Benson type picking method

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by cigpow, Jun 15, 2008.

  1. cigpow

    cigpow Member

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    What are your experiences with this type of picking method? I am seriously considering switching over and putting in the practice time to make it feel normal. Right now I pick mainly with my elbow and have tons of issues. I feel like there are almost no downsides to the benson picking method, and a lot of good players seem to use it.

    ex

    Adam Rogers

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7b0Kg6w95oc

    In the video it is obvious the he holds the pick between his two finger pads, as opposed to against the pad of his thumb and the side of his other finger.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voNjeUUcdSo

    -Ian
     
  2. elgalad

    elgalad Senior Member

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    I say give it a go. What have you got to lose? Just keep an eye out for any tension or discomfort that it might cause.

    The only thing I would say, is that I used to use a similar method - picking more from the fingers than the wrist, but I found I became quite badly speed limited. I moved on to a wrist-based picking method (very reminiscent of Jimmy Page's technique), and gained a lot of speed quickly.

    I'm always trying small adjustments to my technique though - playing around with different methods to see if I can improve certain aspects. I think it's an important aspect of becoming a better guitarist.

    :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2008
  3. dhdfoster

    dhdfoster Silver Supporting Member

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    Tuck Andres did an interesting article on the Benson technique a few years ago. It's on his site somewhere.
     
  4. russ6100

    russ6100 Member

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    cigpow wrote:
    Hey - not to derail but I thought you might dig this....

    I had transcribed a little nugget from that solo in the vid, from the part at about 1:03 - 1:06...

    [​IMG]
     
  5. brad347

    brad347 Member

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    I never realized until later that the "weird" homegrown way I held my pick was "Benson technique." :) I always called it my "ghetto technique."

    The main advantage of it in my mind is that the pick motion is coplanar with its own motion, which produces a certain type of sound. It's slicing through the air rather than parachuting through it, if that makes sense (probably not).

    The main disadvantage is that for certain type of rhythm/strummy things it feels a little "blocky" and I find I have to switch to the 'other way' to better get that loose, skanky thing that some R&B rhythm seems to demand. YMMV.
     
  6. Mita

    Mita Member

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  7. j_uc

    j_uc Member

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    The "Benson method" doesn't involve picking from the fingers more than from the wrist - just for clarification, not trying to start a debate, the Benson picking topic has been discussed before.
     
  8. LR1400

    LR1400 Member

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    Interesting you find it doesn't lend itself good to RnB rhythms. Personally it works better for that and from observation it seems most of the players who use it are RnB based.
     
  9. brad347

    brad347 Member

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    Yeah, that is interesting.

    The pick by definition is 'locked up' and doesn't move at all, and its position means it 'captures' less of the string as it passes over. I just find myself getting a little bit more 'snap' from the pick capturing more of the string and having a little 'springiness' and give to it for certain things.

    One type of thing that comes to mind that I often 'switch' for is an Ernie Isley (Jimi-descended) strummy thing, like the intro to "That Lady."
     
  10. Flyin' Brian

    Flyin' Brian Member

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    Many years ago there was an article about Benson in Guitar Player. He mentioned that when he was touring with Jack McDuff, the only place for him to ride was lying on the B-3 in the hearse. Because of that position, he had to hold his guitar in place with his right arm and that's how he got to picking that way. I find it impossible to play like that (reverse angle, not lying in a hearse :rotflmao) But then again most of George's playing is pretty impossible for us mere mortals.
     
  11. Bryan T

    Bryan T Guitar Owner Silver Supporting Member

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    I hold the pick similar to Benson - it has always felt the most natural, probably due to the geometry of my hands. The picking motion that I use is from the wrist, but it isn't as bent as Benson's. I find it to be very efficient and produce a nice tone with little effort. One funny thing that goes along with holding the pick this way is that if you buy picks that have asymmetrical bevels (Wegens, for example), then left-handed picks are a better fit.

    Bryan
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2008
  12. sausagefingers

    sausagefingers Supporting Member

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    This is fascinating. I will try this tonight....but am not optimistic about being able to change the way I pick after almost 30 years....

    I found this page that has pics for those of us that cannot easily visualize how to hold the pick:

    http://jmgras.googlepages.com/bensonpicking
     
  13. brad347

    brad347 Member

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    Another thing to point out is that while GB rested his pinkie on the fingerrest (pickguard), you don't have to do this.

    I have never liked resting my hand on the pickguard, because it makes it feel weird when you switch guitars to, say, a Strat. My whole thing is having my technique be totally independent of external factors so I'm never "thrown off," consequently I do not "anchor" my hand at all, but rather let the heel of my palm lightly contact/"float" above the strings right at the bridge. I have more speed and relaxation this way, and also if my arm doesn't constantly remain in contact the "arm-wear" spot on the top of the guitar, either (that cuts off your picking motion at the elbow, and it's more relaxed for me to have the whole arm working for me). I find that as long as I have some sort of "tactile reference point" (which would be my hand lightly grazing and floating above the strings at the bridge), then I do not need a rigid "anchor," which for me always impeded total relaxation and effortlessness. In fact to me that's one of the advantages of the reverse angle-- it seems to better allow the wrist to pivot with the outer wrist bone as its pivot joint, so that you can freely change between the inner and outer edges of the palm as pivot points. I like the tactile reference to be the non-thumb corner of the palm for alternate picking, and the thumb-side for tremolo picking, which is a different motion for me. It's a question of control versus bursts of pure speed/oscillation. But as with everything else, my picking technique is of course a continuing work in progress. So all of these things may change (god knows everything else about my technique has, several times over).

    As with anything else, the real secret is not "being able to do it," but discovering that magical point at which it feels effortless... only when it's totally relaxed and effortless are you truly feeling "what it feels like."

    And don't be intimidated by the prospect of changing the way you play after 30 years. It's that sort of thing that keeps you vital. If there's one thing I've learned on my earnest quest to be the most complete musician I can be, it's that there is no greater gift than the inspiration to "start over." You can't lose what you've already developed, you can only add to it.

    I decided to learn the "normal way" to pick last year sometime. I thought of it less as "re-learning" or "backtracking" and more as adding something new to my bag. Now I discover applications that each method is more-suited to, for my particular body and instrument. Have fun.
     
  14. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

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    I played that way for years because my guitar teacher told me to. But my buddies held it more "normal" position and could do things I couldn't. I switched and eventually could do those things. But lost some of the other things from the Benson style. Like anything in life, there are pros and cons.

    When I turn the pick that way, it sounds like I'm slicing the string and gets a very thin, gritty tone, and if I turn the pick to use more of the meat of it, I get a full, meaty (duh) tone. That's for me and x-heavy picks I use. Maybe other picks would work differently.

    I do remember when I used to play like that, notes had a lot of stacatto attack to them and it was because of the thumb being locked. I don't like that sound all the time.

    the guy in the video posted has some nice chops. But watch how he switches back and forth between normal and "Benson" by bending his thumb. To me, the Benson style is locking the thumb and keeping rigid.

    Also one of the things that I couldn't do very well was mute strings and keep the sound real clean under high gain. If you look at the video of Adam R., those low strings will be going crazy with sympathetic vibrations if he played with some gain/volume. It would sound like a mess and a beginner playing. There are variations on that pick style method that allow you to mute those strings but doesn't seem as much as the normal pick grip that allows you to use the thumb and more of the palm to mute out noise and every string not played.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2008
  15. brad347

    brad347 Member

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    Yeah, I think as the electric guitar gets older and technique becomes more standardized (for better or worse,) right-hand grip will cease to be an "either-or" proposition, and more of a "both, for their respective advantages" proposition.
     
  16. russ6100

    russ6100 Member

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    brad347 wrote:
    Yeah, that's a major problem for me now when I'm playing the semi-hollow standing up. It's like that area of the guitar is just pushing out at my arm, fighting me...
     
  17. russ6100

    russ6100 Member

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    buddastrat wrote:
    I see what you're saying but....

    I've seen him playing all the same stuff on a tele with gain....strat with gain....not *monster* gain but it wail wailin'....
     
  18. brad347

    brad347 Member

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    It's all about your shoulder and biceps being loose. I usually play a full-depth vintage Epiphone and it's all about that upper arm area being loose and relaxed... I never have issues with getting my arm around it.
     
  19. go2jody

    go2jody Member

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    I spent most of last week sitting next to Mr. Benson shooting 10-20 minute video lessons for workshopive.com (not spamming--just explaining the situation). We spent some time on picking, needless to say.

    The interesting thing is that between takes, he rarely stopped playing--

    He rarely used a pick at all--he tends to use his thumb 80% of the time--guess what? His sound never changed at all. Upstrokes, downstrokes--it made no difference at all.

    The Wes influence is there, of course, but his wrist angle was very different...

    When he did play with a pick it didn't sound much different. If I wasn't watching, I couldn't tell if he was using a pick or not. The man is an amazing musician....

    Since we'll be making 90 lessons over three years, we will be addressing this issue again, I'm sure.

    Just thought I'd let you know what I saw during nine-hour recording days last week.....

    Jody Fisher
    www.jodyfisher.com
    www.myspace.com/jodyfisherguitar
     
  20. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

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    I see a few clips on the youtube where he plays with light gain, compressed, jazzy tone. It'll still be alright for that, I was talking about a more aggressive tone.

    There's ways around it without altering hand position, like using a gate to chop off the vibration. I wouldn't do it, but I've seen people actually do that, and they think they're playing clean!
     

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