A Fast Tone To Tone Picking Technique

This technique allows for an incredible improvement of the overall speed of guitar playing.

Ultimate Guitar
An experiment for fast tremolo tone to tone picking has been carried out and an interesting technique has been experimented with. Tone to tone picking is a way of playing guitar with pick engagement of the strings where every pick on a given string produces a tone and tones are produced with a pick on a string only, without pulling, hammering, banging with the picking hand on the neck, etcetera i. e. tones are produced with a pick engagement of a string only. Pulling, hammering and banging are suspected to reduce the speed of the fingerboard hand (usually, the left hand) due to additional movements of this hand and due to the impossibility of the fingers of this hand to stay closer and move closer to the strings thus this technique is expected to allow for faster playing with this hand. This technique allows for an incredible improvement of the overall speed of guitar playing.

Technique Description

The picking hand (usually, the right hand) performs fast movements on the string or strings similar to a controlled tremolo. Controlled tremolo differs from normal tremolo because controlled tremolo provides for one desired tone to be played whenever desired only. Also, the frequency of the controlled tremolo may change as per the change in the music: some tones last longer than others. Controlled tremolo is the same as the normal way of guitar picking just incredibly faster: just fast picking but because of the high speed the right hand performs movements which only look like movements of a tremolo but they are not. The picking hand movement look like hashing but this is not hashing but is rather a fast tone to tone picking, same as normal picking yet much faster. This is so because of the need for incredibly fast movements of the pick due to fast movement of the left hand and fast tone changing. To achieve this, a number of experiments have been carried out. The quality of the performance has been found to mainly depend on these two factors: quality (type) of the pick and string tension with these two also depending upon each other. The main feature of the technique is the position of the pick. The pick is turned a bit towards a vertical position with the side of the pick which normally points towards the neck of the guitar being turned towards the bottom of the guitar at an angle which depends on the player's choice and the piece of music played with typical values around 45 degrees reaching 60 degrees and may even go to 90 degrees or fully vertical position of the pick. This way, the pick does not engage the strings by hooking and pulling the string but rather by gliding on the string combined with some hooking. The amount of gliding and pulling depends on the angle. The lower the angle the less gliding and the more hooking. Simply speaking, the pick is turned a bit to make possible for the pick to go over the string easier and not to get stopped or hooked by the string, thus a tone can be produced with a lower force on the pick which allows for a higher speed. The pick gets glided on the string in a similar fashion the string of a violin, viola, cello and classical bass are moved. The choice of the pick is imperative for this technique. A thick pick with a wide circumference of the tip and made out of soft material (rubber like nylon) has been found to give one of the best results. Another possibility, of course, is to use normal way of picking in which case the two types of picks are possible to be used: hard and soft picks with a different method of picking. The hard pick would engage the strings without bending and vibrating whereas the soft pick would bend and vibrate. The soft pick can also be used as long as this bending and vibration do not affect the speed of the picking, i.e. the pick recovers much faster than the engagements of the string or strings. For a soft pick, Dunlop Tortex 0.60mm Triangular has been found to give good results while the 0.50mm variation has been found to be too soft.

Dependences: The Right Picks For The Right Set Of Strings

Thin strings would require less tension for to achieve a given tone and would be much easier to play with the fingerboard hand (usually, the left hand). However, thin strings may impede the performance of the picking hand (usually, the right hand) especially in fast picking where the left and right hand achieve near or the same as the tremolo frequencies. Thick string would lead to the opposite effects. A number of string sets have been experimented with. The first set was a custom assembled set of individual strings. The gages have been selected to have the same or close tension to the first string. Thus a set of these gages has been tried:
  • 10 unwound (plain steel), 7.35 kg tension
  • 13 / 14 unwound (plain steel)
  • 18 / 20 unwound (plain steel)
  • 24 unwound (plain steel)
  • 32 wound
  • 42 wound The strings have been selected as per the tension. The tension value is usually given at the back of the pack in case of D'Addario. This set has been found too light although successful experiments have been carried out with very soft yet strong picks such as Dunlop Rhino 0.88mm triangular pick. This set has been replaced by a flat wound pack D'Addario XL Chromes Light Pack with these gages:
  • 12 unwound (plain steel)
  • 16
  • 24
  • 32
  • 42
  • 52 The same pick has been used with this pack. Because this series of Dunlop picks is not available in some general stores, Dunlop ULTEX Sharp 0.90mm pick has been investigated as well as the whole Dunlop Tortex Triangular series. Dunlop Rhino 0.88mm Triangular and Dunlop Tortex 1mm Triangular have been found to perform well without any custom alterations. The circumference of the tip has been found to produce satisfactory results. Dunlop ULTEX 0.9mm and Dunlop ULTEX 2mm have been found to have sharp circumference and to get hooked and have been modified by cutting and filing off approximately 1mm of the tip to match the circumference of their Triangular counterparts. These performed fairly well after these modifications. Dunlop Tortex Triangular 0.60mm, 0.73mm and 1.14mm have also been found to perform well with 1.14mm been not soft enough. Looks like Dunlop changed the material for their hard 1.14mm Tortex pick. In addition to this technique and experiments, a proposal for a new pick is made. The pick will have a 0.5 to 1cm double arrow tip. This double arrow tip looks similarly to a tip made out of two standard pick tips put perpendicular one to another. Hence either no turning or very slight turning of the pick may be applied because the perpendicular tip acts as a turned tip at 90 degrees angle which angle can be changed by slight turning. Even more, the same tip with a different than 90 degrees angle between the two tips can be manufactured, for example 60 degrees, thus turning may theoretically be avoided.


    A technique of fast picking with a pick turned towards vertical position and gliding on the strings for faster performance has been experimented with. The technique produced a significant improvement in the speed of playing. A slight disadvantage may be the reduction of the volume of playing which was found to be insignificant in strong amplification, overdrive or distortion. This disadvantage may be a bit more obvious in acoustic guitar applications. A new pick design has been proposed. By Steven Stanley Bayes www.Steven-Stanley-Bayes.com
  • 12 comments sorted by best / new / date

    comments policy
      Okay, it's not a bad article but: 1. Strings and Picks, while some gauges and materials may be better for tremolo picking and fast playing, it is probably one of the most subjective decisions you can make. Everyone has other preferences. 2. What's with the passive grammar? Does it really have to sound that dramatic? 3. The 90's just called. They want their website back.
      Steven Bayes
      Subjectivity is true. This is why I try to generalise and derive conclussions ot of a subjective topic.
      Rebel Scum
      I read half of this and have no idea what I'm meant to be learning.
      Steven Bayes
      Basically: if you angle the pick when you play tremolo fast you may be able to play faster and easier with the right hand. Also, if the pick is rounded a bit or made out of slick materials. Also if your string tension is high. This, however, is not nice for the left hand mainly if you have to play chords with bars as well as solo.