3-----------
E -3-4-5-6--------------------------------------------------- | ---------------------------------------------------6-5-4-3-

Repeat up the neck till at least the 12th fret, then repeat it back down. Also repeat with reverse fingering per string.

Use the same sequence of positions but change the fingering pattern:
1 - 2 - 4 and 4 - 2 - 1
1 - 3 - 4 and 4 - 3 - 1
1 - 3 - 2 - 4 and 4 - 2 - 3 - 1
1 - 4 - 3 - 2 and 4 - 1 - 2 - 3

Start off slowly and include speed till near breaking point (playing is getting sloppy), then relax it till and slow down till clean. Alternative pick it (focus on the picking hand), then another day try hammer-on and pull-offs only picking once per string (focus on the fretboard hand).

Watch the fingers lift and drop, focus on keeping their positions correct and not having any flick up too far. Keep them as close to the fretboard as possible while staying relaxed. Ensure they stay in sync with each other.

Practice that for now, to be continued...

This post has been edited by Azzaboi: Jun 18 2011, 12:45 AM


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Azzaboi
post Jun 19 2011, 04:46 AM
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Exercise 2

Once your've worked out pick angle (you can rotate forward 45 degree for attack angle), but not tilting it up or down from the string, choked up enough on it so your only using the tip (minimum amount of surface area grazing the strings), also each finger should be able to work independantly (not like glued to each other)... it's time continue that and to move onto inside and outside picking techniques which will boost your picking control.

E --------------------------------------------2----4-- | -5---3----------------------------------------------
B ----------------------------------2---4--1---3----- | ---4---2--5---3------------------------------------
G -----------------------2----4--1---3--------------- | -------------4---2--5---3--------------------------
D -------------2---4--1---3-------------------------- | -----------------------4---2--5---3----------------
A ---2---4--1---3------------------------------------ | ----------------------------------4---2--5---3-----
E -1---3---------------------------------------------- | ---------------------------------------------4---2--

Again repeat up the neck till at least the 12th fret, then repeat it back down. Also repeat with reverse fingering per string.
This is actually similar to the first exercise, but your jumping up and down between two strings now for each row of fingering.

The trick here is to practice outside picking on the way up (down from top of E, up from under A, down from top of E, up from under A, and so on) and on the way back down practice inside picking, keeping the pick inbetween the strings.

Outside picking
This happens when the pick bounces or travels on the outside faces of two strings. Most accending passages will use this technique when traveling across strings.

Inside picking
Is trapped bouncing inbetween two strings, this is a little more difficult for most at first, but take your time and your'll get use to it. Remember to stay relax and let it come naturally. Don't prematurely lift the pick when not required and it becomes a lot faster.

This post has been edited by Azzaboi: Jun 19 2011, 04:50 AM


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JamesT
post Jun 19 2011, 05:47 AM
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Good stuff man. You've been reading the forums eh?


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Azzaboi
post Jun 19 2011, 08:24 AM
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These can be applied to any exercise session, yes it has a bit of a collection of what I learnt mostly from here, however it's more a way of how to practice to excel at pick techniques. If you stick with it, you'll see what I'm getting at.

Your hands do what you teach, so if your been playing sloppy, 1000s more times of playing the same stuff won't help much. Your brain ties down patterns and recalls on them subconsisously when required. Accuracy is the key, get it right before making bad habits, or break down those bad habits before they happen.

Once your got that down, your mind stick to patterns.

It's time to break down the wall and reprogram the brain again with fingers jumbles...
Glad to see your made it this far soldier! Rest up, grab some water, cause your going to do it over!

Exercise 3

E ---------------------------------------------------2-3-4-1- | -4-5-2-3---------------------------------------------------
B -----------------------------------------1-2-3-4----------- | -----------5-2-3-4-----------------------------------------
G -------------------------------4-1-2-3--------------------- | ---------------------2-3-4-5-------------------------------
D ---------------------3-4-1-2------------------------------- | -------------------------------3-4-5-2---------------------
A -----------2-3-4-1----------------------------------------- | -----------------------------------------4-5-2-3-----------
E -1-2-3-4--------------------------------------------------- | ---------------------------------------------------5-2-3-4-

This might confuse the brain at first, which is a good thing, it's teaching it not to rely on it being in sequence. The pattern however still exists to learn, its just rolling the fingers around each time.

