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> How Upstrokes Or Downstrokes Relate To Hand Position, The Ultimate Picking Thread
Ben Higgins
post Jan 13 2015, 12:18 PM
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I've talked loads before about how important it is to look at your picking hand position to see if it's working well for you or if it's holding you back.

Often, all it takes is just a bit of physical adjustment and things start falling into place. It's not a substitute for hard work - you still need to practise hand coordination and economical picking movement but the bottom line is: Technique is how you do something and if the how is not allowing the results then maybe the how is the problem.

Bear with me a moment. I'm going to try and look at this a different way.

Let's think of alternate picking not as a technique.

Alternate picking is just alternate picking. Technique is HOW you perform alternate picking. Ok ? So, if your alternate picking is very good or if it's very awkward it is still alternate picking. It's the technique you apply to alternate picking that needs attention.

So, my first port of call when helping people is to look at how their hand sits, how they hold the pick and how the pick is meeting the strings. Generally speaking, unless someone has an incredibly dexterous thumb joint, the hand angle will determine the direction in which the pick moves toward the strings.

Now, I've always talked about hand position or hand angle but Troy Grady's come along lately and produced some excellent and extensive material and as a result, people are using the term 'pick slanting'. I'm not talking about angling the edge of the pick so it carves into the strings at an angle, I'm talking about the flat side of the entire pick. It's hard to explain with words so behold my awful child like pictures that I've hurriedly bashed out in Paint.

If you were looking at the strings and pick from the side then, depending on your hand angle your pick may be angled one way or another. It may even be more neutral and be more parallel along the string. I'm going to borrow Troy's terms here (I hope he won't mind). Upward pick slating would be if the widest end of the pick, where you grip it, is aimed more towards the top of the guitar, or the lowest strings.

Attached Image

Attached Image

Downward pick slanting would be if the wide, gripped, end of the pick is aimed more towards the floor, or the highest strings.

Attached Image

Attached Image


Depending on which direction the pick is aimed, it will effect the ease with which you pick across the strings.

Try playing this lick. Firstly, start it by using a downstroke and maintain strict alternate picking. Now, try it by starting it on an upstroke.

Attached Image

Now, depending on how your hand sits against the guitar you'll find one easier than the other. In theory, this is how it should go....

If you're a downward pick slanter then starting that lick with a downstroke should be much easier. After playing the 2nd note on the E string, you've just hit an upstroke so your pick is poised in the ideal position to pick the B string with a downstroke. You've got the clearance to cross the string easily without getting tangled up.

If you're an upward pick slanter then you should find it easier by starting the lick on an upstroke ? Why ? It's all to do with where you pick is poised when it's time to change to another string. After playing the 2nd note on the E string, which would be a downstroke, your pick edge should be pointing out and away from the guitar so that gives you clearance to miss the E string when you need to move to the B string with another upstroke. Still with me ? After hitting the 4th, and last, note of the sequence you will have just played a downstroke which just put your pick in the ideal position to move to the underside of the E string and start the sequence again with an upstroke.

In truth, it's much easier if you don't worry about the details and just try it for yourself.

There may be times when you need to be able to use both string crossing motions.. we can't always work everything to our advantage can we ? Well, why not, I ask ? Why not give yourself the best chance of working with yourself and getting the best results ?

If you use one of those two hand angles (which I admit is exaggerated for effect) then you may find it beneficial to work out what pick strokes to start particular licks on and if you compose then you have every right and every chance to make it work for you.

Many people have a very neutral picking position. From here you can work both motions but chances are you will still favour one over the other.

I've only used a 2 note per string pentatonic lick as an example. You'll have to figure out how it all works again with 3nps patterns as well. But rather than getting too bogged down with it all, just remember it's mainly to do with what pick stroke you've just played BEFORE you cross the string. That will affect what direction your pick is facing and where it is poised. This will determine how easy or difficult the next stroke will be.

It's all good fun - so go, experiment ! Tell us which works best for you, let's have some feedback here !

This post has been edited by Ben Higgins: Jan 13 2015, 12:20 PM


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HiimAlex
post Jan 13 2015, 10:49 PM
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Hey Ben smile.gif
The last couple of months I have been working much with my alternate picking because before I joined GMC I didnt practice alternate picking much at all. But to this lick I would say that I prefer to start with an upstroke which means I am an upward pick slanter.

How about you? Do You prefer to start with an upstroke or downstroke? smile.gif
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Ben Higgins
post Jan 14 2015, 11:46 AM
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QUOTE (HiimAlex @ Jan 13 2015, 09:49 PM) *
Hey Ben smile.gif
The last couple of months I have been working much with my alternate picking because before I joined GMC I didnt practice alternate picking much at all. But to this lick I would say that I prefer to start with an upstroke which means I am an upward pick slanter.

How about you? Do You prefer to start with an upstroke or downstroke? smile.gif


I would say that I've definitely turned into an upward pick slanter over the years. I've gone through periods of being a downward slanter but it just doesn't give me the same tone control. Upward pick slanting is more comfortable. You just rest the side of your hand right on the strings and when you're playing the low E, or whatever your lowest string is, you can kind of let the thumb side lean even further in towards the guitar body. The contact of the palm with another surface allows you to rotate your wrist back and forth in a kind of semi circle motion.

I've only recently discovered how starting 2nps stuff on an upstroke makes it so much better for me, so I'm really pleased.


