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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Right hand technique

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

steve_r - Posted - 11/19/2016:  17:00:52

I took my first guitar lesson last Friday and I just have a few questions.

1I played the mandolin and the Irish banjo a little, so I'm used to planting my wrist on the bridge when playing melody. Is this something I should avoid on the guitar? What have you found to be the best way to go about it?

2. I stopped playing for almost a year my picking got out of whack. I'm trying to relearn the way I hold the pick, along with how to move it. I'm curling my fingers and placing the pick between my thumb and index, the way I've seen 99% of other people do it. When picking, should I be moving from the wrist, elbow, or a combo of both? And when playing eighth notes, should i be moving straight up and down, or should there be any kind of a twist or anything?

UsuallyPickin - Posted - 11/19/2016:  20:53:30

Free hand is really the way to go about it. Many players brace on the bridge but playing unbraced allows you to pick at different places on the string and gain different tones. Sounds like you are holding the pick appropriately. If you don't drop a pick occasionally you are holding it too tight and creating tension in your hand and you want to avoid that. Loose wrist loose fingers very little elbow, but some. Many players play opened handed. I admit I do ... I learned that way. Close handed with all your fingers curled is taught by most teachers. Enjoy the journey... R/

steve_r - Posted - 11/21/2016:  17:40:17

Thank you for the advice Richard! I kept working on it all weekend and I'm getting the hang of it. I also finally switched to one of those big triangular picks I always see people use. Apparently it's the perfect size and shape for holding it this way. I also picked my hand up off the bridge to pick with a looser wrist and a very small amount of elbow. I can pick at least as fast as before, and my volume problem has definitely gone away.

I have noticed that i have an easier time coming up than going down though. To fix it I've been practicing scales and playing Jerusalem Ridge, since the first part of the version I know is all on the E, A, and D strings I think. Actually I had the same problem on the banjo and mandolin. Maybe it's the thickness of the strings.

steve_r - Posted - 11/21/2016:  17:41:49

Or I guess I have an easier time coming down from the higher pitched strings to the lower ones.

UsuallyPickin - Posted - 11/22/2016:  05:40:56

Check the action , how high your strings are at the twelfth fret, a set up achieving a closer action will make it easier to note your instrument, though hours of practice are the only way to make it easy. I use the rounded triangle shaped pick and have for years. It suits me also. Luck and patience. R/

bquinn328 - Posted - 11/22/2016:  06:30:53

If your upswing notes are sounding louder than your down swing you might want to check the angle of your pick striking the strings. The line of the pick should be between 1 and 2 o'clock if the string is parallel to noon and six.

DaddyJ - Posted - 05/25/2017:  20:21:12

There are lots of different ways to skin this cat. One thing you definitely don't want to do is post your wrist against the bridge. The reason is it takes your forearm out of the equation and forces you to generate all your power from the wrist, which is a comparatively weak muscle group. This means you'll have to work a lot harder to achieve less power and a weaker tone, and you'll fatigue quicker. It's fine to post, anchor, or brush elsewhere on the guitar. Most of the best players in the world touch the guitar somewhere with their right hand while playing lead.

Most flatpickers I know of play from the elbow. Obviously every joint from the elbow down is involved, but it all starts with that elbow joint and the forearm muscles. Playing from the elbow allows you to take advantage of the strong muscles in your lower arm and also use gravity (i.e. the weight of your arm) for more powerful downstrokes.

There's a great video her where Clay Hess talks about his right hand technique, playing from the elbow, etc. Clay played with Ricky Skaggs, Mountain Heart, and Sierra Hull before starting his own band and he is as good as they come.

I would recommend watching videos of guys like Clay, Bryan Sutton, Kenny Smith, and of course the greats like Tony Rice, Doc Watson, Norman Blake, etc. Pick up what you can from each and try to find something that's comfortable for you. And LISTEN to Tim Stafford but don't watch him lol.

Here's the video of Clay:

wannabedoc - Posted - 06/01/2017:  09:18:22

No matter what someone tells you NOT to do, there is a great player whose music you love who does it exactly that way. There are limitations to every approach, so experiment, and do what feels natural to you. 

Pickerwannbee - Posted - 06/11/2017:  05:31:10

I was taught to play an open handed...that was 50 yrs. ago.  I've tried the closed fingers style but cannot after all these yrs. get away from opening my fingers. For me it helps me keep a loose wrist action.  I guess to each his own.  Just keep picking smiley

Old bone - Posted - 04/20/2018:  13:23:56

I had a lot of trouble many years ago sorting my picking technique out. Growing up as a teenager in 1960s England far from the roots of bluegrass didn't help - but I loved the sound! Somewhere, I came across the idea that 'playing from the wrist' was a good idea, and fruitlessly spent about four years trying to pick with minimal forearm movement. My fingers were off the guitar top and curled into my hand, which rested lightly on the bridge pins. I found this frustrating beyond belief, it was hard work and a struggle. It just didn't work for me.
Then, thankfully I saw Doc Watson and realised that by allowing forearm movement I was improving rapidly. I lifted my hand off the bridge, and allowed my 'pinky' and ring fingers to lightly touch and move across the guitar pickguard. For me, the forearm movement essentially delivers the picking hand to the strings, enabling movement across them whilst keeping the pick to string angle constant. It's best not to analyse or think about it too much! The sensation is one of a continual pushing of the pick through the strings, and I found that playing fiddle tunes at a steady pace and accenting them to give them a good pulse helped hugely. I think that the added weight and impetus of the forearm driving the hand gives a bit more volume as well. Having said all that, as other pickers here comment, different players get good results in different ways. It's a case of 'what works best for you' I think. I wish I'd known this all those years ago!

Dick Hauser - Posted - 05/25/2018:  08:32:35

A small hint. Office supply stores sell small cans of material readers use to help the "flip" pages. It is "sticky" enough to keep the pick from slipping, and isn't too sticky.
The product "Gorilla Snot" really grabs the pick but it is harder to remove from your picking thumb/fingers. It is an industrial strength product.

BTW, Youtube has some informative videos on using the picking hang when flatpicking.

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