99 Ways To Pick
(24 Apr 02)
If you have read my articles about practising and alternate picking (these will be available on iBreatheMusic soon), you will not be surprised that this new article again deals with picking... You might ask yourself "What else is there to talk about?" Well, there still is a lot left to discuss, believe me. The main subject of this one will be "How to hold the pick". There are dozens of different ways to do it, bunches of examples of how well-known players handle this.
Where I´m coming from...
First, I´m gonna tell you about my own experiences with that topic. When I first started playing the guitar, I didn´t initially take lessons. And I started out using a pick, a really thin one. Somehow, I developed a certain way of holding the pick: I held it with three fingers (thumb, index- and middle finger) and used the remaining two fingers for muting the strings I wasn't playing. When I switched to hybrid picking (a combination of flat- and finger-picking), I held the pick with two fingers and used the remaining three for the finger-picking.
That was the way I picked back then, and it remained that way until I attended the Musicians Institute. There, I was introduced to several other ways of holding the pick, and since I was seriously working on my alternate picking during my time there, I started to use a different way of holding the pick. It was recommended to me by many sources that the best way for fast and accurate picking is to hold the pick with thumb and index finger, "roll in" the other fingers (=close my hand) and don´t "anchor" (anchoring= spreading out one or more fingers and holding on to the edge of a pickup or know or just putting them onto the guitar when picking... many agree that this adds some stability and control)
I didnt ask myself "Is this really the best method for ME? Is there such a thing like a right or a wrong way to do this?"
Well, after I developed something I defined as "my own style" (after all, they teach you a lot at schools like the MI, and after you graduate, you should take your time to decide which part of that information you really can use and wanna keep while putting the rest onto a shelf for further study sometime later... you gotta establish something like your own style based on what you learned... that might take a while) I started to work on some concepts I was interested in...
For example, I was experimenting with arpeggios on adjacent strings (one note per string), played with alternate picking instead of sweeping. When I was working on that, I realized that, when playing that kinda stuff, my previous (older) picking technique worked way better than the new picking style I had developed.
I felt that, when holding the pick with three fingers and the pinkie anchored (the way I used to do it), I had a bit more control, and it made string skipping a bit easier to, at least for me. So, whenever I played those arps with alternate picking, I switched from one way of holding the pick to another, which was often not very effective.
In the years after that, I tried several different ways of holding the pick until I finally returned to the way I used to do it in the beginning (as seen in the picture below).
I am holding the pick with thumb, index- and middle finger while using the remaining fingers for muting. Only for things like sweep-picking I change the way I hold the pick temporarily.
Problem No.1 I had to solve was: What to do with the ring finger... it was stretched out halfway and sometimes touched strings, thereby causing unwanted noises. So I bent it, kinda "rolled it" into the palm of my hand. Now my pinkie was responsible for muting.