The picking hand

Juan Luis Vidal

Not so new member
Joined
Jul 18, 2023
Messages
187
Location
Santander, Spain
I have to admit I have never paid much attention to my picking hand other than being on tempo (and making sure the pick does not slip away). Always used my thumb and first finger to hold it while the other fingers kind of fanned away, sometimes anchoring one of them on the guitar's body, sometimes not.

Only recently I started to notice that many players do not fan the fingers away and never anchor the hand to the guitar body, floating it almost in a fist shape. I have read about its many benefits but after more than 2 decades of playing with my "fanned-fingers-maybeanchored" style I'm really struggling to get a hold with this new for me way of holding the pick.

I have seen some guitarists like John Petrucci kind of switching between the 2 styles: floating fisted hand when playing rhythm parts and fanned fingers when going to a solo.

What's your picking hand style and what's your view on this topic?
 
I tend to keep my fingers curled towards the palm but not to the point of making a fist. "Loosely curled!"

Good, bad? Don't know but for better of worse it's what I do.

Speaking of out picking hands.....man, mine has really lagged lately. I play at church and while I enjoy it and get a sense of fulfillment it's not very "chops intensive" music so to say. But it does have it's own challenges for me.

Trying to get out of my comfort zone by learning "Man On The Silver Mountain" by Rainbow. Might be easy for some of you but for this old guy it's not! Ritchie Blackmore is a beast! Those arrpegio's he plays when Dio sings "Come down with fire" are quite the workout. Slowly working up to speed but it's gonna take a while and that's okay. It'll be good for me!
 
I keep my hand more in the fist configuration. I anchor my palm on the bridge mostly but will float it for somethings. I have never really been one to anchor with a finger on the top. I occasionally use some of the other fingers on my right hand to pick strings in a chicken pickin type of playing.
 
In my limited guitar playing prior to 2021 (probaby 500 hours in my life previous to 2021), I always held my pick with thumb, index finger and middle finger. Rest of hand mostly in a fist shape, but not real tight. At the end of 2021, having played somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 hours that year, I started to feel some pain at the bass of my index finger on my pick hand (right). Did some research and the consensus from what I read seemed to be using just your thumb and index finger was best ergonomically, with middle finger as support under the index finger. I started transitioning to that, but have not fully made it there. Probably 30% of the time I am holding it the new way, but I easily fall back to the old way. That is after 18 months of trying to change it (passively though, I don't spend any time on it, just change it when I think of it). That 30% of new method though has made the pains at the base of my middle finger go away, so I am satisfied with the results I have been working on. As for the fist, I like to keep my hand fanned out, but I find it difficult to commit to it. Probably 5% there on that change. The reason I want my hand fanned out a bit is if I don't, my fingers get pretty warm next to each other during long sessions. That is usually when I will let my fingers fan out to cool them down, but it does not last long. I also started in 2022 working on loosening my monkey grip on the neck and there too, I am probably 30% of the way to the lighter touch, rest of the time, still choking the neck. In part I blame the intensity of some songs which pushes me to the tighter grip, and new songs, which I by default grip tighter until I learn them better. Once I am comfortable with a song and where my fingers need to go, I can usually lighten the grip, but need to think about it.
 
Probably unlike most PRS players, I play almost 100% fingerstyle these days. Sometimes Im anchored, sometimes i'm floating. But when im anchored its where my thumb meets my wrist above the low E, rather than the pinky. Then you can roll over and mute with the base of the hand. Fingers are out, ready to pluck a sting. When i do flatpick im generally anchored with the pinky. I think it depends on the style of music you're playing. Probably not much anchoring happening when you're strumming chords.
 
For a long time I anchored my picking hand with my pinky finger. After a long time playing, however, I found anchoring it restricted my freedom of movement with the pick and tended to somewhat limit my playing to downward strokes.

So I changed. Took a few weeks to get used to something different.

Now I let my hand float, but not in a tight fist. I like to have my fingers and wrist relaxed. The tighter the picking hand, the tighter the wrist tends to be, and the more restricted the ability to move the pick accurately and quickly.

I don't rest it on the bridge, but there are times I rest the edge of my palm on strings I'm not picking.

I don't know if this matters, but players like John McLaughlin and Tim Pierce usually let their hands float, and the fist isn't clenched. Some, like McLaughlin and David Grissom leave their 3rd, 4th and 5th fingers free for hybrid picking, but still don't anchor the hand when they use only the pick.
 
