Trying to perfect my picking. Advice wanted

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by Furyof, Jul 13, 2017.

  1. Furyof

    Furyof SS.org Regular

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    I never thought about my picking really until recently. I believe a lot of my problems stem from the ways I learned. I taught myself what I know for the most part. I was a 14 year old kid with a guitar and didn't care about technical stuff. Now it's coming back to bite me. I may sound like a noob in this post.

    I've had a problem with alternate picking at slow speeds, and with string skipping. And now I'm really trying to tackle all of my problems. The first problem I noticed is with when I was trying to learn sweep picking. Coming upwards, my upstroke, is terrible. It's off time and and not near as fluid as my downstrokes. And to be completely honest, I'm not sure if I've alternate picking multiple strings right. To play fast parts that alternate between multiple strings I usually start with a down, let my pick flow over the string I want next, and come up with an up stroke.

    I've also noticed that I have a problem with just regular alternate picking for higher speeds, my timing for the first few notes is off. I noticed I let my fingers do a lot of the work with picking at higher speeds. I kind of push my thumb down for the downstroke and move my index finger in combo with thumb for the upstroke. This is in combination of small wrist movements, but I remember hearing that picking is mostly about the wrist.

    I think it's because I developed a bad habit. I like to lock my pinky on the bottom of the pickup, and end up using my fingers like I said. I guess I figured that would make more accurate.

    One last little tidbit, I notice guitarists like Jason Richardson change style when they are picking extremely fast. He kind of balls up his hand to pick extreme speed sections. I've never learned this, but if it's an actual technique, I'd like to know it.

    I understand some people may believe I'm trying to get too indepth with things, but I'm willing to go back to the very basics. I want to really improve as a guitarist. I've never practiced, I've always just played and made music. I'll be a total noob again if means becoming a robot in the endgame.

    Sorry for the long post, but I've been practicing and I want to know what I should actually work on.
     
  2. CapnForsaggio

    CapnForsaggio Cap'n (general)

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    Stylus pick. Easiest improvements to my economy picking I have ever made. I am not affiliated, just a fan.

    They were popular in the 80's. The shape basically FORCES you to make your picking motions very small.

    You train with the pick for a few weeks, then go back to regular picks for actually playing.
     
  3. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    ^ Interesting. Never heard of stylus picks. Could you talk a bit more about them?

    @Furyof, these are the things that helped me:
    1. Getting the right thumb angle. You want the knuckle of the thumb to be pointed up, like a triangle.
    2. Getting the right pick angle. Slightly diagonal to the strings.
    3. Having a feather-light grip on the pick. (Helps tone and makes it much easier to build speed.)
    4. Wrist.
    5. Practicing rest stroke. (I disagree with this guy's views on upstrokes. You should replicate the rest stroke as best you can when you upstroke.)
    6. Strict alternate picking. Dududududu...
    7. I ball up my hand into a loose fist. I used to anchor, but I'm not so big on that anymore. I don't know whether this matters, because plenty of shredders anchor.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2017
  4. Alternative-Perspective

    Alternative-Perspective SS.org Regular

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    I don't really think anchoring is a bad habit to have. A lot of people still think so, for some reason...

    Can't agree enough with having a light hold on the pick. It works wonders for the advanced sweep-picking stuff.
     
  5. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    The only thing I can see wrong with anchoring is that it is a crutch. It was difficult for me to float for a while, but after a while it felt a lot better for me. It's useful to spend a couple weeks adapting to floating and trying to be as accurate as possible.
     
  6. Furyof

    Furyof SS.org Regular

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    Looking at the way I hold the pick, it's very forward and the knuckle of my thumb is barely pointing up. Holding it the way you say would actually force me to stop using my fingers to alternate. I already pick slightly diagonal though, so I guess I have that going for me. Going to trying to incorporate all these tips. So I should stop using my fingers and strictly wrist pick basically? Thank you for the reply btw. I'm also going to watch that video, I really want to fix my upstroke problem. I can't imagine how much it hinders my creative ability. Not trying to plug my music but a good example is with a song I just released. The fast section that starts at 1:30 is all downpicked https://soundcloud.com/ascenttozenith/the-deep-end. Basically because I'm not good at alternate picking stuff like that.
    Well that is the one reason I thought anchoring would be bad. I can't sweep pick with my finger like that. So I figured if that's the case, it probably effects other things negatively too. I'm not as accurate without finger anchored, but a lot of that is probably because it's easier to do my finger alternative picking when I have a finger anchored. I'm sure practice will get me accurate with it. Going to test the light grip too.
     
  7. Alternative-Perspective

    Alternative-Perspective SS.org Regular

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    John Petrucci anchors and he can sweep-pick ;D

    Do you have any videos of your playing? If I can assess your technique by watching you solo, I could help you even further.
     
