Picking hand forarm tension

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by dcarroll, Jan 22, 2012.

  1. dcarroll

    dcarroll Member

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    Hi All,

    I am working on revamping my picking technique and trying to only user wrist motion for alternate picking. I have been very frustrated with my picking technique, been playing for 6 years as a lefty playing right handed.

    I am almost ready to switch to left handed guitar as I have hit a real wall with picking, my wrist and hand just wont physically move quickly or smoothly.

    I am trying to take it very slow. Playing whole notes at 60bmp, practicing my scales and such. One thing I have noticed is that my forarm starts to experience tension the faster I try to pick from my wrist. To the point where my forarm and arm clenches up. I can see this happening as I try to pick faster.

    Any ideas on how to isolate and prevent tension? I am going unbelievably slow when practicing.

    Maybe I should have started left handed??? :bonk:omg:omg
     
  2. dvuksanovich

    dvuksanovich Member

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    I think the whole "only move your wrist" thing is counterproductive. You are likely experiencing tension in your forearm because you're trying to keep your elbow from moving. If you want to work on gaining control over the motion of your wrist, that's great and it will help you, but forcing your elbow to not move will work against you.

    It's a bit counter-intuitive but I actually recommend moving MORE when you play slowly. Yes, as you speed up your movements will need to get more efficient, but the tension you're experiencing right now likely stems from trying to overcontrol every little thing... and there's a big difference between control and overcontrol.

    When you build speed, instead of increasing bit by bit, try "chunking" instead. These are rapid flurries of just a few notes... sometimes only two notes. The idea here is to feel the difference between slow playing and fast playing (and there IS a difference). Get an idea of what it feels like to play faster with those little bursts and then take that feeling and work on it at a slower tempo to gain control over it.

    Hope this helps.
     
  3. Ethn Hayabusa

    Ethn Hayabusa Member

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    Try different grips, as well.

    Study how Mclaughlin, Morse, Timmons, Govan, Dweezil Zappa, and a few others pick.

    They all have different ways of grasping the pick, and that influences which type of forearm movement you are utilizing. If you grip the pick one way it causes side to side "windshield wiper" motion, but if you grip it another you have Radius/Ulna rotation, sort of like the cliche "Miss America" wave.

    Pay attention to what your right hand thumb is doing. I don't personally think it's bad if your thumb joint moves, but be aware of it if it is, and get control over it.

    The left vs. right thing is a non issue, in my experience. I'm left handed, and play the standard way. Same for Steve Morse, and Vinnie Moore, both of whom are excellent alternate pickers.

    Posture, and breathing also affect these things. without seeing you play or knowing you, I don't know how much more advice I could give you.
     
  4. dcarroll

    dcarroll Member

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    Hi All,

    Thank you for the helpful responses.

    I am currently using a floating hand grip with a loosely closed fist. My thumb is pretty rigid.

    I am trying to isolate the side to side wrist motion (like waving miss america) because my picking had a TONS of bounce in it, especially when crossing strings. Kind of like Eric Johnson's bounce technique but really exaggerated. My hand would move up and down vertically when picking, and I'm trying to lock it down more.

    One thing I can't figure out is how to cross strings quickly. I am practicing the famous paul gilbert lick for that. Unless I turn the pick 45 degrees, I get hung up in the strings. If I turn the pick 45 degrees my tone sounds bad! Arrg!
     
  5. dvuksanovich

    dvuksanovich Member

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    Work on crossing strings accurately before your work on crossing strings quickly. Isolate downstrokes and upstrokes from each other. Play a scale with only downstrokes... then with only upstrokes. One of them will be weaker. Work on the weaker one. Then try your string crossing drills again. Rinse and repeat.

    I might differ from Ethn Hayabusa a bit in that I don't think a rigid pick grip is necessarily a good thing. Think of your fingers as shock absorbers. If they're too loose or too tight you run the risk of getting the pick caught on the strings. Try using your fingers to support the motion of your wrist/arm... upstroke or downstroke. A little motion helped me when playing at slower speeds. To me it still feels like my fingers are moving even when I speed up, but the motions are so small you can't see them.
     
  6. Ethn Hayabusa

    Ethn Hayabusa Member

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    I think something got lost in translation, because I don't think being rigid is ever the answer.
     
  7. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

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    Been there and done just this many times. I'm also a lefty playing righty and played with a lot of forearm movement. It's easy to pick fast right away from the elbow, and then you reinforce that with practicing. It's hard to undo the tension. People that don't have this problem don't understand. They think it's easy, and it is, if you have learned that control since you were 3 years old or whatever. But a lot of leftys have used penciils, forks and many other fine movements with their left hand, and so it is completely foreign to use the finer movements with the right as well.Yes, the pick hand jumps a lot, and there is little control compared to the left hand picking open strings.


    That is the big reason I see, a LOT of times, for us leftys, our right hand doesn't have the finesse and as good of fine motoring as our left. I've seen this so many times with students who are lefty that play righty too. What worked for me and some students of mine, was learning from the left hand, and which movements and muscles or joints to use or not. Trem pick with your left hand, and if you're like many, left is easy with wrist movement. Then you have to try and do the same way with the right hand. Your left hand teaches the right. It's a LONG road, and usually takes a long time. Many give up, or you could switch to lefty if you want. I thought about it, way back but stuck with the righty way, and pushed through and got the speed/accuracy I wanted. Plus there are benefits for your fretting hand.

