Pick Slop in Right Hand?

I’ve been binge watching all the videos here and wow if they aren’t super informative. However, I’ve not been able to connect the dots after playing for about 20 years. Most of my ‘breakthroughs’ could probably be correlated arm/hand position, edge picking and pickslanting, although I’ve never had terms for this in the past.

I design robotic systems for a living, and our particular designs rely on a certain amount of what we call slop in the gear trains, which basically amounts to how much the target device can move while at a given location. For many designs, you want everything as tight as possible, to maximize precision of movement. We rely on some slop so if the target misses its target, it can still perform its work. This is a complicated subject in our field, because it relies on backlash characteristics and mechanical deformations, but it got me thinking…

I’ve noticed in some of the videos on this site that players often leave some pick exposed past the end of the thumb. For my tenure, my thumb has always protruded past the pick, which is nice because it keeps the pick very stable. However, it has a tendency to drag against the string and activate additional muscles when using wrist or forearm motion.

For grins, I decided to try altering my pick grip such that the pick was protruding past my thumb, and immediately felt a difference. All my motions felt much smoother, and I did feel like I could play faster on my go to material (at least marginally). As a bonus, the timbre was acoustically much poppier and had better legato. It feels like the pick has more tendency to get out of the way of the string, as opposed to the string getting out of the way of the pick.

My guess is that pick grip, thickness, and how tightly you hold the pick could all effect a certain amount of ‘slop’ that could have a dramatic impact on guitar tone and feel. If nothing else, it adds another dimension of things to try. It may also correlate to beginner players doing well on the tremolo test, since they probably aren’t holding a pick for dear life after dropping them on stage. Just a thought anyhow.



Cool to read about this with mechanical systems in mind, awesome perspective.

I liked this, that’s the kind of feel I go for when playing fast stuff: the pick isn’t the “immovable object” when striking the string, it’s just grazing the string hard enough to make a sound.

Belay that. I still suck and probably have no idea what I’m talking about.

Honestly I think you have the right idea, no need to discredit yourself.

1 Like

This is so interesting! Thanks for the insight. When you extend the pick, I think upstrokes have a bit of a backlash mechanic at play that adds some snap to upward string changes etc. The tonal and tactile differences are day and night to me.

You’ve hit gold here. Placing the pick furthest away from the wrist extends the length of the thumb. It also changes the attack on the up strokes, adds a snap to it. Increases efficiency too. This was a profound realization I had when I was trying to play the bigfoot riff.

There was no other way to get the upstrokes to sound right. Someone like you will best be able to explain it.

I think that great picking technique is very forgiving of serious errors. For USX or DSX, coming in towards the body too hot is fine, as it will pluck the necessary string and smash into the next, stopping (for a rest stroke). Edge picking is great as well because coming in too deep is not a problem. Escaping is even more forgiving.

The only delicate stoke seems to be the double-escape, as it has a narrow margin for error, and I try to avoid that unless it is necessary.

But I recall reading somewhere that Rusty Cooley said that he thinks about hitting the top half of the string, and this is the beauty of negative feedback, something that I’m sure that your robots use as well.