#1
I really REALLY wanna learn to speed pick properly, but I just can't seem to find a movement, that fits me or is easy to get used to.

Some guys say, that moving from the wrist is the best way, because you have more control, but I just can't seem to get used to that, it feels very awkward, and I can't seem to build a lot of speed with that. Others say, that it comes down to personal preference, but I'm just not convinced about that. I'm currently speed picking from my elbow and I can get decent speed, but I don't feel that I have that much control, especially not when moving up and down on the strings. Also, when playing from the elbow, I can't jump directly into a fast moving solo, because it's almost like the speed has to build up a little at first, I don't know if that is common or it's just me.

So I want to ask you guys, what is the best way to learn speed picking? What kind of hand to arm movement is the most beneficial and practical, or does it truly come down to preference?

Edit: I have noticed a very odd thing about my picking hand. I pivot/place my little finger on the guitar body just beneath the strings, it seems to be a habit of mine, it feels like I get a lot more control by that. I don't know if this is just a nitpick, but I wonder if it prevents me from playing faster in any way.
Last edited by lucasamadeusp at May 11, 2016,
#2
From the wrist imo. Learn from the best mate, Guthrie. The second guy is a bit freaky, he picks from the elbow. But I would go with uncle Guthrie tbh.

https://youtu.be/51OMFYGG-fs
https://youtu.be/w0FLjxQBbZQ
#3
Really this belongs in the technique forum, but yeah, play from the wrist. Broadly speaking, pick with the wrist, change strings with the elbow. If you're picking with your elbow you pretty much need to lock your wrist to play accurately and that means lots of tension, which leads to discomfort and, in many cases, injury.

Anchoring on the pinkie isn't inherently bad, but I'd discourage it, since it sounds like you don't have a relaxed technique down, and the absolute foremost thing is to get that relaxed picking hand, otherwise you limit your speed and probably injure yourself. Some pros pinkie anchor or have done so in the past, but if you're putting pressure on it at all (as opposed to just gently resting it in place) you're limiting your movement and you're creating a whole bunch of tension. Generally, I'd say resting your hand on/behind the bridge is an easier technique to get a more relaxed right hand with.

So the quick version is that tension is your enemy and could lead to injury that will stop you playing guitar, and locking your wrist does lead to tension, while anchoring your pinkie probably does.
#4
The short answer is that it's a combination of movements (unless you only play on one string). Your wrist can move in 3 different ways; your elbow moves in one way. Check out Troy Grady on YouTube. He has painstakingly dissected dozens of famous player's mechanics. It basically comes down to the position of your picking hand, however, so experiment and see what works for you.

Something that has really helped me is to put the metronome at a tempo I can barely play... Say I want to nail sextuplets at 120pm. I'll put the metronome at 120 and play straight triplets. Then I'll switch to sextuplets for a few beats and switch back to triplets (speed bursting). When I'm doing the faster division, I pay real close attention to how it FEELS and what the exact motion is. Then I switch back to triplets and try to keep the exact same motion and size of movement. I'll go back and forth like this until they FEEL the same.

The tricky part of playing fast on any instrument is that the techniques required to play fast are NOT the same as playing slow, so contrary to popular opinion, you aren't going to get there just by paying slow and "speeding it up." You have to spend time at the faster tempos in order to experiment and see what you need to be doing so that you can go back and do the correct motions slowly.
Last edited by cujohnston at May 15, 2016,
#5
Quote by cujohnston
The tricky part of playing fast on any instrument is that the techniques required to play fast are NOT the same as playing slow, so contrary to popular opinion, you aren't going to get there just by paying slow and "speeding it up." You have to spend time at the faster tempos in order to experiment and see what you need to be doing so that you can go back and do the correct motions slowly.


Holy mother of **** THIS a million times. I literally wasted years not spending any time trying to play faster than I actually could because everyone says it's not beneficial. Well to hell with that, I never saw how terrible my picking was until 6 years later! Immediately after I started trying some fast licks by spazzing my right hand beyond it's actual ability, I noticed just how inefficient my slower picking had actually been and my skills began to finally take off.
#6
I'm confused, you're both saying "the techniques required for playing fast aren't the same as playing slow", but then both went on to basically to say you did the opposite.