    Practice in front of a mirror for this exercise. It serves two purposes, to watch and mimic the movements as well as relaxation by visually watching. Man, if you were in Ohio, I could help you out a ton, if you're serious.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2012
  8. Marcfordsfuzz513

    Marcfordsfuzz513 Member

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    I know nothing about technique, or any of that stuff. I just play how it feels comfortable. If I want to learn a new way of doing things, I just make up a few riffs or something and play them with that technique, and slowly build from there.
     
  9. theblackcat

    theblackcat Member

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    If your hand is floating fully, it might be difficult to reduce the picking motion if the whole hand is waving about, you might be creating unnecessary tension in the wrist to counter this, beware. Anchoring some parts/tips of non pickholding fingers might help in minimizing movement - or you'd have to be really precise, like Frank Gambale, a floating hand speed picker.

    I disagree with the idea of dvuksanovich that not moving the elbow might create tension, on the contrary, a lot of elbow pickers have trouble getting up to speed & have pains when they do because of the tension in their elbows. Most effortless pickers are wrist pickers, so I would keep on using wrist only & try to eliminate all tension, building speed gradually over time. good luck, oh, and take a look at what this chap has to say on the matter:

     
  10. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

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    I think Guthrie is a great player, but it looks and sounds like some tension when he's trem picking in that video. Watch his forearm moving up and down. I always notice this with him.

    I see he's doing the Paul Gilbert exercise. Now PG really does move almost all from the wrist, he's the guy to copy if you want very efficient alternating.

    I also like Yngwie and EJ who do move the thumb joints as well, so that contradicts what Guthrie says. I think it has a more fluid sound when you don't lock that up. Many ways to skin a cat.


    His tone is rattling so much too, that guitar needs a setup.
     
  11. tonegangster

    tonegangster Silver Supporting Member

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    You said you have only been playing 6 years, give it some more time.
     
  12. cram

    cram Member

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    In my view, this is a great thing to work through. It's also a very tedious and drawn out advancement as you work through it - unless you're especially good with adaptation.

    I see threads like this come through this forum once in a while. While yes, we can point to great players who sport a rigid style or other similarities to what you're attempting to correct, overwhelmingly I see the guitarists that I admire play with such little effort and play beautifully. That is what I'm after in my work on this topic.

    It's slow to see results and hard to stay consistent with. More and more I notice an increased level of comfort. Things I did awkwardly are getting easier.

    I try to maintain consistency with a metronome. This helps to get me warmed up and keep me from going faster and increasing the slop. I also pick songs we play that are of my own writing or a cover and try to adapt portions or all of the tune in a new way to play it.

    It's great to see the results though.
     
  13. lhallam

    lhallam Member

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    I notice that the majority of speedy pickers use a combination of wrist and elbow.
    The idea here is attempt to stay relaxed as much as possible.

    I have also found that on certain licks that involves going from one string to another, rotation picking (moving the thumb) helps.
     
  14. dcarroll

    dcarroll Member

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    dvuksanovich,

    I am trying scales just using downstrokes or upstrokes as you mentioned.

    One thing I just noticed is that I have way more tension in my forarm and arm on the upstrokes. To get a strong pick attack on an upstoke it tenses up my arm.

    Downstokes are no problem and relaxed.

    Any ideas on how to work on this, thanks again for everyone's help. I want to get past this picking wall so very badly. I am willing to practice to no end to get through it.
     
  15. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

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    I once sat through one half of a football game and did nothing but upstrokes! Taking breaks of course, but I could feel the underdeveloped muscles. Funny thing, I could do it much faster and longer with my left hand as I mentioned earlier.

    Same for trem picking. It was a shocker, how could it be? My left hand never held a pick in it's life, how could it be better at picking than years of practice with my right!!!
     
  16. dcarroll

    dcarroll Member

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    Yes,

    I am trying this right now.

    Downpicking my forarm stays still

    Upstokes want to make it flop around and move

    !!!
     
  17. dvuksanovich

    dvuksanovich Member

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    Buddastrat has it right. Keep working on upstrokes by themselves. Try to find an arm/pick angle where you feel strong and upstrokes are easy. Try crossing strings using only upstrokes. Use your metronome.

    One fun (and enlightening) thing you can do is try relearning some of your favorite licks using only upstrokes. It will turn your brain inside out but it will help you a lot.
     
  18. dvuksanovich

    dvuksanovich Member

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    OOPS! I skipped over the word "don't" in your sentence about moving the thumb joint. My bad.
     
  19. Ethn Hayabusa

    Ethn Hayabusa Member

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  20. dcarroll

    dcarroll Member

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    Pretty interesting,

    Yes, using my left hand (dominant hand) I can pick upstrokes strongly and with little arm motion. This hand has never even held a pick before! WTF.

    Time to get my right hand to match my left I guess! This has been a frustrating journey but I hope I can get through it.
     

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