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Old 04-10-2020, 08:19 PM
spock spock is offline
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Default Pick holding options?

In another thread, I admitted my utter ineptitude when it comes to strumming a guitar fluidly with a pick. After watching a number of YOUTUBE videos describing the "correct" way to hold a pick - most of which are very very similar - I believe I may have discovered at least part of my problem.

An over the handlebars mountain biking accident many moons ago left me with a more or less permanently frozen distal finger joint - the joint closest to the fingertip - on my right index finger, meaning that I am unable to bend/curl the very end of my finger inward towards my palm but maybe a third of the distance my left index finger can.

Since most instructors recommend bending the index finger and placing the pick between the thumb and bent index finger, and since my index finger basically won't bend much at all, I'm left with my index finger being in the the way of the pick tip unless I extend the pick out much further than usual which then renders it unstable. Imagine in the picture below the index fingertip being where the tip of the pick is instead of curled in out of the way and you get the idea.



Since I can't change my anatomy, I'm left with either coming up with an alternative pick holding strategy, as in maybe a 3 fingered hold where I can hold the pick edge out a bit further but gain some measure of extra control due to the extra finger holding on, learning to play left handed (not going to happen), or, just abandoning the strumming thing altogether.

Any suggestions? Anyone hold the pick with three fingers or use some other pick holding method?

Last edited by spock; 04-10-2020 at 08:31 PM.
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Old 04-11-2020, 05:05 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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There are a few different ways of holding the pick. The one in your pic is definitely the most widely recommended grip, but I can't get on with that myself. Not because of any injury, but because (a) I taught myself, just finding the most obvious intuitive way, and (b) when I hold the pic in the "correct" way I have two problems: (1) I can't get the same easy dynamic range I get with my grip; (2) the knuckles on my curled fingers are dangerously close to the strings when strumming.

Problem (1) is - I guess - simply a result of me not having practised enough with it. It feels clumsy just because I'm not used to it. (2) is more of an issue. IMO, this grip is well designed for lead playing; even though I find it clumsy, it helps me play lead lines and scales more quickly and economically. If I was interested in fast lead playing, therefore, I would be practising with this grip a lot more.

The way I hold the pick is much the same way I hold a pen. Mainly between the pads of thumb and middle finger, with the index tip against the front corner. This gives lots of flexibility of angle and of dynamic attack, and is ideal for strumming.
I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for everyone (as I say, it's not great for fast lead playing), but you may find it worth trying.


Another method is the so-called George Benson grip, which is also used by Pat Metheny - no slouches when it comes to lead playing!


As you see, the main difference is the angle of the pick to the strings, and this is clearly designed for lead playing, not strumming.

But the main point here is that the index finger doesn't need to be curled. You could try the above, or just work out your own variation.
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Last edited by JonPR; 04-11-2020 at 05:11 AM.
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Old 04-11-2020, 06:48 AM
VJP5 VJP5 is offline
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Spock - do not get hung up on the "right way" to hold a pick. IMO, the right way is ANY WAY you hold it to play music and enjoy the output.

Like JonPR, the "pen" or "stinky diaper" method is the one I use (imagine holding a full diaper away from your nose, typically with thumb, index and middle finger). Like Jon, I was self taught and this was natural to me. I also feel more control with the 3 finger method. The two drawbacks that I have encountered are (1) fast leads mentioned above and (2) palm muting.

I mostly play rhythym guitar with short single note runs so (1) is not an issue for me. As for (2), this method puts the base of your palm at an odd angle so palm muting is trickier. I still struggle with it, but it can be done.

I say hold the darn thing anyway you can and just learn to play with the limited bending of your index finger. Eddie Van Halen will not lose sleep over your pick holding method.

Good luck and enjoy the adventure.
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Old 04-11-2020, 11:47 AM
paulp1960 paulp1960 is offline
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I'm self taught and played for years with the 2 fingers and thumb pick grip.

I managed to retrain myself to use the 1 finger and thumb "standard" grip and it works better for me than the old way. Like others said palm muting is harder with the 3 digit grip.
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Old 04-11-2020, 12:50 PM
spock spock is offline
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Thanks folks for the information and encouragement - the suggestions are great and I will try experimenting in hopes of finding something that works and maybe even becomes comfortable.

In the end, it could be that I just stink at strumming but I'm not ready to throw in the pick just yet.
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Old 04-11-2020, 02:17 PM
Pura Vida Pura Vida is offline
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My method is very close to JonPR, and I thought I was the only one until Jon and I synced up on a similar thread last year. The only difference for me is that I'm mostly two fingers on the pick face (thumb, middle), and two fingers along the edges (index, ring). I'm self-taught and developed this on my own, and as Jon mentions, it provides me with a lot of flexibility as a rhythm player. I can tighten/loosen and change the angle, and with my hand size, it's fine for palm muting. I don't solo much (and my playing style is slower; think Neil Young, no bluegrass runs from these hands!), but when I do, the edge fingers subside for more flexibility.
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Old 04-11-2020, 04:10 PM
spock spock is offline
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JonPR,

In the photo of standard vs the George Benson grip, is the basic difference that in the Benson grip the pick is more on the pad of the index finger rather than on the side of the index finger, or is there something more to it than that?


Pure Vida,

I am trying to visualize your grip - are both the index and ring fingers that are on the edges of the pick basically in line with the middle finger with the end of the pick then protruding out from that trio of fingers, or, are the index and ring edge fingers retracted back a bit in comparison to the middle finger? And what do you do with your pinky?


PS After searching online for the George Benson pick holding technique, I came across the following article. I cannot say I understand it completely, but plan to read over it a few more times to see if something sticks in my noggin.

https://fretboardanatomy.com/picking/

Last edited by spock; 04-11-2020 at 04:54 PM.
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  #8  
Old 04-11-2020, 05:00 PM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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You might also be interested in this old article by Tuck Andress:
http://archive.is/5Hrj8
- pretty exhaustive analysis! (shame no pictures...)
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Old 04-11-2020, 11:01 PM
Pura Vida Pura Vida is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spock View Post
Pure Vida,

I am trying to visualize your grip - are both the index and ring fingers that are on the edges of the pick basically in line with the middle finger with the end of the pick then protruding out from that trio of fingers, or, are the index and ring edge fingers retracted back a bit in comparison to the middle finger? And what do you do with your pinky?
It's basically a two-finger hold (thumb, middle) with the index and ring naturally on either side. The digits dangle freely for normal or light playing, but rest against the pick edges, when I want to provide some additional rigidity. I'm playing a standard tear-drop pick, and hold it back by the grip area, although sometimes I'll slide up over the center for even more rigidity.

Maybe I'll take some photos and post them here.
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Old 04-12-2020, 11:58 AM
jseth jseth is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JonPR View Post
You might also be interested in this old article by Tuck Andress:
http://archive.is/5Hrj8
- pretty exhaustive analysis! (shame no pictures...)
The Tuck Andress article is pretty much "everything you never wanted to know" about different pick-holding techniques! Worth a read (or a skim, at least) just to acquanit yourself with all sorts of different picking methodologies...

I started out with a thin Fender triangle, back in the late 50's... graduated to a medium Fender for years, then began trying out different brands (still medium) in the 70's... settled with a Gibson small teardrop heavy pick in the late 70's. Used those until somwehre around 2010 or so...

Due to all the discussion on this Forum about Blue Chip picks, I bought one of those around 9 years ago... still have it, still use it on everything except
my 12 string, and I like it a lot.

When I first got the Blue Chip, there was a period where I nicked the edge of it and could not stand that scratchy sound, so I began checking out other picks again... love the Ultex 1.14, but it just slipped out of my fingers far too easily. I tried sanding the holding area for a better grip, then tried drilling holes to make them easier to hold, even went so far as buying some "Bowler's Pro Grip" goo - which worked but tended to migrate to my middle and ring fingertips which I use for finger picking/finger style in my hybrid method... no good getting goo or rosen on the strings!

Since then, I've had Blue Chip "re-cut" the edge on my pick - which they've done multiple times now, at no charge! - so I've not been using the Ultex picks I have, much at all. I still love those Ultex picks, very durable and cost-effective, but they are BUGGERS to hold on to!

Grip pressure has a lot to do with success in strumming... if you imagine a ten point scale, where 1 is the pick falling out of your fingers and 10 is absolutely the tightest you could hold it, I'd guess that most players are somewhere within the 4-6 range.

Different tones from different grip pressures... light grip pressure gives you a thinner. more "click-y" tone, while stronger grips bring out more robust tones and more volume, too...

Ditto with "how much" of that pick tip is exposed...

It's up to you to choose how you want to "do it', what works for YOU...

As far as holding that pick goes, I've developed the method of moistening the thumb and forefinger slightly (usually with my own saliva!), rubbing them together a bit and then grabbing the pick... I've done that for so long that it's nearly an unconscious action at this point in time...
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  #11  
Old 04-13-2020, 05:09 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jseth View Post
Grip pressure has a lot to do with success in strumming... if you imagine a ten point scale, where 1 is the pick falling out of your fingers and 10 is absolutely the tightest you could hold it, I'd guess that most players are somewhere within the 4-6 range.

Different tones from different grip pressures... light grip pressure gives you a thinner. more "click-y" tone, while stronger grips bring out more robust tones and more volume, too...

Ditto with "how much" of that pick tip is exposed...
Right. String gauge also has an impact. The heavier the strings, the more they can take a thicker pick.

I have Martin custom lights on my steel-strings (11-52) - for fingerstyle mostly - and I can't strum with anything thicker than 0.88, and that feels (and sounds) pretty crude. I really prefer .60 or .73 at the most.
You're quite about the pressure of course. Combined with my pick grip, I can easily get a full range of dynamics, from barely audible to "ow! turn it down!"

But as you also say - there's personal preference here. YMMV
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Old 11-23-2021, 03:51 PM
niall1974 niall1974 is offline
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Default Pick holding options!

My main problem with holding my pick is that my index finger always seems to get in the way when I strum.

I attach 2 photos of the way I hold my pick.



https://pbs.twimg.com/media/FE6OYlaX...jpg&name=small
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Old 11-23-2021, 04:31 PM
Silly Moustache Silly Moustache is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spock View Post
In another thread, I admitted my utter ineptitude when it comes to strumming a guitar fluidly with a pick. After watching a number of YOUTUBE videos describing the "correct" way to hold a pick - most of which are very very similar - I believe I may have discovered at least part of my problem.

An over the handlebars mountain biking accident many moons ago left me with a more or less permanently frozen distal finger joint - the joint closest to the fingertip - on my right index finger, meaning that I am unable to bend/curl the very end of my finger inward towards my palm but maybe a third of the distance my left index finger can.

Since most instructors recommend bending the index finger and placing the pick between the thumb and bent index finger, and since my index finger basically won't bend much at all, I'm left with my index finger being in the the way of the pick tip unless I extend the pick out much further than usual which then renders it unstable. Imagine in the picture below the index fingertip being where the tip of the pick is instead of curled in out of the way and you get the idea.



Since I can't change my anatomy, I'm left with either coming up with an alternative pick holding strategy, as in maybe a 3 fingered hold where I can hold the pick edge out a bit further but gain some measure of extra control due to the extra finger holding on, learning to play left handed (not going to happen), or, just abandoning the strumming thing altogether.

Any suggestions? Anyone hold the pick with three fingers or use some other pick holding method?
Hi Spock, since I started teaching online early last year, I've been surprised at how many of my clients have had trouble with holding the pick.
|However, I don't see much wrong with your hand position.
I would suggest that the ball of the thumb rests over the skight groove between the distal knuckle and the end of your finger. I'd also suggest that you try out one or two large triangle (346) style picks. Dunlop sells packs of tortex picks in varying gauges quite cheaply.

If you'd like face to face advice in this I'm sure I could help you (I'm no stranger to coping with damaged hands and fingers!)
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Old 11-23-2021, 07:43 PM
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Brent Hutto Brent Hutto is offline
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I think it's important to start out with a "whatever works" attitude. Maybe you need a teensy little pointy pick with almost no point showing, maybe you need a large triangle with lots showing, maybe two fingers, maybe just thumb and index, maybe curled fist, maybe open.

For any combination of the above (and more!) you could name, there's someone making very good music using that combination of pick and pick-hold to get it done. The best thing is not to over-think it and stress over it.

When I started playing mandolin, I auditioned two potential teachers and at some point during that first, trial lesson both of them got around to saying the exact same thing about my pick hold. I can't describe it in words but they had me turn the pick slightly in my fingers and hold my wrist in a different position over the strings. It was amazing that both of them upon seeing me play for like two minutes noticed the same thing. And it worked!

When I started (back) playing guitar recently I found that my mandolin pick-hold and hand position didn't work AT ALL on guitar. Even the two picks that were my favorite for mandolin didn't seem to work right. So I just let go of my expectations and found a way by trial and error that seemed better.

I found a teacher and asked in the first lesson what suggestions he had for my way of holding the pick. He watched real close for a while and said, "Looks like you found something that works pretty good. Don't change a thing". So I got that going for me I guess...
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Old 11-25-2021, 10:15 AM
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mcmars mcmars is online now
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I have been playing for over 50 years. I just realized in last year that I hold a flatpick different from most people. I use a thumb, index and middle finger "pencil" style grip. I figured this out as I was looking into hybrid picking and realized I was not holding my pick with just the thumb and index finger and it felt very unstable to hold it with just the thumb and index.

For me, feel it is much easier to use 3 "points to hold a skinny slippery pick than 2 , as 3 points makes a plane and all and just gives me a more secure locked in grip than using thumb and index. I also notice I can torque a thinner pick a bit to alter the tone by squeezing it to make the pick bend it longways to get a "fatter" tone. I also can use the edge sometimes to strum and get a sweeter tone by brushing the edge. Not sure if I could do that if I gripped it with just thumb and index finger.

It might not be "right" and I may not be aspiring to be the next Molly Tutle, but it works well for my style. But I am going to give it some time to see if I can relearn to hold a flat pick with just thumb and index, just cus.

In my life, I have alternated flat pick and fingerstyle about 50/50, but I mostly fingerstyle with a thumb pick now and throw in a few flat pick tunes to break up my repertoire and style. This came about partly as my arthritis got so bad at one point it was just too painful to be gripping so hard with my thumb, I got tired to dropping picks, so few years back I transitioned mostly to using a thumb pick. That really opened up my playing and helped my timing to have the thumb dedicated to the downbeat and allowing my index and middle to work out the melody parts. Before that I always used bare thumb flesh and nail edge, but never could get the tone I liked with muted palm and felt like I had to angle my wrist excessively to be able to get good contact with my thumb nail and the string. But with a thumb pick, I can keep my wrist straight which seems ergonomically correct to have wrist and hand parallel with the strings.

I play mostly piedmont and other blues and travis style pickin and my own melodic style, so I am thinking that how you do any of this really depends on how you body works and your style ultimately. Purist might say I am not doing it right, but I say some rules are made to be tweaked as needed. Especially if a person has some physical issues that make their body work different from others, I say go with the flow and figure out how to adapt and make it work for you.
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