Establishing Your Picking Motion

Now that you’ve got a basic grip and anchoring setup, it’s time to watch our Introduction to Picking Motion broadcast:

Introduction to Picking Motion


In this session, we take a practical look at common picking motions: wrist, elbow, and forearm. We look at how these movements work, and examine their anchoring and muting approaches, and interaction with common pick grips. As we do this, we also identify which pickslanting category each motion belongs to, because you can’t really learn one without the other. So this overview is a great hands-on introduction to what pickslanting is and how it works.

You may already be doing one or more of these motions, or something similar. And if so, great! Becoming more aware of your current mechanics is an important part of this journey. Along the way, you’ll be learning a common anatomical vocabulary we’ll draw on in all our material, so you’ll be able to understand and describe what you’re doing as simply and clearly as possible.

Pick One and Practice

There are players out there who have played for decades and have never experienced what it’s like to have fluid, accurate, and dead-reliable picking with any picking technique. So learning what that feels like is your number one goal. The specific technique you use to achieve that awareness is secondary.

So when it comes to which movements you should be using, the approach we recommend is to try them all and use whatever works best right now. And try not to be prejudicial about it, which can be a mental exercise unto itself. You might not want to “be” an elbow player, for example, or use a certain type of pick grip. But if it works best right out of the box, pursue it. The faster you can learn what it feels like to be fluid and accurate with any single technique, the sooner you will learn what “getting it” actually feels like. And that makes it much easier to learn others.

Speed as a Diagnostic Test

In our interview with the amazing Andy Wood , Andy recommends occasionally “flooring it” while learning new movements, just to see what happens. This is an approach we absolutely endorse. As you’re surveying each of these movements, make sure to try each one at your maximum picking speed, sloppy or not.

The idea behind going as fast as you can while “trying” to do the target movement is that it can help show you whether or not you are actually doing that movement smoothly. Or it can help show you some other movement that your hands figure out on their own which is similar, but more streamlined.

To state this the other way around, the kind of stiff, robotic movements we make when we intentionally play super slowly and deliberately very often do not resemble the kind of smooth, graceful movements that experienced players use when playing at moderate speeds and above. In fact very often, they’re not even the same movements at all. For example, most players, when asked to play something slowly with absolute accuracy, will use exaggerated wrist or finger movements that are simply not present at all when they play faster. Obviously, practicing movements which are not the same as the movements you’re trying to learn completely defeats the purpose of practice.

More importantly, slow robot movements don’t feel the same as real-world playing movements. This makes it almost impossible to know if you’re doing them right, even when you really are doing them right! Just like riding a bike, the process of learning how to perform a picking motion boils down to performing the movement correctly, and recognizing what that correctness feels like, so you can do it again. Anything that upsets that feel also upsets the learning process.

Testing these movements at a variety of speeds, from moderate to as fast as possible, will give you the most accurate movement feel. And that sense of feel is what allows you to do it right a second time. And a third. And eventually, all the time.