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Picking and Timing (Guitar Lesson)

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Brad Henecke

Picking and Timing

Brad Henecke covers proper picking technique and gives a basic lesson on notes/timing. Brad reviews a few basic concepts that are very important to proper technique.

Taught by Brad Henecke in Speed and Technique seriesLength: 6:10Difficulty: 0.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (06:12) Picking and Notes In this brief lesson, Brad Henecke discusses some very basic musical and guitar concepts that will get you started on your way towards full technical mastery.

Choosing a Pick

When it comes to choosing a pick, there really is no right and wrong. Picks come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, thicknesses, and textures.

Pick Size / Shape

Almost all picks are made in relatively the same shape. There is a broad end and a pointed end. However, there is a wide variety of choices within this stipulation. The majority of picks are taller than they are wide and measure roughly one inch in height. A common example of this pick type is the Dunlop Tortex. However, there are other options available. For example, Fender makes a pick that is just as wide as it is round. Fender also makes picks in the shape of isosceles and equilateral triangles. Most guitarists can't stand these picks. However, System of a Down guitarist Daron Malakian has been known to use these picks almost exclusively. Finally, most jazz players prefer a very small pick. This allows the picking hand to be as close to the strings as possible. This is not desirable for players who frequently palm mute.

Pick Texture

Ideally, you want to choose a pick that is easy to hold onto. Almost everyone is different in this category. The amount of oil your hands produce has a large impact on which pick is easier for you to grip. For example, many players find the Dunlop Tortex picks very easy to hang onto. However, players with very dry skin typically find them impossible to hold onto. These players usually prefer a pick with a smoother surface such as picks made by Fender.

Thickness

Almost all JamPlay instructors recommend that you play with a medium or heavy pick. Thin picks produce an annoying clicking sound when they strike the string. They also tend produce a very weak tone. However, make sure that you do not choose a pick that is too thick. Picks that are too thick are clumsy and awkward to use. Using such a pick also puts you at a higher risk of string breakage.

Holding the Pick

In order to properly swing a golf club, you must first learn how to hold it. Similarly, in order to use your picking hand properly, you first have to learn how to hold the pick. There are three acceptable methods of holding a guitar pick. Spend significant time experimenting with all three options to determine which works best for you and the style(s) of music you play. They are listed here in order from most common to least common.

Method 1

Most guitarists prefer to hold the pick between the thumb and index finger. This grip seems to feel most natural to the vast majority of players. Within this method, you have two viable options pertaining to how the index finger grips the pick. Most players prefer to hold the pick between the fleshy pad of the thumb and the pad of the index finger. On the other hand, some guitarists choose to hold it between the pad of the thumb and the bony side of the index finger. JamPlay instructor Matt Brown prefers the latter method. He feels that he is much less likely to drop the pick when it is held in such a way. He is also able to play with a more aggressive tone.

Method 2

Some players, such as Metallica's James Hetfield and Krist Novoselic of Nirvana, Sweet 75, and Flipper prefer to hold the pick between the pads of the thumb and both the index and middle fingers. These players feel that this method provides them with the firmest, most stable grip on the pick. It also allows them to play with punishing heaviness.

Method 3

Eddie Van Halen has been known to grip the pick between the pad of his thumb and the pad of his middle finger. This method frees up his first finger for rapid tapping licks. This method is not recommended unless you play tapped licks very frequently.

Regardless of which method you eventually choose, slightly less than a fourth of an inch of the pick should extend outward from the fingers holding it. This is the only portion of the pick that should make contact with the strings. Almost all guitarists strike the strings with the pointed side of the pick. Watch Brad for a clear demonstration of how to hold the pick in this manner. However, some jazz players such as Scott Henderson advocate holding the pick upside down. Scott holds his pick this way in order to achieve a slightly softer, darker tone.

