Tips for improving picking hand speed

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by jbdrumbo, Feb 25, 2013.

  1. jbdrumbo

    jbdrumbo Tele-Holic

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    This is more of a looking for ergonomic pointers question, as I already have acquired the good habit of starting slowly and not increasing the tempo until I can play it correctly at the slower speed, and then move up incrementally.

    But I'm having difficulty in getting to the very rapid picking tempo for songs like Limehouse Blues - I'm definitely more limited in getting the right hand speed coordinated than in left hand fingering (from a physiological perspective, as opposed to the theoretical knowledge of learning to put the fingers in the correct locations).

    In drumming, for instance, I'm adept in letting the wrists go loose and rapidly tremor-like for a side-to-side brush fill, or for single-stroke rolls - but on guitar, when the tempo goes into very rapid single notes like gypsy jazz or the faster bluegrass, my right hand tends to tense up, instead of remaining loose.

    So, for you experienced players, a couple of questions come to mind for fast single note picking:
    1) Do you anchor your palm heel or do you keep the picking hand unanchored?
    2) Do you use circle picking?

    Plus, any other advice is welcome, thanks.
     
  2. RileyFender

    RileyFender Tele-Meister

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    I struggled with this for a while also, I learned to not anchor, but to always keep the heel of my right hand in the same place relative to the strings I am currently picking: so my right hand moves up and down to match the up and down movements of the fingers on my left hand across the neck. I use alternate picking.
     
  3. JFD84

    JFD84 TDPRI Member

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    My picking technique would probably make classical guitar teachers cry tears of blood, but I don't care, I've been using that 'technique' for over seventeen years and it works for me. I anchor with two fingers and kind of mute the strings I don't use with the fleshy part at base of my thumb.
     
  4. gionnio

    gionnio Tele-Meister

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    Sweep picking is worth consideration.
     
  5. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    For ten years, I played while anchoring my right pinky on the body or pickguard. I kind of curled it in so that the first knuckle from the top touched the guitar. I played with this tightened up. Well, tendonitis developed and I had to give up playing completely. Only fingerpicking was possible. 25 years later, I started playing again, but now keep my right hand free. Touching the guitar is the inside of my right forearm against the body. So far, so good.
     
  6. ' burn 08

    ' burn 08 Tele-Afflicted

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    nope. I don't anchor my picking hand. I sweep pick. Economy of motion is important. Sometimes choking up on the pick a little can help.
     
  7. Thorpey

    Thorpey Tele-Holic

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    I used to spend a lot of time trying to get amazing picking technique... Alternate picking that is, until these last few weeks! I watched the video of Bill Frisell that someone kindly posted and I also watched Joe Pass' 'Jazz Lines' tape...

    ... Then I realised technique isn't overwhelmingly important for me, I'll never be virtuosic, all I'm doing practicing these exercises is 'wasting' my valuable practice time where I could be learning ways to EXPRESS myself, I could be learning ways to present melodies better, as opposed to the monotonous sounds I used to practice!

    Note: I still ensure that when I play, what I am doing is efficient (I'm dang lazy :lol:) and also that I am relaxed... I don't want any nasty side effects to develop from tension like Larry mentioned a couple of posts back!
     
  8. Thorpey

    Thorpey Tele-Holic

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    Sounds a little like me, I anchor fingers lightly (I don't apply any pressure I just rest them) if I'm just flat picking, then lift them briefly when hybrid :D
     
  9. jbdrumbo

    jbdrumbo Tele-Holic

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    I'll try this, thanks.
     
  10. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    An important consideration for me, in my return to playing after 25 years, is to emphasize legato playing in my blues solos. It sounds more fluid and vocal, and uses three distinct colors: the plucked note with a pick, the pull-off slur, and the hammer-on slur. I use these techniques as tools for phrasing. In order to get the right sound that I am imagining, I often move my left hand up or down one fingering area to another. I also play more phrases that focus on one string.

    In my early days, I remember being advised in Guitar Player magazine interviews that picking every note in a jazz guitar solo was a sort of manly, real pro thing to do. I still remember an early interview with Pat Metheny, in which he proclaimed that picking every note sound "corny" to him.

    I still find important uses for good picking skills, such as when I will play a lightning fast (I hope) syncopated tremolo on a single note for a couple of beats or so. Mike Bloomfield did that very effectively.

