Resistance from strings, and other issues involving touch

One of the things I don’t see talked about in regards to picking technique is touch - the way you hold the pick, and the way it should feel when you pick interacts with the strings. Occasionally, I find it a lot harder to break through the strings, despite me seemingly doing the same motions as usual with the wrist and arm. One time, it was because I wasn’t letting the pick “flop” through the strings, or playing with enough “give”. One way I think about it is letting the fingers gripping the pick go past the strings a split second before the pick.

Yesterday I had this problem at the end of a jam - something in my brain changed, and even though I was apparently gripping the pick correctly, playing just with the tip and letting the pick flop as it went through, I suddenly had a lot of difficulty playing. When I got home, I realised that if I follow through/concentrate my grip with the bottom edge of my thumb closest to the strings(something which was unconscious) the resistance disappeared. It could be something else, but that was my perception.

ANYWAY the point I’m trying to get to is, what’s the leading cause, in your cases, of feeling resistance from the strings, or your pick feeling “stuck”?

1 Like

Mostly edge picking and path geometry, I think. As long the pick is perpendicular to its path of travel, pick attack will be the same on upstrokes and downstrokes. This will be true whether you have a rock solid grip like Rusty Cooley or a loose one like Mike Stern. In other words, you won’t have any “garage spikes”:

Now if your picking motion is tilted, then you need to tilt the pick to match. That’s the real purpose of the “pickslant”. If you look at the pickslant most players use, it almost exactly matches the motion path, so that even though it appears angled, it’s really perpendicular with respect to the motion.

If on the other hand the pick is tilted with respect to its motion path, that’s when players complain about one side of the motion feeling stuck. And you can dial this out with something we call “lean”, which adds more edge picking to the “sticky” side of the pickstroke so that it slides. But again, this is only necessary if your pickslant is not matched up with your motion.

It’s actually a pretty complicated subject but we’re starting to understand it much better. Again, I don’t think a “loose” grip is strictly necessary, since lots of players don’t use one and can still play smoothly. I think it’s edge and path geometry.


A loose hold can be helpful at moderate speeds, but at higher speed it’s detrimental.

With a loose hold, the pick will move slightly in the hand after a pickstroke, before resetting to its original position. When playing at high speeds, there isn’t enough time for the pick to reset if the grip is loose. At high speed, the grip must be firm enough that the pick doesn’t move in the hand.

Shallower pick depth and more severe edge picking then helps to minimise the resistance from the string when picking with the firmer grip.

It’s also worth noting that at very high speeds, most players pick closer to the bridge than they do at moderate speeds. This helps to ensure that the string releases from the pick more quickly.


I think the thing is as well is that if I was holding it with the bit of my thumb facing towards the ceiling, it’d be like holding the pick in a way that leaves most of the tip end very exposed, as opposed to a very small amount like recommended. I don’t know why (probably pendulum-like physics (not a scientist)) but holding it closer to the tip as possible not only leaves less room for error, but also less resistance. Anyone else feel that way?

1 Like

Regarding the edge picking, it’s worth noting that the pick I use has a sort of slanted edge, much like John Taylor’s, but a bit less extreme.

Yes, I think choking up on the pick to minimise the amount of pick exposed is very helpful.

I wrote a detailed thread about the different pick grips I use, where I compare and contrast the pros and cons. You might find it interesting.


No, not really. Where you hold it and what part contacts the string are two different things. The players we interview don’t for the most part appear to leave the tiniest portion of picking sticking out. We have piles of footage of pick grip at this point, and for the most part, this is not what most players look like. Certain playing styles like the Gypsy setup probably aren’t even possible with a tiny amount of pick sticking out because the fingers would hit the strings.

Again, I think the edge picking and path geometry are where you need to look. Hands, fingers, picks and strings are complicated, and most blanket type statements end up being overly simplistic when it comes to describing what players are actually doing out there.