New with picking questions

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Wed Feb 20, 2013 10:37 pm
by Cliff • 344 Posts

Hey all,
I'm new to the forum, so let me introduce myself. My name is Cliff, and I'm a keen amateur guitarist. I started when I was around 19 back in the 80s, but without any real focus on technique. To be honest, I'm pretty uncoordinated, have a poor sense of rhythm, and not much of a sense of pitch. Nevertheless I love playing guitar :).
Anyway, as life went on I stopped playing, until about three years ago I took it up again. For the last two years I've been practicing technique pretty extensively (or so I thought until I read how hard people practice on this forum). I guess I practice 1-2 hours a night most nights, and maybe a little more at the weekends. My goals would be able to play some of my favourite tunes from Paige, Van Halen and Randy Rhoads. Maybe play in an amateur band if I felt confident enough.
What brought me to this site was curiosity about picking. Sometime last week I saw a vid of a guy playing where he was using his fingers to move the pick, which I'd never seen (or at least noticed) before. I asked him where he'd learnt it, and he said he'd never really given it any thought. Funny how some people just naturally choose a graceful and efficient technique, eh? By coincidence, I stumbled on one of Pebber's videos demonstrating scalpel picking the next day.
So for the last two years I've been practicing strict alternate picking with the wrist moving in the plane of the hand. (I did try the Benson technique briefly, but I found it created tension at the base of my thumb, and it made it difficult to damp strings and get pinched harmonics, two things I'm keen on stylistically). Recently I've been trying an exercise that's mean to stress outside picking. The idea is to play a pentatonic (say at the 12th fret) with two notes on the top string, one on the next string down, and then the final 16th of the group on the top string again. Then you move down a string. When you get to the bottom E, you move back up again.
What I've found is that I really struggle to cross strings cleanly with the alternate picking technique. I *think* there's a couple of problems here. One is that I'm trying to make as small motions as possible when picking a string, so that I can get speed. The problem is if you use the wrist to both pick an individual string and to move between strings, you're suddenly changing the amount of distance you're moving, and I suspect the note immediately after a string switch is picked with too wide a stroke. The other problem is, because you're picking in the plane of the strings, you have to make some sort of motion to lift the pick clear of the strings when you switch. I haven't managed to pin down exactly what's involved in doing this cleanly. To solve the first of these problems, I thought I'd try using the forearm exclusively for the string switching and the wrist for the small-motion picking.
One of the things that seems appealing to me with both scalpel and sarod, or the combination of the two, is that the pick rises above the strings at the end of each stroke, so it's naturally clear if the wrist or forearm wants to change strings. Please correct me if I'm wrong about any of this.
Anyway, here's a video of my picking that I recorded on Sunday:
First up, listening back, I realize it all sounds ropey. I know I suck :)
The first segment is me playing standard alternate picking. The second is the same, but trying to use the idea of forearm motion for string changes. I'd practiced this for three weeks, until I finally realized it was never going to work at fast speeds. And it sounds pretty poor at this speed.
Next up is my attempt at Sarod. I realize now (I've had a few days to watch more videos and browse the forum more) that I should have started slower. But already I don't think it sounds any worse than the previous two segments. I'd appreciate any feedback on whether this is basically the correct motion.
Fourth is my attempt at scalpel. Looking back, I can see the finger motion seems to stop as I get to the bass strings. There's also some wrist motion - I'm not sure if this is side-to-side or Sarod rotational.
Finally, I tried to do scalpel picking on a fast lick I was working on. As you can see, it's nearly all forearm work. I was going to ask if this was right, but I think I already know the answer now :).
Tonight I've been practicing scalpel+sarod very slowly (1 pick per second) on the same lick, first using up and then using downs strokes. I think I'm closer to the correct technique and will try and record another video soon. One thing I noticed, as I use my fingers to push the pick away from my hand (I'm exaggerating the motions), the pick seems to rotate a little towards 12 o'clock. Likewise, when I pull the pick in, it rotates a little towards 2 or 3 o'clock. Is this correct, or something to be avoided?
Anyway, I'd love to hear your thoughts on any of this.
(As well as practicing, I occasionally try and play music. Here's me with playing a cover of Santana's Smooth:

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RE: New with picking questions

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Thu Feb 21, 2013 1:47 am
by deltadiscos • 321 Posts

With the scalpel movement you will find the wrist will turn. This is what i think makes practising down and upstrokes separately so vital.
you notice when picking Scalpel upstrokes the pull in of the thumb automatically twists the wrist into the motion that will become sarod.

