Mailbag: Picking / Smoothing It Out
(19 Oct 02)
The floating hand
K... now, get ready for the "floating hand"...
Get ready for a tale of suspense... and horror...
See Eric Lugosi and Vincent Vandenberg in...
"The Floating Hand From Hell"....
(insert cheesy violin sounds and manic laughter)
Sorry, had to throw that one in.
Now, to cut to the chase, a lot of people actually are "anchoring". That means, they are resting their hand on the bridge of their guitar, or they press the fingertips of some of their r.h.-fingers onto the body of the guitar / pickguard, or they even anchor their r.h.-pinkie to the volume knob.
In my opinion, I think this might be fine for some players, but I actually recommend trying to "float the hand", meaning that the hand is OFF the guitar (you MIGHT slightly touch the bridge, but in general, try to avoid contact, and if you touch it with your palm, don't rest it there).
In the beginning, I did just that, resting my r.h. palm onto the bridge. I thought that it gave me more stability and control.
Well, imagine my surprise when I saw PG play up-close, and he "floated his hand". So I tried it (I like to try stuff to see whether it works for me... if it doesn't I just leave it alone), and after a few days of getting used to it (it felt AWKWARD in the beginning), I noticed how much easier it made playing, i.e. the fast stuff.
I just relaxed my wrist and moved the hand from the wrist. All of a sudden I noticed an increase of speed as well as more... sound options. All of a sudden it was easy to really whack the strings, to get a tone out of it.
It just felt more loose, more relaxed, simply easier. Also, once I stopped touching the bridge I noticed that it was easier to "aim". Meaning that, even when playing the "PG-lick" at high-speed, I wasn't hitting the G-string accidentally anymore, which had driven me insane before.
With my hand floating it didn't happen anymore, and also, I increased speed and accuracy really fast.
I'd recommend to try this approach... it might work well for you. Give it some time to get used to it. If you think it doesn't work, just forget about it...
What to practice how and when
One thing I wanna emphasize more are some general things about practicing. Some people. especially beginners, tend to focus on the wrong things. Please remember that once you learn to play something the wrong way, it will take you way longer to "stop making the mistake" and learning the lick or exercise again without the mistake.
One essential thing: Use a metronome. I have mentioned that pretty often already, didn't I? Well, I know. But still, I see a lot of people practice without one.
I know exactly how stupid and boring it might be to get used to working with the metronome. You gotta slow down and constantly check your timing until you get used to it and don't even really pay attention to the metronome anymore.
But one of my rules is: A lick, regardless of how wild, impressive or fast it is, isn't worth a thing if it is not in time.
I mean, in your solospot on stage you might be able to play some stuff which is not in time without people noticing or really paying attention to. But once you play in the context of a song, or simply play over a straight beat, it becomes important that your timing is accurate (depending on what style you play... on the beat, slightly ahead or behind the beat... but that is a whole other topic)
Anyway, make this your rule, too: A cool lick ain't worth anything (I think it's not even cool) when it is not in time.
So start working with the metronome. Later it will be so much easier to control your improvement, to speed up accurately, to play with a jam track or other musicians... it's essential.
And once you get to record your songs or anything in a studio, you'll most likely will have to record with a click-track running... and you should be able to do so. If you have to learn it at the studio, it's way too late, believe me...
OK... those were the points I wanted to talk about before I kinda leave the topic "Alternate Picking" alone... I think I wrote down the most important stuff, and it's quite a lot of pages to read.
Anyway, let's go on and take the next step...