I recently bought an electric guitar and started working my way through Blues You Can Use. I got up to about chapter 8 before I realised I really should slow down and go back over every suggested exercise and phrase much more thoroughly. Although I have played a bit of acoustic guitar on and off since my youth I have never really got beyond the late beginner stage (mainly fingerpicking country blues) and I just don't have the basic control over skills like bending and string damping to proceed so quickly through the book. It also slowly dawned on me that there's a wealth of material in each of the studies and I was passing it by. So now I am taking my time and doing a little scale and chord practice, working on difficult phrases and more closely listening to my playing in each practice session. The new approach does seem to be working for me and I think I have more realistic expectations of progress now.
I do get confused about pick direction though. I play better mandolin than guitar and almost always pick down on the downbeat and up on the upbeat on mando. Triplets I generally pick DUD. I'm trying to do the same on electric guitar but maybe I should be taking a more flexible approach. Any advice or suggestions?
Good question. Well, first you've got the extremely dogmatic approach. People like Mickey Baker, and many others, insist you have to alternate pick always and never very. The old traditional Gypsy Jazz players insisted that you use alternate picking except when moving to another string where you ALWAYS use a down stroke even when moving to a lower string. Economy pickers say to to always down stroke when moving up a string and up strokes when moving down a string.
However, the best advice I ever heard is from Jazz guitarist Frank Vignola. He says to do whatever is most comfortable for you. He uses down strokes for most of his playing and reserves alternate picking only for very fast stuff. That's the non-dogmatic approach I like.
Be careful about people who tell you that you HAVE TO do anything only one very specific, never varying way. There's no one and only one way to do anything. Look at any 5 of your favorite guitarists. You'll probably see 8 different ways to hold a pick, yet there are people who will insist that you must hold the pick a certain way.
I'll add this, you'll find that you'll often have to figure out the most efficient picking pattern to play certain licks. That pattern will be the one that works best for you.
Good luck and stick around for awhile. Too many people pop in and then disappear.
Welcome, Phil provided excellent advice already. I alternate pick but never really think about direction just being smooth. I have a couple of drills I use mostly just up and down scales, but over exaggerate the picking motion as I go up and down the scale.
Post by blackcountrymick on Jun 18, 2020 15:32:40 GMT -6
PeterO, welcome to the forum, I add that maybe its ok to move through BYCU just doing the study pieces, that's what most of us have done on here to a point, but then go back and review the the theory and rhythm lessons etc. It made a lot more sense to me the second time around. We all learn differently I suppose. Cheers
Thanks, Mick. I'm almost ready to start the ninth lesson but I've got plenty to review and improve upon from the first eight. Working through the book has prompted me to listen to a fair bit of Chicago blues too, which has been great.
I just want to chime in and say that though I don’t really anything to add about improving your picking ability, I really appreciated the insightful post Phil made and the helpful responses of Mick and cunningr. This was a good topic to read and I wish you luck and progress in your practicing, PeterO. Good luck with your playing/practicing to everyone in this topic and on this board, really.
Post by grampalerxst on Jun 21, 2020 5:19:23 GMT -6
Despite Phil's (very good) advice I would urge you whenever possible to stick to the picking you described in your first post until it becomes completely second-nature. The only exception is that I'd suggest learning to do triplets both DUD and strict alternate picking.
Of course, when you encounter something that's just too awkward to pull off with alternate picking, adjust to something that works. And if you just want to add your own touch to things (upstrokes and downstrokes sound subtly different) do whatever gets you as close to what you're hearing in your head as you can.
YMMV of course, but one thing that's helped me a lot is slowing down small sections of music performed by a "real" guitar player and playing along. I use a program called Transcribe! but there are other options including Youtube where you can decrease the playback speed w/o altering pitch. Often I work on less than a full "lick". The things it's helped me with:
-helps me develop the habit of simultaneously listening closely to what I'm playing and what someone else is playing -maybe more than anything it helps me with bends, both intonation and "speed" of the bends -ditto for vibrato -helps me pick up on rhythmic subtleties that notation does not capture -since it's listening-driven, helps w/improving my ear (I often only glance at the written music to get a feel for the position on the neck but work out the notes w/out the music) -conforms to the age-old wisdom of start slow and work up to tempo.
Of course, you may already have much better ear-hand coordination than I and can generally do all the above at full tempo, in which case I'd say use the slowed playback only as-needed. I do it all the time because I have a stonier-than-average ear and clumsier-than-average hands/fingers.
The note being played at this moment *is* the song
When it comes to picking there are 2 common way of picking. The Alternative picking, and Economy picking. You can really go down a rabbit hole of picking hand technique.
Alternative picking is the strict discipline of D U D U D U. For example if you were playing 3 notes on the B string and 3 notes on the E string. Pick movement would be D U D on the B, then U D U on the E. This is regardless of string movement or even skipping. This is usually taught early in most books and teachers. This is also where I would suggest that you spend your efforts.
Economy picking is following picking direction dependent on where you're going. For example if you were playing 3 notes on the B string and 3 notes on the E string. Pick movement would be D U D on the B, then D U D on the E. Since you already moving in a downward direction in your picking from the last note on the E string, you keep the momentum on the first note on the B string. This is taught more often when you get into learning fast playing like metal and sweep picking. Hope this makes sense.
Personally I've never spent any time on Economy picking until I went down a rabbit hole of picking technique and I realized that I'm already Economy picking most of the time. I am not very strict in my technique but going to what Phil said it's what works best for me.