  8. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    Yeah, don't use finger motions to pick. Everything should be arm or wrist. Arm is for bigger motions like strumming (some people include sweep picking in this), wrist is for smaller motions like anything involving a single string. I do about 99% wrist, and if I was better it would be 100%. My friend uses a lot of arm though and he sounds pretty good, so I can't knock arm too much. Wrist is more precise with less motion though, so I think it is probably better from an ergonomics standpoint.

    The thumb angle gets overlooked. It makes a world of difference. Ben Eller talks about thumb angle near the beginning of his video on sweep picking (and he only uses it when sweeping, from what I can tell), but you should be using it all the time. The reason for that is because if you let your thumb bend concave, you lose all gripping power and have to pinch really hard to hold the pick. If you angle your thumb, all that energy is now directed to the tip of your thumb (and the pick by extension) and you can loosen your grip. As a general rule, if you see any part of your hand turning pale from gripping, you're gripping too hard.



    Honestly, I grabbed that video just to demonstrate the rest stroke. That guy's explanation is just so-so. Rest stroke comes out of classical guitar, but, you know, they don't use picks. I relearned picking technique when I was taking mandolin lessons. With mandolin, rest stroke is really important because you have to go through two strings instead of just one, and it's a tiny, quiet instrument that won't sound good unless your technique is spot on: you have to activate the strings deliberately (rest stroke), you can't touch the top (floating hand), you have to do tremolo to make up for the instrument's lack of sustain (alt picking), and any tension you have dampens the sound. Actually, let's look at some mandolin videos.



    So yeah, she explains it better. I think the second video is also good:



    My teacher insisted that the upstroke be like the mirror image of the downstroke. It resets your hand for the downstroke, and you get consistent tone from your picking.

    Sounds good. There is something to be said for all downstrokes, because they have a lot of power. I was taught alternate picking from the very beginning though, so I never did get into fast downstrokes. Theoretically, if you have a strong upstroke, you can have the best of both worlds: the speed of alternate picking and the power of all downstrokes.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2017
  9. Furyof

    Furyof SS.org Regular

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    I can't really solo. Never learned any of that. I guess I'm the process of that now (I also don't know any scales or chords). Starting with the basics of fixing my problems. I am trying to upload a video of my picking though. It failed once, so if it fails again I'm not sure I'll be able to.
    I didn't know you could play pure wrist tbh. I thought you had to include your arm in things like sweep picking. I like the idea of just using your wrist, I could play really tight like that. It's going to be a hard to break the habit of using my fingers. Looking at more, I realized how much I do use my fingers to pick. But I'm glad I'm learning the problems. The second hardest will be a light grip on the pick. I'm going to check out those videos after I write this comment too. I have a lot of practice to do.

    I'm going to stop anchoring my pinky also. It's actually harder for me to wrist pick like that. I think I ended up making some concept in my head that the way I was doing things would be more accurate. Now I'm going to use my arm as the anchor and let me wrist be the sniper basically. I used to have my fingers be the accuracy. I wasn't actually alternate picking. I'm not sure what you would call it. I was like physically upstroking with my my index finger. I wasn't letting it be a momentum thing with the wrist. At least that is how I played for single notes. I'd use my wrist for anything that hits more than one string. Real eye opening experience. Glad I made this thread
     
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  10. Furyof

    Furyof SS.org Regular

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    kind of shows what i was trying to explain
     
  11. chopeth

    chopeth SS.org Regular

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    Dude, first things first. Urgently get rid of that plectum, change to something smaller and thicker, that'll help you a lot, believe me. Any type of Jazz III will do. Will feel weird at the beginning, but you'll get used to it and you'll improve your precision a lot. Just my two cents.
     
  12. inaudio

    inaudio Hack Fraud

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    Here's some wishy washy non-technical advice that I've found to be useful.
    1. Consistency regarding practice is key. It's common that you'll switch teachers, techniques and practice methods and that's to be expected. Just make sure that you keep practicing because otherwise you'll never get anywhere.
    2. Study what people do, not just what they say they do. Most of the people that I've met who are good at doing things suck at explaining how they do it. Even worse, in some cases they teach things differently from how they actually do it themselves.
    3. Consider keeping a learning/practice journal for writing down discoveries you've made. It makes the "staying consistent" -part more tangible and easier to stick to.
    4. Make sure to pay attention to how your playing sounds. I spent a month practicing alternate picking with a specific technique and when I recorded myself playing, it sounded like garbage. It's always good to check that the result of your hard work is actually what you wanted in the first place.
    5. Check out Troy Grady.
     
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  13. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    Well, it's as good a time as any to learn. @DebaucheryCannon linked this image in this thread. Pick one that sounds good to you and use it to work on your alternate picking.

