The Pickslanting Primer, Now With 100% More Grip!


We’ve been stealthily rolling out updates to the Pickslanting Primer to fill in long-standing gaps in its coverage. The first of these, a long-overdue section on pick grip, went up this week. You can check it out right here:

And here’s a blog post with some more thoughts on this:

The basic idea is that the Pickslanting Primer is the key instructional resource where fundamental mechanics stuff is addressed, and it should satisfy a few basic usability requirements.

One consideration is that it should be watchable by anyone with any level of skill, from beginners to experienced players. Two, is that it should be watchable in sequence, because new players especially want to feel like they’re being walked through this process. And three, it should also be randomly accessibly by more experienced players looking for more of a quick online reference / index.

As a result, we’re doing bite-sized, single-topic, descriptively-named videos of just a few minutes in length. The concepts are laid out roughtly in sequence, with some built-in redundancy, so that we’re not beating you over the head with an anatomy textbook right when you walk in the door. Whether you’re new at this and easily overwhelmed, or an experienced player who just doesn’t have the attention span or frankly interest in becoming a mechanics expert, we want to be able to impart just enough of the basic concepts to keep your journey through this material hands-on and quick.

These are all things we’ve learned from everyone’s excellent feedback here, and many thanks for that. Any more such feedback you feel like imparting will only help us make these updates even more targeted.

Thank you!


Love the bite-sized nuggets in the Pick Grip update - well done, CTC Team! I like the lengthier CTC talks but the shorter, chapterized approach is very handy to dip into and out of when necessary. Also, it’s great to hear some new terms for pick grip behaviors that honestly didn’t have a name before. How do you guys come up with this stuff?!


Honestly, the same way as everything else — find the obvious stuff that’s not being taught and try to understand it. There’s so little available on pick grip it’s kind of striking, given how many moving parts there are and how many people seem confused by it.

I won’t say we’ve solved any great mysteries here, and I’m sure we got a few things wrong or left stuff out that’s important. (Grip force/strength, I’m looking at you!) But hopefully we’ve provided a starting point for nailing down the parts of this that matter - especially for beginners who have nowhere to start.


As someone who often uses a grip where the last joint of the thumb is bent almost 90 degrees, so that the thumb pressure comes more from the tip of the thumb than the pad of the thumb, I felt personally attacked while watching these. [/sarcasm] Actually there was a time when I was trying to wrap my head around Steve Vai’s main grip, and my thumb and index finger just don’t want to align in a way where I can replicate his thumb posture. Went through the same thing when I attempted to mimic Richie Kotzen’s grip. Anatomy just didn’t cooperate. I can do a “straight thumb” grip resembling lots of your examples, but I see many guys do grips where the last thumb joint (near the tip) is straight, but the second last is bent enough that the bend at that joint is clearly visible. Obviously individual experimentation based on an educated starting point is the way to go, but it always struck me that if I wanted the pick to interface with the string the same way those guys did, I wouldn’t be able to do it using an identical setup to their’s.


So you’re saying it’s more thumb tip to index? That’s a good call, I didn’t include that because we haven’t really seen it, or seen much of it. Is this trailing edge or leading edge?

Pictures of this would be great. Let’s take a look.


Leading edge. And I use this more when I’m trying to do escaped downstrokes or double-escaped stuff, though it can also work with escaped upstrokes.


Whoaaa. That’s so weird! Or maybe it isn’t, and I just haven’t seen it. I don’t think it’s something we’ve filmed before.

Trying this now - I can do it. I wouldn’t have thought to do it, but I can do it. So this would be, essentially, extended trigger, as we’ve called it in the chapters, except with a tip-side contact? Can you do any of the pad-side grips at all? What does that look like?

So this isn’t the only grip you use? What do you use otherwise?


I mostly use forearm-rotation escaped upstroke style with more of a straight-thumb “extended trigger” that uses the pad of the thumb and what you describe as a “side-pad” grip. Will try to wrangle a helper to put together some shots this weekend so you can see these in context on the front of the guitar.

Edit: I was probably inspired to dabble with the “bent thumb” approach by the Paul Gilbert clip below:


That’s interesting, because I think we all do that to some extent, myself included — and of course we’ve talked about the thumb’s role in modulating both edge picking and pickslanting. But when I do it the pad stays connected to the pick, and the pick itself tends to roll around the circumference of the index finger a little bit more than usual. But what’s interesting here is, if this is your “more edge picking” orientation, then you are ending up at my starting point. Does that mean that your starting point for pad-side is more of a pressed grip, i.e. not on the side of the index but somewhere on the angle between side and pad?