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About 2 years ago there was a big YouTube video where the guy went deeply into your picking hand. Everything from the way you hold the pick, to the angle of your hand, how you move your hand during picking, anchored or not, etc. I got in a discussion about it with another friend and did some close up videos of my picking hand while I played. I discovered I do things I didn't realize I even did, because I always seem to just adapt to WHAT I'm playing.

So I don't have one set hand position, or one way I hold the pick, one pick angle, one style of anchored or not, etc. I adjust to whatever works best for what I'm playing.
 
I Think Certain Picking Techniques Are Adopted Due To Musical Styles Played And The Tones Used To Play Those Styles.

I Anchor My Pinky And Palm Mute With The Back Side (Pinky Side) Of My Hand As Well As Using Finger Tips On My Fretting Hand To Mute. I Learned That Way And Was Self Taught So I Found A Way To Control Things The Best I Could. I Am Primarily A Metal Player With My Metal Roots Really Grounded In The Thrash Side Of The Genre. I Love The Fast Picking, Very Detailed And Tight Stuff. I Have No Issues Down Picking Or Alternate Picking With Having My Pinky Anchored. I Admit My "Technique" And Nuances (Especially Muting) Are Likely Not Conventional But I Don't Know Any Better So I Go With It And Have Been In The Game Far Too Long To Change.

I Do Notice When I Am Playing Less Intense Stuff My Right Hand May Raise A Bit And Float And I May Not Always Anchor My Pinky. No Matter What I Am Playing, If I Have The Time Musically To Hit A Note And Let It Breathe My Pinky Will Not Be Anchored. It Isn't Always Connected To The Guitar Body In Those Instances But When I Am Doing The Business On Heavy Riff Chugs And Fast Lines Or Riffs It Is Always Anchored. I Also Notice I May Rotate My Hand A Bit At Times And Have More Of My Pinky Anchored As A Whole Rather Than Just The Tip Of The Finger. That Usually Happens On Faster Alternate Picking Stuff Where I May Be String Skipping Or Arpeggiated Things Or Even Palm Mute Chugs On The Low E While Doing Some Sort Of Fast Riff Stuff On The Higher Strings. I Notice When I Do This My Pick Position Goes From A Heavy Forward Aggressive Pick Angle To A Bit More Flat For Speed And Efficiency Purposes. I Also Notice My Anchoring Position Can At Times Be Used As A Type Of Spacer Or Height Fixation Type Of Thing. Even Though My Hand Is Almost Always Muting Strings I Can Rotate Or Adjust Height By My Pinky Placement And Angle.

Regarding Finger Picking...I Am Not Skilled or Learned At It. I Get The Job Done For What I Need. I Am Not Conventional Here Either But I Primarily Use My Thumb And Middle Finger And Had My Pick With A Curled Up Pointer Finger. If I Am Not Holding A Pick I Use The First Finger More. Most Of My Finger Picked Parts Are Clasical Type Chords (So I Am Told) Where I Play Low And High E Together Or A And B Strings Together...Things Like That. Those Are Clean Tones And If I Do Traditional Playing And Use Traditional Chords I Am Simply Flat Picking Those In Most Instances.

Of Course There Are The Pick Squeels And Harmonic/Ringy Things I Do With Partially Muted Fret Fingers And Pick/Side Of Thumb Technique Thrown In For God Measure.

Sorry For The Long Rant Here As I Had To Grab A Guitar And Really Process And Literally See What I Do And How I Do It To Answer Honestly. I Hope I Was Able To Articulate It Clear Enough So It Makes Sense To The Person Reading. :)
 
About 2 years ago there was a big YouTube video where the guy went deeply into your picking hand. Everything from the way you hold the pick, to the angle of your hand, how you move your hand during picking, anchored or not, etc. I got in a discussion about it with another friend and did some close up videos of my picking hand while I played. I discovered I do things I didn't realize I even did, because I always seem to just adapt to WHAT I'm playing.

So I don't have one set hand position, or one way I hold the pick, one pick angle, one style of anchored or not, etc. I adjust to whatever works best for what I'm playing.

This more or less sums it up for me as well. It really depends on what technique is most effective for what I'm playing at the moment, although it is rarely a conscious thing.
 
The video I'm referring to discusses picking up or down on a string, verses straight across. I only discovered after watching the videos I did, that I actually did this when jumping strings. I didn't even know I did it, but discovered that I had just adapted to what worked best to play certain things. I discovered several things that I didn't even realize that I did.
 
