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Picking technique - a question

MartinPiana

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,466
Recently went to a jazz guitar workshop. Veteran studio guitarist Mitch Holder - incredible player and cool guy - was very firm about picking stroke.

Think single-string picking for the sake of this explanation here: After a picked downstroke, the pick should come to rest briefly on the next string - e.g. if you pick the G string, the pick should end up touching the B string before the next note is plucked. This is called a rest stroke, right?

But on the upstroke, the pick should come away from the strings. He said one key advantage with the rest stroke for downstrokes is that it teaches your hands the distance between the strings. Plausible?

Is this the way all you great players do it?

Unless I'm playing a sweeping sequence of strings, I've always lifted the pick away from the strings on both the upstroke and downstroke. For years and years. The last two weeks, I've been working on re-training myself on the downstroke - the scales and arpeggios are getting faster, but are nowhere near my normal speed yet. And when I stop focusing on the stroke, it reverts.
 
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axecutioner18

Member
Messages
24
Id say everybody does what they feel is comfortable. I mean Marty Friedman shreds with that picking style which looks like his wrist has bent out of position. I think the important thing about technique is to be flexible and relaxed. I have noticed one common thing about all great guitarists, they always do what they are comfortable with. So I suggest you dont be firm with what Holder said about picking stroke and build your own technique based on what you feel comfortable. Besides playing over the years you will notice you have subconsciously modified your right hand playing to suit your output.
 

guitarjazz

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
22,191
Recently went to a jazz guitar workshop. Veteran studio guitarist Mitch Holder - incredible player and cool guy - was very firm about picking stroke.

Think single-string picking for the sake of this explanation here: After a picked downstroke, the pick should come to rest briefly on the next string - e.g. if you pick the G string, the pick should end up touching the B string before the next note is plucked. This is called a rest stroke, right?

But on the upstroke, the pick should come away from the strings. He said one key advantage with the rest stroke for downstrokes is that it teaches your hands the distance between the strings. Plausible?

Is this the way all you great players do it?

Unless I'm playing a sweeping sequence of strings, I've always lifted the pick away from the strings on both the upstroke and downstroke. For years and years. The last two weeks, I've been working on re-training myself on the downstroke - the scales and arpeggios are getting faster, but are nowhere near my normal speed yet. And when I stop focusing on the stroke, it reverts.
I know guys that play that way and burn...jazz players. The rest stroke and free stroke concepts can both be put to use.
Mitch Holder, too cool. Ever see his book: Quadraphonic Fingering?
 

dsimon665

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
645
there are many ways to mechanically move the pick - e.g. forearm, wrist, elbow.
plus you have the pick edge, pick angle - like benson uses an unorthodox tech for that.

In addition: pick material, string size, pick thickness all come into play with picking tech.

e.g. thin strings and thin pick not so great imo. thick pick thin strings ok. thin pick thick strings ok. thick pick thick strings is a little tiring on my picking wrist. etc.


on a downstroke to get the pick to go up (away from the guitar body) I would usually pronate my forearm
(the pronation can be ever so slight and many players don't recognize they are doing this)
the reason to do this is if I have to do an upstroke on a higher string on the next picking motion (e.g. strict alternate picking)

otherwise my pick is going into the strings (towards the guitar body on downstrokes, away from the guitar body on upstrokes)
similar to a rest stroke - on rest stroke the pick is going to rest on the next higher string on a downstroke.

rest stroke is a different tech. that you could use for different reasons - one being if you are playing in an 'economy picking' style.
another reason would be for arpeggiation
but bass players do it for tone

please check Troy Grady's research into the matter. He is on to something IMO. After just watching the free material I could see a lot of the things he has discovered in my own playing.
 
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buddastrat

Member
Messages
14,690
What OP is describing is what the Django style is based around, the rest stroke on the downstroke, and not the upstroke. It's good for certain things but bad for others. For instance inside picking between two adjacent strings is difficult because your hand needs to be at a different angle entirely. Also descending sweep picking is difficult because the pick will is at the wrong angle too. The gypsy style tends to favor downstrokes and that gives that sound they get. The style and way you pick will very much define your playing and phrasing. There are many, many ways and positions. Each has it's pros and cons.
 

blueworm

Member
Messages
3,203
What OP is describing is what the Django style is based around, the rest stroke on the downstroke, and not the upstroke
Indeed. Rest stroke is the basis of what would be later called 'economy picking'. Django is the pioneer of it.

Good examples here:
(For single string w/ rest stroke: check the E string tremolo at around 2:01)

It's not only for jazz stuffs. Rest stoke can be used to elude an upstroke and do hammer-on or pull-off instead on the upper string. It's more for articulation / tone purpose. It's used in country / bluegrass. I believe Clarence White used that a lot.
 

ShawnH

Member
Messages
1,387
So I have been studying on Bryan Sutton's artistworks video exchange website - which is incredible by the way. There is a huge amount of focus put on picking hand and arm technique and he has spent years developing his thoughts on the matter - and it shows in the tone he can pull from an acoustic guitar. With respect to what you are asking there is an inward motion (towards the guitar or into the strings however you want to look at it) on the downstroke and an outward motion on the upstroke. You don't need to do an actual rest stroke on every downstroke - although that would be a good way to practice this motion if you are not used to it. And there certainly are times when a rest stroke sounds very powerful. But as someone already said - if you need to pick another note with the very next upstroke a full rest stroke is going to slow you down. I typically use a full rest stroke if I am going to hammer or pull the next note or if the duration of the note will be longer.

To summarize Bryan's teachings on picking hand/arm:

1. Relaxed and free of tension is rule #1
2. Both wrist and forearm (elbow?) should at least be allowed to be active
3. Slight break in the wrist - should see space between wrist and guitar - no planting the wrist on the bridge
4. Rotation in on downstrokes and out on upstrokes
5. Pick angle is generally always slightly down/forward ?? - watching him extensively I notice that this is even more so on certain upstrokes
6. Keep the motion going even when not picking a note

So there's a lot more but I would say that is the basics and it has improved my picking a lot. The challenge comes on electric guitar because muting unwanted ringing notes becomes a huge challenge. On the acoustic and in the style that Bryan plays you want those ringing notes. So take it for what it's worth.
 
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blueworm

Member
Messages
3,203
The challenge comes on electric guitar because muting unwanted ringing notes becomes a huge challenge
Yes, that's true. And this is quite important by the way. Personally I think here point #3 ("should see space between wrist and guitar") has to be adapted for electric (playing with distortion) and instead kind of anchor the wrist/palm on the bridge and rotate more - hence use more the wrist and less the forearm/elbow than for acoustic.

an outward motion on the upstroke
This is a bit what Eric Johnson refers as the "bounce technique". Actually when you land on a string with a rest stroke it allows you to 'bounce' the next upstroke / adjacent upper string powerfully. Guitarist Brad Davis shows this in his "Double-Down Up" technique.
 

buddastrat

Member
Messages
14,690
You can go crazy over analyzing all the different ways of picking....Benson has a great style, Django...EVH..SRV all use completely different approach and form. when we see a guy play his stuff well, we tend to think they can do it all, but they can't. they do what they do, well. There is no perfect way to pick.
 

MartinPiana

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,466
There may be no perfect way to pick, but between Mitch Holder's lessons (he did give us a Cliffs Notes version of his quadraphonic technique) and this thread, I'm become a lot more aware of my right hand and what I'm doing with it. (Mitch said, "This stuff is for practice - don't think about it when you're playing. This is to teach your hands so they know what to do when you're playing.) So thanks all. That Steve Morse video is making my head explode.... Hope more people will share their thoughts.
 

MartinPiana

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,466
For now, I'm sticking out practicing Mitch Holder's rest stroke picking for the downstroke and may have had breakthrough. My wrist has decided to become more of a participant and the angle of my downstroke is changing. It feels clumsy right now but also feels like it's more efficient once I make it habit....
 

ShawnH

Member
Messages
1,387
I don't know how long you have been playing - but changing any of these mechanical "habits" is so challenging. It can be quite rewarding but man it's tough. I feel pretty lucky that even though I was more or less 100% self-taught - I don't have any really bad habits. Lots of little ones but nothing that I feel like I have to totally change.
 

great-case.com

a.k.a. "Mitch"
Messages
5,748
Pinch me, please. The Goofball Page appears to be discussing an important guitar topic, and everyone seems to be cooperating - adding valuable insights and advice. I must be dreaming!!!

To the OP: Awesome post, thanks! Think of this as one of many new styles you should tackle and wait till you begin bluegrass! Stick with the workouts.

New picking styles will not slow you down for long and once you have them in your toolbox, you'll be a more flexible and capable guitarist. There is no right or wrong way to do this... each technique has it's advantages. Bluegrass has challenged me to pick with diligence but the pickin' tricks do not supplant my previous styles - unless the previous style was a Bad Habit.

Example: 30 years ago, someone told me I was picking wrong. I had been doing it for ten years and it was tough to eliminate from my bag of habits. I would turn the pick about 45° from the string, thinking it would roll off easier and allow faster picking. Although it did allow me to flutter on the strings, it sounded horrible, scratchy and it ate up my picks leaving a pile of pick-dust under my strings. Picking with less than 10° between pick and string is critical!
 

