Guitar picking, similar to guitar playing, can be as simple or complex as
you want to make it. Most people are content with the basic up/ down
picking patterns whereas the more you delve into tone, feel and
approach, you may find you'll get more mileage out of using various
picking techniques to add variety and diversity to your playing. For
this lesson, I'll be talking primarily about single note picking as
opposed to chord strumming.
Let's begin by discussing the basics: what type of pick to use and how
to correctly hold a pick. The type of pick you use is personal
preference and is usually dictated by the style of music you prefer to
play. The heavier the style, the heavier the pick. Because I play
various styles, I like using medium gauged picks - they have some
flexibility but are also sturdy
to withstand heavier playing as well. I also like to use small guitar
picks as I feel I have more control over them than larger sized guitar
Regarding picking technique, there's really no "right" or "wrong" way to
hold a pick - choose whatever feels most comfortable to you. Most
players choose to hold the pick in relation to the strings similar to
photo 1 with the flat side down whereas I hold my pick at an angle as
depicted in photo 2. The first example allows the player to play at
consistent levels and consistent tones. The second example, in my
opinion, allows the player to change tones and play at various volumes
dependent upon their picking attack. Although you may sacrifice some
speed when using this approach, it offers more variety and control over
your playing. Photo 3 shows an alternate way of holding your pick when
finger picking instead of discarding it completely. Experiment and use
what works best for you.
Another approach to consider is if a pick is necessary at all. By using
your fingers, you'll create a warmer, fatter sound which will
drastically change your tone. In
you'll hear the same musical passage but each are played differently -
take a listen to hear the difference between playing with a pick and
playing with your fingers.
takes that concept a step further and combines the two techniques to
create what's known as "hybrid picking" in which you use both your pick
and fingers (often referred to as "chicken picking" in country music).
Players such as Wes Montgomery and Jeff Beck are excellent studies in
those who prefer to use their fingers as opposed to a pick while country
legends Albert Lee and Chet Atkins are considered to be two of the
premier "chicken picking" guitarists to ever pick up the instrument.
One last point to mention is also the pattern your picking pattern may
dictate the style of
you will be playing. For example, many punk and metal guitarists will
predominately use downstrokes to play their heavier riffs whereas reggae
players will use upstrokes as a result of the rhythms falling on the
upbeat. Of course there will also be exceptions to the rule (if there is
such a rule) but these are just simple suggestions to consider and begin
to add to your style.
I hope these different suggestions and playing examples open some doors
for you to explore. Using these various techniques will help bring some
interesting elements to your playing and songwriting. Don't be afraid to
apply them right away in the hope of bring some new ideas to your
playing. Best of luck. .
The Effect Affect
To learn more about
Patrick DeCoste, visit his website