Welcome to my blog. In this lesson, we’re going to go over some basic technique for your picking hand. We’re going to start out with some kind of universal picking tips and we’re going to learn all about downstrokes and upstrokes with the best beginner guitar. Once we have those two things down, we’re going to put them both together, downstrokes and upstrokes, for something called alternate picking. That’s really important.
All of the things we’re going to discuss here are really critical for your career as a guitarist because you want to make sure you get started on the right foot and don’t develop any bad habits for your picking hand. Let’s just get started talking about the type of pick you’re going to be using. Now, I would recommend to you as a newer guitar player or newer lead guitar player that you start with just a regular shaped medium pick. That way you can kind of get a feel for it and just decide if you want to go thicker or thinner depending on your own personal preference and the style of music you’re going to be playing.
Personally I like a bit
of a thicker pick just because of the type of music I like to play and the
style I’ve developed over the years, but take some time. Experiment with picks
and find out what works best for you.
The first kind of universal strumming tip that I want to give you is to relax. A lot of guitar players tend to tense up because they’re just concentrating on picking so hard that they don’t realize that they’re tensing up. That’s bad for two reasons - #1 it makes your playing less efficient and #2 it can kind of lead to injuries over time if you’re not careful. If you feel any excess tension in your picking hand, just stop. Shake your hand out and start over and make sure you’re as relaxed as possible when you’re picking.
The next tip I want to give you is tied directly to the first one, and that’s don’t just look your wrist and pick from your elbow like this. Again, this can be really inefficient and it can hurt your elbow after a while if you’re not careful. A lot of newer guitar players do that. They tend to lock their wrist, pick from their elbow and use all down strokes. Don’t let that be. Make sure you relax and get some of your wrist in there too.
The next tip I have for you is to use small efficient motions with your picking, and by that I mean only pick the string enough as much as you need to make the string sound. Instead of making big sweeping motions like locking your wrist like this, watch this; just really small efficient motions. Most of that motion is coming from my wrist and my elbow is helping out a bit. If you use big sweeping motions like this, your picking is going to be really inefficient and when you go start learning scales and faster passages and things like that, it’s going to be a lot harder to get your picking done on that kind of stuff. If I use small efficient motions, as soon as I make a downstroke my pick is going to be right there ready to come back and make another downstroke, right? So let’s talk about pick grip for now and we’re kind of getting into the area of subjective picking technique but that’s okay.
There are no rules. You’re going to have to experiment with your pick grip and find out what works for you. Generally, stick your pick out there facing that way. That way if you’re watching the video. Stick your thumb on it as comfortably as you can and then just come down on it with your finger. Now, depending on your hand and what’s comfortable for you, your finger may be curved in like this and maybe more straight like this or maybe the complete other way around. It doesn’t matter. I’ve seen great players use all different kinds of pick grips. You’re just going to have to experiment with what works for you and what you’re comfortable with. Picking angle, the angle you pick the strings up, is another really subjective part of technique that you’re going to have to experiment with yourself and the grip that you choose to use on your pick is going to affect the angle that you pick the strings with. Most people pick with a kind of downward angle like this. Some guys use more of a flat angle right here parallel with the strings.
And some people angle the pick upward. What you’re going to have to do is kind of play around with it and experiment, see what feels comfortable for you and see what works with your style of playing. So let’s get into some actual down strokes. Get your pick into your preferred picking grip and angle, and just come rest it on the high E string, this side of the high E string closest to you and just push down through the string just enough to make the string sound really relaxed with your wrist.
Do that over and over again, remembering all the tips we’ve talked about for your picking so far. This may take days, weeks, months, years, to develop. I still work on my picking all the time. That’s okay. Just start getting comfortable using downstrokes. Another thing that you’re going to want to do is make sure to practice your downstrokes on all six strings because the thin strings they’re way different than the thick strings as far as picking down stroke. Take some time on every practice session for the next while.
Start with the high E string. Do that for a while. Move on the B string and so on, for 30 seconds or a couple of minutes on each string; small efficient motions. You’re also going to want to experiment with where you hit the strings. I’m pretty consistent as far as where I hit the strings. I keep my hand on the back here pretty close to the bridge and that’s where I pick the strings, usually right above this middle pickup on my Yamaha FG700S review. A mistake that I see a lot of newer guitar players make is they only use downstrokes when they’re practicing. Don’t let that be you. You’re going to want to use up strokes in your playing too.
Take your pick and place in on the high E string again, but this time place it on the side that’s closest to the floor and just pull up, twitch your wrist up just enough to make the string sound, keep it relaxed and efficient. So remember all those tips – stay relaxed, use small efficient motions and when you add this into your practice time, don’t forget to do that on all six strings because again all the strings feel different because they’re different thicknesses, right? Start on the high E string. Go on to the B string. Spend a good minute or two on each string, all the way down to the E string.
Upstrokes can be a little bit harder for newer guitar players, I think part of that is because they tend to start with downstrokes and get most comfortable with those first and kind of ignore the upstrokes but work on them. They may be a little bit slower to come but if you practice them, you can get your upstrokes sounding just as good as your downstrokes. Once you get your down and upstrokes together and you’re getting comfortable at doing both of them, you can put them together for a technique called alternate picking and all alternate picking is when you go down, up, down, up without ever repeating a down or an up, two of those in a row.
Basically come into your high E string, down, up, down, up, down, up. And this is where efficiency of motion, really small motions really gets important because if you have a big sweeping motion with your downstroke, it’s going to take you a lot longer to get back to do that upstroke ,so small motions really are important here.
Again you’re going to want to practice this on all six strings, especially for alternate picking. It feels way different on the 6th string than it does on the high E string. Practicing with a metronome or some kind of a constant steady beat is a really important part of developing your picking and your overall sense of time. If you don’t have a metronome, that’s fine. There are a lot of websites out there with free metronome apps and stuff like that. I use my phone all the time for my metronome when I need one.
One thing that you’re going to kind of watch is to not be over zealous on setting the metronome tempo. Don’t want to set it too high. The goal here is not to get real big speed at first. The goal here is to make your picking very clean and even. Set the metronome to a speed that you can keep up with. That way you can really work on your picking technique. Let’s try 70 beats per minute with Seagull S6 review. What we’re going to do is we’re going to do is work on our downstrokes then our upstrokes and then we’re going to put them together to work on our alternate picking.
This can be really challenging but it’sreally worth the work. Don’t get discouraged if you’re not great at it right away. Doing exercises like this and developing your timing can really take you from just your average guitar player to someone that people really notice and say “that guy’s really been working on his timing.” I still work on my picking all the time on a regular basis too. Try to remember everything we’ve talked about on this lesson as we go to the rest of the videos in the Lead Guitar Quick-Start Series.
In the next lesson, we’re going to put everything that you’ve learned about your left and right hand technique together to play through your first scale, the major scale. If you have any questions regarding picking hand technique, leave them below in the commenting system and I’ll get back to you there.