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Thread: Mike Compton's pick grip

  1. #1
    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Mike Compton's pick grip

    After reading Mike's interview yesterday, I tried his recommended pick grip. As I understood, he holds the pick loosely between the ball of his thumb, which I assumed is the first knuckle from the end, and the first knuckle(from the end) of the index finger. When I tried this my thumb and the first joint of my index finger are parallel to each other in a straight line. This is very different from the way I've held the pick when playing both mandolin and guitar. I have always held the pick between the pad of my thumb and the first knuckle of my index finger. My thumb and finger form an X.

    When I tried holding the pick the way described I was astounded by the increased volume! I've played my Weber Absaroka for 10 - 11 years and have never heard that tone/volume before last night! I was even distracted from watching the Cowboys / Eagles game

    The grip was fairly comfortable, though different, when playing a fiddle tune but felt very awkward when playing a tremelo or strumming.

    I would appreciate any comments and suggestions before I invest the time and effort at learning to hold the pick in such a radically different manner. I'm a semi-professional picker, earning about 20% of my income from teaching guitar and mandolin students and playing in 2 groups. Although I loved the results I don't know if I want disrupt my playing by relearning such a elemental technique.

    Any advice and suggestions are appreciated.
    Last edited by Jon Hall; Jan-10-2010 at 8:38am. Reason: Tried to capitalize compton in the title

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    Default Re: Mike Compton's pick grip

    I have taken a few lessons with Mike, and that pick grip, as I understand it, is one of many steps in Mike's extremely comprehensive approach to the mandolin. The difference in volume and tone IS dramatic. If you want to explore it more, you should get together with the man himself, either in person or online. I don't think it will be a big disruption to your playing, but it will be a shift of gears.


    Best of luck.
    Jeremy

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    Default Re: Mike Compton's pick grip

    I was in Mike's workshop in Denver yesterday (great by the way) and he showed us the grip and, Jon, you have described it correctly. I get why he uses it because it really helps with that Monroe tremolo. Still, it's quite foreign feeling for me. I'm going to stick with it for awhile and see how it works.

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    Registered User Barry Platnick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Compton's pick grip

    I too was at the workshop yesterday and it was great.

    Last summer at the RockyGrass academy And Leftwich was one of the teachers and he tried to get me to use the same grip now I've got one that is closer to that and it definitely helps with the tone. Its like you hand is on auto-dig in or something. but it feels really foreign at first. I am going to play with it some more.
    Barry

  5. #5
    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Compton's pick grip

    All of your replies are encouraging. I practiced with "the grip" yesterday and was pleased with every tune I played. A tremelo is still awkward as is strumming but I'm working on it.

    Does anyone use this grip for flat picking a guitar?

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    Default Re: Mike Compton's pick grip

    Could someone take a picture? I'm having a hard time visualizing.

    Jim

  7. #7

    Default Re: Mike Compton's pick grip

    I've been trying that grip. The adjustment is subtle, but does seem to increase volume. I think it is from the increased looseness with which you can grip the pick, as opposed to it being more locked-up the other way. Jimmy Gaudreau used to use a three-finger grip that made the pick wind up in his fingertips, as opposed to further back, and this seems to be similar, but without that awkward feeling of the third finger.
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    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Compton's pick grip

    Here you go.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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    Default Re: Mike Compton's pick grip

    Those are some good close-up photos. I don't do it that way, I hold the pick closer to the fingertips. Just shows there is more than one way to skin a cat.

  10. #10
    Registered User swampy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Compton's pick grip

    Love the Compton grip.

    My brother plays Jazz guitar, and this is how he was taught to hold the pick in college.

    He told me it was like strumming with your thumb, or a thumbpick and the 1st finger was mostly an anchor to keep the pick steady. When I pick with my old grip it's as though I'm strumming with the back of the fingernail on the 1st finger. Definitely puts the focus on a different set of nerves.

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    Default Re: Mike Compton's pick grip

    I looked up Mike on Youtube to see if I could see and I figured it as Phil posted, quite a handy man on the mandolin is Mike so I found myself listening rather than watching . It is different but I reckon there is more momentum being transfered directly to the pick from the wrist, hence more tone/volume, no extended fingers to absorb a little of the impact. I don't know if I'll be able to incorporate it but I'm going to give it a try.

    One problem I've got with mandolin & tenor banjo is my pick is fixed in my hold and whilst I can correct the angle on the fly I'm not as dexterous with the pick as I am on the guitar. When playing the guitar I can quickly change the hold angle etc to suit what I'm trying to do. Hopefully I'll develop my mando/tenor pick hold dexterity with practice.

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    Default Re: Mike Compton's pick grip

    when i re-worked my right hand technique a few years ago i stumbled upon this grip by watching of all things gypsy guitar players. this is the classic plectrum grip that was taught in nearly all the early turn of the century plectrum methods (banjo, guitar, mandolin) - and it works. by placing the first knuckle of the thumb over the pick (instead of the pad) you do seem to get more volume and a better tone - just a slight move, but it can make a difference - plus my tremolo was much smoother.

    of course there are hundreds of great players with complete opposite approaches that work for them- your right hand is your personality on the instrument - so its actually good that there are variations imo.

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    Registered User Malcolm G.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Compton's pick grip

    I've been a quitar/banjo finger-picker for about 50 years, so didn't have too much flat picking experience to unlearn.
    Thanks for the pictures, Phil.
    I agree with everyone who says the grip is great.
    BTW, the Blue Chip finish really helps here - to satabilize the pick's orientation (I have boney knuckles).
    Malcolm Grundy from Montreal

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    Registered User tree's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Compton's pick grip

    Quote Originally Posted by kudzugypsy View Post
    of course there are hundreds of great players with complete opposite approaches that work for them- your right hand is your personality on the instrument - so its actually good that there are variations imo.
    As my 15 yr old would say, True Dat.

    Wayne Benson comes to mind . . . I'm fortunate to live close enough to take an occasional lesson, and he has (I think) a unique pick grip, not at all like Compton's fairly traditional grip - and it works extraordinarily well for him.

    He's obviously put in a mind-boggling amount of time with it, too.
    Clark Beavans

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    Default Re: Mike Compton's pick grip

    The photos that Phil posted look like what Mike was teaching us. One thing I noticed while watching Mike's right hand last Saturday is that his pick swivels about 45 degrees when he is doing tremolo. The pick really flops around yet he's got control of the thing. Still seems foriegn to me but keeping at it.

  16. #16
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Compton's pick grip

    He must have seen me playing one day and is now using the Papa Gordo grip. Can't keep a good secret for too long, I guess. . .

    f-d
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    Registered User BlueMt.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Compton's pick grip

    Quote Originally Posted by fatt-dad View Post
    He must have seen me playing one day and is now using the Papa Gordo grip. Can't keep a good secret for too long, I guess. . .

    f-d
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    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Compton's pick grip

    I keep trying this grip but it feels awkward. I think it works good for single note picking, but awkward for chopping.
    Chronic MAS

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    Registered Pontificator Roger Kunkel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Compton's pick grip

    Quote Originally Posted by kudzugypsy View Post
    by placing the first knuckle of the thumb over the pick (instead of the pad) you do seem to get more volume and a better tone - just a slight move, but it can make a difference - plus my tremolo was much smoother.
    Yes indeed! Been trying it for a few days and I feel this small difference gives me huge results in speed, tone, and smoothness.

  20. #20
    Registered User BlueMt.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Compton's pick grip

    I'm having a hard time with this grip but it sounds so good. The tone and volume improvement, especially on my f-hole mando, is considerable. I'm going to keep at it.
    Eric

  21. #21
    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Compton's pick grip

    I've been practicing "the grip" on both guitar and mandolin and it's becoming a little more comfortable. I've discovered that the increased volume enables me to lighten up and still maintain reasonable volume. As I said in my original post, it made a big difference playing my Weber but when I tried it on the lower end Kentuckys, in the local music store, I couldn't tell much difference in the tone or volume.

  22. #22
    Gilchrist (pick) Owner! jasona's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Compton's pick grip

    Here is a study of what many pros do wrt their right hands. I thnik John McGann has another page on this technique.
    "...while a great mandolin is a wonderful treat, I would venture to say that there is always more each of us can do with the tools we have available at hand. The biggest limiting factors belong to us not the instruments." Paul Glasse

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  23. #23
    Registered User Mike Bunting's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Compton's pick grip

    I don't believe that list is entirely accurate. I sat within 4 feet of Compton in a lesson and his fingers do not touch the top as stated in the list.

    I went and looked at some vids and sometimes a finger may touch the finger rest.

    When he hits the double time part, it looks like he may get his pinkie in the rest.
    Last edited by Mike Bunting; Jan-13-2010 at 10:58pm.
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    Default Re: Mike Compton's pick grip

    Tempo was good, love Frank's ideas here. And the harmonized chorus at the end.

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    Professional Cat Herder Phil Vinyard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Compton's pick grip

    Saw Chris Thile last night from the front row, about 20' away, and from that vantage point would describe his grip as the same or very similar to Compton's. http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/sh...ad.php?t=58329

    Seemed to work out pretty well for him...
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