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How do you hold a pick?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by snapcracklepop, Sep 9, 2018.


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  1. snapcracklepop

    snapcracklepop

    Dec 26, 2015
    New York
    I'm a fingerstyle player and I'm working on my picking technique. When I hold the pick, usually my index finger is perpendicular to the edge of the pick, just like you see in this video at 0:20 -

    Is this how you hold the pick? Or is your index finger parallel to the edge of the pick?

    And when you pluck the string, is the pick perpendicular to the string or at a slight angle? I've found that when my pick is perpendicular, it's more likely to get caught on the string, but the tone is better and there's less twang.
     
  2. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    central NY state
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Mostly, I don't.
     
  3. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    Thats not a video I'd take too much to heart. Playing with an open hand like that can be limiting and make it harder to control the pick moving around in your grip. It's not wrong to use an open grip (I do a lot) but you should be able to play with a closed grip too. Play with both and see if you can hear the difference.
    CD91A98A-9151-49D4-971C-C90F1B998D8A.
    I change the angle from perpendicular for a harder attack to quite angled with the pick almost slipping off the string for an almost finger sound. You need to do lots of experimenting with different grips and angles. Also it's good to be able to play with alternating strokes, all ups and all downs. Each way has a slightly different sound.


    Jeez was that was super interesting and helpful. Thanks for sharing.
     
    zon6c-f, geof_, davelowell2 and 2 others like this.
  4. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    I'm also a long-time fingerstyle player who has spent the last couple of years working on learning to play with a pick. I therefore claim no expertise, other than that I've consulted a lot of different resources from the beginning to make sure I was practicing good technique (or at least not "bad" technique).

    My take on holding the pick is that the pick is perpendicular to my thumb, which in turn is parallel to the strings. The orientation of the pick relative to your index finger can vary, depending on how far you tuck the index finger under your thumb: If you tuck it all the way under, so it is parallel to your thumb (but pointed in the opposite direction), the pick will be perpendicular to it (as it is to your thumb). If you don't really tuck the index under the thumb, the pick would be more or less parallel to your index -- almost like an extension of it. I think anywhere between those two extremes is okay, depending on what is comfortable for your hand.

    As for angle, Carol Kaye -- the gold standard for picking technique -- says that you should hold the pick only as tightly as necessary to avoid dropping it. At the moment the pick first strikes the string, this will cause the pick to "flop" a bit in your fingers, creating an angle that will allow the pick to slide off the string. At that instant your grip will immediately and automatically tighten up a bit to prevent you from dropping the pick. Once you've finished the follow through, your grip lightens up again and you repeat the process for the next downstroke or upstroke. It sounds complicated but it really isn't. Carol describes it in Tip #26 here:

    The Official Carol Kaye Web Site

    Also, note that in this "tip" she recommends using the "broad side" of the pick rather than the tip. A tip that I got from Julie Slick (who I think is one of the other best pick players out there today) is to use one of the rounded corners of a teardrop-shaped pick rather than the pointy corner. I can't explain why, but this idea really helped me and it's what I do all the time now.

    As someone who was in the same boat not long ago, my last piece of advice here is that you need to be patient. For those of us who have never used a pick before, learning to use one feels awkward and difficult. The way I approached it was to devote about 10-15 minutes to practicing with a pick every day, while continuing to play fingerstyle with my bands and when practicing other things. It was probably a full year before I had the nerve to pull out a pick at band practice on one or two songs, and another year to feel almost as comfortable with a pick as without one. I'm sure you could accelerate the process if you put more time into it, but don't be surprised if you feel frustrated from time to time and are tempted to just ditch it. Perseverance and patience are key!
     
  5. Stevorebob

    Stevorebob Well... I Am Here, Aren't I? Supporting Member

    Sep 29, 2011
    Los Angeles
    I hold the pic perpendicular to my thumb and in-line with my index finger. My grip on the pic is as loose as I possibly can without dropping it. (Funny, I never drop them now, but in my younger years, a drop was common.) I strike the strings perpendicular to the fretboard, so my down- and up-strokes are as even as possible. I use medium pics (.73 Ultex) that I cut down to a jazz teardrop size. The smaller size stiffens the pic, but it still has some yield. I pluck mostly near the bridge pickup.
     