The whole thing about playing fast is that the techniques ARE exactly the same as the ones for playing slow - there's not really any such thing as "speed picking". Like you've both said, it's all about being more accurate, more controlled and more efficient. Those things aren't exclusive to picking fast - you HAVE to be able to do those things at a slower tempos before you'll be able to do them at quicker ones. The optimal motions for playing something don't change at higher tempos, the only thing that changes is that your margin for error becomes far smaller. However the actual technique is still the same.

If your picking is inefficient it's inefficient, speed has nothing to do with it. If you've not worked on things like accuracy and economy of motion you'll get by playing slower but you'll be sloppy.
Actually called Mark!

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#7
Whatever you're doing should feel effortless. If you're playing a lick and it doesn't feel natural, chances are your hands/fingers are doing the right things, but throwing in a few unnecessary movements.

A fast player isn't moving his fingers any faster than anyone else's, he's just moving them less.

Speed is a byproduct of accuracy. So just concentrate on playing a good sounding note accurately.
Last edited by mdc at May 16, 2016,
#8
I said the techniques REQUIRED to play fast aren't the same as they are to play slow. You can play slowly with inefficient, exaggerated movements. Until you know what movements work at higher speeds, though, you won't know what you need to be doing when you go back and practice it slowly. It's easy to tell someone they should move their hands in a certain way, but it's a lot easier for them to understand what they should be doing if they have a basic idea of the feeling of doing it right first.
Last edited by cujohnston at May 16, 2016,
#9
^ Shawn Lane suggested speed bursting, even as far as playing something at a speed beyond your capabilities. He started off playing crazy fast but sloppy, then cleaned it up later. So he actually did it in reverse.

But he was special.
#10
Quote by cujohnston
I said the techniques REQUIRED to play fast aren't the same as they are to play slow. You can play slowly with inefficient, exaggerated movements. Until you know what movements work at higher speeds, though, you won't know what you need to be doing when you go back and practice it slowly. It's easy to tell someone they should move their hands in a certain way, but it's a lot easier for them to understand what they should be doing if they have a basic idea of the feeling of doing it right first.


Exactly. I became a pretty spiffy blues and slower rock player, but I never realized I was using an unbelievably inefficient "scooping" pick motion the entire time. The moment I realized that and started practicing the right way, I started breaking through walls that had held me for years.
#11
Quote by Sample246
Exactly. I became a pretty spiffy blues and slower rock player, but I never realized I was using an unbelievably inefficient "scooping" pick motion the entire time. The moment I realized that and started practicing the right way, I started breaking through walls that had held me for years.


That's pretty much my experience. A lot of people get stuck at medium tempos, and the problem is that the motions they're using suddenly isn't adequate and becomes work. When they try to speed up, their picking technique changes whether or not they are aware of it. The trick then becomes to take the more efficient motion and drill that at slow tempos until it overrides what they were doing originally.

To be fair I'm definitely not suggesting you spend very much time trying to play faster than you are able, but a small percentage of your time is required I think.
#12
Great article. I read this article properly. This is one of the best posts. Thanks sharing this article
Last edited by toan365 at May 26, 2016,
#13
I will add to what guitar Czar said. You don't have to be a speed freak when learning techniques., What is IMPORTANT is the correct fingering, good pick-control and alternate-picking mixed with economy-picking.

Here is a good exercise if you want to improve your speed and alternate picking technique. Once you do this well, your speed will have improved considerable in one month of solid practicing. Alternate pick EVERY note with no exception 7-9-10-7-10-9-7 using fingers 1-3-4, no middle finger.

E-------------------------------------...
B-------------------------------------...
G-------------------------------------...
D--------------7----------------------...
A--------------7---9--10-------------
E ---------------------------------------

Another good technique is to use all fingers and DOING the following on every strings. basically, you would finger the following with these fingers
1-2-1-2-3-2-3-4-3-4-3-2-3-2-1

E ------ 3--4--3--4--5--4--5--6--5--6--5--4--5--4...

and one more
Here, just pick the A-note on the 5th fret and do hammer-on/pull-off for the rest of the notes. Do this on all the strings. This will give you good finger strength and dexterity.

