Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Discuss the Guitar lesson: Pick & Hand Fundamentals

This is an oldie but a goodie! We’ll discuss what type of flatpick to use and basic pick hand fundamentals to help with accuracy and speed!


This was super helpful! I’ve been playing self-taught guitar for more years than I want to admit! Now my grandson is wanting to learn and I don’t want to teach him wrong so this lesson on holding the pick has made an instant difference. Thank you Banjo Ben!!!


So my question is…do you flatpick in a hammer motion or a screwdriver twisting motion of the hand?

Both! It has to have a hammer movement to strike the string, but the screwdriver dimension to clear the strings when switching between them. Whether you anchor or not is up to you. Here is something worth your time, a short documentary of a good friend of mine, Carl Miner. Skip to the 7:00 mark to see what I’m talking about, but the whole thing is good:

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Ben…WOW what a great video…thanks for sharing.

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I have been playing guitar for years and never held my hand closed and remained anchored most of the time. I totally get it! I’m definitely changing that habit. straight away… .

Just make sure to keep your hand free of tension! Don’t “make” a fist.

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Yeah, I’m not clinching. If anything, I’m fighting my fingers from opening up for the anchor.
I never realized how rigid my wrist was until I broke off the anchor!
I’m noticing my strumming is a struggle right now because that anchor (and palm mute) gave me a point of reference for distance in relation to the strings. This floating around is going to take some time.

I always held my pick pretty short. (mainly for pinch harmonics)
For bluegrass, do I need to let more pick out so that none of my hand flesh or fingernails touch the strings? If so, that will be another hurdle because w/ more pick out, I’m digging into the strings too much.

Sorry for the long post. I guess as an experienced (yet average) rock guitarist, I’m wanting to correct these old habits early on in my flatpicking studies.



Hey Brooks,

You might try using a smaller pick. It will give you the feel of how you used to hold your pick (short for pinch harmonics on electric guitar I’m assuming), but still allowing enough of the pick to protrude for flatpicking and strumming. It doesn’t sound like it would make sense… You’d think you would use a larger pick (and maybe that would work for you), but expiriment with some different picks and see what’s comfortable.

I use an STP-50 Blue Chip Triangle pick. The three sides are smaller than a quarter, but slightly larger than a nickel.

Also, never ever ever never use a Blue Chip for electric pick scrapes!!!

Ha! I watched this whole video. Carl has a pinky anchor pretty much most of the time.
Even Doc was anchored. I don’t think I saw anyone using a palm mute.
Maybe anchor isn’t the right word. Carl has a pinky reference?
I guess it’s about getting comfortable and picking clean… I dunno

thanks for responding and the suggestion on using a smaller pick.
I have a blue chip TD 50 that so far, I’m not liking the tone of too much.
The golden gate ones I got from Ben’s store recently sound better to me.
My standard pick for years has been the Fender Heavy… I love em’

I get pinch harmonics on my acoustic too! Billy Gibbons taught me to squank on anything! lol

I’ll get er’ figured out one way or another!

You’re welcome and I hope I’m helping somewhat!

Does your TD 50 have speed bevels? If so, that’s your tone problem. Sell that thing on Mandolin Cafe or even here on the forum and get one with the straight or what they call “round” bevel. Don’t mistake the Round Bevel with a Rounded Corner (tip). Just get the standard tip without the speed bevels. I promise you will like it better… if not I’ll buy it from you! And the TD’s are huge, I would at least drop down to the TP.

95% of players will disagree with everything I just said… Everybody likes the speed bevels! For those that do, I’m glad it works for you (we all play differently). I’ve had 3 or 4 and I think they sound awful… must be the way I play or my angle. Sounds like you may have the same approach as I do.

I’ve never tried a Golden Gate. Isn’t that more of a mandolin pick with very rounded tips?

Good luck with whatever you decide!

If the back of my middle and ring fingers are brushing the strings, does that mean my hand is too tight, not curved enough or I have the wrong angle?

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Great question, and some of my favorite rhythm players actually brush the strings with their fingers as part of their strum, I find I do at times too. Please check out this lesson:

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That video lesson with Tony Wray was fantastic. Among other things, it showed me how relaxed my hand should be. Thanks!