Anchoring the right hand - how and whether so critical

I feel like I’ve taken certain things for granted technique-wise and then regreted it later, having to tear things down and start from scratch. Right now I’m feeling this way about my right (pick) hand anchoring.

Instructions in the Primer are pretty explicit in this regard. At one point, it’s putting the “pinky heel” (base of hand beneath pinky) on the back of the bridge, near the saddle screws, and the thumb heel on the strings. Problem is, that’s good for DSX, but not so much for USX.

And since the right hand has got to deaden noise on strings to the bass side of the picked string, the anchor point seems to be a big deal.

True, one’s approach to technique evolves. But I don’t want to set myself up for more trouble, aggravation, and another tear-down; it’s time to start doing things that make sense.

I find that tremolo on one string - and I’m assuming this will apply to the whole single-escape thing across multiple strings, once I get there - is a lot easier with an anchor than without. But as I said above, planting on the back of the bridge, forcing the forearm into a supinated position, isn’t to my liking.

Can I “anchor” on the strings instead of the bridge? With the pinky gracing the pickguard? Will that work with fast picking?


Personally I wouldn’t worry about what you ‘should’ do - make sure you explore all options and note the outcome - what ever gets you the results is what you should be doing.


I was afraid someone would say that;)

I do hear the logic; there’s more than one road to “there.” But if someone was really bought in to stringhopping, for example, we’d have to convince him that he’s going to reach a dead-end (if his goal is to play fast).

So that’s what I’m getting at - is ‘anchoring’ on the strings (which I hesitate to call anchoring, since it’s a much lighter and less firm kind of touch, but whatever) going to be a road block later in terms of fast, pickslanted runs?..

I don’t think so. If all you’re doing is moving what Troy showed you off the bridge and onto the strings you won’t be altering any angles that contribute to the proper mechanics. If I remember from your technique critique thread, you found your fast motion, correct? I think a good test is to try what worked for you when you had your speed breakthrough with the light anchor on the bridge and off the bridge (on the strings) and see what differences you notices, if any.

Yeah, my tremolo thing does seem okay with the anchor off the bridge, though I seem to want the pinky down on the pickguard to compensate. But I’m not really up to tracking yet (i.e. playing across strings, as with the popular Sixes etude). So what?..

While most of the mechanics remain the same even after moving the hand off the bridge, the lack of a firm, definite point of contact is a big difference. I’ve heard some say that you may have to work at taking that fast picking off the one string and onto several over the course of months, even a year or more. So that’s why I feel like the anchor issue is a fork in the road, and that I need to choose correctly.

Anchoring on the front of the bridge is kind of a nice compromise - you get the firm base of contact, and the thumb heel naturally contacts the bass strings to give you some noise muting. Only thing is that that puts my pick right on top of the middle Strat pickup, which I hate.

So now because I’m into CTC, I have to buy a Tele. Another guitar; my wife’s gonna’ kill me.

Seriously though, I wonder if this anchor thing is part of the appeal of a guitar with only two PUs…?

I’m not sure I understand - stringhopping can happen whether you anchor or not. I have the same light touch anchor with the 3rd and 4th fingers and I can’t perform a smooth motion any other way really, but if I could perform a better motion with a hard anchor or no anchor at all, I would run with it.

It kinda sounds like you want it to be a certain way, when it could be the opposite of what you need. Let the results and the feel be the guide.

Yeah, stringhopping is a different story entirely. I’m just using that as an example; if someone is hopping and thinks he’s gonna pick fast, guess again. That’s got to get fixed now, or he’s just wasting time.

So that’s my concern with the anchoring. If I’m anchoring inefficiently somehow, that’s going to hinder me until I fix it.

I understand you wanting to not waste time. I’d just recommend the simple speed test - can you do a fast tremolo with whatever right hand setup you’re questioning, anchoring in this case? If so, don’t worry about anything else. If it set you up for inefficiency you’d know it right away. That’s the heart of the ‘start with speed’ axiom. It’s to make sure you’re using an efficient motion.

I can do tremolo picking in either anchored or floating positions at blazingly fast tempos. What really cleaned up my picking technique(s) USX, DSX, et al was going to a lighter gauge of strings. On say, LPs or ES-335s, I was using 10-46—my gut told me to go down to 9-42 and voila! There is was, nice and clean as a whistle! Oddly enough, I used 9-42s on most solid body Gibson’s during my youth. This only tells me that muscle memory is very important to pay extreme attention to, because once it has set in, it will be there forever. Check out what happens to both hands, it’s REALLY COOL.

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I still think that anchoring should be result of your technique and not the opposite. This means that your hand itself must choose it place unconsiously.
In my case if I have to play guitar after some long pause, I usually try some large ‘swingy’ motions to check if my hand is relaxed enough and at the same time it has necessary reach. I play whether some strumming chords or some texas rake (which also helps me to set my fretting hand in a correct position).

After that I try to play some phrases that requires me to switch between muted and unmuted notes on same strings.

Thus I get position and anchoring point for my style of playing.

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Yeah, that makes sense. As does the speed test. Guess I’m overcomplicating things a bit. Onward:)

This is something that is heavily dependent on the guitar imo. On guitars that have a bridge humbucker I tend to anchor on the treble side neck side of the pickup. On strats that goes out the window because the bridge pickup is too close to the volume knob.

It’s definitely not the most important part of picking hand mechanics and many better players than me do it, but I would ultimately avoid anchoring for the following reasons:

  • can create excess tension if you’re anchoring with too much pressure
  • constrains the arc of the picking hand motion
  • anchoring with the palm on floating trem guitars causes them to go out of tune (something i was hugely confused about as a young player)
  • you get less fingers for extended techniques like tapping and hybrid picking
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I’ll just add that if you ever intend to perform on stage, you should be sure that whatever primary setup you settle on should be conducive to moving around a stage. I’m not a “floating hand” guy, but I wonder if that might be less resilient against maintaining form while moving around. Or maybe it only starts to matter during demanding technical passages where you can park somewhere? Most of the shreddy guys that pop into my head do some sort of anchoring (I’m including any significant right-hand contact with the guitar, so that also includes guys like Paul Gilbert who have their wrist on the strings/bridge). Are there some examples of famous shredders who are truly floating?