The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #69788   Message #1272809
Posted By: John Hardly
15-Sep-04 - 05:19 PM
Thread Name: Revolutionary Pick Thinking
Subject: RE: Revolutionary Pick Thinking
Don't mean to be cryptic. Also don't want to make it sound like I invented the wheel or anything -- just that I'm now able to do something I once thought impossible for me. I think that if you knew how impossible I once thought it, anyone else who has concluded the same thing about their own play might take encouragement from my breakthrough.

Anyway, this is about my latest guitar playing breakthrough. I'm now flatpicking without a pinky on the pickguard.

For those of you who never did use a pinky for a reference point, it is probably foreign for you to understand why this seems like such a breakthrough, but for me it's quite a change.

The reason I thought I'd share this is because often folks get too far advanced beyond these little breakthroughs to remember what playing was like before the breakthrough. Then it's hard for them to describe the changes. It's still new enough for me that I thought I'd try to talk about the journey from a perspective closer to the starting point.

I remember a few years ago we talked about playing without planting. I could easily understand the advantages, but when I tried it, I honestly just thought it would always be an impossibility for me. To do an upstroke felt (for lack of another, more musical simili) like doing a flip-turn while swimming, only to find the wall gone. No "push-off" point.

So it wasn't just the lack of reference point that was bothering me -- not knowing where I was on the strings, it was also an inability to execute an upstroke without that reference.

Late last winter I began to realize that I was develping a bad habit. I know that the point of having a pinky on the pickguard is to keep it there lightly, and that just as a reference point -- not a fulcrum. But I was no longer just brushing the top with my pinky. When the pace was really fast, I was realy dependent on the plant for speed. I'd tense up all the more. Eventually I noticed this because my pinky was hyperextending and, though it wasn't so much "painful", it was uncomfortable.

It also rendered the pinky useless when hybrid picking. The pinky would lock into the hyperextended mode and then it kinda "snapped" in and out. I couldn't pluck with it if I had been recently flatpicking.

So I forced myself.

I sat down daily with a handful of fiddle tunes and by slowing them WAY down and playing MUCH lighter I FINALLY found the feeling of playing while floating.

It took me about a week of tries -- not bad if you ask me. Sure, during jams I would at first revert to my comfort zone -- especially at really fast paced tunes. But slowly I've found that I now enjoy the same degree of inaccuracy that I had before the big change ;).

And the benefits are HUGE!

1. No more pinky discomfort, and I can again use the pinky when hybrid picking.

2. I have much greater control over tone --
A)I'm free to venture up the strings
B)I'm not dampening the top's vibration
C)I seem to hold the pick at a better angle for a cleaner sound.

3. Probably related to the better pick angle, I get less pick rotation. Because the pick rotates less I can hold it lighter. Because I can hold the pick lighter I have more volume control and am capable of greater speed.

4. I'm MUCH cleaner with runs on the bass strings. Some fiddle tunes played in the lower register were a challenge when my pinky was on the pickguard. Now I can have the same angle of attack on the bass strings that I have on the treble strings