Should pick attack be the same on all strings?

I chanced on a short Ben Higgins video (“This will SOLVE your string crossing problem”) in which he suggested that many problems with picking (especially fast picking) stem from having a different angle of attack on different strings.

The video is short and you can see for yourself what he is demonstrating.

This will SOLVE your string crossing problem! Pick across strings EASILY - YouTube

A takeaway from this for me is that I do NOT do it the way he does AND my way sucks. ;o)

So this is what I need to work on now.

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any guitarist which has a noticeably different angle of attack on the top vs bottom strings, so this seems pretty sound. I find that it tends to be a lack of tracking awareness / knowledge when moving from string to string which is the culprit.

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For me it was a bad habit developed early on. It was something I sat out to achieve. It wasn’t something I realized I had achieved.

You may have noticed that often when guitarists are doing a tremolo example, they play on the G string. I am much smoother on that string than I am on the high E string. (The B string is pretty close to the G and D is too. The A, not so much, and the low E not even nearly. I have to change the angle of pickstroke dramatically to play fast on the low E string.)

I never realized I was doing this.

How did you figure out that you needed a change?

I was working on a single-string exercise and thought why not play it on all strings?
I was fastest on the G string, less fast (and accurate) on the high E, worst on the low E (-which may be inevitable as that’s a much thicker string and I rarely do tremolo stuff on it).
What Ben Higgins showed in that video, where the arms doesn’t move so the wrist deviates as you move from lower to higher strings making the pick angle and attack different the further up the neck one goes, it rang a bell. ;o)

I’m guilty of trying to track with the wrist only. Not only was the angle changing, but the pick point would change , resulting in a horrible and weak sound.

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Troy’s talked about this a lot. There are times when you want the angle of attack to be different on various strings. One of these is sort of the inverse of what Ben showed. Plenty of us like a little edge picking on the unwound strings for smoothness…when keeping this same degree of edge picking on the wound strings, it can get very scratchy. This is also dependent on other factors (pick type/shape). It can change over time too if you have a pick that ‘wears’.

The motion mechanic in general can have implications here too. A forearm (rotational) player could approach this different than a more pure wrist player. We’ve seen Steve Morse and Oparin get lots of range of motion from their wrist tracking and only introduce the elbow/shoulder into the mix on the very lowest strings.

Personal preference comes into play also. In the Teemu interview, he mentioned how much he likes the scratchy sound on the wound strings and intentionally uses more edge picking (and I think IIRC, a brand new pick) to exaggerate that scratchy sound and boost.

In other words, this isn’t one size fits all. The bottom line is of course, if it’s working for you, great :slight_smile: Do more of that :slight_smile:

Here’s an awesome video Troy put together on what happens to picks over time and how it can impact tone and technique (angles etc)

EDIT: I knew this seemed familiar. Second post on this recent-ish thread Troy says we probably don’t want the same amount of edge picking on all strings


Thanks, that’s pretty much everything. I can see my planned obsolesence is working! Soon I won’t need to type anything ever again.

Yes, TroyGPT will be awesome!

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I draw a distinction between changing the angle intentionally for a specific purpose (which is what you’re talking about here) and changing it unintentionally (without any awareness) and getting inconsistent results (which is what I was talking about.)

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Great points. I accidentally discovered this recently, as my fast picking technique for my lower strings tends to feel like it gets “stuck” on the unwound strings with tortex sharp picks. Edge picking is definitely preferable.

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It’s not there yet! Gives the standard nonsense when roleplaying as Troy :laughing:


I’ve been on Reddit (mostly r/bjj) again recently, and some posts from r/guitar have come up in my feed. The standard nonsense is all upvoted and still upheld in the guitar community at large. Honestly, I found it depressing.

It might be decades before we’re free of the “canonical wisdom,” if we’re ever free of it at all.


How to ensure you will remain frustrated with lack of progress for years to come!

What makes it worse is that the majority of the elite players help to spread the bad advice. Until all the concepts Troy’s cracked become widely endorsed by high profile names, I think this just is what it is.

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I think it’s important that people try things, whatever it is and see what works for them. There is no be all end all way.

Yeah certainly spent years doing the same and not realizing it, mostly due to trying to keep the hand in one location for muting. Also sometimes you end up playing with a much steeper angle all around than you think you do if you are just looking from the top of the guitar, and it takes a mirror to point that out. I remember doing this once, and what I thought was 45 degrees looked closer to the 90 degree side than the 45 degree side when I looked at it in a mirror.

The most famous I can think of is Paul Gilbert. He likes that sound to the extreme and is pretty open about it. You can even see him use a much steeper angle on faster parts when transitioning to the low strings. I like a little bit of it, but too much just sounds like metallic noise instead of a note.

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Yes this is something I noticed too. What I thought was about 45 degrees from my playing perspective, was actually considerably more than that when I filmed myself!

It’s funny, I always found Paul’s sound quite harsh; at first I thought it was just badly recorded but recently ran across a clip where he talks about scraping the strings intentionally.

I use a fair amount of edge but because the pick goes straight through rather than along the string there’s no scratching on the wound strings.