Improve Your Picking - 318

Improve Your Picking - Play Guitar Podcast

 Are you struggling with your picking technique? Are you tired of sloppy and inconsistent picking? In this episode, we'll explore some of the most common picking problems and share practical tips to help you improve your technique and take your playing to the next level.






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Are you struggling with your picking? Are you tired of playing sloppy, having inconsistent picking? In this episode, I'm gonna explore some of the problems and share some tips to help you take your playing to the next level. And that's what I want, next level. Hello and welcome friends to this episode of the Play Guitar Podcast. I'm Lee, and this is the podcast that's determined to make you a better guitar player, no matter if you're just starting out or you've been playing for years, this is the show that'll help you become a guitar player that you always wanted to be. If you're new here, hi, welcome. Make sure you subscribe to the podcast and check out the description. That's where all of the links of the show are.


Welcome to this episode of the Play Guitar Podcast. If you're looking to improve your technique, but you feel like you've hit a wall, you're not getting any better. Do you find yourself making some of the same mistakes over and over and over again? If you've answered yes to this stuff, don't worry, you are not alone and you are in the right place. We're gonna handle it today in this podcast. We're gonna dive deep into the three most common problems that guitar players face with picking technique. And then we'll talk about the reasons why these things occur. And we'll talk about some solutions you might use to overcome them. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced player, these things are gonna help you put this problems in your past. And remember this week in the private podcast, we're gonna dive deep into these subjects.


So this week, what are we doing on the private podcast? We're gonna be focusing on three advanced picking techniques. Sweet Picking Wednesday. We're gonna be talking about sweet picking today. We're also gonna be talking about alternate picking on Thursday and then Friday we're going to provide detailed explanations, exercises and practice tips to help you master these techniques and take your playing to the next level. So if you're serious about improving your guitar playing, head over to to sign up, become a member and get access to the private podcast today. I can't wait to see you there. Now onto the content. Number one, string skipping.

Okay, so what do we got? What's the issue with string skipping, right? It's so easy to go back and forth between two strings. As soon as you got to jump over one or two or three, you get a lack of accuracy. This has to do with hand position. Where you keep your hand down by the bridge, okay? I talk about this a lot. Blind piano players. You see a lot of, there's been many different ones through the years of people who struggle with vision, who play guitar out of a piano, of a keyboard, right? And how do they do that? How do they do it? It's by once they know where their hand is, they have a certain place on the piano. Once they know where that is, they can know where all the other notes are in relationship to that one place. So with guitar player, playing is the same thing. We're looking usually at our left hand, if you're a right-handed guitar player, at our fretting hand, I guess is a better way of talking about that.


We're usually looking at that hand 'cause we're doing complicated shapes and we're doing different patterns that need extra attention. Well, who doesn't get any attention around here? This guy, the pick, right? We're not even looking at our picking. We're just hoping for the best. Well, how are we gonna be able to jump strings, jump five strings and do it accurately if we're not looking, right? By feel. The same way that a blind piano player can know where all of the notes on the keyboard are. What I like to do is I'd like to put the side of the palm of my hand and I do it right where the low E string and the saddle meet. And I rest it right there. If I can do that, I know where all of my strings are. So I can go skipping strings by twos, by three. There we go, there's three. How was I doing that? Well, once I had that hand locked in place, my wrist would change. And generally when I talk about picking, I say to lock the wrist and pick everything from the elbows. But when we're talking about feel, we're touching the bridge and the strings to no position.


Sometimes a little movement of the wrist and getting to know how much that is can help with that. So one of the few times where I actually talk about using the wrist when we're doing string skipping, not so much just regular picking, that always comes from the elbow. So how can you do that? What kind of exercises that you can do? You can do what I was just doing. Doing a little math, saying, "Okay, I'm gonna jump every other string." (upbeat music) So E, D, A, G, D, B, G, E. And then back, E, G, B, D, G, A, D, E. So I'm going every other string. I'm not fretting anything. And I'm muting so that they don't ring out. (upbeat music) You could do up three and back one. (upbeat music) We could skip two. (upbeat music) All of these things, if you put that into your daily practice, is going to clear this problem very, very, very quickly.


Another thing that's a big problem with picking is if your rhythm's off, if you don't have good timing, if you're trying to pick things like 16th notes, what you'll learn is the more notes that you put into a short amount of time, the faster you're gonna play. So a lot of people where if you're, (upbeat music) if this is your tempo, but because I've got one E and a two E and a three, so if this is one, two, three, four. A lot of people when they try to do 16th notes, we have a lot of notes all in the row like this, they tend to want to speed up, right? Over time, then you'll realize, hey, I'm off track with everyone else. So using a metronome, again, is a fantastic way to improve timing. Is it the funnest thing to do in the world? No, is it as fun as playing with a looper or backing tracks? No, but is it gonna help with your timing? Yes, all day long. So maybe just a few minutes of that every day will be all you need to really get your timing rock solid. How about keeping a steady rhythm over time?

A lot of us can keep a steady rhythm for 30 seconds, but how about for three minutes? That's a regular song, right? How about for five minutes? That's an extended song. How about for 10 minutes? That's an Allman Brothers Tour de Force song. 30 minutes, mountain jam, whole album side, right? How can you keep your rhythm going and not slow down and not start to get off track?

Start slow and work your way towards that. So metronome is a great way to do that. Why? Because you can change the speed in very, very tiny increments and fool yourself into getting better. So say you start something at 70 beats per minute, which is pretty slow, right? And eventually it needs to be 100 beats per minute. Well, every day you can go, okay, I can play at 70. Well, let's see, let's just bump it up to 71. You're not gonna be able to tell the difference. It's such a small difference that you're probably easily going to be able to push it up to that level. And then as you get used to that, you can keep pushing 72 the next day, 73 the next day. So fantastic way for improving your accuracy, giving yourself time to focus on what you're actually playing and not worrying about playing it super fast. And then after that, once you get it solid, bump it up to the next level. Tension and fatigue. So tension in your playing can come in many different ways. What we're talking about for picking is tension in your right hand, holding the pick too hard, right? And getting that, you know, when you hear people who hold the pick too hard, you get this kind of sound, a very abrasive, (pitch playing) over-picked sound when using the plectrum, right?


And then what ends up happening is, if you hold your pick too tight, you end up pushing the string instead of playing across it. We're looking to play across the strings. We want the strings to stay as straight as they possibly can, 'cause that's when they're in tune. But when you push the string, as those of you who are watching can see, you can really push the strings really far without noticing it. They get massively out of tune and sound terrible too. So how can you do that? Do some warm-up exercise. Do some stretching and warm up your hand where you can still hold the pick loosely, but still play at the speeds that you need to do. It's a balancing act to get that to happen. Okay, so the next thing we were talking about is uneven dynamics. That's uneven volume. That's really all it is. So when you're playing this one passage that's difficult, maybe you're overpicking it, it's super loud. And then when you're playing single note, it can really happen between chords, just what I did between chords and scale. So your chords might be super loud and your scales are quiet. And maybe that's not what's... In one song, that might sound great. In another song, it doesn't. So getting control over your dynamics. Weak or uneven volume. So what most people do when they practice scales is they pick the scales across, basically it make it sound exactly the same every week, every day, going through your scales. But what if, what if I practice my scales once? This is D major.

(guitar music) It's the first time through. (guitar music) There's the last time through. (guitar music) So the first one is here. (guitar music) Second one. (guitar music) Third one. (guitar music) So I'm practicing playing at a small volume, a medium volume, and then a high volume, right? And getting used to being able to do that. So once, you know, we just think, oh, that's something I can do on the fly. But if you never practice it, you don't have control over the volume of how you pick. So being intentional with that, okay, I'm gonna practice playing this song as quietly as I can. It's not as easy to do as you think much. You know, you see some bands who play, and all of a sudden, for some reason, the band decides it's gonna get quiet, and everybody follows maybe the drummer or something like that, and they get very quiet.


And then you'll hear like, the guitar players might have a noise gate, and the noise gate, they get so quiet that the noise gate just shuts off, right? So you can't hear them at all. You know, or one person is trying to play quiet, but they just can't do it. Boom, boom, boom, boom. You know, it's over top of everything, right? So that's a very important thing to add to your practice, is different volumes for different uses. Let's talk about using our fingers effectively. There's a lot of different ways to pick, and some people gravitate towards different ways. Some people, they just only use the flat pick, and that's all they do. I am of the camp that I've got, you know, if I hold the pick with my thumb and first finger, I've got three other fingers there. Usually I use the pinky for support, but I will very often use my middle finger, my ring finger, along with the pick, almost in a finger style approach. Now, sometimes you'll just do that automatically, just 'cause it just happens, but what would happen if you practiced that? If you actually practiced using, so I'm gonna do a scale. (guitar music) And I'm picking, then I'm using my finger, then I'm picking, then I'm using my other finger. So this is the pick note, and this is the pulled note with just my bare finger. (guitar music) Here the, it has a whole different quality.

(guitar music) It's almost like a slide guitar that's using their fingers just for all the slide stuff, that pulled, it's got a pulled. (guitar music) When you use just your fingers in a finger style sound, it has a fantastic sound to it. It's different than the pick, and mixing those two is a lot of fun, you can practice that many different times.

Let's look at another thing about picking is inconsistency with tone, the tone of your picking. Well, most people say, "Well, it's my pick." (laughs) It's got a certain tone to it. Well, there's some things that you can do with where you pick that can really help. So here's our G power chord. Now if I play this G power chord down by the bridge. (guitar music) It's gonna have a different sound as if I played up by the neck. (guitar music) You hear that? Bridge, neck. Now I'm gonna switch, that was on my bridge pickup, I'm gonna switch to my neck pickup. (guitar music) It's even more dramatic with that. (guitar music) Sounds kind of like surf guitar, the closer I get to the bridge, and more like almost like an acoustic or hollow body up towards the neck. But it's not just all or nothing. We've got this whole distance between the bridge and the neck. (guitar music) And it changes. (guitar music) The tone changes as I slide through there.


So a lot of us, what we do is we'll rest our hand or fingers that we're not using on one of the pickups. You'll see bass players like to do that too. They'll put a little, one of those little shelf things that kind of puts their hand in place. Getting some sort of touch on the guitar to put you into place. And then they leave their hands there all the time. But if you (guitar music) move your pick along the string (guitar music) you're gonna get drastically different sounds (guitar music) Very different sounds. And especially with you, like I'm using a clean sound now but if you were to use a distorted sound it's actually accentuated. You get to hear the harmonics in a distorted sound a lot more than you just do a regular clean tone. So where you place your pick along the strings can really help the sound of your picking and the dynamics of your picking. How about a lack of expressiveness? So we're talking about dynamics here. But when you talk about expressiveness,

expressing something that's communication. And when we talk about guitar communicating with someone we deal with something called phrasing, right? We're making phrases with our single notes on the guitar. We're making little sentences that are trying to express something. We're trying to express emotion in our playing. And if you have a picking style that only has one volume

or only plays in one place of the two things that we talked about. Only plays in one place of the down by the bridge and only plays in one volume. It's not going to be as expressive as if you could manipulate those tones and those volumes for the phrase that you're trying to communicate to. Okay, so how can you practice that? Well, there's a lot of my students. We have a lot of different phrasing exercises that we do. But before you even get into all that, why not listen to the melody of the song? If the melody of the song is expressive to you, why wouldn't you go to that and see if you could recreate that on the guitar? Just saying, just an idea, right? Why would we spend tons of time going around this to get to that? Why not go straight for the thing that works every single time? And that's the melody of the song.


And trying to mimic, trying to recreate the expression. And so you could hear that the vocalist is like really belting out at one point and then very quiet at another point. And all of those things can go into the expression. And these are things that you can do with what we talked about today. Placement of the pick, how hard you play, how light you play, practicing all of those things. The last thing we'll talk about is speed and endurance with picking. Some people put that first. I like to think of it as third. We got some other skills we need to build up before we start pushing that into place. Technique, exercises are great for helping you build your skills. But just know where you fall apart. That's the thing. If you know where a certain speed or something like that, that you fall apart here, that's where you should be working on. That's where you live. You live right there. And so you can get that taken care of.


That's where you're gonna live, right? So I always say, find the stuff that, find the trouble spots, work them until you can get through them. Then you'll find the next one's work through them. And before you know it, you'll have a solid foundation that you're working on. Endurance is another thing that comes with daily practice. And endurance at home is very different than endurance when you're playing a night of music. That's a whole different level. That's a short race versus a very, very long race too. And making sure to keep yourself relaxed, especially in a band setting where you're playing for hours and hours and hours. If you're tense that whole time, you're gonna be worn out halfway through. And then all you're gonna wanna do is take a break and not have fun playing these songs, okay? Okay, so I'm gonna go ahead and call it there. There's a lot more things on this outline. I'm chucking them.


Maybe we'll revisit them at some point. But there's a lot that you can do with your picking. It's the most overlooked part of a guitar player's journey. And if you spend time consciously working on your picking, you will get a one-to-one relationship of the time you put in to the benefits that you receive. It will come straight out there, okay? All right, so I will see you next week. I hope you had a good time with talking about the three most common tech problems and how you can overcome them with your picking. So I'm gonna call it that's a wrap.


Thanks for tuning in today to the Play Guitar Podcast. Don't forget to hit the subscribe button below to stay updated on our latest episodes. And please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or iTunes if you found the content valuable, but wait. There is more. If you're ready to take your guitar playing to the next level, lock in your membership to the Academy today and get exclusive access to my five days a week private podcast, where you will learn directly from me and get a lot more fun and interesting guitar infotainment right there in your online home base for guitar. Thanks again for listening. And I will see you on the next episode of the Play Guitar Podcast. Bye-bye everybody.

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