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Bluegrass Guitar Lessons: Picking Hand Review

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Bluegrass Guitar

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As we
jump into more intermediate levels of, of
flatpicking and playing Bluegrass guitar I
wanted to review a little bit of, of what
I think again are real fundamental skills.
And I would suggest anybody of advanced
levels or
inter, intermediate level to look at some
of the basic stuff we covered concerning
picking hand and fretting and posture.
But I just wanna review here as we, as we
move forward just some key concepts,
and I think are you know, of, utmost
importance of building strong technique.
And the first thing we'll talk about is
you know,
good technique starts with good posture.
We covered a lot of that, and some of the
key elem, key points that to review there
are try to always maintain a, a sense of
where your shoulders are.
We wanna try to build a solid starting
point, starting block if you will,
for, for playing.
A lot of times, bad habits creep in
because we don't have that
solid foundation from which to start
it's you know, either over a few minutes
or a few years.
Tension and bad habits, and bad technique
forms can kind of develop and
it leads to you know, all kinds of
So for me especially, I always am, try to
be aware of how my shoulders are,
are feeling like they're resting
You know, it's, it's sort of easy
sometimes as tensions can
kinda creep up there.
And so just always remember where your
shoulders are.
And so that brings us down to the picking
And and pick technique.
And so just some things to review and, and
cover again are the, my main concept and,
and a point that I try to make.
Is that pick technique is more arm
And it's awareness of this, of this whole
And again, starting with the shoulder and,
and your approach to the guitar.
You know, it needs to, it needs to feel
fairly natural in, with your basic,
just as you approach the guitar, you wanna
maintain a a solid angle off the guitar.
We never wanna have our hands against the
You wanna try to avoid it.
And again from a starting spot, it's
there's, there's gonna be things that move
around as you play.
And especially as we build speed, and, and
and, you know,
play more accurately within the strings.
It's not necessarily always gonna be like
this, but this, but this angle that's, and
especially if you look overhead you can
see this is, this is the way I start.
When I sit down to a guitar, this is what
I wanna see, and what, so
what you have here is a pick is, I want to
feel like a natural extension of the hand.
And you can see my picking my grip
technique there in the way
the fingers are, are around the pick and I
think it's, you know.
A lot of people have different size
fingers, different size hands.
And we mentioned you know,
about how you can look at how you hold a
key if you put into a car door.
You know, you can see how, how you're
hands look with that, you know.
And that's, that's a good,
sort of, normal life kind of indicator of
how to hold a pick.
It shouldn't, it shouldn't feel like a, a
real unnatural kind of thing, and
I would encourage you to experiment with
those kind of things.
You'll, you'll find what works for you, I
really believe.
And so, the next thing we move on to, is
sort of being aware of muscles.
And a lot of intermediate players that I
see have, have pretty solid,
you know, natural-looking rhythm, you
know, picking patterns.
So just.
That looks pretty good.
But, but a lot of things happen when you
go from solid, you know,
natural-looking rhythm playing to single
And so what's going on there with your,
with your picking hand,
a lot of times people it's, it's, it's a
tension that comes in, of, and
maybe sort of a fear based of you know,
you're really trying to clamp down and
get all these notes as as at tempo.
And so what happens is, you know, if you
can see from overhead.
You gotta loose.
Loose strumming and
then all of a sudden you see that.
As soon as a lot of people go to playing
And so, and what happens, and went on
there is just you can,
you can feel it even.
The, the muscles that, that contract and,
and are at, you know, working now,
negatively kind of impact your ability to,
to play cleanly and to maintain.
Cuz what you got with a, with a good
rhythm stroke is, you know,
the full sound of the guitar.
And then if you come to this.
Suddenly you can see, you can.
You know, we can, we can demonstrate
easily the difference in, in tone, and
the tone loss when you go to that, that,
that approach there.
And so that, those are those basic things
to think about, and
we'll get deeper into that as we move into
some exercises and, and
tunes and, and ways to the really building
a strong technique so
we can make better music and make better
sound with acoustic guitar.
And that's ultimately the reward of all of
this kind of stuff.
And, so another thing that I get a lot of
questions about is how,
how tight to grip the pick.
That's a big question, and there's lots of
ways to sort of look at that.
And once again, you know, think about how,
how tight do you hold a pen or
pencil when you write?
How, how tightly do you hold a key when
you put it in the door?
And, you know, it's one of those things
eventually it's sort of subconscious, but
if you were to take a moment and think
about that,
you know, a lot of times it's as tight as
it needs to be,
your muscles are as tight as they need to
be to, to create a certain task.
It's not a general idea of how tight you
should grip a pick,
or how loose you should grip a pick.
And a, and a, and another easy thing to
kinda work on, is if you were to play,
you know, just barely hold the pick just
enough you could pull it out easily.
And you were, you need to make a strum on
the guitar.
you know, it feels a certain way as you,
as you go down the.
And even,
even when you're holding it just barely.
You can, you can feel,
you should be able to feel your hand.
Sort of naturally respond to
the resistance of the string.
And those, those are very small muscles in
your hand doing what they need to do to
create that sound, and
to keep the pick in, in your hand where
they need to be.
It's just you know,
just being aware of those kind of things.
And again, it's sort of subjective a
little bit.
You know, there's not a you know, a
perfect, perfect way to do it.
But you can, I think you can find for
yourself and especially, as you build.
And you'll you know, what we're working on
is building.
I wanna teach you how to sort of be aware
of these things.
And so by, by creating extremes one way or
the other.
So that's, you know, that's very light.
The other thing you can experiment with
is, you know, over gripping.
Gripping too tight.
And you can see immediately, especially
from overhead I've got my my, you know,
solid approach here with angles.
Everything's sorta back into the guitar.
At the wrist, or off the guitar.
If I grip too tightly, you can see a lot
of that angle go away.
Cuz I'm, I'm really pushing, really
pushing on the pick now.
Over exaggerating.
And then the same thing applies if you
were to go to strum a, strum the guitar.
With that.
I mean, I'm really, really holding it
It's, at a, incredible amount of tension
in my, in my right hand right now and,
and forearm.
And again, you can sort of,
the tone's kind of stiff even.
And again, you can sort of, the tone's
kind of stiff even.
Versus the looser.
You know,
that, that stiff of a grip you, you get
more the point of the pick in the strings,
versus the more tone from the side of the
which is again our angles that sorta come
back into the instrument.
Are, are based on getting what we call,
what we call the meat of the pick in the
strings, and so so that's what,
that's what goes away.
You know, the tighter you hold the pick,
you're gonna,
you're gonna experience less tone and you
know essentially more pain in your arm,
and,and we certainly don't want that.
And so in those, those sort of lead us to
points of a transition, and
a lot of what we're gonna talk about from
here on forward is transitioning from,
from good rhythm playing to good lead
I mentioned that earlier.
A lot of intermediate and advanced players
I see that's, that's a bad habit.
And the more you do that and one,
one thing we're going to avoid here is
practicing mistakes.
And and if we can again we have a solid
approach to the guitar, if we have a good
starting spot we can at least, you know,
as we feel tension creeping in,
or, or muscles are getting tired if we're
building this kind of thing,
always sort of come back to where we
And these, these are all good ideas to
move from here forward.
And so those, those are a lot of basic.
Re, basic review of things that we talked
about earlier but again,
these things are so important.
And it's things that I think about every
time I play the guitar and you know,
encourage, encourage you to, to get that
way as well.
And we'll move on to some other basics
with the, the left hand now.