Thanks for a great reference!

The only thing I felt missing was a discussion on what these different grips let you do, in the “which one should I choose” section. E.g. not all grips are as suitable for hybrid picking. A few players also switch between grips fluently. IIRC Paul Gilbert, that @Frylock just referenced, switches to a three-finger grip for strumming for example.


One thing I’ll say is that I think my motivation for experimenting with this was less about how it affects edge picking, and more to do with how the “wrapping around toward the nail of the index finger” allows me to keep the pick standing vertically relative to the plane of the strings even when I have a fair degree of supinated forearm rotation in my “neutral” setup position. The initial goal was to try to jig things to allow escaped downstrokes with a motion that had a significant forearm rotation component. There’s a variation of this that involves a slightly different positioning of the pick relative to the palm, which is something I’ve messed with that I describe as being sort of like Ardeshir Farah.

I’ll have to take a little time to parse your second question before I try to answer, but as I said, I’ll try to put up a collection of these things on the weekend, with better visual context.


Definitely. That’s coming up in the arm orientations and motions sections. Everything is integrated. For example when we teach Mike Stern style wrist motion, it’s done with Mike Stern-style arm setup and Mike Stern style grip. More extended grips pair with slightly more supinated arm positions. And middle/three-finger grips pair with the most supinated arm positions and motions, a la Albert Lee and Steve Morse.

Each of these arm, grip, and motion pairings are like little families, and each is capable of your core pickstroke types - downstroke escape, upstroke escape, and double escape. That’s how we observe them in the real world, so each family gets its own lesson chapter.

Edit: So these grip chapters are just laying the foundation for understanding the later stuff. So by the time we say, ok, we’re doing lightly supinated forearm, and you’re going to use your classic trigger grip for this, the viewer hopefully goes “ah, ok, I know what that is”.


If I’m reading the question correctly, I think the answer is that like you, when I’m wrapped around the index finger, I’m pretty much at the limit of how much leading edge I can add with just movement of the thumb and index finger, and my arm approach etc. is such that the resulting edge picking is the default amount I want, which is quite a bit. I’ll add that I like to wear the guitar pretty high, so the approach angle of my forearm may be closer to parallel to the strings than a lot of folks might prefer.

If I ever want even more edge picking with the bent thumb grip, I add it by changing the wrist angle. In general, for slower playing with more dynamics and frequent flatter attack, I use more of a straight thumb angle-pad approach. So with respect to the bent-thumb grip, maybe I’m the guy who, metaphorically speaking, doesn’t need to add even more sugar (edge picking) to his coffee, because the amount he likes as a starting point is already a lot.


So if I’m understanding this correctly, the tip-side thumb contact isn’t really giving you “wrapped around the index” levels of edge picking. It’s just giving you the same amount of edge picking that I get with an extended thumb and pad-side contact. Because from the photos it doesn’t look like a wrapped grip (I think we’re coining that - you saw it here first @Montreal543!!). It looks like a typical side-of-the-index contact, just with the thumb highly flexed. And again, you’re doing that because you want the pick oriented that way given your supinated arm setup. Whew.

So… you can’t bend the thumb any more than this to get more edge picking out of this arrangement, so you’ll get it via ulnar wrist offset instead. But you may not often want / need more edge picking than this arrangement gives you, because your approach angle gives that to you by default anyway.

Let me know if I’m getting this.


Duly noted! Love the coined terms - they’re very helpful in the learning process!


In practice I may sometimes wrap it a little more than these photos reveal, but no more than, say, 15 degress or so more than these photos. Everything else you’re saying sounds pretty much on the mark.


Cool–looking forward to checking these videos out this weekend


I was just checking out the intro scene in “Back to the Future” when Marty blows up the amp. The scene has a great shot of his pick grip, and Marty’s grip is pretty uncommon I think. I’ve attached a still showing the grip below. I may be wrong, but it looks like he uses a “pad side trigger-style grip with a 135 degree pick point and high pick exposure”…so of course this results in an exploded amp!



Since MJF actually does play a little guitar in that movie, I can only imagine this is the director going, no no no, turn it that way — while directing the gaffer to get that highlight glinting exactly so.


There’s a fun article about the anachronism involved around the Gibson Marty plays back in 1955: