Is it possible to alternate pick very fast with the pick completely parallel to the strings? (no edge picking)

I’m asking this because I am quite tired of having “relapses” where the pick starts to get caught on the strings, so I thought maybe if I could learn to AP the way that gives me a lot of resistance, then I’d not even notice if the pick gets caught or not sometimes, it would just work regardless. I also don’t want to be limited to edge picking since it produces a different sound.

I’ve tried in the past to practice AP just plowing through the resistance, but by the end of the day it made my technique sloppier, although I could very well be doing something wrong. But this time I wish to confirm if it’s viable after all, before I dive into it and end up damaging my technique.

What’s your opinion on this?

If you have 1mm of contact, this will likely be fast. If you have 5mm, it will likely be slow… I think it depends strongly on depth.

This also depends very much on pick flexibility and tip shape, e.g., flexible rounded tip will be fast.

Well in my case at first the whole point would be to learn to deal with the pick getting caught - I don’t know why it happens sometimes, and I can’t figure out why, so I gave up in preventing it from happening. Unfortunately I don’t have the equipment to record my picking hand from real close either.

I imagined that was only a problem because I only know how to pick when it glides effortlessly… so when I get resistance once, it messes me up completely. I also see some guitarists including Troy picking without edge picking, on purpose if they want. But yeah I’m afraid I don’t know what I’m doing so I risk ruining my muscle memory if I commit to this.

Just taking a flyer here, but one potential cause could be that, regardless of the “edge picking” aspect, the “slant” of the pick itself might not be close enough to “perpendicular” to the motion of the pick. Remember that “upstroke escape” and “downstroke escape” are about the direction of movement of the pick. When the pick is oriented so that with respect to the direction of back and forth movement it treats downstrokes and upstrokes equally, there’s very little chance of the pick “catching” on a string during a pickstroke. But if the pick is leaning in such a way that strokes in one direction are “with the lean” (less resistance) and strokes in the opposite direction are “against the lean” (more resistance), there’s a good chance that some of those “against the lean” strokes will wedge themselves extra deep under the string and product a “catching” sensation. This is because on the “against the lean” strokes, the tip of the pick is acting like the leading edge of a plow, eager to wedge itself deeper under the string rather than shrugging it off. The amount of “lean” you can get away with before strokes in one direction start catching will vary, and stiffer picks are more likely to “catch” than more flexible ones. This is one of the reasons people like Justin Sandercoe often advise guitar beginners to start out strumming with a very flexible pick.

1 Like

Let me see if I understand: the pick is ideally supposed to travel on a plane that should be the closest possible to perpendicular to the direction the pick is slanted, like this

And what’s causing it to get stuck is something like this

Is this correct? It makes sense that there’s a massive difference that requires the upstroke to be a lot more precise in its direction than the downstroke due to the slant, but I hadn’t realized this before… and I imagine the precision necessary increases the less edge angle you use.

I’m not sure if I understand your second diagram correctly. What I’m saying is that in the edit I’m showing below (assuming we are looking toward the bridge, classic “magnet view”), downstrokes will be more likely to catch. If I had leaned the pick the other way, it would be the opposite (upstrokes would be more likely to catch).

Edit: To be a little pedantic, if the blue line is showing the path of the pick, strictly speaking, the existing diagrams show the pick passing over the string without ever hitting it, but if you imagine gradually sinking the movement path (blue line) until the pick starts hitting the string, it should be clear what happens if the pick has a lot of the “lean” I’ve illustrated here.

temppick002

2 Likes

Your top illustration is correct. If you deviate from that on one of the two strokes the pick will act like a giant scoop and will trap you if you’re deep enough when you encounter the string.

@Frylock’s illustration shows a comfortable escape and a risky entry into the string plane.

The second diagram I made shows an imbalance on the trajectory of the pick between a downstroke (blue arrow) and an upstroke (pink arrow), causing the upstroke to likely catch the string. I thought of one more variable that might change this which is a slight scooping motion on the upstroke, causing it to slide more easily off the string, but this might become string hopping.

Also, I noticed that I don’t pick perpendicular to the strings on this axis (top down view):

This feels like it glides better, but it might just be placebo

It’s absolutely possible. See Roy Marchbank (I’m on mobile so I can’t link a timestamp - I believe he talks about playing parallel at ~1:40 in):

Roy’s pick is bevelled in such a way that no matter what angle he has his pick at, it’s absolutely parallel to the strings. He’s an absolute monster player, and it in no way slows him down.

Generally speaking, when we film players, the smoothest sounding and feeling alternate picking motions look symmetrical, or very nearly so. But when you’re still learning a motion and you’re not yet consistent in the joint motion, it’s very common to experience what you’re describing, where the motion path is not symmetrical, and changing in ways you might not want. On certain pickstrokes some other joint starts moving that isn’t supposed to move, and the pick hits the string with a different-sounding attack, or even a note dropout if you miss the string. You’ll hear this from new players (and even good ones) when doing tremolo, for example.

To know what’s really going on in your case you’d have to film yourself when it’s happening. Happy to take a look at that if you do.