1. The Rules have been updated regarding posting as a business on TGP. Thread with details here: Thread Here
    Dismiss Notice

Ways to stop using elbow when speed picking?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by rich2k4, Feb 12, 2008.

  1. rich2k4

    rich2k4 Supporting Member

    Messages:
    2,192
    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2005
    i was watching a guthrie govan lesson on alternate picking, and he along with many people perfer to use their wrist when doing fast alternate picking.

    problem with me is, when i go slow, i can use my wrist perfectly fine. as soon as i start getting any type of excellerated speed, i start using my elbow, i can feel my arm tense up, and i can't do it for for more then 10-15 seconds.

    guthrie says you should be able to do it for a very long time without getting tired, if you use your wrist.

    how can i train myself to not use my elbow when getting to greater speeds? it seems like it is an automatic reaction my body makes. seems to me like it would be tough to train yourself not to.
     
  2. trazan

    trazan Member

    Messages:
    807
    Joined:
    May 13, 2006
    Location:
    Norway
    Practice ;)

    Don't play faster than you can play completely relaxed. It takes time and patience but you'll get there. The tension tells me that you're trying to rush it and it does the technique and arm no good.
     
    johnhager25 likes this.
  3. rich2k4

    rich2k4 Supporting Member

    Messages:
    2,192
    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2005
    ya know it's funny, because i have attempted the speed picking thing before.

    i would do what people like paul gilbert, etc said. slow the licks down a use a metronome. i did just that and would increase the speed as i got comfortable, but would never be able to reach a very fast speed like they could.

    i never knew why, and would always just say it's probably because some people can just play fast, and others cannot.

    after watching that guthrie govan alternate picking lesson today, the first thing he mentioned was "take 1 note, start alternate picking slow, and then increase the speed"

    like i said, i decided to try this and came to the revolutionary discovery as to why i could never achieve those great speeds. because i would tense up and use my elbow and high speeds, i just could not realize it earlier.

    now that i know this, i went back and looked at paul gilberts right hand, and sure enough he's using his wrist 100% of the time, you do not see his elbow move, and no tension can be seen.

    guthrie govan has a similar technique.
     
  4. Bryan T

    Bryan T Guitar Owner Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    16,736
    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2002
    You might try working on alternate picking while palm muting. If your hand is constrained by palm muting, then it makes it really difficult to pick from the elbow.

    Starting slowly and building speed, while being mindful of increased tension is an excellent way to go.

    Having said all that, I notice a number of players switch to picking more from the elbow when they play fast.

    Bryan
     
  5. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

    Messages:
    14,735
    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2005
    If you watch the 2nd Gilbert instructional video from hotlicks you see some arm movement on his fast stuff for certain things. Same with Petrucci. It's slight and more like it's vibrating, but moving nonetheless. Vinnie Moore used his arm a ton. Playing with wrist, arm, circle pick etc.. is not the real problem. The real one is tension.

    It took me a long time to get it. I used to play very much from the arm and tense. I'd practice so much I could do it pretty good, but had a lot of tendonitis. I'm left handed but play right handed. I actually retaught myself to write right handed to gain that motor skill stuff. It helped my playing a ton.
     
  6. AndrewMartinMusic

    AndrewMartinMusic Member

    Messages:
    210
    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2005
    Location:
    Boston, Ma
    I don't think some people can play faster than others, but I do know that some people spend more time practicing to play fast than others. You might be underestimating how much practice people like Paul Gilbert had to do to be able to play at that level. Seriously, I went to music school and some guys would run scales over a metronome all day. It takes a lot of time to be able to play as fast as guys like Paul Gilbert. I will say that if you do want to play in that style, then you absolutely can't use your elbow or you will hurt it, in time. If you are going to throw in some speedy type runs every now and again, it's okay to use your elbow. I guess it would be best if a guitarist always picked from the wrist (for fast single note runs) but obviously the less of that you do, the less you would be susceptible to a repetitive stress injury (duh!).
     
  7. brad347

    brad347 Member

    Messages:
    4,807
    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2006
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    a few things:

    First of all, try lightening up with your right hand. Not just slowing down, but practice picking lightly. Sometimes people shy away from this because they don't get the tone/sound they want unless they 'dig in' really hard.

    But much like "working up" to fast tempi, you have to work up to the point where you can play fast and dig in at the same time. What you will probably end up realizing (especially if you record your practice sessions) is that you don't need to dig in as hard as you think you do to get a sound, especially at a fast tempo.

    Start practicing very slowly and very lightly, to where it feels weird. Play quietly and softly and barely hard enough to produce a sound, and with just enough firmness to keep the pick from flopping around.

    Second thing: In addition to wrist and elbow, focus on your shoulder, neck, and back. As much or more than the elbow and wrist, unnecessary muscle tension (the enemy of fast, efficient picking) lives in the shoulder, neck, and wrist. pretend that your arm is falling out of its socket... so relaxed. Picture making your upper arm sit so low that you actually have to bend your elbow more to compensate (you'll get the picture when you try it).

    Thirdly, there is a big mental component. It is easy to get daunted by the 'goal' and lose the 'process.' You have to mentally slow down too and not be too focused on the target or you will get overwhelmed and frustrated. Let your mind go and allow yourself to find the joy in the entire process, from the very beginning all the way up through the 'goal tempo.' Learn to love even the 'plateaus' where you will sit for awhile.

    Finally, effortlessness is the only way. If you cannot play something effortlessly at a given tempo, it is not time to move on yet. Don't think in terms of metronome markings or hours/days/years spent. Observe your body and your feelings and the sounds that are made, and let those things tell you when it is time to move on.

    Good luck.
     
  8. Baggins

    Baggins Member

    Messages:
    128
    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2006
    Location:
    Central New York
    Just a simple suggestion that hasn't been made yet, but goes along with the excellent advice so far, -try a thicker pick if you're not already using one. I went to a V-pick due to the hype on TGP, and it's relaxed my grip and improved my picking.
    -I'm in no way associated with them, either...-just a bedroom player who likes speedy alternate picking.

    -Chris

    p.s. it's the V-pick small pointed. -feels most like a good jazz pick
     
  9. Kappy

    Kappy Member

    Messages:
    14,044
    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2005
    Location:
    West Village, NYC
    Not really a good example to back up your assertion b/c he had problems with his arm and had to completely re-work his technique after the '80s and early '90s.

    I took the Paul Gilbert approach probably b/c he was one of the best pickers I got to meet in person who was also willing to explain the action he uses. It's very loose. He likened it to turning a key in a keyhole/slot, very loose and relaxed -- almost all action from the wrist and no anchoring of any kind (something Howard Roberts used to preach too). No one can avoid using their elbow a little bit, if only to act as a stylus/pivot arm for moving the gyrating wrist over the strings. But over-involvement of the elbow, to me, is a recipe for elbow problems. Not to mention the entire lower arm is a much bigger, heavier thing to move than your hand on a pivoting wrist, so using your elbow a lot has a problem with the laws of physics too (if speed is your goal).

    Gilbert has that one exercise that he always says to do, it's comprised of 8 notes played on 2 adjacent strings, starting with an up-stroke and just cycling that over and over "until it sounds like a popsicle stick in the spokes of your bicycle". Guthrie Govan (who I agree is influenced in picking style by Gilbert) has also given this same exact exercise in GT articles (and I think in one his technique books)

    If you haven't done that rudimentary thing without trying to force the speed by tensing up, then you really haven't learned what they're teaching regarding picking.
     
  10. JohnM

    JohnM Member

    Messages:
    686
    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2008
    Location:
    Virginia
    One of the best pickers I've ever seen is Chris Thile (the mandolin player.)
    He has amazing control and speed and plays from the wrist with no tension in his arm at all. All strict alternate picking.
    Same with bluegrasser David Grier.
     
  11. 900

    900 Member

    Messages:
    427
    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2005
    Paul Gilbert doesn't anchor with his fingers, but with his forearm and with the heel of his hand. You can see it in all his vids or for ex. here , especially starting from about 1:20.
     
  12. Kappy

    Kappy Member

    Messages:
    14,044
    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2005
    Location:
    West Village, NYC
    I see what you mean. That looks to me like muting more than anchoring (for instance when anchoring your ring finger or pinky to the pickguard while you pick with your other fingers -- as a habit). I mean, is there anyone who can play with that much gain without having to keep contract with the strings to stop sympathetic string noise? Anyway, here's one a little more close-up that shows he's not really dependent on the hand position he uses for muting.
     
  13. Satyrist

    Satyrist Member

    Messages:
    316
    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2008
    I've been working hard on this for a few years now, after coming to the sobering realization of exactly how sloppy my picking was. I'm still a long way from anything like the Gilbert/Govan level of facility, but everything folks have written about just taking it slow is right. I started running the standard 1-2-3-4 chromatics at 60bpm, and now it's up to 110. So slow and steady does win the race.

    i'm particularly interested in the issue of anchoring. I tend to rest my pinkie on the guitar, which I learned from watching Steve Morse. But I've noticed that doing that tends to create a bit of muscle tension ... plus, Shawn Lane doesn't seem to have anchored, and that's a pretty good argument against it. Any other observations about this?
     
  14. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

    Messages:
    14,735
    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2005
     
  15. trazan

    trazan Member

    Messages:
    807
    Joined:
    May 13, 2006
    Location:
    Norway
    If you want to study right hand technique, there's probably none better than Shawn Lane. It's not my style of music, but his right hand is so unstrained, powerful and free. His support is mostly in base of the palm.

    That said, it's very hard to understand technique just by watching others. It might change with speed, type of phrasing etc. Get the general idea, stop focusing on it and just practice relaxed. Focus on relaxed. As soon as you focus on doing it like someone else, you're most probably forcing your hand into an awkward position.
     
  16. brad347

    brad347 Member

    Messages:
    4,807
    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2006
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Another great right hand to check out is Clint Strong.
     
  17. yZe

    yZe Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,239
    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2006
    Location:
    Tampa, on the Territory of Florida (D.C. Free Zone
    YESIREE !

    You must be from the DFW, huh?

    He uses the little picks w/ 2 fingers and angles it from right top to left down
     
  18. brad347

    brad347 Member

    Messages:
    4,807
    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2006
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    lived in denton from 2000-2005
     
  19. Satyrist

    Satyrist Member

    Messages:
    316
    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2008
    Excellent point. I do try to remain conscious of when I tense up, and avoid it. And there's no question that, in the actual heat of battle (jamming, recording etc...) when you're in the zone, you're not thinking about any of this stuff. It just flows.

    I've found anchoring seems to work best/be most natural on the higher strings. I seem to instinctualy anchor lightly when I'm focusing on the top 2 or 3, then lose the anchor if the action moves to the middle and lower strings.
     

Share This Page