E---5-h6p--5-h7p--5-h8p--5-h9p--
5-h8p--5-h7p--5-h6p


Good Luck:
#14
That's great that you want to improve your picking technique, your defiantly asking all the right questions!

As a guitar teacher I am aware that every student is different and each student has ways of playing that feel more comfortable to them and ways that don't.

That being said, I have also mentored guitar players who where stubbornly holding on to bad playing techniques because they where more comfortable with them then the recommended techniques that (because they weren’t used to them yet) where uncomfortable by default.

A saying I love and use when ever I can is; “It's not that it's hard, it's just that you don't yet know it's easy.”

What seems to make up “personal preference” is how much time a guitarist has invested in to a certain way of playing.

Take picking from the elbow (like Zakk Wylde) or picking form the wrist (like Yngwie Malmsteen) or something completely different (like Marty Friedman) for example, a lot of the time guitarists start practising picking in the early stages of their development without even realising how they're doing it, then after they have invested quite a lot of time into playing that way it becomes THEIR way of playing, or “personal preference”.

I'm not discrediting the idea that everybody is different and will naturally have their own ways of playing, I see all sorts of different playing styles all the time in students with larger and smaller hands then most, or longer or shorter arms.

It's just that I have re-started my own playing technique with approaches that are more efficient maybe 5 times in the last 10 years that I'm aware of, so a lot of the time it's not so much what feels comfortable or “natural” to you, it's more about how much time you invest into a certain technical approach.

When students are struggling with a certain technique or exclaim that they just don't have what it takes to master “sweep picking”, “fast picking and legato”, “economy picking”, etc. I ask them if they know how much time they have spent on the technique, then ask them to give the technique “10 hours”.

As soon as most players rack up 10 hours of consistent practice on a certain technique they tend to find they feel a lot more comfortable with the particular technique they are working on. Of course 10 hours isn’t enough to master something, but it sure is enough to prove to yourself that the problem isn't you, it's the amount of time you've put into the technique.

I would recommend picking from the wrist because it uses less movement and energy. Invest some good time into becoming comfortable picking from your wrist and it will probably become a lot more natural for you.

When it comes to anchoring fingers on the guitar I have had mentors of mine advise me against it, but then I have also heard Michael Angelo Batio (who famously anchors his 1st, 2nd and 3rd fingers of his picking hand on his guitar body) promote it because he claims it allows him more control.

Though I wouldn’t ask MAB to play any other way, I wouldn’t recommend anchoring fingers of your picking hand on the guitar if you are focusing on developing your picking technique because it can become a crutch (you might find that as you move to the lower strings anchoring fingers on the guitar body becomes harder which could throw your picking out entirely) and anchoring fingers on the guitar body can encourage tension buildup in the forearm and shoulder, and tension (as I tell my students) is the killer of all great guitar playing.

A couple of other things to take into consideration are choosing an appropriate pick, one that is pointed with a certain amount of stiffness and not to thick, and evaluating how you hold the pick.

Holding the pick on an angle to the strings will allow it to “slice” through the strings much easier then if you hit the strings with the flat side of the pick, this can cause what I like to call “snagging”.

Holding the pick on an angle to the strings allows it to pull through the strings much easier and also creates a bright tone, this technique is similar to what classical guitarists do when they turn their picking hand on an angle to strike the strings with the side of their nails for fast picking passages.

Keep your eyes on the the lesson section of UG because I have a lesson on picking coming up, until then feel free to check out this picking lesson I published to my website http://rockguitarlessons.com.au/fundamentals-great-picking/

I hope this information has been helpful.
Good luck with it all!
#15
^ I really like that saying you used. I might steal it if you don't mind

It's very true. I can do things now that even a year ago felt impossible. Sometimes it gets to the point where I have to put a new battery in my metronome just to prove to myself the tempo is accurate.
#16
SkypeRockGuitar, you're very right! I remember when I bit the bullet and decided to re-invent my picking technique. I spent about 2 weeks doing gruelingly slow practice focusing on economic motions and suddenly it became my default picking technique whenever I picked up the guitar. Now, over 2 years later, I don't even think I could re-create my old crappy picking technique if I tried!