Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

I’ve been experimenting with my picking a little over the past few weeks, since starting to watch the pickslanting videos. My guess is that I’ve still got a lot more work to do on this, in order to find out what really works for me. Using some of the advice from the videos, I have seen some modest improvement, but am still quite slow.

Here’s an audience view clip of where I’m at currently:

Here’s a down the strings view clip:

Since I already talked with folks about the table tapping test, I decided to make a video of that as well, as a demonstration:

I do feel like my body is capable of faster speeds, but I still haven’t landed on how to make the mechanics work. I can say in general that downward pickslanting feels quite awkward to me. I also don’t feel like I can get much speed from a pure wrist motion. In fact, I’m not even sure that I’m capable of a purely wrist motion.

I apologize in that the pick is barely visible in this videos. I probably did not explain that part very well to my camerawoman. I am attempting upward pickslanting in these videos. In addition to adopting that, I also adjusted my pick grip from a typical extended trigger to more of a trigger grip.

Does anyone see anything from the table tapping video that could be helpful to translating into faster picking?


Just to be clear: You seem to be doing elbow motion in the videos, is that the motion you’re going for?

I can’t see your pick, but to my ears your pickstroke sound is quite heavy actually. I think you might benefit from using a lesser amount of pick tip to hit the strings. It helps in understanding the smoothness of the motion you’re trying to achieve.

I’m not an elbow playing authority, but I would probably still take a look at the angle of attack and try a few changes to the way you hold the pick (how high up on the pick you are gripping, pressing vs. wrapping, etc.), again looking for that smoothness of sound and feel.

Thanks for your feedback.

Elbow is most natural for me. I really seem to have a tough time isolating to just the wrist.

You are likely right about the pick tip. I have tended to use a lot of pick tip to try to avoid skinning my hand. I will see if I can get used to using a smaller amount without scraping my hand. I mentioned in another thread that I have problems with upstroke strumming, and I’m wondering if the pick tip is also a factor in that.

Can you just pull the pick upwards a bit instead?

This elbow picking thing is one of the hardest things to control with rhythmic evenness in all guitar technique. Guys like Rusty Cooley can pull it off, but they really work for it.

I think you’ll get better results with forearm rotation. The pickslanting primer has a whole section on the mechanics. It’s really the best thing for tremolo, and most DWPS/USX type playing.

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I agree. Muting is easier as well.

These are two different things. The amount of pick you see (exposure) is not related to the amount that actually picks the strings. I use often use a lot of exposure, but a normal amount of pick attack. What I think @Shredd is saying is to use less attack, not less exposure.

The amount of pick attack may or may not be an issue here. But what I’m hearing for sure is that your downstrokes and upstrokes sound different. When you hear a mismatch like that, that’s usually an angle of attack problem. One of these pickstrokes is grabbing more than the other and making more of a pluck than the other. @Shredd has zeroed in on this as well. The solution is to vary your pick grip until you get both pickstrokes sounding equally smooth. This is the pressing / wrapping of the thumb he’s referring to. We talk about this in the wrist motion section a little bit in the “setting the pickslant” chapter, but the general concept applies to any picking motion.

Another thing I’ll point out is that you’re using a large amount of thumb overlap. I won’t say that’s specifically wrong, but you might try placing the pad of the thumb closer to the pick itself. This is a more common approach and if nothing else may make it easier to eliminate some variables here from what is working or not working.

Finally, elbow motion is great. There’s a whole section of the Brendon Small interview where we talk about it, and you can see how smooth it is for him. The key with all motions is you want to do it fast. If you can’t figure out how to do it fast to start, then you’re not doing the best version of it. This is a trial and error process.

Your table tap test shows that you have a perfectly normal range of physical ability. You’re tapping about as fast as I can tap. And the beginning of the clip you’re doing it with wrist motion. It becomes more arm oriented as you begin to tire out, which is common. So basically you don’t have any kind of lack of innate ability to move fast, and you can probably do / learn any of the motions we teach in the Primer. It’s all about trying a bunch of different ways until you “get” at least one of them.

Get your pick attack sounding good and smooth first, then experiment to see which motions you can do rapidly and smoothly. You’ll get there.

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Hey Slim, saw this earlier and came back to reply and the prior replies are pretty good.
I think what you are seeking is to have that feel more consistent and be able to do that faster.
I’m guessing it feels like you are fighting through the string and you want to smooth that out.
The observations per the differences in up/down strokes are spot on.

This is very subjective sounding but basically you want to aim toward finessing the string(s) with the pick more. There is a place you will find where you will feel like you are controlling the string and not fighting through it. In that place you can also involve dynamics such as the attack, volume of the pick stroke, etc.

How to get there? I’m not a fan of elbow + trigger grip to find it. There are players that do it masterfully and leverage the advantages to it, but there are too many cons when one is first learning pick to string mechanics and the required finesse in order to build fluidity and speed. I consider it an advanced technique that everyone benefits from experimenting with, but not a good one to start off if new to the guitar. That said, it is important to go with what you are most comfortable with and not fight with something that feels completely foreign.

Most of us tend to start out on guitar digging “inward” way too much into the strings, fighting with them, and then refine “outward” from there to a better place where we’re not getting the pick stuck, learn to incorporate various dynamics, get string changing down, etc. My advice is to try the opposite - to start as “far out” as you can and then refine inward. This can achieve quicker results to get to that place I’m referring to.

Note I’m a “heavy” player as far as attack on the strings, etc. My wheelhouse is thrash metal - I’m not talking about always playing lightly w/ small movements, but to effectively get to a place where you can understand the best mechanics and the limitations of such - to develop the motions that let you play as hard or as light as you want - effectively…, then the “outward - in” approach can yield quicker results and give you better feel/feedback loop of the pick to the strings. This approach involves not attacking the strings as hard and using smaller strokes first, then learning how to attack harder and increase the distance of the strokes for some dynamics, once you are effective at the 1st part - from there you will learn where you can be effective and where you run into problems.

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Very well said!

I also tried the “outward - in” approach and it seems like a nice training device to get into the smooth picking zone. Definitely works for me.

I have to admit that I don’t fully understand what rotjab was getting at with the inward vs outward discussion. Is there a video that corresponds to this?

One thing that can drastically affect how easy or hard it is to regulate how deep your pick attack on the string is, is your anchor points for the picking arm. You have your forearm anchored to the edge of the body, which is something many people do, and can be very helpful. It’s not clear to me from the video if you have any other anchoring happening at the “hand” end of your forearm. Many players rest part of their wrist or palm on the bridge (or even on the body of the guitar above the bridge), and/or rest some fingers of the picking hand against the guitar body. Having some kind of contact at the wrist, palm, or fingers helps steady the picking motion so that it becomes easier to keep the depth of pick attack consistent.

When you have the ability to keep that depth of attack consistent, you can use as much or as little attack as you want. Less attack means less resistance from the string, and with mastery of attack depth you can choose to use a very shallow attack depth (for resistance reduction) without fear of “missing” the string.

Using one of those anchoring approaches also helps separate the question of “depth of attack” from the question of “amount of pick exposed from the grip”. I think many people choose a small amount of pick exposure as a way of regulating their depth of attack, but with some kind of anchoring strategy as described above, you can choose to have a shallow depth of attack even with a large amount of pick exposure. I think that addresses your “scraping the hand” concern.

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