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The Pickslanting Primer, Now With 100% More Grip!

A new Pickslanting Primer section addresses the stealthily sophisticated topic of pick grip

By January 9, 2019 January 10th, 2019 Lessons

We’ve been stealthily rolling out updates to the Pickslanting Primer to fill in long-standing gaps in its coverage. The first of these, a long-overdue section on pick grip, went up this week. You can check it out right here!

Pick Grip

Getting familiar with the many ways to hold a guitar pick


Getting A Grip

The fundamental challenge of holding a guitar pick is actually a much more sophisticated topic than it appears on the surface. Just between the fingers and hand alone, there are a surprising number of variables at play and choices to make. On top of this, there are an array of subtle interactions between the grip itself and the other parts of your technique that it is connected to further up the arm.

For beginners, the sophistication of all these moving parts means that glib advice to use whatever grip “feels natural” ignores the fact that to a beginner, nothing feels natural yet. By contrast, experienced players probably adopted a particular grip early on in their playing career, through a process of trial and error that they may no longer even remember. With the passage of time, the feel of this grip becomes familiar, but the way it interacts with the rest of their technique can remain frustratingly opaque.

We’ve hinted at some of this interaction in these new lessons, so that there will be some mention of concepts like forearm setup, body contact/anchoring, wrist orientation, edge picking, pickslanting, and so on, even though they won’t be formally introduced until later sections. We’re trying to be as concise as we can be here, giving both beginners and experienced players just enough information to make sense of this topic so that they can experiment in a hands-on way with a pick and guitar.

Bite-Sized Learning

We’ve taken everyone’s great feedback into consideration in planning and filming these new sections. The most important design consideration was to keep lesson videos short, limited to a single topic, and whenever possible, to ensure that the topic is present in the title of the video itself. This way, the Primer can also function as a kind of quick online reference or index for key concepts. It’s tedious to scan a one-hour lesson to locate a particular subject of discussion. But scanning a one-page list of video titles is almost instantaneous.

Thanks to the single-topic approach, most of these pick grip chapters are between two and six minutes in length — just long enough to communicate a key concept with a few examples. This modularity also allows us to add more chapters if there are subjects that we missed, or topics we would like to expand upon.

We’ll be adding more sections over the coming months, stepping backwards with an even more introductory overview of different pick designs and some practical tips for choosing one. Compiling a clear, organized, approachable “instruction manual of everything” in the universe of picking technique may not be a small task, but that’s what you pay us for, and we take that mission seriously!

Top Comments

  1. Troy says:

    Honestly, the same way as everything else — find the obvious stuff that’s not being taught and try to understand it. There’s so little available on pick grip it’s kind of striking, given how many moving parts there are and how many people seem confused by it.

    I won’t say we’ve solved any great mysteries here, and I’m sure we got a few things wrong or left stuff out that’s important. (Grip force/strength, I’m looking at you!) But hopefully we’ve provided a starting point for nailing down the parts of this that matter - especially for beginners who have nowhere to start.

  2. Troy says:

    So you’re saying it’s more thumb tip to index? That’s a good call, I didn’t include that because we haven’t really seen it, or seen much of it. Is this trailing edge or leading edge?

    Pictures of this would be great. Let’s take a look.

  3. I mostly use forearm-rotation escaped upstroke style with more of a straight-thumb “extended trigger” that uses the pad of the thumb and what you describe as a “side-pad” grip. Will try to wrangle a helper to put together some shots this weekend so you can see these in context on the front of the guitar.

    Edit: I was probably inspired to dabble with the “bent thumb” approach by the Paul Gilbert clip below:

  4. lars says:

    Thanks for a great reference!

    The only thing I felt missing was a discussion on what these different grips let you do, in the “which one should I choose” section. E.g. not all grips are as suitable for hybrid picking. A few players also switch between grips fluently. IIRC Paul Gilbert, that @Frylock just referenced, switches to a three-finger grip for strumming for example.

  5. I was just checking out the intro scene in “Back to the Future” when Marty blows up the amp. The scene has a great shot of his pick grip, and Marty’s grip is pretty uncommon I think. I’ve attached a still showing the grip below. I may be wrong, but it looks like he uses a “pad side trigger-style grip with a 135 degree pick point and high pick exposure”…so of course this results in an exploded amp!

Continue the discussion at The Cracking the Code Forum

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