Showing posts with label picking technique. Show all posts
Showing posts with label picking technique. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How to Choose the Right Guitar Pick

Your guitar pick or plectrum if you want to be formal about it is one of the most important but often overlooked aspects of your technique and tone.

Think of it this way, the pick is the absolute beginning of your signal chain and half of your interface with the guitar (fretting hand being the other). This should be viewed as a pretty important accessory. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, materials, and thicknesses and Wikipedia has an exhaustive entry on everything you could ever want to know about picks if you are interested. However, all this variety of technique and tone potential is untapped unless you try some of these out!

Next time you are at your local guitar store, pick up a variety and start experimenting. Try one of your best licks (or worst) out with the pick you are currently using. Then, pick up one of your new picks and try the same lick. Quickly grab the next pick and do the same lick. Rinse and repeat. With each pick, if you know it is a loser right off, set it aside. Keep iterating through this process until you’ve narrowed it down to the pick that feels the best. It may be the one you’ve been using all along and then again maybe not.

Also, keep the rejects on hand for later. As your playing continues to evolve, you will want to go through the pick selection process periodically going forward. What you don’t like today may be just the thing tomorrow as your playing evolves.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sue Foley: A Blues Guitarist You Need to Hear

There was a brief period where some college buddies and I congregated at the Telluride Blues and Brews festival in Colorado for a reunion of sorts. At these shows I spent brief periods of time between sampling micro brews to research blues artists. This experience led me indirectly to a discovery of Sue Foley, a guitarist you really need to hear.

I picked up CDs at the festival and listened and liked. From there I started a subscription to eMusic and started downloading other blues artists including Sue Foley who originates from Ottawa in Canada. I liked her vocal style and the music but was really entranced by the guitarist in the band. The solos were riveting. So, I finally got my fingers working and looked her up only to find she’s the guitarist!

Part of what makes her style unique is she plays with a thumb pick and her fingers and does not use finger picks. I've embedded a clip from YouTube below so you can take a quick look. She rocks!

Regrettably, women are underrepresented in the guitar world. But, all you need do is take a listen and you will see she’s got it. Also, she is doing a lot to spread the word about other female guitarists through her Guitar Woman project. While they are underrepresented it doesn’t mean they aren’t good!

You can find out about all this as well as discography and touring schedule at

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Guitar Technique: Remember the Fine Art of Down-Picking

I did a post awhile back extolling the virtues of alternate picking (striking the string with your pick both on the down stroke and upstroke) as a technique you can't do without. Then, I ran across an article by Dave Mustaine in the February Guitar World pointing out that many of today’s players overlook the art of down-picking. Hmmm.

I have focused almost solely on alternate picking in my practice routine. But, if anyone would know about picking technique, Dave Mustaine, one of the pioneers of thrash and speed metal would, so I decided to give it a try.

I used the intro for Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” as an experiment. I had been using alternate picking for it and though I had tweaked all the elements of my signal chain I was still not satisfied with how it sounded. It just did not have the authority I hear in the recorded version. With down-picking I found an immediate improvement both in punch as well as consistency, I’m into this! So, why did this work so well?

When it came to the improvement in punch I think it goes back to the adage that the most important part of your signal chain is the guitar itself. So, what would have more influence on the tone than the pick attack? Seems reasonable.

As to consistency, I think that improvement came simply because down-picking is the best pick technique for that particular intro. By attempting to emulate the tone using the wrong technique I ended up struggling at speed and running off the rails.

What this experience shows me is that while alternate picking is still an essential tool, I just need more tools for the toolbox! Continuing to add to the toolbox really helps us latecomers to the hobby make up for lost time.

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