Picking hand wrist angle survey


#1

I’ve been trying to nail down my right hand technique and I’m wondering where everybody’s wrist is and is it bent or is it straight? Is your wrist close the bridge? Is it above the bridge, how many inches? Where is your wrist and what does it look like?


#2

Well, I was gonna reply that my wrist was slightly bent, away from the bridge (was the last time I checked). I figured I would sit down and really see what I’m doing and that seems to have changed. My wrist is now bent slightly towards the bridge, almost grazing the bridge pins. Totally surprised me since I’m a pinky planter.


#3

Mine isn’t anything to write a text book about, but here goes:
My wrist is slightly bent back (away from the guitar)
The outside heel of my hand lightly drags on the bridge pins
My wrist is positioned pretty much over the bridge pins, the angle between my wrist and the line formed by the pins is about 40 degrees.
No pinky plant with a pick for me. I tried dragging, but it didn’t stick


#4

I find myself using two different wrist angles.

When a song finds me mostly using the first 4 strings my wrist is pretty much “flat”. When a song finds me using the last 4 strings most of the time then my wrist is actually pushed in towards the guitar.

I am a finger drag-er’/slider -mainly the pinkie but I play with an open hand most of the time. My wrist really never makes contact with the saddle or bridge but instead the “fat part” of my thumb where it meets the palm does contact the strings just in front of the bridge on almost all of my playing.

I think the wrist angle being pushed in towards the guitar materialized as to be able to blow through the thicker bass strings easier by only catching the the top part of the strings/ permits a smaller portion of the pick being below the string on contact on the heavier bass strings.

I am no “fundamental whiz-bang” when it comes to playing and the right hand position. I work all the time on closing my hand and playing - usually during scale practice, starting a new song, etc as I’d actually like to move to this style verses the sliding fingers/open hand style. When I do play with a closed hand the fat part of my thumb still contacts the bass strings but my wrist pretty much stays in a “neutral” position.

One benefit I found with the open hand verse closed is that the open hand gives me more leverage to flex my thumb and lets me gain speed, with a closed hand I don not get as much leverage to flex my thumb and it turns into more of an arm and wrist movement to pick, where as the open hand gives me more of a thumb and wrist picking style.

I have watched many videos and all the “known players” and they are all over the map with wrist position and right hand picking style/wrist angle…I will say that Ben’s style with the closed hand and smoothness is about as good as I have seen…but then again you have Tony Rice with an open hand and he is after all Tony Rice!


#5

Normally, the back end of my wrist is slightly brushing the top of the bridge. I used to pinky plant but one of Ben’s vids suggested close fisting it to get faster. I couldn’t get used to that but am now somehere in between…no plant but my last 3 fingers are semi-open. Maybe my pinky will lighty brush the guitar sometimes.

Right hand pick technique has given me fits for years. I can not seem to improve my speed or if so, it’s improving at a snails pace.

I have a tendency to move the pick with my thumb and index finger instead of my wrist which greatly slows things down I think. On the high strings (E and B, maybe G) I can fly with my wrist but have problems on the lower strings (D, A and low E).

Mike


#6

— Begin quote from "Oldhat"

My wrist really never makes contact with the saddle or bridge but instead the “fat part” of my thumb

— End quote

This thumb description seemed weird to me until I checked my right hand and found that the edge of my thumb is my main position refererence. I must bend my wrist a little more than most of you guys because my palm/wrist is usually well clear of the bridge. The only other time I contact the guitar is when my hand becomes too relaxed and uncoils a bit. When this happens my fingertips will sometimes brush the soundboard/pickguard.

I think my hand position varies somewhat depending on what I’m trying to play, too. For instance, on crosspicking stuff, it feels like I use a little more wrist action and swing a bigger arc without so much arm movement.


#7

This is an interesting survey and one that I find both enlightening and troubling.

I have struggled over the years with what I “thought” would be the most efficient hand positions. Early in my flatpicking days (first 40 years or so), I kept my right hand relaxed with the fleshy part of my hand (below my little finger) either slightly touching or brushing lightly against the bridge of the guitar (both electric or acoustic). This tended to give me a lot of control over partial muting of single strings and chords while allowing me to feel “connected” to the guitar in terms of where my hand was at any given moment. It also tended to limit my power over the driving of single notes and those notes tended to ring brightly. In addition, the transition from single notes to strumming was slower than if I kept my hand in the same position for both all the time.

About 5 years ago I decided it was time to start to add some serious power and a fatter tone to my picking. So I moved my hand closer to the fretboard (nearly directly over the soundhole). In addition, I have toyed with allowing my little finger to brush against the pickguard, but have found that I prefer (when relaxed) to keep my fingers bend in like a loose fist.

