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Pick Hand Advice

Hey guys,

before I start, I know some of you are left handed, so I'll use "Pick Hand" and "Fretboard Hand" instead of Right- & Left Hand...


Some time I wrote a lesson about the Basics of Sweep Picking.

After posting the Sweep Picking lesson on facebook, there were some comments saying that it was good because it also explained how the pick hand should move while sweep picking.

This got me thinking... There are in fact not that many "Pick Hand Lessons" out there.

Most lessons and tips you find online just show you how to play some lick or exercise with your fretboard hand, but they never mention the pick hand other than the usual down- and upstroke tab notations.

And this sucks! The pick hand is as important as the fretboard hand and the truth is, most of us never even think about developing a solid picking technique, so I decided to write something about it and I really hope it helps.

The first thing we need to understand is why the pick hand is so important.

The way you pick directly alters your sound. It changes your Attack (your volume, your dynamics, the intensity behind each note), but it also controls your rhythm.

Now, one of the best pieces of advice that was given to me when I was studying back in LA, was to understand that each hand has a musically different task.

Whereas your Fretboard Hand is in charge of the Harmony and Melodies, your Pick Hand is in charge of the rhythm.

This way of thinking really helped me out to understand why we Guitarists need a solid Picking Technique and also how we can use our pick hand's full potential.

You can compare having a weak pick hand to having a bad drummer in a band. He might get the job done most of the time, but as soon as he tries to play a complicated fill and fails, the whole band falls apart.

It's the same with our hands. The pick hand might do the job most of the time, but when it finally trips and fails, it takes the fretboard hand with it. And for all the speed junkies (me included), we tend to play fast with the fretboard hand only, but we forget to develop speed on the pick hand, and that's why we can't get any faster. You cannot push your speed with a hand that is predominantly used for harmony. Your rhythm hand should push your harmony/melody hand to get faster, not the other way around.

So, some time ago I wrote a lesson on Alternate Picking. Those exercises are really good to get you started. They really help with accuracy, which is one of the more important things for the pick hand. Try them out, spend countless hours practicing them, loose your motivation because you're not seeing any progress, take a deep breath, grab a beer, say "fuck it" and continue practicing. They WILL help you, be patient.

Now, what if our pick hand is already good, but not good enough?

Here's where the fun begins.

Usually, we learn everything with the fretboard hand and the pick hand just follows.

Why don't we do it the other way around? Ever tried playing something with your pick hand only?

It's damn near impossible.

But that's the exact thing that we need to do to improve our picking to a point were both hands work with each other and not follow each other around.

Find a solo you're struggling with and play it only with your pick hand while listening to your fretboard hand in your head, do not use your fretboard hand tho, only the pick hand.

Play as accurately as you can, and always on time. Definitely use a metronome.

Listening to your pick hand in your head without using it is very important! Otherwise you'll just be picking some strings without making any sense. You HAVE to listen and even see your fretboard hand in your head as you're picking. It's hard, but you can do it.

Why even do this?

As Tom Hess says, the goal is for your brain to send two simultaneous signals to both your hands instead of sending one signal to the fretboard hand, getting it back, analyzing it and then sending a signal to the pick hand telling it what to do. The only way to do this, is to treat the pick hand exactly as we treat the fretboard hand, that means, being able to play everything with the pick hand only.

Think of it as some sort of upside down legato. You don't use your pick hand when you play legato. Now don't use your fretboard hand when you play some speed picking lick. Same principle, different hand.

Do these things, and your pick hand will not only get faster, but also a lot more accurate, solid and dependable. You won't need to rely on hammer-ons and pull-offs when playing something fast anymore and you'll be able to add more dynamics to your playing by controlling and tweaking the way you hit the notes.

This really helped me some years ago. It was, in fact, a game changer for me, and I really hope it helps you if you're struggling with your playing wight now.

That's it!

Let me know what you think in comment section below, stay tuned for more Guitar Stuff and if you like what I write, don't forget to subscribe.

Thanks for reading!

See you next time.


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