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RE: New with picking questions

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Fri Feb 22, 2013 10:37 am
by Cliff • 344 Posts

Good to know - thanks.

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RE: New with picking questions

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Thu Feb 28, 2013 11:17 pm
by Cliff • 344 Posts


Pebber advised me to practice pure finger motion for a month. I'm a week-and-a-half into this, and can definitely feel improvement. But I do have a couple of questions:
1) I'm trying to play as slow as possible to nail it. I'm practicing at 40bpm, playing, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 and 8 notes per beat (never tried 5 and 7 before - pretty tricky at first). But the devil in me wants to see how fast I can push it. Once I get beyond 4 notes per beat at 80bpm or so, I find my wrist just starts moving. My question would be: at what sort of speed would you normally move from pure scalpel to a hybrid scalpel/sarod approach?
2) I mostly play with a lot of gain, but I've been playing this stuff clean so I can better hear what I'm doing. I've been giving each note a sharp attack, but at higher speeds I find I can more or less just glide the pick over the strings and get a decent tone with distortion (it's pretty quiet on a clean setting). Is this legit, or should I always be trying to pick 'deeply' and make a strong attacking sound?

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RE: New with picking questions

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Fri Mar 01, 2013 6:56 am
by deltadiscos • 321 Posts

Well if you want to up the tempo a little as long as its easy, yes you do need to push every now and again but get the basics down first
its ok for the wrist to move (NOT UP AND DOWN) think of sarod as holding your doorkey you put the key in the lock but its frozen so give it a wiggle thats the action you want.

I would say around 16th notes at 160bpm but I no longer feel the difference between Scapel/Sarod it works together
32nd notes at 140bpm is my limit at the momen,t you will get there keep up the work

You should try picking hard soft loud quiet if its quiet turn your amp up i personnel y play alot unplugged

Also posting a video is a great way to show us how your getting on

Last edited Fri Mar 01, 2013 6:59 am | Scroll up


RE: New with picking questions

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Fri Mar 01, 2013 9:40 am
by dlraben • 278 Posts

Delta, could you show us a video of you playing various tempos so we can see how your picking technique changes with speed? For example, maybe first sustaining a clean tone using scalpal picking 16ths at 160 bpm for 20+ seconds, and then again at 220 and 280 bpm? Can you maintain speeds like these while playing licks too?

For 16th notes, my switch from scalpal to something in the neighborhood of Sarod is about 130-140 bpm (playing licks). I still can't seem to get the wrist rotation of Sarod small enough to get above about 200 bpm though (single string), so 280 bpm is SICK fast.

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RE: New with picking questions

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Fri Mar 01, 2013 11:27 am
by Cliff • 344 Posts

I'll try and get a short video together this weekend. Thanks for the tips!

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RE: New with picking questions

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Sat Mar 02, 2013 1:12 pm
by pebberbrown • 926 Posts

Its not a wrist rotation really - its just like strumming with the wrist but on one string. I have drawn this analogy in MANY of my videos if you research it more - Think of it as holding a glass of water and stirring a spoon in it.

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RE: New with picking questions

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Sat Mar 02, 2013 4:07 pm
by Cliff • 344 Posts

Got it. I have heard you make that comparison before. I've watched your picking vids a good few times now, but I can be slow to catch on :).

Here's a couple of vids I recorded earlier today. Let me know if you'd rather they were in a different thread.
This first is edited bits from a single take. I was playing against 40bpm, first 1 note per beat, going up to 8, spending 2 minutes on each. As the pace picks up, I can see more movement in my forearm. Is this bad? Any and all comments and advice welcome please!

And here's me trying to push it a little too far. I can see here that I have too much wrist motion. In the second part, I can see my upper arm moving too. I think this is sympathetic motion - I don't think it's actually powering the pick. I find as soon as I play faster or more complex stuff, I lose focus on the scalpel picking. Should I just steer clear of this sort of stuff for now?

Thanks in advance!

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RE: New with picking questions

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Sat Mar 02, 2013 5:53 pm
by student • 146 Posts

I would get those extra fingers curled up, so your hand is more fist like(your hand will "float around"). I haven't gotten to the high speeds, but I have seen Pebber explain that having those fingers stretched out will inhibit speed.

The only part of my right arm that touches the guitar is my forearm and when I start practicing sarod then I will try to have no part of my right hand touching the guitar. I am going to go to sarod after I hit a plateau on picking speed with scalpel.

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RE: New with picking questions

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Sat Mar 02, 2013 7:41 pm
by Cliff • 344 Posts

Thanks for the advice. I'd heard Pebber say that too.

About a year-and-a-half ago I was playing with like that, with my hand in a loose fist, but as soon as I turned up the gain on the amp I had little control over the string noise, hence the change back to the splayed hand technique.

Anyway, I've just gone back and tried it again, and I find I *can* control the string noise if I adjust the angle of my forearm as it comes across the guitar, making a shallower angle with respect to the neck. I haven't nailed it yet - when I'm playing on the top E string, the bottom E is sometimes undamped and vibrates in sympathy, but I feel like I can make it work. Better yet, this feels like a more comfortable hand position for Sarod-style picking. Before, with my hand completely flat on the strings, I was struggling to make this work.

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RE: New with picking questions

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Thu Mar 07, 2013 6:48 pm
by deltadiscos • 321 Posts

Heres a couple of vids first ones in 16th 120, 160 , 200, 240, 280 bpm i think

second one is trying to push faster

Done in a rush would put the tempo on video but don't know how
not really doing much with the left hand just fretting any old note
maybe will post some different angles picking dont come across well on these

Last edited Thu Mar 07, 2013 6:58 pm | Scroll up


RE: New with picking questions

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Fri Mar 08, 2013 6:41 am
by dlraben • 278 Posts

Delta, kudos for posting a video.

Please treat me like a total idiot that is ignorant, because I likely am such a person. But for me, you don't sound in time for a good portion of both of those videos. Instead of trying to pick as fast as you can, I can't help but wonder whether you would utlimately get much more benefit from slowing back down to the 120 range and really concentrating on getting that metronome to disappear? To my untrained ear, you floated in and out of time playing 16th notes at that first tempo. As you increased the tempo, to my untrained ear there wasn't much of a relationship to what you were picking and the click track.

In asking you for a video of 16th notes from 200bpm to 280bpm, I was being a little bit of a jerk because I *think* very few people in the world can get that high. Not saying there aren't people, but I am saying that people that can are probably highly successful professionals.

So the links below could be BS:


But for arguments sake, let's believe they are in the ballpark of accuracy. (I don't really care who can play at what speed, so I leave all the arguing about who can do what to others... "Guitar Hero X" can really play X bpm, blah, blah, blah). Anyway, let's do a little math using 16ths notes, or 1 beat = 4 notes, to convert varous nps values to bpm values:

10nps: (10 notes / 1 second) x (1 beat / 4 notes) x (60 seconds / 1 minute) = 150 bpm. So for 16th notes, convert nps to bpm via multiplication by 15.

For most budding guitarists, playing 16th notes at 150 bpm is pretty fast. The articles/lists available on google generally state that our guitar heroes are in the 13-18 range (again, I don't care who thinks who can do what these days):

13nps: 13 x 15 = 195 bpm
14nps: 14 x 15 = 210 bpm
15nps: 15 x 15 = 225 bpm
16nps: 16 x 15 = 240 bpm
17nps: 17 x 15 = 255 bpm
18nps: 18 x 15 = 270 bpm

(world record range?)
26nps: 26 x 15 = 390 bpm <- Probably sounds like sh!t

So again, forgive me if you think I'm a d!ck, but my gut reaction to someone saying they can play 16ths at 280 bpm is no sir, you can't.

