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Holding the pick has to be the most fundamental starting point after taking the pick out of the box and tuning up. (If you store your pick by threading it between the strings, be sure to remove it before tuning up).

I have spent the last few weeks struggling with picks that keep twisting as I am playing, which makes it difficult to play with confidence.

Fortunately (maybe) I came across an instructional video by Scott Fore on blessi.com.  Along with this there is a video of Scott playing Ragtime Annie which is tremendously inspiring.

In the instructional video, Scott shows how to hold the pick.  Most importantly, he says that the pick should strike the string at a 45 degree angle (not at an angle where the front of the pick hits the string! This produces a raspy sound on wound string) but where the pick is square to string but at a 45 degree angle to the top.  This allows the pick to get off the string quickly.  To do this it is necessary to push with the thumb on the downstroke and push with the forefinger on the upstroke.  This seems to me to make perfect sense.  The catch is, that in order for the pick to bend enough, aside from using paper-thin picks, the finger which is not pushing has to be supporting the pick very loosely.  This will obviously require considerable practice.  Holding the pick loosely also improves the cadence greatly and probably prevents a sore wrist. 

I have been trying to hold the pick back toward the first thumb joint.  This seems to give more torque with less effort.  Moving the forefinger down and back puts more meat on the pick and should tend to hold it steady.  I recently realized that if I move the forefinger so it is in the centre of the pick it is better balanced and does not twist any more.  This means that I can only move the pick back until it is uncomfortable to place the forefinger in its center.  It is likely possible to practice moving the pick back and getting your forefinger used to curling even further, but this may not be worthwhile.

I have now gone back to a normal pick but it is between light and medium while I try to get used to holding it loosely.  It seems to be a matter of balance.  This I estimate will take six months as I try to graduate to a full medium pick. 

The above seems to make sense to me.  I wish there was an instructional video which either confirmed this or presented something better.   If you decide to try this, remember that I know less about this than you do!

Dave 

Views: 1787

Comment by ganon on September 8, 2011 at 9:26am

Scott,

 

Sorry to jump in again, but I am confused. Do you mean that the pick angle to the top of the guitar is 45 degrees (pretty much like a 'standard' rest stroke), i.e., close to the angle that you are pushing down into the top of the guitar before release.

And, that the opening angle between the plane of the pick and the string is around 20 degrees, so that the apex of the obtuse angle of a 'speed' bevel is what rides across the strings - this should not cause rasping on the wound string. On the other hand, if Dave is misinterpreting these two angles and using a 45 deg 'opening' angle so that it the pick rides on the acute knife edge of the bevel, it will certainly cause the rasping he describes (and other problems).

 

ganon

Comment by Scott Fore on September 8, 2011 at 10:50am

If you look at the string as a vertical plane, the angle of the pick to that plane is 45 degrees or so.  With my technique, there is an instant where the pick contacts the string before slicing or pushing/pulling through the string.  This is different than what I see others do, which is hitting or striking the string.  If you were to hit a wire with a bat or stick that would be what I see others do and what I do would be the equivalent to pulling a bow string back before releasing it.  One way gives you more control than the other in my estimation.  When the pick pushes through the string the string, the string leaps off of the end of the pick which gives the player more control over tone, dynamics, etc.  It also uses the strongest muscles as leverage and seems to allow for the least movement of the larger muscle groups.  It's more efficient.  

 

Regarding the edge of the pick, beveling the edge at a 45  degree angle gives the best tone.  Some pick manufacturers such as Wegen and Blue chip pre bevel their picks.  Also if you are a left-handed player, your picks will need to be beveled in the opposite direction from a right handed pick.

Comment by Scott Fore on September 8, 2011 at 12:23pm
The angle is 45 - 50 degrees (what you describe as 20 degrees).  The conventional rest stroke is fine; however, it can hamper your speed.  Tony does use a similar approach, as do Roy Buchanan, Al DiMeola, etc.  They sometimes call it "circle picking"; although, the pick does not move in a circle but an arc.  My technique is thumb/index articulation.
Comment by ganon on September 8, 2011 at 12:24pm

ps ~ I know the answer, it is quite obvious (to me) if you look at the close up of Scott's picking in the  video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vDOQ1ULTJc

from ~2:00 to 2:08.

 

Forget about pitch and yaw - don't fixate on 45 degrees. Just put a video camera on yourself so that you have roughly the same camera angle, set up side-by-side with Scott's video and try to duplicate.

Comment by Scott Fore on September 8, 2011 at 12:33pm
It is difficult to describe the technique with words.  The video does help.  I think the main thing is to have your arm and hand in a relaxed position on the guitar and strings.  If you do that the angle tends to happen naturally and be proper for your anatomy.  Look at how your picks tend to wear down on the edges.
Comment by ganon on September 9, 2011 at 6:27am
Thanks Scott! I think I understand now.
Comment by David Rathgeber on September 9, 2011 at 7:42am

Scott, Ganon,

 

I decided to go back to basics - before picking up the guitar - and look at my posture!  I have been in the habit of sitting on the sofa which is fairly soft.  I looked at a Scott video and see that you cross your right leg over your left.  For me, this would erase 70 years of doing it the other way, but I can do it.  This presumably puts the guitar a the right height.  I can sit in a chair if I have to!

Next I looked at the right arm position.  When I hold my arm at an angle of approximately 45 degrees to the strings, and then put the pick in a straight line with my arm, this should be comfortable and automatically hold the pick at a 45 degree angle to the strings.  However, I find that the upper edge of the lower guitar bout is at a point about one-third of the way between my elbow and wrist, whereas your (Scott) arm is resting on the guitar at the elbow.  This leads me to believe that either you have a very large guitar or very short arms.  If I rest my upper arm on the guitar the way you do, my wrist is over the center of the sound hole.  This probably qualifies me as a 'knuckle dragger'.  I am just about to look at some other guitarists and see if I am unique or if there is a simple solution to this problem.  The edge of the guitar digs into my arm after a while which is not comfortable.  This is why I have been playing with my arm nearly parallel to the strings which makes holding the pick at a 45 degree angle to the strings very awkward.

 

And that's where it will stay for the next week while I am away.

 

Does this sound a bit like a ten-year-old coming up with reasons why he can't take the garbage out?

 

David

 

Comment by Scott Fore on September 9, 2011 at 9:20am

David,

 

How you sit, hold the guitar, size of your guitar, etc., makes a difference; however, there is no "one size fits all" prescription.  As I've stated previously, everyone's anatomy and its relationship to the guitar is a little different, so adjustments need to be made.  As far as the right height goes, when you hold the guitar (sitting or standing), the height should be such that you can bring your right arm up to meet the neck in a relaxed manner and your arm is approximately parallel to the floor.  You shouldn't have to stretch or contort your body to reach the neck.  This should also get the right hand in a proper position as well.  Don't worry about the exact 45 degree thing.  I make adjustments for different size guitars.  If you have access to Skype, I could make all of this clear in a few minutes.  If you don't have access to Skype, are there any videos of you on the web or that you could send.  This is much harder to verbalize than it is in actual practice.  I'm happy to help out in any way I can.  Once you get the a good right hand technique, I think the rest is much easier.

 

Scott

Comment by David Rathgeber on September 9, 2011 at 10:06am

Scott,

 

First of all, I don't understand where these posts go.  I thought they were on the beginners forum, but I see only my first post is there.  My latest posts have been replies to you on this site wherever it is.  However, I wanted to add something after my last message so I went to the beginners forum and discovered that only my first post is there.  Howeve, I made another quick post which you probably didn't see.

I am going to look again at Steve Kaufmann's DVD of the 8 past champions.  They all have a different approach.  I think if I hold the guitar on my left leg with my legs spread apart that I can get everything straight.

I can make a video with my camera - I think it's an MP4.  Do I attach it to these blogs or is something else required?

 

David

Comment by David Rathgeber on September 9, 2011 at 10:08am

Scott,

 

First of all, I don't understand where these posts go.  I thought they were on the beginners forum, but I see only my first post is there.  My latest posts have been replies to you on this site wherever it is.  However, I wanted to add something after my last message so I went to the beginners forum and discovered that only my first post is there.  However, I made another quick post which you probably didn't see.

I am going to look again at Steve Kaufmann's DVD of the 8 past champions.  They all have a different approach to posture.  I think if I hold the guitar on my left leg with my legs spread apart that I can get everything at the right angle.

I can make a video with my camera - I think it's an MP4.  Do I attach it to these messages or is something else required?

 

David

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