What I have found to give me the most/least problems over the years is my love/hate affair with how I hold the pick. Instead of holding the pick with two fingers (bent index and side of thumb), I hold the pick with three fingers. My index and middle fingers are slightly curled as if I were fingerpicking and my thumb interacts with the pick on it’s pad (directly in front of the center of my fingernail) rather than the side of the thumb. This gives me lots of control over the pick, but also tends to wear out my middle finger nail as it occasionally brushes against the strings. The advantages of holding the pick like this is that it affords me tremendous control over tone and string attack. Also, my right wrist is nearly perfectly straight all the time whether I am picking or strumming.

One final note to this discussion, just like all of you, I have searched for the holy grail of hand, wrist, arm positions over the last 45+ years of playing. And the funny thing is that folks who have tremendous power and control over their technique on the guitar very often have hand/wrist/arm position that an outsider would consider terrible and counter productive (watch George Benson play sometime). Yet in my wildest dreams, I could never play with the fluidity, and punch and speed of George. Which has led me to one conclusion, what really matters is whether you are comfortable with your hand/wrist/arm positions. If you are, just play that guitar till you wear it out and then buy another and wear it out. You are going to be damn good no matter what your hand position is. :laughing:

Take care,

Mike


#8

— Begin quote from "drguitar"

. If you are, just play that guitar till you wear it out and then buy another and wear it out. You are going to be damn good no matter what your hand position is.

— End quote

One of the problems with that philosophy, is that I got a nice boutique guitar. I don’t have enough extra cash to buy another one right now!

Besides I’m a believer in “Gargabe in = Garabage out.” Habits feel normal enough if you do them enough times. I come from an electric guitar background, where I could get away with a lot of bad habits. If I wanted to play a fast passage, I could plant my wrist on the bridge and pick away. Now with tone, cross-picking, trying to get these pieces up to speed, and pre-war bridge spacing (which I’m finding to be the real “bad technique killer”), bluegrass is forcing me to re-think my right hand. If I’m renovating, I might as well do it right. Or at least replace the bad electric guitar techniques that I’ve learned over the years with some bad bluegrass habits. It maybe an unanswerable question, but trying to find the answer is helpful too. I appreciate the input everybody.


#9

I like these kinds of threads, especially when they’re full of good info like the info in this one.

But I won’t try to describe how I play because, since I’m still learning and improving and changing, it wouldn’t help anyone.

The good news is, I’m getting better steadily, and it’s thanks to the folks here who gave me suggestions when I posted a video asking for a critique (months ago). I have a ways to go, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and it’s an encouraging light!


#10

I found a good youtube clip on Right hand technique.

youtube.com/watch?v=-acCUU0W … ure=fvwrel

This clip also did a good job of helping me define my problem. I plant my wrist near the bridge and pick away with an up and down motion (straight wrist.) To get to the next level, I got to free my hand from that bridge and start using rotational movement(slightly bent wrist.)


#11

Thanks for posting this video. I bet it would work for the mandolin as well?

ExFiddler


#12

When learning any new riff/technique on a guitar or banjo I experiment with different hand positions, pick attack angles, distance from bridge on different strings as well as when having different frets capoed.

The amount of times I have to go through most things to learn them and get them to become part of my playing, gives me the added ability to do all this other stuff at the same time.

When learning most anything, playing in time, cleanly, with good tone and dynamics is always my goal, like most anyone else.

I find that I learn a lick/passage much faster when I mess with the tone & such as I’m learning it = I believe I may be listening closer when I’m listening for more things, and I most certainly can repeat something many more times without it becoming overly boring. As an added bonus I also learn so much more about what each of my instruments is capable of sounding like just through small changes in hand position, attack force, etc.

I shoot for what gives me the tone sometimes, or speed, or timing, or clean other times, or simply experiment around to see what works best. I can’t say I have a definite way I play, as it changes per requirements of the song or what I’m trying to accomplish.

In short I suggest continuing to look for what it right for you. We are all built, coordinated, and wired differently and what works for one may not for another. Great question to ask though, good reminder to pay attention to what we do when we play and why we are doing it.


#13

— Begin quote from "KGM"

I found a good youtube clip on Right hand technique.

youtube.com/watch?v=-acCUU0W … ure=fvwrel

This clip also did a good job of helping me define my problem. I plant my wrist near the bridge and pick away with an up and down motion (straight wrist.) To get to the next level, I got to free my hand from that bridge and start using rotational movement(slightly bent wrist.)

— End quote

After watching the video, I realised I’ve got more or less the same problem. Been working on it for the last two days. Feels like I’m getting somewhere at least. Thanks for posting this link! The guy also has a lot of other great vids.


#14

I’m glad that you all are finding the topic helpful. It certainly is a step in the right direction for me.

ExFiddler- I imagine the picking method in that video applies to Mando, but as a guitar player, I’d be interested what the other Mando players out there think also.


#15

Good video, and good flatpicker. I would not take his words as Gospel though. In fact, if you listen closely, it sounds like he makes excuses for what he sees as possible short comings to his own technique, “You’ll notice I am resting my fingers on these strings when I pick the lower strings, this is not an anchor…”.

I think it is easy to blame one or more parts of your technique for what you believe are shortcomings to your ability to play. It is an easy and clean answer, “If only I were to release my little finger from the top of the guitar, I could play much faster and with more power…”… etc. But I am beginning to understand that great flatpicking ability on the guitar comes from a concerted effort to learn lots of melodies and to learn them with great precision and rhythmic accuracy. Obviously, a good sense of knowing how to properly alternate picking helps, but I am pretty sure there are amazing guitarists out there who do everything technically wrong yet can pick the heck out of the guitar! :astonished:

As I mentioned earlier, whatever works for you comfortably, is probably the way to go unless you are a rank beginner (It doesn’t look to me like anyone here is that). And, in all fairness, I completely relearned my right hand technique a few years ago just to gain additional power, tone and independence from my right hand. Had I instead spent all my time on learning fiddle tunes and just playing, I probably would have gotten 99.9% of that power, tone and independence without changing anything (hindsight is 20/20). :laughing: It reminds me that my wife, while in the process of trying to clean off her desk, will clean everything else in the house first and will run out of energy before cleaning off her desk. To her, clearing the clutter from her desk seems insurmountable so she does those things that make her feel like she has moved forward. But her desk remains cluttered.

These days, I spend most of my time learning more tunes and practice improvising over them at a slow and reasonable speed (sometimes fast and unreasonable which keeps me humble :blush: ). I am finding that I am improving at a much faster rate than I did while I was spending energy relearning my right hand technique.

YMMV.


#16

— Begin quote from "drguitar"

But I am beginning to understand that great flatpicking ability on the guitar comes from a concerted effort to learn lots of melodies and to learn them with great precision and rhythmic accuracy. Obviously, a good sense of knowing how to properly alternate picking helps, but I am pretty sure there are amazing guitarists out there who do everything technically wrong yet can pick the heck out of the guitar!

— End quote

That’s how I look at it!

I believe that most of us can get really, really good if we care enough to work at it for a long time. And that’s good enough for me.

That’s why I don’t worry too much about ‘perfect’ technique. I only worry about ‘good enough’ or ‘standard’ technique.

Some players’ physical gifts make them more capable than the average player. Yet, other people deal with limitations that force them to play in a ‘technically wrong’ style. But they all still make music.

It can’t be denied that certain famous players are physical freaks who can do things the rest of us can’t.

Consider some of the all-time great musical instrument players – Paganini and Rachmaninoff for example. They were freaks who did things differently. Paganini, for instance, could play 3 octaves on the fiddle without moving his hand. For me, that’s impossible, and it will never be possible no matter how much I practice. I can’t even picture how it can be done. Rachmaninoff spanned ridiculously huge intervals with his unique piano chords. That would be impossible for me (especially since I don’t play piano!).

So if the world’s best players pick the guitar in certain ways, I dont’ necessarily have to try to copy them.

My bottom line is: I’ll never have a thumb as flexible as Tony Rice’s, so I don’t worry about his picking technique. I just worry about making my guitar sound good. I know I can build up a lot of skill if I retain a passion for playing.


#17

Good to hear from you Doc! Great thoughts.

Julian, you talked about some can do things others can’t. I ran into that in classical guitar. I got music for John William’s arrangements of Albeniz. There were spans his left hand could reach that I wasn’t even close. I was convinced that no amount of stretching would have allowed me to do it. My options were throw in my right hand, get a much smaller guitar or modify what was played. We all have strong points and weak points (there are a some exceptional individuals on both ends of the scale… I haven’t seen much weakness in Chris Thile’s playing). A big part of what makes some performers so popular is they maximize what works for them. We don’t have to have the chops or musicality of the greats to make music that we and others can enjoy. I tend to forget that from time to time. I’ve rambled enough… carry on.


#18

I enjoyed this thread of thought. Thanks to all.
One thing I took away from the video is pushing down with the thumb and pushing up with the index finger. This alone has already improved my picking technique. My hand is not as rigid it was.

ExFiddler