In my limited guitar playing prior to 2021 (probaby 500 hours in my life previous to 2021), I always held my pick with thumb, index finger and middle finger. Rest of hand mostly in a fist shape, but not real tight. At the end of 2021, having played somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 hours that year, I started to feel some pain at the bass of my index finger on my pick hand (right). Did some research and the consensus from what I read seemed to be using just your thumb and index finger was best ergonomically, with middle finger as support under the index finger. I started transitioning to that, but have not fully made it there. Probably 30% of the time I am holding it the new way, but I easily fall back to the old way. That is after 18 months of trying to change it (passively though, I don't spend any time on it, just change it when I think of it). That 30% of new method though has made the pains at the base of my middle finger go away, so I am satisfied with the results I have been working on. As for the fist, I like to keep my hand fanned out, but I find it difficult to commit to it. Probably 5% there on that change. The reason I want my hand fanned out a bit is if I don't, my fingers get pretty warm next to each other during long sessions. That is usually when I will let my fingers fan out to cool them down, but it does not last long. I also started in 2022 working on loosening my monkey grip on the neck and there too, I am probably 30% of the way to the lighter touch, rest of the time, still choking the neck. In part I blame the intensity of some songs which pushes me to the tighter grip, and new songs, which I by default grip tighter until I learn them better. Once I am comfortable with a song and where my fingers need to go, I can usually lighten the grip, but need to think about it.
Good for you. You’re learning what works for you ergonomically… it’s important if you want to still be playing guitar when you’re 70 or 80……
 
Speaking of our picking hands......I've seen a lot of video's on YouTube about the "Jazz" picks so yesterday I went to my local music store and bought some. Bought a pack of the signature picks from both Eric Johnson and John Petrucci. Didn't have a clue what to expect.

Interesting. For the longest time I've been using Dunlop .71 MM picks and to go from that to a 1.38 mm and a 1.5 mm is quite a change. Thicker and smaller than what I'm used to. I've been going back and forth between the two and so far I think I prefer John Petrucci picks. They're a little bit bigger giving me a bit more to hold on to.

With the beveled edges they just glide along the strings. Seems like they'll hold their shape for a long time.

Been trying to work on my picking speed (I've never been a fast player) but already I have a feeling these picks could be of some help. I already notice a shade of difference. Of course, a ton of practicing helps as well!!
 
Went pick less for year cos of Jeff Beck, I had to figure it out. I'm no Jeff Beck still but still rock in the fly without a pick now.

These days I try to use them all. Hybrid, tuck and finger, pinky anchor (thanks Mark Knopfler) pick etc.

The person I've been most interested in recently is Pat Metheny with his extended thumb and for finger pick style. He does some wild stuff and its very hard for me to pick that way.

Great post, you all have style!!!
 
Speaking of our picking hands......I've seen a lot of video's on YouTube about the "Jazz" picks so yesterday I went to my local music store and bought some. Bought a pack of the signature picks from both Eric Johnson and John Petrucci. Didn't have a clue what to expect.

Interesting. For the longest time I've been using Dunlop .71 MM picks and to go from that to a 1.38 mm and a 1.5 mm is quite a change. Thicker and smaller than what I'm used to. I've been going back and forth between the two and so far I think I prefer John Petrucci picks. They're a little bit bigger giving me a bit more to hold on to.

With the beveled edges they just glide along the strings. Seems like they'll hold their shape for a long time.

Been trying to work on my picking speed (I've never been a fast player) but already I have a feeling these picks could be of some help. I already notice a shade of difference. Of course, a ton of practicing helps as well!!
I tried the jazz ones but they were too small for me. I had no idea John Petrucci had picks, I'll check it out.
Many years ago I tried for the first time the Dunlop stubby 2.0 mm.... And haven't looked back. I periodically order bags of them so my house is flooded with those little things.

They are fast, they are big and have a beveled area so the grip is more secure than in any other pick I have tried. Awesome for fast picking and riffing hard, not so much for strumming clean chords.

The Ernie Ball Prodigy 1.5 are also great ones, but the grip is not so great as in the Dunlops
 
Speaking of our picking hands......I've seen a lot of video's on YouTube about the "Jazz" picks so yesterday I went to my local music store and bought some. Bought a pack of the signature picks from both Eric Johnson and John Petrucci. Didn't have a clue what to expect.

Interesting. For the longest time I've been using Dunlop .71 MM picks and to go from that to a 1.38 mm and a 1.5 mm is quite a change. Thicker and smaller than what I'm used to. I've been going back and forth between the two and so far I think I prefer John Petrucci picks. They're a little bit bigger giving me a bit more to hold on to.
I converted to Jazz III picks several years ago and wouldn't go back. The JP are a fav, and if I want bigger I go with Jazz III XL
 
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