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Guitar Technique: Guitar Picking Tutorial...



Q: I have a question that got me struggling for days... I didn't find a lot of information about flat picking online. Is there a good or correct way to pick when playing single notes? My pinky and my middle-finger are always resting on the guitar... Is this a bad habit?

I've seen a lot of players have their hand resting on the bridge or at least near the bridge... Thanks in Advance!

~ Julien1345

A: There are several important points to keep in mind with regard to picking technique. In this lesson I will be covering the entire topic in two parts.




PART 1: Picking-hand Technique Development

(a). In developing the picking-hand we want to start at how you are holding the pick. The basic way for holding the pick is to have it between your thumb and index finger. The index finger should be curled into the palm of the hand with the thumb nail pointing towards the guitars headstock.

(b). Take a moment to notice exactly where the best place on your guitar is to perform the picking... watch carefully that you choose a good open area without any pick-up pole pieces that could get in the way of your pick swing.

(c). Your wrist is the key to effective picking, how and where you hold it makes all the difference. It should float smoothly above the bridge and never be nailed to the bridge in
any one location.

(d). There should never be any tension in the hand, wrist, or arm. Tension can promote stress on the muscles which can lead to injury. Tension is also one of the main causes of poor performance.

(e). When picking a note, angle your pick slightly downward. This will produce less friction since less surface area is covering the strings. This idea will also allow you to use a heavier gauge of pick and in the end play notes faster with more volume and sustain.

(f). During the picking strokes, have your pick remain as close to the strings as possible. The picking strokes you make must be small to increase your picking speed. Too much motion through your picking stroke will slow you down. The concept we are working towards is one of minimal motion of pick and hand swing while playing notes.


PART 2: Awareness of Pick to String Location

One of the concepts we want to move away from is picking from one firmly anchored point, (or in other words, a point where we are resting the hand on the guitar in some manner). We are after freedom of movement and resting the hand in some permanent location does not allow for this. It can be a very tough thing to break if you have allowed it to form as a habit in your regular guitar playing. Many players tend to do this anchoring out of instinct. Probably due to a need to know exactly where the tip of our pick is at all times. However, it is very limiting since in doing so the player has lost the freedom of movement necessary for speed and accuracy.

A great way to break out of this resting habit is to view your guitar's six strings as two groups of three. Three bass strings and three treble.

If you are playing in the bass set, then lightly brush your baby fingers knuckle on the treble strings to maintain accuracy of movement and gain a firm sense of awareness of the tip of your pick tracking notes on those bass strings.

Moving to the treble strings, you can develop the ability of lightly brushing the heel of the palm of your hand on the low bass strings to gain a solid sense of where the pick is tracking notes to perform notes with ease on the treble set of strings.

Download the PDF Handout for this Lesson:

(1 Page - Flat-picking Classical Piece Exercise)

Excerpt from Presto Sonata #1 in G Minor - by Bach
Picking Technique PDF Handout


To Download: Right Click > Save Link As