You can repeat Exercise 1 and 2 in this finger jumble style.

This post has been edited by Azzaboi: Jun 19 2011, 08:28 AM


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Ivan Milenkovic
post Jun 19 2011, 01:48 PM
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This is a very well made article mate, well done! I'll bookmark it! smile.gif


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Azzaboi
post Jun 19 2011, 08:21 PM
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Glad you enjoy it! I try to give back what I get out of things biggrin.gif
"Give and you shall receive in 10 fold" - I've must have a huge collection of I.O.Us to pay off from GMC? heh
I actually quite enjoy teaching as well, helps me learn it myself (even if no one else gets it lol).


Exercise 4

E ------------------------- | ------------------------- | ------------------------- | -------------------------
B ------------------------- | ------------------------- | ------------------------- | -------------------------
G ----1--2-------3--4---- | -----2--3------4--5---- | ----3--4-------5--6---- | -----4--5------6--7----
D --1-------2--3------4-- | --2-------3--4------5-- | --3-------4--5------6-- | --4-------5--6------7--
A ------------------------- | ------------------------- | ------------------------- | -------------------------
E ------------------------- | ------------------------- | ------------------------- | -------------------------

Often riffs might have two notes that lie on the same fret just adjacent strings. Practice playing these without lifting the finger off the fretboard, instead you should roll your finger over to the new string and off the previous per adjacent note. Ensure you do this without letting the notes ring together.

Lifting the finger takes more time and doesn't sound as fluent/connect as simply just rolling the finger across.

Play from your fingertip, then without lifting off pressure roll to the next string. Your finger should be then holding the previous string slightly still (muting it) which pressing down on the next. Practice rolling each finger the same way.

Remember finger accuracy. Make it a habit to have each finger land right behind its corresponding fret.


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dark dude
post Jun 19 2011, 09:52 PM
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Didn't want to post as it'll break up the great info., but it has to be said, nice job, Azza smile.gif


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moleman
post Jun 20 2011, 04:45 AM
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That finger rolling exercise is cool. Nice thread smile.gif
In addition to the exercises you outlined, I also play the up and down runs with 5 notes per string, to work on hand positioning. Anyone else tried this?

Eg:
E ------------------------- | ------------------------- | ------------------------- | -------------------------
B ------------------------- | ------------------------- | ------------------------- | -------------------------
G ------------------------- | ------------------------- | ------------------------- | -------------------------
D ------------------------- | ------------------------- | --1-2-3-4-5------------ | -------------------------
A ------------------------- | --1-2-3-4-5----------- | -------------- ----------- | -------------------------
E ----1-2-3-4-5--------- | ------------------------- | ------------------------- | -------------------------
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Azzaboi
post Jun 20 2011, 07:48 AM
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Nice one, feel free to add smile.gif
Your got the right idea! Create and mix up your own ideas.

Work on each of your fretboard hand fingers independences to be able to make movements without affecting the others. With this 'finger independence' your left hand will stay more relaxed and new note patterns will come more quickly and with less practice in the future.

We focus on one hand only, then the other, then sync them together. This is one of the biggest challenges for speed picking as one hand will normally be faster than the other can catch up. Keeping the rhythm and control between them makes you sound much more professional.

Exercise 5

E ------------------------- |
B ------------------------- |
G -----------------12----- |
D -------12--14---------- |
A --14-------------------- |
E ------------------------- |

Pick tremolo each of these notes! This involves rapidly playing a single note continuous alternating up and down as fast as possible with the pick. Remember to hold the pick as close to the tip choking up on it. Anchor the middle picking hand finger to the base of the guitar at a slight downward angle. Remember to keep the thumb and finger straight and locked in place. Vibrate on the anchored finger as fast as possible while still controlled up and down. The pick should follow that vibration, graze the top of the string and alternative pick the string at a high rate of speed!

Practice one note at a time, then when your got that down, trying moving from note to note, changing strings might be the hardest. Don't play everything in this style as your'll just get sloppy, this is more a technique like vibrato or harmonics (you can throw it in a few times, but if you played every single note it wont sound good).

If it's done correctly should give you a good idea of how fast you can actually pick! Also how you should graze the string and use just the minimum amount of surface area.

With real alternate picking, don't rush or fall behind, it's all able keeping control no matter what speed you have to start out with. Timing is very important and the up pick should sound out just like the down pick. You shouldn't be able to hear any difference, just a smooth pace.

Your trying to cut down on the amount of movement - as distances equals time. In order to greatly speed up your picking if you first take it slowly and learn that the pick over needs to be moved a fraction and the fretboard hand doesn't have to move so far from the board, speed becomes that much more easier!

This post has been edited by Azzaboi: Jun 20 2011, 10:30 AM


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Azzaboi
post Jun 20 2011, 06:42 PM
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So far we have been working mostly only one or two strings. Next we should explain this and be free to move across multiple strings. Might be confusing for the fingers at first, take it easy. First work on your fretboard hands positioning - finger indepenences comes into play again here. Then you want to improve the accuracy and confidence of the picking hand till it becomes a smooth controlled flow.

Exercise 6

E --------------4--2-------------- | --------------6--4-------------- | --------------8--6-------------- | --------------10-11------------
B ----------3----------3---------- | ----------5----------5---------- | ----------7----------7---------- | ----------9----------12--------
G ------2------------------4------ | ------4------------------6------ | ------6------------------8------ | ------8------------------13----
D --1--------------------------5-- | --3--------------------------7-- | --5--------------------------9-- | --7--------------------------14
A --------------------------------- | --------------------------------- | --------------------------------- | ---------------------------------
E --------------------------------- | --------------------------------- | --------------------------------- | ---------------------------------

Think brush strokes! You could even use sweep picking, focus on not lifting the pick between notes but spidering the fretboard hand fingers lifting them slightly to mute the previous strings from ringing out. Also use a slight damping palm mute on the picking hand as well to keep each note clean and separate from each other.


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Gabriel Leopardi
post Jun 21 2011, 12:06 AM
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Great posts man! Your explanations are very instructive! Keep this stuff coming!


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Azzaboi
post Jun 21 2011, 12:41 AM
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Cheers, will do, it's not finished yet smile.gif

Practice Material
Not the most interesting, but your now got yourself a huge collection of practice material, which will help both hands come now control. Now your got these under your belt, it should be a no brainer to practice them.

You should pick one or two at any time and practice it while watching tv or with something distracting your full attention. Let your body stay relaxed and have your subconscious take over to do the work. It should become natural to you. Ever now and then (eg. during ad breaks or via versa) check your fingering and movement. Just make sure your not shifting into any bad habit(s) or those too will become stuck and need more time to unglue!

Stick with the same pattern till you get it down nicely, but never stay on one thing for ages, move to another once your nailed it or if it's taking too long to grasp. Mix it up a bit, try another, then come back later to focus on your weak points again. You can practice these using scales or licks to spice things up a bit and learn two things at the same time.

Each will help develop the others and you should find it becoming easiler. Over time, by learning first to reduce the amount of movement required in both hands and keeping them in sync with each other, speed will build naturally by just pressing yourself up slowly just over the limit then backing off. Remember always end the practice cleanly.

Skill levels
Find your skill level(s). This isn't as simply as saying I'm a beginner, a pro, or somewhere in between. Create a list of what you know and want to learn, picking styles, techniques, etc. For example: Alternative picking, double picking, sweep picking, vibrato, bending, hammer-ons, pull-offs, trilling, etc. These all should relate to your own style of playing or be involved in the music you want to play. Rate each honestly out of ten. You might be really good in one area but suck at another. This gives you a good idea of what to practice - your weakest areas the most.


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Azzaboi
post Jun 21 2011, 11:49 PM
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Finger strength is the next important goal to focus on. If your ever study martial arts, your are taught you learn it to not use it. Strength is important for increasing your stamina when playing, however you don't want to force it onto the fretboard. Heavy finger playing will just slow you down, cramp it up, or even cause injury. You want to achieve the lightest touch possible with the note still sounding clear and even with all the others. Lowering the guitar's action (string height) can help, some even scallop out the fretboard (lower the wood areas inbetween the metal frets) just to remind your fingers that they don't need to touch the wood for the note to sound out (this is all just habit). However, you don't need these, it all really comes down to your own finger pressure.

This next one is a killer, your'll torture yourself till you get it right! Consider it a friendly reminder. smile.gif

Remember to stretch beforehand, get good finger positions, work on the finger tips, and stay relaxed, shake it out ever now and then. STOP if it becomes painful!