Pick Angle

The angle at which the pick strikes the strings has a huge impact on tone production. Holding the pick totally parallel to the string yields the brightest tone. JamPlay instructor Dennis Hodges prefers to hold his pick this way. However, the tone produced by this method may not be ideal for you. Other instructors such as Matt Brown prefer to slightly angle the pick into the strings. This produces a slightly darker tone similar to the effect of rolling down the tone control by 1 or two settings.

The pick angle also has a profound effect on rapid picking. Some players prefer to angle the pick slightly when tremolo picking so that the pick slices through the string. Other players find this technique undesirable and choose to keep the pick parallel to the string while tremolo picking.

Note: If you do not have a "hitchhiker" thumb, you will most likely not be able to hold the pick perfectly parallel to the string. If this is the case, do not try to force the thumb into a position that is uncomfortable. The thumb should remain as relaxed as possible at all times.

Picking Motion

Almost all guitarists generate the picking motion completely from the wrist muscles. The forearm only gives involved when two or more strings are strummed simultaneously. However, some players prefer to generate the picking motion between the thumb and index finger. The thumb pushes the index finger towards the middle finger to produce a downstroke. Allowing these fingers to return to their normal, relaxed position produces an upstroke. Dave Navarro is a strong advocate of this technique.

Fingers Not Holding the Pick

Almost all guitarists that are highly trained in the classical and jazz fields argue that it is NEVER appropriate to anchor any of the fingers not holding the pick on the body of the guitar regardless of what genre you play. However, many rock players and bluegrass players choose to play with this questionable technique.

Note Values and Rhythm

One of the most important components of proper technique is rhythmic clarity. For this reason, Brad begins with the absolute basics of rhythm. The largest note value available in Western notation is the whole note. The whole note receives four beats. In a measure of 4/4 (aka common time), an entire measure is counted as follows: 1, 2, 3, 4. The next smallest value is the half note. The half note receives two beats in common time. The quarter note receives one beat. If it is divided in half, two eighth notes result. An eighth note receives half a beat. A measure comprised solely of eighth notes is counted as follows: 1+2+3+4+. If a quarter note is divided in thirds, eighth note triplets result. (Triplets are not discussed in the lesson video.) Triplets can be counted in a number of different ways. Most musicians prefer to count "1 and ah" for a group of three triplets. If the quarter note is divided into fourths, 4 sixteenth notes result. These can counted in a variety of different ways. However, the JamPlay staff recommends that you count "1 e and ah" for a group of four sixteenth notes.

Note: Open the "Supplemental Content" tab for diagrams detailing these note values and how they are counted.

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Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.


nrebinknrebink replied

Hey Mipooh, I can see why you would think the 8th and 16th are the same as he 'seems' to be playing at the same tempo. Take for example that you play for 30 seconds 2 times. First you play 8th notes at 120 bpm, next you play 16th notes at 60bpm. The same amount of notes will be played over the 30 second period but you will in fact be playing different beats in the measures. In the 1st exercise you will be playing 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and..... In the 2nd you will be playing (As Brad puts it) 1 e and er 2 e and er 3 e and er 4 e and er. Hope that makes sense

renegaderenegade replied

I second what mipooh brought up. Brad played the 1/16th notes identical to the way the 1/8th notes were played. So if anyone gets confused watching this lesson don't panic because it's his mistake. Actually it looked there was an editing break just before he demoed the 1/16's. That might not have anything to do with the reason the demo turned out that way, but it does make for darned good excuse...lol

hussarukhussaruk replied

Hi Brad, Great lesson , ive learnt loads! just wanted to say one of my teachers called how you described where you rested your fingers as an "anchor point" which I think is a great term?

mipoohmipooh replied

Something wrong... as the 1/16 are same as the 1/8.

petepete replied

YES! thanks Brad that seems to work, and it helps with my palm muting. How did you know I was having trouble with that too? ;)

Brad.HeneckeBrad.Henecke replied

it depends on what kind of strumming pattern im playing .If im playing some chords and I want them to sound choppy ,I add some palm muting, and use less pick , to pop the strings more .If im playing full sounding chords or want it to sound like a acoustic guitar rhythm I use a little more pick .I think its something you just have to get use to. With time and practice it will feel more natural. Its not always the same most of the time I don’t think about what im doing .

petepete replied

Brad, do you change the way you hold the pick when you strum? I'm having trouble going from struming to picking because it seems I have to use more of the pick and hold it looser to strum then I loose control when having to change quikly to pick.

