Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Breaking bad pick stroke habits

This will be a bit of a long post, but I am hoping my fellow gold pick members and BanjoBen can help me out here. I am 29 years old. At age 9 I wanted to learn guitar, and I went to my Dad and he showed me the chords. I have been playing for 20 years now and absolutely love it. I became a gold pick member in the Spring of 2020 and it has been greatly beneficial to my playing. In one of BanjoBen’s beginner videos he shows the proper way to hold a pick. I realized at that point that even though I had become a fairly decent picker who had been performing Gospel music for years that my form/technique was all wrong and if I was ever gonna get past where I had plateud then I would have to break down my form to it’s core and reinvent my technique. Although it was EXTREMELY difficult, and very awkward at first, I now hold the pick the correct way and no longer plant my palm on the bridge. I had no idea my technique was so bad until Ben’s lesson pointed it out to me. I had never really thought much about it before. With all of that being said, I feel there is one more very bad habit that I am going to have to break, but I am finding it very hard and am looking for advice. I never knew about alternating pick strokes and “skipping a stroke” for slides, hammer-ons, and pulloffs. I always just picked it the best I could and did what felt natural. I am finding it really hard to think consciously to skip a stroke while playing when I do a slide, hammer-on, or pulloff. Does anyone have any advice on how to break this habit and make myself learn to do it correctly? I know I will be faster and smoother if I can get this corrected.
Jared H


This sounds familiar. When I first started playing as a teenager a friend told me to alternate picking up and down. So thats what I learned to do regardless of the time value of the notes. For the proper alternate picking in Ben’s lessons I go back to basics - play it slow, count it out, and be very conscious of the pick strokes. It helps to keep my hand moving up and down with eighth note timing and pick when I’m supposed to and skip when I’m supposed to. I have faith that as I increase the tempo I maintain the pick strokes but I’m sure I miss a few!


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One thing that I imagine might help is counting as you play and keeping the downstrokes on the downbeats and the upstrokes on the upbeats. I used to struggle with pick direction too, but now it’s so ingrained in me that I essentially cannot break it without really focusing on doing so.


I agree with Michael. Keep the hand going up and down the whole time whether you’re playing the more or not. And start as slow as you need to to do it correctly. Speed will come before you know it. Correct over fast. Pretty soon you won’t be able to do it any other way.


Way to go, @jared_5364, and I think the hard work will be worth it! I do endorse the alternate picking…to a point. What I mean is that if it’s so engrained in your playing and you’re proficient doing it another way, then so be it. I would like for you to give alternate picking a good try, however, and the way to do that is slow way down. Don’t get overwhelmed. Take 16 measures of something that you’ll play the same way every time with hammers/pulls and work on it alone for about a week. See how the feel/speed changes for you.


This may be the video you already now of;

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Thanks for the tips guys. @BanjoBen I plan to slow it down and dig my heels in and try to grt this thing right!


@Jared_Henderson Check out this vid and the attached tab, keep me posted:

Gtr-AltPickstroke_Exer.pdf (37.5 KB) Gtr-AltPickstroke_Exer.tef (1.9 KB)


@BanjoBen thanks for making the video for me. I will definitely practice with it and try to make it work for me. It will be a little while however before I can practice with it as my wife is literally in labor right now with our first child. (Not even kidding)
I do appreciate you taking time to make a video response to my question. You do a great job running this site.


Share a picture of that kiddo! Congrats!!


Future picker!! Curtis Paul


Congratulations! Curtis is super cute! :heart_eyes: