#1
I've been trying to refine my picking technique lately, trying to perfect it, and to do so I'll need some help from you folks. I've been playing for about 2 and a half years, if it helps, and when I alternate pick at slower speeds I tend to use my wrist with a bit of forearm movement, whereas at faster speeds, tremolo picking, I tend to use primarily my forearm with a bit of wrist movement, and I can't seem to find a united front on the issue; in the sticky, Freepower said that alternate picking should be done mostly with the wrist but didn't go into detail (that I saw), and the search bar was similarly unhelpful.

Paul Gilbert's technique seems to be all wrist, regardless of speed, and he looks like his wrist is made of jello when he plays, whereas Guthrie Govan seems to do a similar thing to what I do when I pick very fast, and then John Petrucci emphasizes his forearm. I brought up picking technique with my instructor, and was asked to tremolo pick something. He saw that I use my forearm for tremolo picking and said that I should slow that down and do a Petrucci-esque thing with my forearm as opposed to speeding up my wrist like Gilbert or staying somewhat the same as I am now like Govan.

All of these guys have insane picking technique although I'd have to say that Paul Gilbert has everyone else beat, but does that mean I should try to emulate him?
Studies show that 89.27% of all statistics are made up on the spot.
#2
Quote by lethalagent14
I've been trying to refine my picking technique lately, trying to perfect it, and to do so I'll need some help from you folks. I've been playing for about 2 and a half years, if it helps, and when I alternate pick at slower speeds I tend to use my wrist with a bit of forearm movement, whereas at faster speeds, tremolo picking, I tend to use primarily my forearm with a bit of wrist movement, and I can't seem to find a united front on the issue; in the sticky, Freepower said that alternate picking should be done mostly with the wrist but didn't go into detail (that I saw), and the search bar was similarly unhelpful.

Paul Gilbert's technique seems to be all wrist, regardless of speed, and he looks like his wrist is made of jello when he plays, whereas Guthrie Govan seems to do a similar thing to what I do when I pick very fast, and then John Petrucci emphasizes his forearm. I brought up picking technique with my instructor, and was asked to tremolo pick something. He saw that I use my forearm for tremolo picking and said that I should slow that down and do a Petrucci-esque thing with my forearm as opposed to speeding up my wrist like Gilbert or staying somewhat the same as I am now like Govan.

All of these guys have insane picking technique although I'd have to say that Paul Gilbert has everyone else beat, but does that mean I should try to emulate him?

In my opinion to get the best alternate picking you can you should look at the best (as long as their technique isn't prone to injury, [ie anchoring]) and try to emulate them.

Tremolo picking isn't alternate picking btw.
Try and keep your wrist relaxed as when you play slowly, and to play at fast speeds you should be trying to use the exact same motion, just faster. Tremolo picking at high speeds is changing your technique.
#3
Not nescessarily. Everybody has a little different technique from one another. Look at Steve Morse. He can pick as fast as anyone. But has a very unorthodox technique. And if you ask him, he'll tell you he's doing it wrong. I wish I could play that wrong!!!!!! The key is to find what works for you. As long as you can pick in time and do it in a way that's not going to cause injury to yourself, do what works for you.
Having said that, I use my wrist. If you're going to use that style, the main thing is to keep your wrist as relaxed as possible. If you start to tense up, it will affect your timing and could cause tendonitis.
There's my way and the wrong way.
#5
Quote by seth's daddy
Not nescessarily. Everybody has a little different technique from one another. Look at Steve Morse. He can pick as fast as anyone. But has a very unorthodox technique. And if you ask him, he'll tell you he's doing it wrong. I wish I could play that wrong!!!!!! The key is to find what works for you. As long as you can pick in time and do it in a way that's not going to cause injury to yourself, do what works for you.
Having said that, I use my wrist. If you're going to use that style, the main thing is to keep your wrist as relaxed as possible. If you start to tense up, it will affect your timing and could cause tendonitis.

Yes but if 'what feels comfortable' doesn't seem to be working you might want to take pointers from the best.
#6
Just build up speed slowly using your wrist. Don't attempt really fast picking when you can't do it comfortably you'll just end up getting tired, and inconsistent. Going faster than you can handle may seem good in the short run, but long run it's going to really help you to slowly build. No use playing sloppy because you need to play nice and clean eventually if you ever hope to play live.
#7
IMO perfect picking technique has three main elements:

1. Relaxation. If any muscle is more tense than it needs to be to actually strike the note, it's too tense.

2. Freedom of movement. If you stick your palm or fingers to the guitar, you're adding some stability, but creating friction (friction=less freedom to move, meaning you have to work harder to perform a technique, meaning excess tension). Plus it takes extra effort to keep your hand stuck in one place rather than letting it float, so that's even more tension.

