99 Ways To Pick
(24 Apr 02)
Part 3-Why am I telling you all this?
Seriously: I don´t wanna change anyone´s picking technique here. I just would like to point out that it sometimes helps a lot to pay attention to small details like how you hold your pick. Try to experiment and find out yourself what is the best for YOU. Everyone thinks different about this, and I think that, if you´re not playing serious classical or flamenco-guitar, there are no rules, only guidelines for things like that.
When I teach or give a workshop, I tend to see two different attitudes by the students: Some of them need to be told everything, you have to point out what they should pay attention to, they don´t realize that there´s usually something wrong when they´re playing and it hurts or feels awkward.
The others are looking for that themselves. If something hurts or feel awkward, they look by themselves what they can change to stop that. When I ask "Why do you hold your pick that way?" or "Why do you move your elbow closer to your body when playing in that area of the neck?" they say things like "It felt easier that way, or more natural"....
And that is a good attitude, cause it´s creative and kinda independent and fresh, but also helps you to develop and find and solve problems yourself. That does not mean that you should ignore everything your teacher says. But you should also look at yourself when you play and see if you can change something... maybe it makes things easier.
Every once in a while you should analyze things like the way you hold the pick, the way you hold the guitar or move your arms when playing. Experiment and see if it gets easier once you change something, even if it seems to be a minor detail.
A friend of mine once wrote in a column for a guitar mag:" If unique players like Knopfler, Morse or Santana would have attended a school like the GIT, the Berklee or the LAMA, it would have been possible that they might have changed their unique way of playing because someone might have told them that it was "wrong" the way they did it.
Those schools can offer you a plethora of helpful advice, hints on how to improve and different ways to approach your playing. But those are no "Ten Commandments Of Playing The Guitar", but merely suggestions and guidelines.
So try different approaches. Same goes for the actual picking motion. Some players move their wrist only (Gilbert), others combine moving the wrist and their thumb (Malmsteen)... Vinnie Moore (who IMHO is one of the fastest and most precise pickers in the biz) moves his whole forearm and keeps the wrist rather stiff. That is a way of doing it that is definitely not recommended by instructional books and teachers, (it does seem to be uneconomical and even can give you problems with the muscles, joints and sinews of your arm) but Vinnie used it and made it work for him, so why should he change?
I remember an anecdote that the late, great Tommy Tedesco (R.I.P.) used to tell, i.e. in his instructional video. He used to play a gutstring-guitar quite often (by the way, in case you are not familiar with his name... you definitely have heard him play. He was most likely the most recorded session-player ever and recorded stuff like the themes of "The Pink Panther", "MASH" and "Bonanza"!)
So, one day he was invited by a group of classical guitarists (I believe it was in France, but that does not really matter here). And he was asked to play something for them. After he finished, they looked at him funny and didnt say a word. So Tommy said "What? Did I do something wrong"
Those guys pointed out some things they perceived as wrong and pointed out that Tommy played with a pick and that that was wrong. So Tommy said "So you´re telling me its wrong to do it this way ?" and he played a beautiful little melody and some fast runs with the pick.
Then he said "...and this is supposed to be right?". He put away the pick and tried to play that melody and the fast runs without the pick... it didnt work and sound as good as it did when he played WITH a pick.
What Tommy tried to say by doing that (and what I am trying to say with this whole article): If you find something that feels natural and works for you, and if you have tried some other approaches and compared them to the one you feel best with, then do it that way. As I said, rules, guidelines, books & schools can help us to find solutions to problems etc. But just like you listen to those sources, you gotta listen to yourself to and find out what works best for you.
If we all would play the same way and would follow the same rules and guidelines, there most likely would have been no unique and innovative players like Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, Mark Knopfler, Jeff Beck, Steve Morse, Vinnie Moore, Stanley Jordan... they would have never come to our attention,
would have never been able to change and shape the sound and techniques of the electric guitar the way they did.
Think about it...
Happy Picking !
"Atlanta Dawn" written by Eric Vandenberg.
Copyrights 2002 Talking Hands Music