Speed and Technique

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Technique is extremely important to playing in any style of music. Perfect technique combined with blazing speed can take your playing to a whole new level.



Series IntroductionLesson 1

Series Introduction

Brad introduces his Speed and Technique series.

Length: 1:15 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Picking and TimingLesson 2

Picking and Timing

Brad Henecke covers proper picking technique and gives a basic lesson on notes/timing.

Length: 6:10 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Picking and DownstrokesLesson 3

Picking and Downstrokes

This lesson is all about the downstroke. Brad discusses technique and shows you how to pick in different rhythmic groupings.

Length: 5:20 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
UpstrokesLesson 4

Upstrokes

Brad covers the proper way to perform an upstroke.

Length: 4:16 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Alternate PickingLesson 5

Alternate Picking

Brad Henecke covers alternate picking and how it can speed up your guitar playing.

Length: 5:00 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Alternate Picking with UpstrokesLesson 6

Alternate Picking with Upstrokes

Brad Henecke presents alternate picking exercises that start with an upstroke.

Length: 3:26 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Sweep PickingLesson 7

Sweep Picking

Brad explains the basics of sweep picking in this fun speed building guitar lesson.

Length: 9:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Economy PickingLesson 8

Economy Picking

Brad explains the basics of a technique called economy picking.

Length: 5:33 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Series ReviewLesson 9

Series Review

Brad provides a brief review of this series. He gives information regarding why technique is so important.

Length: 2:00 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
String SkippingLesson 10

String Skipping

Brad covers proper string skipping technique and gives you some exercises that will speed up your playing.

Length: 8:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Hammer-on / Pull-offLesson 11

Hammer-on / Pull-off

This lesson is all about improving speed by applying hammer-ons and pull-offs. Learn some exercises that sound great and boost speed.

Length: 11:27 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Hammer-On LickLesson 12

Hammer-On Lick

Brad Henecke demonstrates a speed building lick that makes heavy use of hammer-ons.

Length: 0:00 Difficulty: 0.0 Members Only
Brad Henecke

About Brad Henecke View Full Biography Brad Henecke was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on May 5th of 1963. He has been a fan of music for as long as he & his family can remember. You could always find him running around the farm wailing on his cardboard guitar, pretending to be a member of the rock band KISS. Additional inspiration came during his first concert when he got the chance to see Boston & Sammy Hagar in the early 1970's.

This opened up a whole new world of rock and roll music for him; his parents noticed his growing interest in music and enrolled him into guitar lessons when he was 13.

From there he jumped into two years of lessons at a local music store in Cedar Rapids. After discovering Eddie Van Halen, Brad knew that the guitar would always be a part of his life. He took his love throughout the city as he played as a pit musician & jammed at parties for friends.

This made him thirsty for more. He enrolled classes at Kirkwood Community College & also took lessons from the one & only Craig-Erickson (www.craig-erickson.com).

His love for music landed him a gig opening for Molly Hatchet in Cedar Rapids with a band called "Slap & Tickle". He has also played in the Greeley Stampede show for quite a few years with "True North".

Brad is currently playing in Greeley, Colorado with a rock band titled "Ragged Doll". They play a wide variety of music with an emphasis on classic rock from the 60's to present, with Brad playing electric guitar in the five piece lineup.

He currently jams on his all-time favorite guitar: a Paul Reed Smith Custom 24. Beyond guitar, he plays also plays drums & bass guitar. He has also been known to thrash a banjo from time to time. He is still actively playing & passing his 31 years of playing experience on to others (you!).

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