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> Some Basic Questions About The Picking Hand, Hand positions, moving the pick etc.
dairwolf
post Nov 9 2012, 04:14 PM
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Hey everyone. I do have a hard time getting the right picking technique down and I have a couple of questions on it. Maybe you can help me.

First, I´d like to know where exactly the side to side motion of the pick comes from. I figured out there are basically three ways to move your wrist. The first one would be a side to side motion, the second one would be an up and down motion and the last one is a rotating motion.

Am I right in assuming that for the picking technique you mainly use the side to side movement? I read on the internet that someone explained it as follows: If you put your hand on a table (or any other flat surface) and move the pick from side to side, you have the right motion. This is the motion you need for playing on one string.

Now for the string crossing, it seems as if you need the up and down motion as well. If you only move your pick from side to side, you´ll end up hitting the next string you want to go to on the wrong side (depending on the picking scenario). So unless you are sweep picking, you also need the up and down motion, right?

The next thing I´d like to know is where the motion to change strings comes from. Do you always leave your Wrist resting on the same spot on the bridge so that you change the angle that the pick hits the string with when you are going to the next string, or do you keep the angle and use your arm/ elbow and just move the hand like that?

I do also have a question on the hand posture. If you lay your hand on the bridge, is the part of the ball of the hand that faces you (the "root" of your thumb, if you want so) also resting on the strings, so that it is parallel to the strings? This is how it always looks like when I´m watching guitar videos.
Or do you rotate the wrist to the right, so that the left part of the ball of the hand will go up? I noticed that this way, the pick is at a better angle to do upstrokes, but it´s at a worse angle to do downstrokes. If you lift the ball of the hand, you kinda "lean" the pick forward. Do you think this is the correct way to do it?

I know this is an awful lot of questions, but those things are driving me mad atm.

Thank you for any help!
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Ben Higgins
post Nov 9 2012, 07:06 PM
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I totally understand your questions and unfortunately there's no easy answer. As the guys on GMC can attest to, I'm forever banging on about how important hand angle is to picking. The way you angle the wrist and the root of the thumb, as you describe it, dictates how the pick hits the strings and can make all the difference with how efficient or consistent your picking is.

Depending on what I'm playing, I can pick with either my hand being quite parallel to the strings or with the thumb away from the strings and my knuckles pointing out and more towards the floor, as if your hand is acting a bit more 'lazy' smile.gif

In terms of crossing strings, there is no wrong or right answer. You've just got to get in and do these things.

My best times of progress was when I ignored the technical info and just went for it. My worst times of frustration were when I was endlessly searching for the 'right angle' and reading about how others pick and watching videos etc. It led to more confusion and less trusting of myself.

I think it was Michael Angelo Batio who said that when he looked at the way people picked, there were 'more differences than similarities' and I think that says it all. Everyone will deliver the power in different ways but the important thing is that the power gets delivered.

As long as nothing hurts, and if it works.. it's ok for you smile.gif


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rhoads
post Nov 11 2012, 10:46 PM
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I am glad you brought up this subject. I am also having trouble now in this area, but regarding holding the pick on strumming. Up until now I used to hold my right hand pinky on the pick guard all the time. It was very convenient because it helped me to keep the right distance between the pick and the strings to get a consistent sound. But the problem is was that I could not a get a relaxed side to side movement and it was noticeable in the my playing. I got an advice to try to close my picking hand (keep the fingers closed) so I didn't touch the pick guard and this way the movement is indeed more relaxed and more ample.

I like the sound better but here comes the problem I am facing: since I am not touching the pick guard anymore I cannot keep a constant distance between the pick and the strings and I miss some of the strums. For example in a Down, Down Up picking pattern I miss the UP strum if you understand what I mean. On the Up I don't touch the stings with my pick. And there are "holes" in my playing. It is like the guitar cable is interrupted and it cuts the sound for some milliseconds. Also many times happens that I miss the down strum and that is even more annoying. If I put back the pinky on the pick guard it is OK, my hand gets strained pretty fast. So this is what I am struggling with now..

This problem is combined with another one actually. About the thumb. Up until now I was keeping it flexed all the time. I never noticed this, but now I see almost all guitar players keep it straight. I think this is a big mistake I did all these years because if I keep it straight, the sound is much consistent, especially on licks. But it is not natural for me so far, I have to force it to be straight and this tenses my hand and I attack the strings too hard. If I relax my fingers (for a softer attack) either my thumb flexes and the sound is not that good anymore, either I drop the pick..

I don't know.. I turning this on all sides until I find my comfortable position for the picking hand.

Any advice from somebody ? smile.gif
Thanks


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Ben Higgins
post Nov 12 2012, 09:41 AM
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QUOTE (rhoads @ Nov 11 2012, 09:46 PM) *
I am glad you brought up this subject. I am also having trouble now in this area, but regarding holding the pick on strumming. Up until now I used to hold my right hand pinky on the pick guard all the time. It was very convenient because it helped me to keep the right distance between the pick and the strings to get a consistent sound. But the problem is was that I could not a get a relaxed side to side movement and it was noticeable in the my playing. I got an advice to try to close my picking hand (keep the fingers closed) so I didn't touch the pick guard and this way the movement is indeed more relaxed and more ample.

I like the sound better but here comes the problem I am facing: since I am not touching the pick guard anymore I cannot keep a constant distance between the pick and the strings and I miss some of the strums. For example in a Down, Down Up picking pattern I miss the UP strum if you understand what I mean. On the Up I don't touch the stings with my pick. And there are "holes" in my playing. It is like the guitar cable is interrupted and it cuts the sound for some milliseconds. Also many times happens that I miss the down strum and that is even more annoying. If I put back the pinky on the pick guard it is OK, my hand gets strained pretty fast. So this is what I am struggling with now..

This problem is combined with another one actually. About the thumb. Up until now I was keeping it flexed all the time. I never noticed this, but now I see almost all guitar players keep it straight. I think this is a big mistake I did all these years because if I keep it straight, the sound is much consistent, especially on licks. But it is not natural for me so far, I have to force it to be straight and this tenses my hand and I attack the strings too hard. If I relax my fingers (for a softer attack) either my thumb flexes and the sound is not that good anymore, either I drop the pick..


In all my years of experimentation with picking, one conclusion I made was that having your fingers touching the guitar or having them closed in doesn't make any difference at all. The only difference it may make is to the person in terms of their perceived level of comfort.. but in terms of speed or efficiency it is not a contributing factor. Just look at all the differences between all the picking masters. So my advice to you here would be to trust your gut instinct and go with whatever lets you get the better results. If having your finger touching the guitar helps you maintain better pick distance (which is an annoying problem) then I would stick with it.

Believe it or not, I would say that the majority of player do actually flex their thumb but it happens so quickly that you generally can't see it. It mostly happens when changing strings. Moving your thumb is quite a useful ting to be able to do because it allows you to change the angle of your pick and get you closer to the next string. However, for anything other than crossing strings I would not move my thumb.

So, to summarise my advice (which might not be the same as somebody else):

- Go with whichever hand position gets you closer to the sound you need / whichever helps you get a more consistent alternating picking technique. I find that practising picking 1 note on one string fast helps identify useless positions and helpful ones.
- It's useful and quite normal to move your thumb but only when changing strings, not when picking in general.



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dairwolf
post Nov 12 2012, 12:56 PM
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Thank you very much for your answers!

One thing that really baffles me is that everytime I look at videos of fast guitar players, it looks as if they only move the pick from side to side. But if you try to emulate this, you´ll end up hitting the next string on the unintended side all the times (let´s say you do an upstroke on the high e string. If you only do the sideways motion you´ll inevitabely hit the b string on the inside, right?)

The solution to this problem actually is very simple in theory: The pick has to be moved not only to the side, but up (and then down again) as well, right?

I first thought that you achieve this by lifting the ball of the hand up, as I already mentioned. This way the pick is actually angled not to the side but forward, so that it faces to the ground a little bit.
One advantage of this move is that the angle is much better to do upstrokes because if you do an upstroke, the pick will move in an upward direction, away from the strings.
But then I noticed the following: This advantage is nullified when you are doing downstrokes! If the root of the thumb is lifted and you try to do a downstroke without lifting the pick in any way, you´ll end up trapped on the inside of the next lower string!
My conclusion is that this can´t be the right way to do it because you want to have a symmetric motion of the pick, so that the upstroke an the downstroke "feel" the same way and you are not wasting more movement on one of each type of strokes.

I think I am quite close to the solution now: If I do any kind of stroke, I not only have to do the side to side movement (that would equate to doing sweep picking or economy picking), but I also have to mix in much more of the up and down movement (which does not come from the rotation of the wrist or the lifting of the root of my thumb, but from the up and down motion of the wrist, right?).
So when I hit the string, I´ll try to move it up much more than I did before.

This guy here has a nice video with a lot of close ups on his right hand, and I think you can actually see a lot of times how he slightly moves the fingers away from the string (lowering/ raising the wrist):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ct3uOdBYN6E...feature=related

Since this post got rather long (and probably a bit confusing) again I´ll try to put my questions in a more concise form:

Why does it always look as if guitar shredders are only moving the pick from side to side, not also up and down? (Is it just because the up and down movement is so small?)
To move pick up and down = not raise ball of hand to get pick in different angle, but raise and lower it with the up and down movement of the wrist?

Thank you!


QUOTE (rhoads @ Nov 11 2012, 09:46 PM) *
This problem is combined with another one actually. About the thumb. Up until now I was keeping it flexed all the time. I never noticed this, but now I see almost all guitar players keep it straight. I think this is a big mistake I did all these years because if I keep it straight, the sound is much consistent, especially on licks. But it is not natural for me so far, I have to force it to be straight and this tenses my hand and I attack the strings too hard. If I relax my fingers (for a softer attack) either my thumb flexes and the sound is not that good anymore, either I drop the pick..


Take a look at this video, around 01:50mins:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CpJNUGHxC3M

Paul Gilbert actually flexes his thumb too! So I don´t think it´s that much of a problem. The only thing is that it changes the sound of the strokes to that "celloey" sound as he says, which you like or don´t.

One thing that irritates me though is that he does it not only to get that certain sound but also that you need it in order to get over the strings quickly. I think you can also get over the strings quickly without flexing the thumb. John Petrucci is an example for this, I think. But then again, since my biggest problem is getting over string, who am I to complain!
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rhoads
post Nov 12 2012, 01:44 PM
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Thanks a lot guys smile.gif


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Bossie
post Nov 12 2012, 05:28 PM
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QUOTE (rhoads @ Nov 11 2012, 10:46 PM) *
I am glad you brought up this subject. I am also having trouble now in this area, but regarding holding the pick on strumming. Up until now I used to hold my right hand pinky on the pick guard all the time. It was very convenient because it helped me to keep the right distance between the pick and the strings to get a consistent sound. But the problem is was that I could not a get a relaxed side to side movement and it was noticeable in the my playing. I got an advice to try to close my picking hand (keep the fingers closed) so I didn't touch the pick guard and this way the movement is indeed more relaxed and more ample.

I like the sound better but here comes the problem I am facing: since I am not touching the pick guard anymore I cannot keep a constant distance between the pick and the strings and I miss some of the strums. For example in a Down, Down Up picking pattern I miss the UP strum if you understand what I mean. On the Up I don't touch the stings with my pick. And there are "holes" in my playing. It is like the guitar cable is interrupted and it cuts the sound for some milliseconds. Also many times happens that I miss the down strum and that is even more annoying. If I put back the pinky on the pick guard it is OK, my hand gets strained pretty fast. So this is what I am struggling with now..

This problem is combined with another one actually. About the thumb. Up until now I was keeping it flexed all the time. I never noticed this, but now I see almost all guitar players keep it straight. I think this is a big mistake I did all these years because if I keep it straight, the sound is much consistent, especially on licks. But it is not natural for me so far, I have to force it to be straight and this tenses my hand and I attack the strings too hard. If I relax my fingers (for a softer attack) either my thumb flexes and the sound is not that good anymore, either I drop the pick..

I don't know.. I turning this on all sides until I find my comfortable position for the picking hand.

Any advice from somebody ? smile.gif
Thanks
well if you mean full chord strumming holding the pick very loose is really the key...;you might wanna try a very flexible pick
for strumming instead of fat picks..maybe you have worries for banging the strings on some strums.Another pointer is a cliché maybe but the wrist should stay relax...think like you're shaking water of your hand.

This post has been edited by Bossie: Nov 12 2012, 05:32 PM
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Ben Higgins
post Nov 12 2012, 07:31 PM
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QUOTE (Bossie @ Nov 12 2012, 04:28 PM) *
Another pointer is a cliché maybe but the wrist should stay relax...think like you're shaking water of your hand.


Yes, if we're talking about strumming then that's also how I would describe it smile.gif


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