Again, kudos for posting. The goal is to practice and to learn. I have a ton of work to do myself, which is why I'm here in the first place.

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RE: New with picking questions

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Fri Mar 08, 2013 9:17 am
by deltadiscos • 321 Posts

Yes a little sloppy should of warmed up
am I right, 16th notes is four notes per beat.
if so that is what I am playing or so I thought

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RE: New with picking questions

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Fri Mar 08, 2013 9:43 am
by dlraben • 278 Posts

Maybe it's just my untrained ear. You know, similar to the inability for most people to hear groups of 5 or 7 until they really dedicate time into learning to play them. Then once they can play them, they can hear them. For me it just didn't sound like you were playing 16ths in time for most of those videos. On the slow speeds, I can't explain why I hear it that way. On the fast speeds, maybe it's because I can't play 16th notes at 200 bpm or higher and therefore have trouble hearing it too. Or maybe, and no disrespect intended, you could practice more at slow speeds ... or warm up first ... or both.

Anyway, thanks for the video. 'Nuff said.

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RE: New with picking questions

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Fri Mar 08, 2013 9:50 am
by notenjesus • 23 Posts

Prof. Dr. Kurt Johnen has written "the human ear cant hear more then 10-12 nps".

Pebber Brown's Soldier

Last edited Fri Mar 08, 2013 9:53 am | Scroll up


RE: New with picking questions

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Fri Mar 08, 2013 10:59 am
by dlraben • 278 Posts

Over all humans, I might buy that. Over musicians, I don't at all and if you think about the music you've heard for years you'll think so too. It's pretty easy to hear 16ths at 180 bpm (or 12 nps) in songs played by all our heroes (gilbert, buckethead, dozens of others). You know, because they play light years better than us at those speeds. Including all the "ifs" and "maybes" in my posts above was me attempting to not be offensive in a written format that is often misread in an offensive way.

Last edited Fri Mar 08, 2013 10:59 am | Scroll up


RE: New with picking questions

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Fri Mar 08, 2013 2:01 pm
by Cliff • 344 Posts

I find a good way to judge my timing when I'm trying to play fast is to play it back in slow-motion. If you select to play one of these vides via youtube rather than embedded in the page, then go to the settings tab, you can play back at 0.25 speed. I've just done that with mine, and it's pretty humbling :).

Deltadisco - when I do the same with the first of yours, I can hear what Dlarben is saying - the timing at 120 isn't great, and seems to drift quite a bit in places. You seem to settle into the groove after a little while but, so far as I can tell, once you get above 200bpm, it seems to me like you're mostly playing 3 notes per beat instead of 4.

I think playing recognizable groups of 4 notes rather than random ones might help here :). Also, if I may, it sometimes sounds like your left and right hands aren't quite in synch and the articulation isn't there.

Please take these points in the positive spirit they're intended - you're clearly way ahead of me in terms of technique :). I'd appreciate any criticisms you or others would care to make of my vids also.

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RE: New with picking questions

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Fri Mar 08, 2013 2:57 pm
by deltadiscos • 321 Posts

no offence taken by anyone
it was mainly about the picking rather than the left hand
yes cliff just had a listen back slowed down, in the second video at the end I am also hitting 6 notes at 280bpm (i think)

will put another video up soon

gonna record myself more often shows you where you need to adjust

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RE: New with picking questions

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Fri Mar 08, 2013 6:30 pm
by Cliff • 344 Posts

"gonna record myself more often shows you where you need to adjust"

Yes, I need to do the same. Computer and guitar rig are in different rooms normally, so it's a bit of a pain to do, hence I don't do it as much as I ought. But when I do, I usually learn I'm not doing as well as I thought :).

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