Pick practice isn’t always JUST about pick practice.

Funny how things work. One day I like one pick. The next day, I favor a totally different one. Yesterday, I thought I’d never play the acoustic with anything but the wood pick because of the sound. But today I couldn’t seem to keep a grip on it when I was working with it, so ended up with a .90mm ultex pick as my favorite today. Tomorrow, who knows?

But, here’s where things get interesting: working with a pick has improved my strumming when working without one.

How’s that, you may ask? Well, in retrospect it’s actually pretty obvious.

You see, in a struggle to replicate the strum pattern being used without a pick, I ended up trying a lot of different things with a pick. I also ended up really paying very close attention to what I was doing with my hand when not using a pick, because I need to know that to try to mimic it with one.

The result is that it made me much more aware of what my strumming hand is up to, and gave me more control and awareness, which allows me to have the understanding to create a strum that’s just a slight variation on the original, but that’s also a bit more polished.

The first half here is the original strum for Hurricanes – the one used in the video, more or less. After attempting to replicate it with a pick, running through a picked version of hurricanes, etc, the 2nd strum is a sort of cleaner variation of the first that can be played with reasonable accuracy with or without a pick. (both versions here are fingers only. Excuse the change in tempo between the two versions.)

So, I guess as I sit and write this, my rookie advice to other players who might feel more comfortable playing without a pick is this:

Practice playing with a pick even if you don’t have any intention of ever playing with one; the things it will teach you can benefit your playing even without one.

Until Next Time, even if I’m doing the same thing over and over again, really, things are kind of getting interesting.


2 thoughts on “Pick practice isn’t always JUST about pick practice.

  1. While “pick or fingers” usually is presented as a matter of preference (with fingers typically representing a more “natural” approach and the pick less so), I tend to look at them as two different colors which can be useful depending on what you’re going for in your playing. When playing electric especially, I am always switching back and forth between pick and fingers, sometimes even during one song. For example, the same exact voicing sounds better with a pick in reggae and better when played with fingers in solo jazz playing. You might try experimenting with hybrid picking–using the flatpick while also using the fingertips of your middle and ring fingers of your picking hand.


    1. I don’t have nearly the coordination required for that yet. I’m still at the ‘hold onto the damn pick for the length of an entire song without making my ears bleed’ stage. There’s just nothing about them that I like (inasmuch as we are strictly talking about acoustic).

      And, since I don’t care for a very bright tone, I expect I’ll use my fingers more often than not (electric is a whole different conversation, since the amp can be adjusted to tweak tone). That doesn’t mean I don’t see a value in working with a pick, though, even if this far I am strongly leaning away from them on the acoustic, for matters of preference as much as me just being borderline incompetent with the darn things.


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