    The most important thing about technique, for me, isn't for flash and speed, it is for confidence and control. The more secure my technique is, the easier it is to just stand their with the guitar in my hands, ready for action. It's nice being able to base the speed of my phrases on musical and expressive decisions rather than on what my technique will or won't allow.

    If blazingly fast technique is not your cup of tea, I would still recommend working on right hand picking technique.

    One thing I like to practice is to take a minor pent scale and play it up and/or down in patterns like: C Bb G Bb G F Eb G Eb C Bb C, etc. But instead of playing each note once, try playing them 2 or 3 times in different combinations. For example: C C Bb G G Bb G G F Eb Eb G Eb Eb C Bb Bb C, etc. Or: C C C Bb Bb G G G Bb Bb G G G F F Eb Eb Eb G G Eb Eb Eb C C Bb Bb Bb C C. All of these can be played as triplets (3 note per beat) or 16ths (4 notes per beat). At first, you might stumble like crazy. If you do, this is a good thing, as it clearly shows where one of your technical weaknesses lies.

    Another technique that I use is to play an octave or 6th on strings 1 and 3 (or 2 and 4, 3 and 5, 4 and 6) and strum it as fast and loosely as possible. The rhythms can be all triplets, all 16ths, combinations like 8th 16th 16th 8th 16th 16th and so one. The main purpose is to loosen my wrist.

    For historical kicks, here is a recording of my 1974 composition Air Strike, performed with my band Straight Arrow, with Gene Swift on bass, and Ed Elam on drums. (Ed, if you are out there, email me). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJTTXrR9New.

    The video is of my wife on a people mover at the Denver Airport several years ago, looped. There is no correspondence between the music and video, obviously. That was about the fast picking technique I had. I tensed up an awful lot on that song.
     
  11. jbdrumbo

    jbdrumbo Tele-Holic

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    For myself, my need for increased right hand picking speed and dexterity is so I'll be better able to play these great older 2/4 songs like Limehouse Blues, or a Doc Watson style on acoustic, without sounding too muscled-in and effortful. Plus, for the hell of it, for being better at playing a Dick Dale mandolin-type flourish on held notes; not so much for jazz fusion arpeggios done at lightning speed, like Mr. Gambale was demonstrating - that's not my thing - although I certainly respect his command of the instrument.
     
  12. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    This is what makes practicing so fun. You can use it to sculpt the kind of musician you want to be. I've mentioned before in this forum about my ancient method of playing a gig one night, taking note of my problems, working to resolve those in my practice routine, then testing myself at the next gig. Once I could do something comfortable at a gig, then I moved on to a new problem. I am speaking mainly about specific technical things. Other types of practice sometimes need to stay in the oven for a few months. Even then, I try to evolve the practice routine to keep me challenged and always improving.
     
  13. samato

    samato Tele-Afflicted

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    I've noticed that the fast picking "shred" guys don't seem to anchor their right hand. The funk/soul rhythm players I like do. Just my observations from watching people over the years.

    I've always anchored my right hand, that's how I learned. Maybe it's no coincidence I don't/can't "shred"?

    Playing fast isn't really important to me, I can go fast enough for what I do but I figure one day I'll want to add that to my bag of tricks. I think when that time comes I'll need to change my right hand technique. I did take a couple lessons years ago from a guy who was trying to show me some techniques for building speed and it involved holding the pick at a different angle and not anchoring the hand, among other things. It didn't stick at the time, too unnatural for me, so I live with my limitations.
     
  14. Obsessed

    Obsessed Telefied Ad Free Member

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    The best advice I got when I was struggling with this, was to angle the pick diagonally to the string (leading edge of pick towards neck, strikes string on the down stroke) . Then alternate pick with the bridge edge of pick hitting string on the up stroke. My speed jumped dramatically, but I'm no Dick Dale ... yet, although my age might prohibit me from attaining that goal.
     
  15. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

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    Practice and stop thinking about it.

    By which I mean stop staring at your hand and trying to figure out what you're supposed to be doing - relax. Relaxed is fastest.

    Me, I mainly finger-pick. I do not anchor the hand, unless needed e.g. palm-mute. This allows all fingers to operate at individual speeds, including the pinky. You cannot do that with the pinky glued to the pick guard, it may seem more accurate but it inhibits fluidity.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2013
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