Teaching picking technique with beginning students


When I get a new beginning student - meaning this is their first lesson ever, not just with me - one thing I ask them to do is just hold a pick and pick each open string several times. In addition to giving them the experience of playing their first simple notes, it lets me observe their natural pickslanting inclinations and where they movements originate.

In the past, I would just check to make sure they weren’t doing anything “too weird” and direct them toward a fairly neutral position but as I’ve continued to delve into CTC I see many more possibilities regardless of their approach. For example, I would never have allowed UWPS in the past.

Considering that these students will likely be doing basic method book work and a lot of downpicking for a while I’m now wondering if I should try to convert them to a particular picking approach like DWPS or just let them be themselves and incorporate their natural inclinations as they progress. Ideally I’d like to be able to say “THIS is the correct way to approach right hand technique” because I feel that too many nuances can confuse young players, but as we know, there’s more than one right way to approach picking technique and some approaches may be better than others depending on the material and the player.




I am not a teacher but I have asked a similar question here:

Maybe you’ll find some interesting answers.

Cheers! \m/


Hey pal, this is the teachers lounge, the refuge where we secretly spike our coffee, dish about the students, and complain about the administration. Go back to the cafeteria.

Just kidding. :joy:

I don’t agree. If you’ve studied any other instruments (especially orchestral instruments or classical guitar) then you know that most have very specific and highly codified ways of learning technique. Pick-style guitar is way behind the curve in this area and Troy’s work is finally bringing us into the 20th century. Yes, I do mean the 20th century. :wink:

I’m perfectly happy to let students experiment, but I like to give them a basic foundation for technique in both hands. It’s what they are paying for. I don’t want them to have to re-invent the wheel, so-to-speak.

Also, I should point out that none these concepts need actually be discussed. I much prefer to give students - especially young students - exercises or musical examples that encourage them to foster a particular technique. They can do the analysis and delve into WHY we pick a particular way later on.


@kounistou BTW it took me a few minutes to get around to it, but I did read your post and the replies. Good thoughts all around. The blank slate student is what I am addressing here. Just hoping to receive input from fellow teachers about their approach and thought process.


@JakeEstner Have you changed the way you approach teaching brand-new students since working with CTC?


Hey @johnhorneguitar - and I didn’t read the entire other thread, but here is what I do for absolute beginners regarding slant:

I want to start everybody with a relatively neutral slant but I don’t chastise them or try to change them too much if they naturally slant in either direction. Rather than talk about general ‘technique’ I address the issues as they come up in the simple pieces we are doing.

For example, if there is a passage that is one-note-per-string and descending in pitch, and the student has a natural hard DWPS grip as many do, I talk to them about the tip of the pick and the plane of the strings and suggest a neutral or UWPS stance and doing all upstrokes - BUT I say it’s totally fine for them to keep doing it as they are doing it but to acknowledge that they will have to move the pick more to make it happen at any given tempo.

I point out individual movements and we look at trouble spots in any given piece, and I’ll point out specific things about slants and the plane of the strings but rather talk about slanting as a big picture concept I just use the vocabulary of CTC a bit to help problem solve whatever piece we are looking at.

Related: in a lot of my classes we do the picking pattern from House of the rising sun. Through a CTC lense I have a lot more vocabulary to talk about what goes on there, for example, there are sweeps in two directions and a string skip so I have students use SOME rest strokes but acknowledge what movements need to be made to do the string skip and change the sweep direction.

Now, keep in mind I’m extremely careful to use LANGUAGE and WORD CHOICES that are appropriate for the particular group of students. So I might talk about this stuff a little bit with young children but obviously keep it light and tackle things in very small stages. With adult beginners same deal, I don’t get super technical and wordy with the folks that I know A. will get overwhelmed by it and B. don’t really care much either way anyway.

As for picking grip, I actually have a fairly standardized grip and position I teach everybody that I feel like covers a variety of styles and sounds. It’s essentially resting the right hand base of thumb OR palm on the low strings or body of the guitar depending on which strings are being picked, so most of the hand is essentially on a plane higher than the tip of the pick, if that makes sense. (could show pics if curious) This is also a lot easier if the guitar neck is angled up and out semi-classical style which is also something I teach beginners.

I feel like this is a nice ‘neutral’ approach that then can be modified for different styles but also allow for damping strings if they get into lead electric guitar with gain.

All in all, I don’t stress about it all too much and I’m not too much of a stickler because for a beginning students’ first year or two I just want to make sure they’re enjoying themselves and excited to come back to class, then I know if they want to go all in with guitar and technique we can get much more specific.

Hope that helps…


hah I see I didn’t exactly answer your question directly: short answer, yes, I have. :joy: