Very "ulnarized onset" without scrapy sound

I recently discovered that I tend to make this “playing mistake” that Ben Higgins describes in this video:

Basically what he is talking about is that one should use proper string tracking in order not to change the angle of the pick attack too much.

Now that I know of this phenomenon, I am wondering how Jeff Loomis and John Petrucci (and of course others I haven´t noticed yet) manage to get a solid sound with their picking angle which is almost 90 degrees to the strings (I am referring to the angle that the thumb and the strings form). Do they have a specific way of holding the pick?

I also thought that knowing how to do it might be useful for playing the high strings openly while muting the lower strings with DWPS.

Any suggestions or ideas?

Best regards,


The story is a little more complicated than this.

As the video suggests, if you use only upper arm / shoulder tracking, the edge picking amount is more similar on all strings. That part is true. However, the rest is not. For the most consistent tone, you want less edge picking on the lower strings, which is exactly what happens naturally if you use some amount of wrist or elbow tracking in your technique.

You can test this very easily. Grab a fresh pick from the bag, something smooth like celluloid or Ultex. Test 45 degrees edge picking on the top string. Now test 45 degrees edge picking on the low string — way scratchier. The only way to reduce that is to use less edge picking on the low string. Wrist/elbow tracking motions do this automatically.

Note that these tracking motions also change the spot on the string where you are playing: closer to the bridge on the top string, closer to the neck on the low string, all other factors being equal. But paradoxically, if consistent tone is what you are looking for, this effect is a good thing. Why? Closer to bridge = brighter, closer to neck = darker. But more edge picking = darker, less edge picking = brighter. These two effects cancel each other out. Again, you can easily test this.

To further complicate things, note that as picks wear, they become more scratchy on the top string, and less scratchy on the wound strings — often significantly less scratchy. In other words, the scratchyness tends to equalize across the strings. This is most noticeable with materials that wear, like celluloid, tortex, and nylon, where the difference can be pretty dramatic:

If you only play worn picks, the amount of scratchyness will be more similar across all strings, even if you don’t change your edge picking.

Personally, since I like even feel, I prefer a worn pick with the flat spot already dialed in, so all the strings feel as similar as possible. The small amount of scratch this introduces on the high strings doesn’t bother me, and it is pretty small — I demonstrate what this sounds like earlier in the same video. Moreover, since the slight scratchyness is present on all strings, I prefer it.

Finally, note that some players like a very scratchy feel on the wound strings. Teemu Mäntysaari talks about this in our interview, how Wintersun uses a fresh Ultex pick when recording for the most scratchyness they can get on rhythm parts. So the creative choice is up to you!


That is crazy if you can feel the edge of the pick that intuitively. The only time I can really spot anything is if it catches cause it has a bump on it that catches the string. Sounds like a darker tone so it’s not as prominent? Nevermind I see you said that in the post. :wink:

Thank you for the elaborate reply and sorry I didn´t reply earlier.

I think I phrased my question in a way that didn´t adress what I was actually aiming for.
The sound aspect is one component and the video (also the video on edge picking) helped me understand the mechanisms better.

What I am actually wondering even more about (and didn´t stress enough in the original question) is how JP plays the higher strings with the pick atttack angle he uses. If you look at the relation of the index finger of the right hand to the strings, it´s almost a 90 degree angle. Considering he also uses DWPS (which he says in the video), he only uses a very small part of the pick to actually hit the string. When I try this, it feels really awkward to me. And yes, the sound becomes very scratchy.

I guess the upside of this is that he can play strings openly with DWPS while muting the lower strings. That would be something I´d aspire to be able to do too. AFAIK, DWPS only enables you to play with palm muting unless you remove the palm from the guitar or move it behind the bridge. Am i right about this?