Friday, July 15, 2011
Picking Technique - The day it ALL changed
For over 20 years, I listened to the conventional wisdom among the guitar 'shred' community. Play with a stiff, thick pick for speed. At first, I used a full size one. Then I switched (thanks to an Eric Johnson VHS tape) to the under-sized Dunlop Jazz III's, which I swore by for many, many, did I say many years? For the record, I was always considered by my peers to posess an above average picking technique. Not exactly Shawn Lane or anything, but certainly capable.
Then, for completely inexplicable reasons, it ALL changed. I went back to a full size pick and I turned it sideways, so that the pointy tip, points towards the bridge. Allowing me to play with the shoulder of the pick. The draw for me was I liked the scratchy tone. It seemed to give the notes more heft, more Sco! It also emulated that "cello sound" I heard Paul Gilbert speak of. Simultaneously, I also changed the weight to a medium gauge (pictured above for anyone curious). The interesting part is all this was done for tonal reasons. I thought it may actually slow me down, but I didn't care, if it sounds better - that's all I care.
Strange thing happened, my picking technique got MUCH better. I am WAY faster today. Breaking through MANY barriers I used to have when I followed conventional thinking. PLUS, it sounds a lot cooler tonally IMO.
It got me to thinking about Gilbert's "cello tone" comment. The 'scratch' comes from a sharp angle attack, so that a smaller part of the pick gets into the string wind. So he MUST be using a fairly steep picking angle.... I guess my technique was too 'flat' before, thereby slowing me down without my notice.
The point with all this is: Your technique is tied to how you hold, what weight and what angle your pick is to the string. There may be some subtle glitch holding you back. Try EVERYTHING because you NEVER know. I would have NEVER tried what I am doing presently ... I still don't really know why I did it... but it worked!
You are never too old or experienced to find something new. I strongly recommend switching things up once in a while as there truly is no 'way'. What works for someone, no matter how fast they are, may NOT work for your body and playing style.