Exercise 7

E ----------------------------- | ----------------------------- |
B ----------------------------- | ----------------------------- |
G ----------------------------- | ----------------------------- |
D ----------------------------- | ----------------------------- |
A ----------------------------- | ----------------------------- |
E -- 1^2 -- 1^3 -- 1^4 -- | -- 2^3 -- 2^4 -- 3^4 -- |

^ is a hammer-on to the next note. Then pull-off the finger. No pick needed for this one.

Pull-offs are done with a slight downwards pluck of the finger as it comes off.
Work on fingers separation, smallest amount of distance from the fretboard, not so much pressure, and to cleanly make each note sound alike. Move position to different locations around the neck to practice.

This post has been edited by Azzaboi: Jun 22 2011, 07:04 AM


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jstcrsn
post Jun 22 2011, 02:34 AM
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these are all great, but ,I think for those that do not understand them,a nice slow but steady audio file that they could get an ear for, would go a long way !
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Azzaboi
post Jun 22 2011, 07:47 PM
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If things aren't clear enough or you want more details about something let me know (or GMC) to help. It's a good idea for audio, I might add those.


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azri13
post Jun 28 2011, 05:06 PM
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QUOTE (Azzaboi @ Jun 22 2011, 06:47 PM) *
If things aren't clear enough or you want more details about something let me know (or GMC) to help. It's a good idea for audio, I might add those.

QUOTE
nice post.but i want to ask you something regarding the freting hand.you said that not to make it a bad habit for your thumb to climb up the neck when playing.but i found out that all of the great guitarist like steve vai http://music.daddyofattyo.com/SteveVai.jpg synyster gates http://www.flickr.com/photos/a7xangel18/2431967722/ joe satriani http://www.concertshots.com/images/cs-JoeS...tlanta71901.JPG
and many others even the GMC instructors always hook their thumb over the top of the guitar neck and they play really well.i've been trying doing the same thing but i have problem to spread my pinky over the fretboard because i have small fingers and hand.so what i do is i usually put my thumb in the middle of the neck like you playing barre chords and only climb up the neck when i'm bending notes.So what do you think the best thing to do?because it's really affect the way i play.Is it depend on someone or what?please help me.... smile.gif
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Azzaboi
post Jun 29 2011, 08:10 PM
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Good question azri13:
Yes! Lots of great guitarist have the thumb over the top when playing, but notice what they are playing, it's full of emotion and feeling. They might be playing at speed but normally aren't playing that fast. I'm not saying don't do that...

QUOTE
There are two positions for the thumb: one is with the thumb behind the neck and the other is with the thumb hooked over the top. The position behind the neck in the middle gives greater reach, wider stretch and allows your fingers to be more evenly controlled. This should be used most times, specially on scale runs and riffs. The other position over the top allows more strength and control in bending strings. Don't make it a bad habit for your thumb to climb up the neck when playing.


When I first started playing, I always copied my guitar hero, Slash. Thumb up, was great for bends and vibratos! I however never thought I will be able to shred, in fact I was probably the slowest player ever.

The lower position is best for scale runs, finger stretch, indepenences and speed (what we are practicing here). However, one of the bad habit I found, was that I was so use to that hook over position, at speed I would start to grip the guitar neck.

I'm saying use both depending on style, even switch between them, I do that too. Just make sure the thumb isn't shifting around or angling itself when playing in one or the other style as it's a sign your using too much pressure. If your using force, it will slow you down!


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azri13
post Jun 30 2011, 09:35 AM
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QUOTE (Azzaboi @ Jun 29 2011, 07:10 PM) *
Good question azri13:
Yes! Lots of great guitarist have the thumb over the top when playing, but notice what they are playing, it's full of emotion and feeling. They might be playing at speed but normally aren't playing that fast. I'm not saying don't do that...



When I first started playing, I always copied my guitar hero, Slash. Thumb up, was great for bends and vibratos! I however never thought I will be able to shred, in fact I was probably the slowest player ever.

The lower position is best for scale runs, finger stretch, indepenences and speed (what we are practicing here). However, one of the bad habit I found, was that I was so use to that hook over position, at speed I would start to grip the guitar neck.

I'm saying use both depending on style, even switch between them, I do that too. Just make sure the thumb isn't shifting around or angling itself when playing in one or the other style as it's a sign your using too much pressure. If your using force, it will slow you down!


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thank you for your great explanations.
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