Guitar Picking Techniques

Here are some essential guitar picking techniques. They are essential to improving your playing.

1. Loosen your grip on the pick: While this will not be the end state of your picking grip, it will help you to loosen up the other muscles in your hand and arm for analysis purposes. Once you achieve comfort and awareness of what’s going on with your muscles you should be able to firm your grip without adversely affecting other muscles.

2. Use a motion that incorporates the fingers, wrist and elbow: Once again, this may not end up being the motion that you ultimately settle on, but for the purposes of getting comfortable, using all of these joints will keep your muscles from locking up, allowing you to stay aware of any tension that might have existed previously. Pay attention to which joint is moving, and try moving joints independently as well to see what works for you.

3. Use large motions: Economy of motion is necessary to build speed, but trying to economize motion and get comfortable at the same time will not work very well. Use large motions, once again to keep your muscles from locking up, and practice for awareness, accuracy and control (not speed).

4. Prepare picking strokes: This technique is borrowed from classical guitar. To prepare a picking stroke, simply place your pick against the string before you play the note. At first you should make this into two motions for each note – one to place your pick against the string and another to actually pick the note. As you get better you can start to combine the picking motion of one note and the preparation of the next note into a single motion. This is not a performance technique since it will slow down your picking and produce a staccato effect, only a practice technique to help achieve comfort and accuracy.

Some common picking hand problems are:

Trying to build speed too soon: The faster you play, the more accurate and precise your muscle movements must be. This will only come with time and practice. If you are tense and inaccurate at slow speeds, trying to play faster will only cause you to become frustrated.

Your grip is too tight: Holding the pick too tightly will cause tension in the rest of your hand and arm. This will lock up your muscles, and make you less accurate. Staying loose is essential with both hands, loose and accurate.

You can only pick in one direction at a time. Make sure you stop guitar picking in one direction before starting your picking stroke in the opposite direction. The result of not finishing one motion before starting another is similar to the death grip that occurs when your fretting hand becomes rigid.

Assuming that your fretting hand is not the problem : A tense, inaccurate fretting hand can play havoc with your guitar picking hand. You can take your fretting hand out of the equation by practicing picking patterns by themselves, then adding your fretting hand back in. If you can pick the pattern with no problems by itself, but have problems once you reintroduce your fretting hand, you likely have some work to do on your fretting hand.

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