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DeGroot
post Jan 14 2015, 12:21 PM
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I use an upward slant when alternate picking. I didn't even realize it until this post. smile.gif It seems I always start with a down stroke when alt picking. After trying the 2np pentatonic lick it is a bit uncomfortable for me to start with an upstroke. It makes sense to start it that way but my muscles are probably so used to doing it a certain way. It could be benificial to try and experiment more with that.

I did notice that I angle my pick downwards when ascending into a sweep picking and then I angle the pick upward on the way back to the lower strings.


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Ben Higgins
post Jan 14 2015, 12:26 PM
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QUOTE (DeGroot @ Jan 14 2015, 11:21 AM) *
I use an upward slant when alternate picking. I didn't even realize it until this post. smile.gif It seems I always start with a down stroke when alt picking. After trying the 2np pentatonic lick it is a bit uncomfortable for me to start with an upstroke. It makes sense to start it that way but my muscles are probably so used to doing it a certain way. It could be benificial to try and experiment more with that.

I did notice that I angle my pick downwards when ascending into a sweep picking and then I angle the pick upward on the way back to the lower strings.


Yeah, I could always tell you were an upward slanter (why does that sound like an insult ??) laugh.gif It is a very comfortable way of playing but it can be tricky to move to a new string after an upstroke.

Do try the pentatonics with an upstroke thing. It works with both ascending and descending patterns. It was weird for me to start with but I'm already used to it now


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AK Rich
post Jan 15 2015, 09:12 PM
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Interesting thread Ben and something I have never really thought about before so I decided to take a look.
It looks like for the most part my picking position is neutral almost exclusively with maybe the occasional very slightly downward slant. I tried using an upward slant playing on the B and E strings like your tab and it just seems very unnatural to me as it seems to push the side of my thumb down onto the strings above where I am picking in order to keep making contact with the string with the tip of my pick when I turn my wrist that way to achieve the upward slant.I hope that makes sense biggrin.gif The only place it feels ok for me at all is on the lowest string where there are no other strings above it for the side of my thumb to push down on.
Also I noticed the same thing as Degroot when it comes to sweeping, and even though I don't use that technique very much at all I can see that I do the same as he does, which is to slant downward for a downward sweep and slant upward for an upward sweep.
As far as starting the little test you have tabbed out with an upstroke, it seems a bit weird but I think it is something I could get used to after working with it for a while.
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Ben Higgins
post Jan 16 2015, 10:47 AM
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QUOTE (AK Rich @ Jan 15 2015, 08:12 PM) *
Interesting thread Ben and something I have never really thought about before so I decided to take a look.
It looks like for the most part my picking position is neutral almost exclusively with maybe the occasional very slightly downward slant. I tried using an upward slant playing on the B and E strings like your tab and it just seems very unnatural to me as it seems to push the side of my thumb down onto the strings above where I am picking in order to keep making contact with the string with the tip of my pick when I turn my wrist that way to achieve the upward slant.I hope that makes sense biggrin.gif The only place it feels ok for me at all is on the lowest string where there are no other strings above it for the side of my thumb to push down on.
Also I noticed the same thing as Degroot when it comes to sweeping, and even though I don't use that technique very much at all I can see that I do the same as he does, which is to slant downward for a downward sweep and slant upward for an upward sweep.
As far as starting the little test you have tabbed out with an upstroke, it seems a bit weird but I think it is something I could get used to after working with it for a while.


Yes, the upward slant does require that your thumb has contact with the strings above but I don't mind that. The fatty part of the thumb acts as another method of muting the lower strings so they don't ring. That part of the hand has contact with the strings and acts as a fulcrum for the wrist to rotate around... I find it a very comfortable picking technique smile.gif


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AK Rich
post Jan 16 2015, 09:10 PM
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QUOTE (Ben Higgins @ Jan 16 2015, 01:47 AM) *
Yes, the upward slant does require that your thumb has contact with the strings above but I don't mind that. The fatty part of the thumb acts as another method of muting the lower strings so they don't ring. That part of the hand has contact with the strings and acts as a fulcrum for the wrist to rotate around... I find it a very comfortable picking technique smile.gif

Yeah Ben , that upward slant is working for you for sure. All one has to do is watch and listen to your playing to see that you have great technique in your picking. The meaty part of my thumb is also resting on the higher strings as it is as well with a neutral pick position, but slanting upward for me makes the contact with those upper strings too much. Maybe because of how much I choke up on the pick? There isn't very much of the pick extending below the tip of my finger and side of my thumb, basically as little as possible I guess. How much of the tip of the pick do you use? And how much of an upward slant are you using?

This post has been edited by AK Rich: Jan 16 2015, 09:11 PM
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Ben Higgins
post Apr 3 2015, 12:12 PM
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Hey guys, as an update to this thread.. here's my latest lesson which takes advantage of having an upward pick slant position. Playing pentatonic licks starting with upstrokes - check it out

https://www.guitarmasterclass.net/ls/Upstroke-Penta-Shred/


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Jak
post Apr 16 2015, 05:25 AM
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I find it most comfortable to rest the palm of my hand on the bridge which give me a noticeable downward pickslant when playing. It looks like the picture in the OP except maybe slightly more slanted. Is too much pickslant a bad thing? I mean my pick isnt completely parallel with the plane of the strings but there is a noticeable downward slant when playing. On upstrokes it feels like im scooping the string sometimes. I tried playing with less of a slant but that feels kinda awkward since i have to kinda twist my wrist to get the pickslant up
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