Posted by: worshipguitarguy | July 13, 2007

All Things Picking 2

I finally gained access to all of my old files from the site.  Hopefully this weekend I’ll get them back up, (including the audio clips), plus I’ll try to correct a couple of the “backwards” charts while I’m at it too.

Jumping back on the topic of guitar picking, here are a few more thoughts that have helped me improve over the years.  Again, a huge tool you can use is to practice in front of a mirror so you can watch your strumming hand.  I do this quite a bit because it helps me focus a ton on my technique.  And the following things are much easier to work on if you can watch what your hand is doing.

Work on Your Pick Angle on Upstrokes:
Here’s another big hangup I had early on, I always hated upstrokes because it seemed like my pick would do funny things when coming the opposite way on the strings.  This can be a huge problem if you tend to lock your strumming wrist.  Why?  Well, when strumming, most people’s hands tend to position the pick so it’s angled for a downstroke.  (Meaning your pick’s tip is angled up a bit to make a strum easier.)  Now if they lock their wrist,  there’s a good chance that the tip of the pick will still be angled up on the upstroke.  The effect is much like using a shovel to dig up dirt, the tip can snag on the first string and really dig in, (or in a worst case go flying out of your hand.)  With this happening, you also tend to hit the strings too hard, leading to strings buzzing and ringing out of tune.

A good way to combat this is to again, make sure your wrist is loose, then practice a strum in slow motion.  When you get to the end of the downstroke and start coming back up, focus on where your pick tip is pointed.  It should be pointed slightly away from the strings, not towards it.  Practice this motion slowly while thinking about it, and it will become second nature when you play.

Efficient Left Hand Movement:
Some guitarists have what I like to refer to as Billie Joe Armstrong Syndrome.  That means that their strumming hand is all over the place, much like the showy lead singer to Green Day.  The problem is those motions make it very hard to be technically accurate. 

A huge key of developing a precise and solid tone is learning to make your hand motions as limited as possible, considering what you are doing.  If your strumming a driving rhythm, you can open things up quite a bit more.  But if you are playing leads or picking out single notes, it’s critical to focus on how much your hand is moving, so you’ll be picking the notes you need to, and not hitting ones you don’t.  This is something that’s easier to grasp if you see it instead of me describing it, so shoot over to YouTube and search for stuff from Eddie Van Halen.  Although he’s the poster child for 80’s shred rock, he’s a master at efficient motion in his strumming hand.  Watch yourself when picking out notes and see how careful you are with it. 


As a note, another thing that drastically affects your strumming is the thickness of picks that you use.  Picks are typically measured in metric millimeters, with standard sizes ranging from about .35mm to 1.0 mm.  The thinner the pick, the easier it is to strum openly.  The thicker the pick, generally the harder it is to strum, but your contact when picking out single notes tends to be more solid.  Thicker picks also give out more volume, while thinner picks generally make your strumming sound a bit smoother.  Again this is all personal preference but I usually use about a .5mm pick, (the white Dunlop Nylons) and most players I know settle in somewhere between .5 and .8 for sizes.  I did run across an interesting pick the other day that’s I believe made by a company called Brain.  The grip section of it feels a bit like sandpaper, making it easier to hold onto.



  1. Thanks again, this site is always encouraging and enlightening.

    About picks, I heard that Brian May from Queen uses and English Sixpence as a pick. That’d be rock solid!

  2. hey gerry… off topic… sorry. how far are you from Columbus, OH?

  3. hey! i found your blog by googling “guitar tone knob settings”, and it has alot of neat stuff. i’ve been playing guitar for about 4 years, but i’m still learning alot about eq and stuff like that. but anyways, your blog is really cool. i have one on blogspot if you want to come check it out some time.

  4. Gerry,

    Here’s an idea for a new topic to help resolve an issue that I have been running into more and more recently. Worship leaders need a special vocabulary to explain the feel and style they are looking for either in a song or part of a song. It would be great if we could record some short clips, pair them with descriptions and build a repository for worship leaders and teams to be able to communicate better. I frequently am asked to play ‘dreamy’ or ‘chunky’ or “”. What that means, I’m not always sure. Thoughts?

  5. I vary the picks I use depending on the situation.
    When playing acoustic rhythms, I use a thin Dunlop nylon .045″.
    When playing acoustic leads, I go to a medium Dunlop .060″.
    When playing electric rhythm, I like the .045″ Dunlops also.
    However, I found a pick with some ‘mojo’ made from silver US quarters. These are silky-smooth, and have changed my lead guitar style tremendously (for the better).

    To hear it, go to my site, click on “songs” and play “Blues in A.”

    Ravenwest PRS copy using that 1963 silver pick.

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