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Flatpick angle

Wildwind

Member
Messages
1,718
After playing for many years, I recently came to realize my pick is hitting the strings square or nearly square, rather than on an angle. I'm working now to overcome that and have already seen some improvements in articulation, speed, and tone. It's a hard habit to break.

My question is: how much of an angle should I strive for? Anything other than square, or are there substantial gains to be had by increasing that angle? I haven't found an answer to this elsewhere.

I'm almost strictly an electric player, not a shredder but fairly fast at times. Much of my style is predicated on pick pressure changes and I always use a lot of "skin" and tend to bury the pick in my fingers.

Any help is appreciated. Thanks - Greg
 

cue311

Member
Messages
1,055
Hey,

I also use a lot of skin, better control for me. I use different angles depending on the pressure I am using and the sound I am going for. I hate to be that guy, but I think you should go with what sounds best and works best for you :)
 

kena48

Member
Messages
262
I was taught early to use a VERY heavy pick. I catch myself using a very square angle and sometimes other angles. I wouldn't over think that too much. One day, you may impress yourself with a cool rhythm, and discover you are muting stings with your palm and angling the pick dramatically and aiming it at the neck. And you’ll say, "holy crap, I did that unconscientiously to get that tone!"
 
Messages
7,039
Sounds like you are on the right track..."Anything other than square."
Perfectly flat to the strings is generally a tone that lacks body—thin and unfocused. I really only see rank beginners do that anyway. A very slight angle is important, of course the tone changes as the angle increases. Read the Tuck Andress article on picking.
 

ivers

Member
Messages
4,262
There's not one way, and it depends on what sound you prefer.

Personally I use what i call a rest-stroke technique a lot, at least for acoustic, clean and semi-gainy stuff. (For metal riffing for example it can be too smooth and nice)
In principle kinda similar to flamenco technique, in that I stop the string from vibrating, then apply pressure until a new note is struck.

It requires a bunch of dedication, like flamenco techniques, but it allows for a
nice, full sound. To my ears at least :)

Oh, and I believe this technique means the pick is flat to the string when it's
through the string, but it seems it has some kinda angle to it when starting the
movement. It's always interesting to try and figure out what really happens
technically, and sometimes I'm not quite sure.
 
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Wildwind

Member
Messages
1,718
Thanks everyone, will come back later when I have more time - but Ivers - most intriguing. I will investigate that further. Is there a source I can check into?

It does confirm, as others have added, the tone is paramount and sometimes technically "wrong" technique is ideal. I've always played to tone and feel I've done so successfully. These thoughts help validate that.

But I'd run into passages that would almost always cause me to stumble, which is what got me looking at this. Angling the pick definitely changes the tone (better on the gain-y stuff IMO, unsure on the clean stuff as of yet) and those challenging passages are now played more cleanly or faster. Or both.
 

buddastrat

Member
Messages
14,689
Be careful, a lot of angle leads to a thin tone because you end up slicing the string instead of hitting it full on. The angle of the dangle matters for tone too. I prefer a sleight angle with the thumb angled down, also do a lot of rest strokes like Ivers. Gets a real good solid tone. Upwards angle with thumb locked can get a thin tone on the wound strings to my ears.

Experiment, your hands, your pick choice, it all matters. There is no right way. I'd always go for the tone I want first, and work the technique second.
 

toddinjax@yahoo

Senior Member
Messages
580
My question is: how much of an angle should I strive for?

About 45 degrees is good. Right in the middle of flat on and 90*(sideways).
 

Wildwind

Member
Messages
1,718
I don't think I'm anywhere near 45 degrees. Half that maybe. I'm also using V-Picks, so it's beveled already.

But yes, I did notice a brighter tone with the angle, which does come in handy at times and not at all some other times. I've also noticed that pinch harmonics (and variations thereof) are more pronounced, which was a happy discovery.

So I'm thinking "anything but flat" is most desirable for picking fluency, then adjust for tone, right? And that a single way isn't a good thing.

For years, I would actually hold my pick between my thumb and second finger, with the index just kind of keeping it steady and barely touching. That still creates a favored rhythm tone for me. The only lead player I ever saw do that was Steve Morse, a man capable of serious speed. Even he doesn't recommend it.

This is proving more interesting than I thought. I had believed that most of y'all were quite rigid in how you picked, not sure why I thought that. Probably because I always feel like the guy who isn't doing it quite right.
 

guitarjazz

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
23,098
For what it's worth: practicing in front of a mirror can solve many technical issues, mainly 'cause you can see if the motion is awkward.
 

Wildwind

Member
Messages
1,718
I've been doing that at times since I made the change, swiped my daughter's makeup mirror (round on a stand you can angle). It helps, as you can't always tell the angle from your usual perspective.
 

Jeremy_Green

Member
Messages
1,159
If there is one thing I have learned it's that you should try it a new way often. Light pick, heavy pick, angle, flat, fingers, lots of flesh, no flesh, point of the pick, shoulder of the pick, different materials etc.

I was a staunch small rigid pick guy (angled of course mostly).. for Years! Decades. Then one day I tried a bigger pick (I kept dropping the little Jazz IIIs - so I went up to the XL size)... HOLY crap what a difference. More comfort, better technique all of a sudden... Then I went to a standard Dunlop Yellow (medium gauge)... LOVED the tone... So I flipped it and used the shoulder instead of the point... EVEN BETTER!

Which each of these unforeseen refinements my picking technique seemed to improve too?? What the?