    [​IMG]

    Let me suggest phrygian dominant for you too.

    [​IMG]

    Don't go crazy. It's better to learn one inside and out than it is to blow through all of them and not retain anything.
     
  14. Alternative-Perspective

    Alternative-Perspective SS.org Regular

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    -Use a thicker, smaller pick.
    -You definitely need to start practicing with a metronome.
    -Try to decrease the range of motion when you play. You are moving way too much for the speed you're employing.

    Time for some shameless self-promotion. I am not the best picker out there, but notice how in this video I am playing rather fast and my picking hand is moving just as much as yours in your vid.

    https://www.instagram.com/p/BNOVTNQhCqr/?taken-by=miguel_marquez_music
     
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  15. Furyof

    Furyof SS.org Regular

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    Well before any of this I was thinking about the concept having a really tight picking pattern. By that I mean, my strokes are very tight to the string and do not deviate very much. I decided to not get into the habit of that because I thought it might mess with alternate picking on multiple strings. I do practice to a metronome actually, since I play guitar through my DAW. I've actually recently tried to minimize my setup for the lowest latency. I was trying to get the raw style of my picking though, and I'm not that accurate without having my finger anchored. But I guess none of that matters anymore since I'm going to change it for the better. I'm going to change and take everything I've learned from this thread and become a better player. Btw your playing is really good!
     
  16. Furyof

    Furyof SS.org Regular

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    1. Well I've never had a teacher and doubt I'll have one anytime soon unfortunately. I want to practice though, I've never been much of a practice person. I want to change that though. 2. I do like to get in depth with things and study how they do it, and why. 3. I'm a bit worried to try to make discoveries. Since my finger picking problem ended up coming from something like that. 4. Yeah I'm trying to do that with my new mindset towards practice. I'm going to start of at slow bpms and make sure I'm playing it perfectly, where it sounds good. 5. Sure, will do.
    Ha awesome, I guess I'm getting more than are bargained for now (in a good way). Though I've seen the bottom image before, I don't quite understand it fully. I'm guessing the red '1' is the root note? I understand tabs, but that is all I know about music theory. Do you mind explain this a bit more? I can understand the 1 and the 3 as if it were tabs. But what is the b2 for? Or the concept of b with a number? Also I play in a weird tuning, Drop A on a 6 string (please don't hate me lol). I used to have a program called guitar pro or something that a friend had given me. I was able to translate all of the scales. I need to get that back and use it. I'm really interested now, I never thought about practicing these ideas one at a time. The whole concept is scary and a large undertaking, but one at a time seems more digestible.
     
  17. Alternative-Perspective

    Alternative-Perspective SS.org Regular

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    I believe technique should be dynamic. This is a concept I share with my students: I tell them that it is perfectly fine to re-orientate the pick (change the angle or the amount of grip, for example) if they wish to change the way notes sound. This is also something you can do when playing fast.

    Again, you don't really need a new picking technique. You need to refine aspects of the one you already have. Practice unplugged, too. It can do wonders for your playing.
     
  18. jbrin0tk

    jbrin0tk SS.org Regular

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    The "b" means flat, and there is another symbol that looks like "#" that means sharp. So "b2" means flat 2nd degree of the scale. So if you take your basic major scale, take the second note and move it back one fret, that is a flat 2nd, or b2. If you were to take the second note of the scale and move it up one fret (higher in pitch), you get a sharp second, or #2. That is a really simplified explanation but I'm just trying to help you understand the basic idea.
     
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  19. Furyof

    Furyof SS.org Regular

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    Ah okay. Well i understood the concept of being flat and sharp, I just couldn't tell you which symbol meant what though. Now I know the symbols. Is that diagram indicating the flats because it's not a 'major scale' ,but a variation of some scale? And they call this variation a mode? So if you 'fixed' the flats it would be a a regular major scale? That is what I'm getting from reading that thread linked too. I hate to sound stupid but I've just always played and made up patterns myself.
     
  20. jbrin0tk

    jbrin0tk SS.org Regular

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    It is the Phrygian dominant scale, or the 5th mode of the harmonic minor scale. In that diagram, yes, if you raised every flat note one half step (one fret), you'd end up with the traditional major scale. Scales are a great way to practice your alternate picking and build your fretboard knowledge, but also be sure to try to create lines from them, or look some up online that you can build toward being able to play cleanly at a given tempo. It's a great way to build your technique because five years from now you may not remember that line, but the skills you developed from learning it will stick with you, provided you continue to practice and push yourself. It gets the ball rolling, so to speak.

    Also, you don't sound stupid at all. Learning is awesome and how are you ever going to know if you don't ask, right?
     
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