Ned B

Member
Messages
8
I wanted to add to the Django/gypsy picking angle. This technique is more about sound than speed or efficiency. One of the main "rules" is that when changing to a new string the first stroke is a down stroke no matter where you came from with your last stroke. So when transferring from the D string to the G whether you're doing an up-stroke, down-stroke or 2 down-strokes it's pretty efficient. However, if doing a descending arpeggio and following the gypsy picking rules you would be doing all down-strokes. Try that on one note per string arpeggios. If you watch youtubes of Jimmy Rosenberg and Stochelo Rosenberg they are getting this done with speed and the sound is very strong. Raking technique probably does work that great on the Selmer style acoustic.
 

guitarjazz

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
22,191
there are many ways to mechanically move the pick - e.g. forearm, wrist, elbow.
plus you have the pick edge, pick angle - like benson uses an unorthodox tech for that.

In addition: pick material, string size, pick thickness all come into play with picking tech.

e.g. thin strings and thin pick not so great imo. thick pick thin strings ok. thin pick thick strings ok. thick pick thick strings is a little tiring on my picking wrist. etc.


on a downstroke to get the pick to go up (away from the guitar body) I would usually pronate my forearm
(the pronation can be ever so slight and many players don't recognize they are doing this)
the reason to do this is if I have to do an upstroke on a higher string on the next picking motion (e.g. strict alternate picking)

otherwise my pick is going into the strings (towards the guitar body on downstrokes, away from the guitar body on upstrokes)
similar to a rest stroke - on rest stroke the pick is going to rest on the next higher string on a downstroke.

rest stroke is a different tech. that you could use for different reasons - one being if you are playing in an 'economy picking' style.
another reason would be for arpeggiation
but bass players do it for tone

please check Troy Grady's research into the matter. He is on to something IMO. After just watching the free material I could see a lot of the things he has discovered in my own playing.
I heard Morse, (I was standing about three feet away), warm up, unplugged, in a recording studio 20-some years ago. He can play like that clean. I don't know why there is so much grind on his tone in the video.
Grady's research is on to something but like Tuck's treatise, once I have to get a calculus book out, it loses me, even with all the groovy animation.
 

Brad8008135

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,204
He said one key advantage with the rest stroke for downstrokes is that it teaches your hands the distance between the strings. Plausible?
Your hands will learn the distance just from the act of picking itself, so I'm not sure there's any advantage in using a rest stroke for that sole reason. Check out Troy Grady's picking videos if you haven't already; there's a lot to wade through, but it's worth it.

 

amstrtatnut

Member
Messages
12,716
All my teachers have told me to pick how its comfortable, including Tuck Andress.

I have attempted to modify my picking but I think it is what it is at this point.

Just yesterday I was watching Eric Gales and started wondering what if all over again.
 

dsimon665

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
645
In the interview with Steve Morse, Steve mentions he popped a tendon in his picking hand after playing Tumeni Notes and Stressfest back to back. (He says the bass player chose the setlist)

He can pick using a couple different techniques - the primary one being the unusual "flamingo" hand position (where he anchors his pinky parallel to the high E.) He can also pick using an elbow technique - he says the elbow technique is faster in general. However he likes the "flamingo" technique because switching strings is no different in speed than staying on the same string for him.

Steve's "flamingo" technique uses wrist flexion/extension (like knocking on a door) which is pretty unusual for picking technique.

In general I don't use an elbow technique, but I've been looking into it - primary use would be with the pick angled upward (opposite of rest stroke angle)

When the pick is angled upward I tend to use wrist deviation (a common way to move the pick). When the pick is angled downward (my primary tech.) I use forearm rotation. Both styles I also use fingers. I'm trying to use one tech. only just to experiment (like making sure I don't use fingers, or not using wrist when using forearm).

As far as picking styles and sound...one thing is the pick edge. As you change techniques you might want the same sound - so you have to adjust the pick to get the same edge striking the strings.

Even if you don't change technique, you might adjust how you're holding your pick in order to keep the same edge. (in order to keep the same sound as you move to different strings). Some of this depends on how you hold your picking hand (e.g. anchored or floating)

The way the hand moves (or doesn't move) when changing strings can be another area of study.

When you watch people play, these edge adjustments can be analyzed once you know what to look for.
One thing to look for is the way the thumb is positioned on the pick relative to the rest of the hand...e.g. how much daylight is there between the thumb and forefinger.

Conversely : Edge adjustments can signify a few things like picking angle (like rest stroke or the opposite) or simple hand anchoring effects. So detecting edge adjustments can shed light on the actual picking tech. someone is using.
 
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