Adventures in Picking…continued

Once I get something in my head, it sort of becomes an obsession. Have you noticed?

Well, if you haven’t, it does. I spent a good part of last night with the guitar, the chord progression of Hurricanes, and my massive pile of various guitar picks. After an hour or so of experimenting, I was able to play through Hurricanes with a pick without making my ears bleed.  Although I won’t pretend it was amazing, or that I was really very pleased with the end result, my ability to manipulate a pick has improved quite a bit from working through it.

Does that mean I’m going to start playing with a pick all the time now? Nope. But, I do have observations.

  1. In order to come as close as possible to the strum I use for Hurricanes (in which I damn well know I’m using the heel of my hand a little to do some sort of mutey thingamajig)it seems more efficient to hold the pick at a slight angle than with the pointed end facing the strings (so instead of having the point of the pick at 90 degrees to the string, maybe it would be more like…105-110 degrees?).
  2. This pick position, it turns out, doesn’t get caught on the strings as easily, but also brings the palm closer to the strings. That may be a good thing in some situations, and a bad one in others. And, while I get that beginners crave straight answers (at least, I know I do. Just answer my question in as efficient and simple a manner as possible, you know?), I also think maybe we need to just acknowledge outright when there isn’t a straight answer, and instead of teaching how to do something as if it’s the gold standard, teach it as if it’s one possible answer that has proved a reliable standard to start from. That way, when it’s not quite working out, we, as students, give ourselves permission to modify it into something that works better for us, rather than wracking our brains about what we’re doing wrong, and trying to stringently adhere to a standard as if it’s the only possible route, or even the most logical one for 100% of people, 100% of the time. (Having said that, that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop practicing the “proper” way, and it doesn’t mean I don’t see an inherent value in learning by-the-book; we need to know what the rules are in order to bend them, but we also need to learn that sometimes we need to bend those rules to come up with what’s most efficient for us, and to not beat ourselves up about it when that happens.).
  3. I do use something vaguely like the a-ok position I was slightly complaining about in my last post most of the time, (None of my complaints were about this position in and of itself, to be fair. It was more about sitting through 12 minutes of video for something that could have been explained in three, and then not elaborating on the few points where a bit of elaboration would have been beneficial.) but sometimes I do curl my fingers into my palm.  I mostly seem to curl my fingers in when I’m playing harder, as if my internal voice is saying ‘no seriously, support that thing or its going to go flying and take someone’s eye out.’ …which is likely ridiculous.
  4. There is a big difference between being comfortable using a pick, and liking how that pick sounds on a particular guitar. I don’t like a sound that’s too bright(weird from someone playing the uke, I know, but if you notice the ukes in my collection that I favor, they are tonally more mellow. I’m not sure if that’s something you’re able to pick up when I do my recording with a cell phone and an $18 clip on mic, so if you can’t hear it, you’ll just have to trust me).  What my preference for a warmer, less trebly sound means is that the pick I’ve given preference for on my electric guitar just doesn’t do it for me when brought to the acoustic.
At the end of the day, these are the picks that I find the most comfortable in hand, but I wouldn’t actually use most of them on the guitar I was playing on.

I’ve had a strong preference for the orange tortex picks in my time with Rocksmith (my poor picking skills aside).  I liked the texture of them and felt like it was easier to grip than the celluloid picks most of the time.  And, while my opinion of the feel of the pick hasn’t changed much, I hate the brightness they bring to my Hellcat. The same goes for my Ultex Pick, my celluloid picks, my big stubby pick, and even my thin nylon pick.   While the nylon pick is very easy to play with comparatively speaking (and I get why this is recommended for beginners after having played with quite a lot of picks last night), at the end of the day, I apparently want a sound without a lot of ring to it, and finding a pick that can accomplish that is apparently not an easy feat, especially on the high strings. I almost feel like I want to downtune the B and High E strings once I grab the pick (or get different strings that are more chill), so they won’t ring out so brightly.  I don’t run into this when I play with my fingers because I’m hitting those strings with flesh, which dulls that brightness just by virtue of being, well, fleshy.

So, if I’m going to be playing my acoustic with a pick, I can almost guarantee you it’s going to be a wood one. It’s just more mellow, warmer (Figures that my ear likes the expensive shit…), and while I still find the high strings too shrill no matter what pick I use, the wood picks downplay that a bit.

…but, regardless of whether or not I use picks on other guitars, or other tunes, I’m still going to play Hurricanes with my fingers, because I think that’s just the way it sounds best, though.

At this point I suppose I should post a comparison, so here’s a sample where I use a pick in the first half (for the record, I’m using a RobinsonWood Pick here, the tornillo wood pick, in this case). Bearing in mind, once again, that my picking skills are pretty shoddy.

The first half is with the pick. After the pause, that’s bare fingers with freshly trimmed nails.(I keep them quite short for whatever that may be worth in context.)

Until Next Time, I’m still practicing my picking skills, but I think I’ve more or less come to terms with the fact I just prefer the more mellow tone of bare fingers on an acoustic guitar. At least, for now.




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