So as i say - every once in a while switch EVERYTHING up! They all create different tones and subtleties too... So you need to understand as many as you can ultimately.
 

Cary Chilton

Senior Member
Messages
4,471
Joe Satriani told me that when he had pondered picking angle, styles & approaches, he learned all that he could. I felt the answer to my question was too general, but it was correct. 4 years later, I have learned everything -for now at least- that I want to know about picking. I can similarly advise - generally (as you need to find what works for you and only you) to be flexible to change your picking with ANY situation : acoustic vs electric, set up and action and str gauge, neck profile, style of music, pick material and gauge etc. I have many types of picks for these situations. My favorite plektrum materials for rock music are, if of any interest: V picks traditional, stiletto, switchblade, Dunlop Ultex, Dunlop Tortex Wedge, Dunlop Gator, Fender or Ernieball Heavy, Pickboy Metacarbonate. Most of the gauges are heavier meaning 1.0 -2.0mm... However I do like a nice .88mm at times. For Jazz I do like the Dunlop Jazz XL's (I feel the red and black sound or respond slightly different -the black being stiffer imo) or Delrin 1.0+mm. For acoustic (strumming or Gypsy stuff, I use the Jazz III XL or Fender Heavy or a heavy The Tradion V pick. I should say that Vinni at V-picks has the widest shape and gauge selection of picks anywhere! V-picks sound a little like a cross between a Fender and Utlex mixed with a bit of Tortex and they are non-slip~ heat activated! Cool.

I should say I find my self experimenting with the character ( eq & envelope of the note [signal] or attack ) via picking angle, force and material/gauge. Also generally, I feel most comfortable with the pick near to parallel to the string for slow melodies and varying degrees of sharper angles with fast stuff.
 
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Wildwind

Member
Messages
1,718
Excellent points.

I do keep a selection of widely varied picks nearby and grab them at different times. They include several V-Pick models, my old faithful Dunlop Stubbies, Tortex (1.0), a Graphtech Tusq pick, and a few others. Even the freebie Gravity pick (which I really like but am sticking with the Vs for now).

And I do change picks for acoustic (even the acoustic V-Picks don't thrill me there), but for electric I don't see any great need to change. I know some guys will change for certain rhythm things. I just change my technique, but have recently thought about changing picks (which is partly why the pile next to me exists).

As for Satriani - I think I get it. He came to peace with his choices and range of skills and quit sweating it. Works for me - just trying to get to that point. It's the one kind of evolution I do believe in.
 

Cary Chilton

Senior Member
Messages
4,471
Excellent points.

I do keep a selection of widely varied picks nearby and grab them at different times. They include several V-Pick models, my old faithful Dunlop Stubbies, Tortex (1.0), a Graphtech Tusq pick, and a few others. Even the freebie Gravity pick (which I really like but am sticking with the Vs for now).

And I do change picks for acoustic (even the acoustic V-Picks don't thrill me there), but for electric I don't see any great need to change. I know some guys will change for certain rhythm things. I just change my technique, but have recently thought about changing picks (which is partly why the pile next to me exists).
Just don't settle. Evolve to the task. By learning this, I can play 6-10hours pain-free, something I couldn't do after started developing tendonitis years ago. Andy Timmons wrote back to me at the time and said tendonitis sucks and he had to worth through it, that he had it but not anymore. I thought he was joking because I saw no way out of it! Eventually I did, so I youtube tendonitis video, but learning how to cock-the wrist (eventhough you can't see the difference), stopping the pick quickly as soon as passing the string, sharper pick angle for shredding, oh and using ECONOMY picking whenever and where-ever the natural movement of the hand-wrist wants to be is paramount.... don't get caught up in: " I should be doing an upstroke here but...." I was kinda of Paul Gilbert's mindset from the beginning, strictly alternate picking no matter what the riff -shape was and for me, that was anatomically no correct for me. I am not 6 4' so I need to be mindful about efficiency. I think it is useful to be less strict on pick stoppage and efficiency for blues. Slow bluesy sounds better when parallel picked imo. Faster tempo blues, slightly angled. Another I sometimes fall prey to as keeping loose - particularly when struggling with a new piece or riff or meticulous timing or speed improvements. Keeping posture erect but loose, both wrists, thumbs, elbows and shoulders loose and available/ready. If your anchoring on the bridge a lot, your probably tired or too tensed up struggling.... all of this effects your picking accuracy, timing and angle, too. ;) Good luck
 

Wildwind

Member
Messages
1,718
Excellent stuff, Cary. Thanks. Much to think about.

FWIW, I'm not a strict alternate picking guy either. Much depends on how I want the note to sound or how I want it to feel. I've long since given up on being a warp-speed shredder.

And I used to anchor on the bridge in the early days, but for the last 30 years or so (been playing about 45), I more or less float over the strings in varied ways dependent on what I'm doing. I'm glad there are other good reasons for doing that.
 

Cary Chilton

Senior Member
Messages
4,471
Excellent stuff, Cary. Thanks. Much to think about.

FWIW, I'm not a strict alternate picking guy either. Much depends on how I want the note to sound or how I want it to feel. I've long since given up on being a warp-speed shredder.

And I used to anchor on the bridge in the early days, but for the last 30 years or so (been playing about 45), I more or less float over the strings in varied ways dependent on what I'm doing. I'm glad there are other good reasons for doing that.
No worries! You should be teaching me! :) I float over the strings more than not, my palm-muting tend to be more like pick-muting when at a sharp angle.
 






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