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Tips for improving pick technique

Updated on September 28, 2009

Technique continued

Pick Technique

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After developing some skills on the fingerboard, let's isolate the pick hand. Some of these ideas will be similar to the aforementioned left hand techniques.

To start, we'll look at the two most commonly accepted forms of playing with a plectrum, at least as far as rock goes. Starting with the most common; alternate picking is playing consecutive down and up strokes at all times, not just when it's "convenient". What this means (again with three notes per string), is starting on a down stroke, you'd play and up, down, then up as you cross to the next string. As far as good meter goes, and in many cases, even speed-this is the best technique (though I very rarely use it). All two note per string patterns automatically default to alternate picking, though once you start sequencing them, things change. An example of such would be playing a pentatonic two notes per string-six notes up-returning to the third note-then six up-repeat. A sweep picker will hit that seventh note (third ascending) with an up stroke. This is a huge mistake, and where I find the biggest flaws in sweep picking! That note should be a downstroke...

Keeping all of that in mind; now play two note per, three note per, four note per, and sweep patterns with the strings muted. Even playing a continuous pedal-tonne on one string (this MAY be embarrassing).Pay careful attention to one aspect at a time: Down strokes land on the down beat of the metronome (alternate pickers ONLY. this cannot be achieved through sweep picking with the same number of notes on every string, except single notes[ I also find Gambale's technique very limiting, as it's entirely too formulated for my taste- but DAMN is he good at it}), no "gaps" in time, muting portion of the hand is always in place, and every pick attack as audible as the last. If you're discerning enough, this is grueling, and will expose a great many weaknesses in your pick technique.

In many ways, I consider pick technique more complex overall than left hand technique. There are more often ergonomic limitations in the fingerboard hand, due to wide intervals and "crowding".

I'll leave that for now. Remember, YOU should always be your own worst critic. I'm not saying hate the way you play-enjoy it. But please, spare me the "I've gone as far as I can". schpeel. Love your instrument, and be the very best that you can. Learn from everyone-- EVERYONE, good or bad. This thinking should translate into every single facet of your existence!


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    • joecseko profile image

      Joe Cseko jr 2 years ago from New York, USA, Earth

      Great sentiment, Chris. One that I too believe wholeheartedly.

    • profile image

      Chris 2 years ago

      Years of teaching have taught ME something. EVERYONE has something to teach you, literally everyone. Even the worst beginner will have a way of viewing something that never occurred to you. If you look for these things and are open to them. Willing to absorb and mutate them you will go further than you can possibly imagine.Ones journey of learning should only end when they are shoveling dirt in on top of you.