    Rickter and Lobster11 like this.
  6. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    central NY state
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Just checked, when I hold a pick, it's about like that, a little more perpendicular to the thumb.
     
    Lobster11 likes this.
  7. StereoPlayer

    StereoPlayer

    Aug 29, 2010
    When I use one, I don’t even think about it. If I did, it would mess it all up.
     
    JRA, devnulljp and bholder like this.
  8. StereoPlayer

    StereoPlayer

    Aug 29, 2010
    Does Carol do pick slides?

    I have...
    It’s really loud!
    And it ruins the pick.
     
  9. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    Just to clarify when I said I change from perpendicular for a harder attack to more angled for a softer one I meant in relation to the string not adjusting how I grip the pick. The pic I posted above is how I hold it and that doesn't change (in theory). It's really not that easily described. If you look at horizontal as the X plane and vertical as the Y plane there are subtle changes in both planes to soften or harden the attack. How loose or firm your fingers and wrist are plays large too. Rather than try to understand this purely intellectually it's better to take these ideas and experiment to see what sounds you can get. Give it a few years.
     
  10. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Haha -- no, I can't imagine Carol doing it. But my personal bass hero/goddess, Julie Slick, has it down to an art form. Here's a pic of a pick that she gave me after at the end of an Adrian Belew Power Trio show:

    souvenir pick.
     

    Attached Files:

  11. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    It won't ruin a Blue Chip pick! I've got some that are several years old with many miles on and showing no signs of wear.
     
    StereoPlayer likes this.
  12. StereoPlayer

    StereoPlayer

    Aug 29, 2010
    It used to really piss off the guitarist in my last band!
     
    Lobster11 likes this.
  13. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Here's a short video that illustrates the picking technique that I try to emulate. This isn't intended to be an instructional video, but I think it serves as one very well:

     
  14. Bass Man Dan

    Bass Man Dan Endorsing Artist: Ned Flanders' Bass-a-Reeno

    Oct 20, 2017
    Cincinnati
    I use a felt pick when I need to use one. When I use a plastic pick, it just sounds scrapy and bad. And I use the broad corner, not the pointed end. And my technique is likely on par with what an unfrozen caveman would be if you put a pick in his hand and strapped a bass on him. But after my right hand cramped up early in our second set last gig and I had to play the rest of the night with a pick, I've committed to gaining familiarity if not competency with a pick.
     
  15. bolophonic

    bolophonic

    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    upload_2018-9-9_20-31-34.
    Forgive me if I am the 647th person to post this.
     
  16. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    I am weird. I use two fingers and my thumb to hold a pick. And it works great. I can play the fool out of a guitar or bass with a pick. Been at it since '63, although I .ostly play bass with two fingers.
     
  17. jpmcbride

    jpmcbride

    Aug 31, 2009
    Phoenix, AZ
    @RussellL, not weird at all. I hold a pick with 2 fingers and my thumb. To the OP's question, index finger is almost perpendicular. Also, I use one of the rounded sides of the pick rather than the point. I find the attack on the point to be too hard. The edge softens it slightly.
     
  18. dindinbre

    dindinbre

    Aug 2, 2017
    Serbia
    Like their bassist, skip to 1:53 if you dont want to listen to this masterpiece
     
  19. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    Dixie Dregs guitarist Steve Morse is someone to check out for this way of holding the pick. It’s unorthodox but it works. A lot of people have trouble keeping the pick from moving around and the two finger/thumb grip really helps it stay put.
     
    Rickter likes this.
  20. dindinbre

    dindinbre

    Aug 2, 2017
    Serbia
    I also use third finger to keep pick from turning circles around my fingers.
     
    Jeff Bonny likes this.

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