3. Economy of motion. From one angle, this might directly contradict #2. If you make only the smallest motions possible, you don't need as much freedom to move. This is how Petrucci and Morse and the like get away with practically gluing their hands to the guitar. Their playing isn't limited as much because they have great economy of motion, but they are still limited.

3 1/2. Picking motion. FP is right (as usual) in saying that the picking motion should be from the wrist. However your string changing and skipping motions should be elbow, and your fingers are in control of your pick angle. This is only a "1/2" because if you follow the first three things, you'll most likely start to pick like this naturally.

Of course there's many more smaller factors that affect your picking (pick angle, pick size and thickness, wrist motion, guitar height, hand size, even guitar shape), but if you're always aware of these three basic principles when practicing, you'll have great technique, and develop preferences for the smaller details of said technique.

PinkEdit:
Quote by Orbit91
Emulate Shawn Lane's, if you want perfect picking technique.

Or you could just do this.
Last edited by which ones pink at Mar 7, 2009,
#8
Basically, the reason I don't get into too much detail with this is that it starts clouding the real issues.

First of all, the main thing is clear is that you are changing your approach depending on speed. You're allowing your wrist to tense up and then trying to power through at the new tempo with your forearm.

Look at these guys carefully -

Petrucci has fantastic picking technique up to a certain tempo at which point he just does elbow spazz picking. Up to that point he's using mostly wrist with the forearm primarily used for string changes.

Govan has fantastic and flexible picking technique, along with great dynamic control. He uses more wrist than Trooch and is generally looser and less anchored to the guitar. He uses mostly wrist with only a touch of forearm.

Gilbert pretty much ditto's Govan, 'cept he uses less forearm. Why? Because he has massive, massive hands and can reach all the strings (from low E to high E, and I've seen this) by changing only his wrist angle.

Look at the patterns between those players and you'll see that mostly wrist is the way to go.

The main thing I want to hear is how much control you feel you have when you play with your wrist, and how much control you feel you have when you use "more wrist".
#9
Thanks for the responses, everyone! I appreciate that you all put so much time into this.

Well, it looks like primarily wrist-picking is the way to go, which is a good thing for me, since it's far more of a habit than arm-picking I've always wrist-picked at slower speeds and changing strings with my forearm has also come naturally, but I guess I have been doing Petrucci arm-spazzing at higher speeds. I do feel like I have more dynamic control with my wrist anyways, so it looks like I have to speed up my wrist instead of slowing down my arm.

Thanks again for clarifying that issue, everybody! It looks like Guthrie Govan is my new picking idol.

Also, I thought that alternate picking at high speed was what tremolo picking was? If it's no bother, could someone educate me on the difference? Thanks.
Studies show that 89.27% of all statistics are made up on the spot.
#10
just curious, how do people practice alternate picking? i use the ionian scale pretty much everywhere on the fretboard.
#12
@mora101-I learned the beginning of "Birds of Fire" by Mahavishnu orchestra. I can't get it anywhere _near_ up to speed, but it's good practice. That, and I'll just run up and down my scales.
Studies show that 89.27% of all statistics are made up on the spot.
#13
Quote by mora101
just curious, how do people practice alternate picking? i use the ionian scale pretty much everywhere on the fretboard.


Just do it. Really, that's all; playing whatever I feel like using alternate picking. Other things like economy picking and sweeping require more focused practice as I'm still having trouble working them into my soloing but that will come in time...
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#14
What everybody is really looking for is what the INNER EXPERIENCE of picking perfectly fast is like to THEM. If you struggle, needless to say, you haven't yet found it. It will feel like the easiest thing in the world when you do.

It's fine to get clues from others, but if you think trying to completely copy what it LOOKS like they're doing is how to get there, you probably need to revise your thinking. You're trying to translate visual motion into an inner experience. It doesn't work all that well. Visual motion can be very deceiving on its own.

The best thing to do is watch ALL great players and try to distill how they ALL do what they do into something meaningful for you.