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Fast Playing ... with a pick

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by LowPitchRich, Dec 10, 2000.

  1. LowPitchRich


    Jun 13, 2000
    This may seem stupid for some reason, but I am having trouble playing fast with a pick. I am 17 years old and I've been playing for two years and probably about six months ago is when I have been trying to play really fast punk rock. My technique(how I hold the pick) seems to work for 16th notes up to around 150-160 bpm. I can play around 190 bpm or faster if I really try hard(stiffen up my arm and pick pretty hard), but I always hear how I should be completely relaxed when I play. But relaxing and playing at speeds above 180 bpm doesn't seem at all possible. I hold the pick between my thumb and the pads of my index and middle fingers. I play to punk rock like Rancid and AFI, etc. My fretting hand is well-trained, I can play most of Matt Freeman's(Rancid) lines, but just peddling single notes at really fast speeds just feels akward. Another thing, some days I seem to be able to play faster than other days, it's weird.

    Does anybody know a better way to hold the pick? A way that allows for really fast playing? BTW, I use Fender Nickel Plated Steel 45-110 gauge strings, and Dunlop Tortex purple picks(they're pretty heavy), I used to use the light gauge orange Tortex picks, but I discovered I can play faster with heavier picks. It just seems to me that maybe I
    have a screwy way of holding the pick.

    I've seen some instructional books that say to hold the pick between the thumb and joint of the index finger. I cannot do that. The pick strikes the strings at too much of an angle, thus when alternate picking, there is just a bunch of scratchy noise coming through instead of notes.

    I feel like I've been musically stuck in a rut lately. I know that music is supposed to be fun, but this speed thing is kind of frustrating. Any tips and suggestions will be greatly appreciated, thank you.

  2. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Here's a simple fix: use a thinner gauge pick. You loose some heavyosity (to use Woody Allen's term), but speed picking at any tempo becomes much easier. Those thick Dunlop tortex picks have square edges, so that may account for some of the scratchiness you're hearing.

    Hold the plectrum in a manner that's reasonably secure, comfortable and sustainable over the average length of a song. For me, it's between the pad of my thumb and the side of my index finger; I've seen bassists and guitarists use all kinds of variations, though. Move the pick perpedicularly relative to the string. (You're right that an angled pick produces a wimpier attack and extraneous noise.) Use only the very tip of the pick; if you're using more than 1/8 of an inch behind the tip, it'll slow you down. Finally, pick from the wrist using no more motion and force than is absolutely necessary to sound the note. Don't move the forearm, but don't tense it up either. Keep everything relaxed.

    I'll stop here before I start sounding like Robert Fripp.

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