View Full Version : Right-Hand Technique

Jul-15-2005, 12:52pm
I was watching a interview with Grisman (link posted in another thread) which prompted me to post this.

I tend to have a pretty tense right-hand. I know that's bad but I'm not clear on how to correct. Here's the thing, I pick a note with my hand moving down; after the string, I tighten my muscles to decelerate the pick motion and then get it moving back up. My pick travels a rather short distance above and below the string.

Looking at some of the playing of Grisman's and the others, in the video, it looks like the pick is always moves way up and down well past the string being played and in a very constant motion. Somehow it is hitting correct string(s) and passing the unneeded ones without striking them.

So ain't never gonna be good like dem guys but ought out to be able to do something better. Ideas?



Yeah I know, take lessons. I haven't found a teacher anywhere near where I live and don't have time to commute back into the city after I've come home from work.

John S
Jul-15-2005, 1:35pm
It amazes me too watching some guys who have a huge swing but manage to pick the right strings, and do it with gusto.

I tend to pick with more economy of motion than that, but gradually my picking swing has been getting wider. I think it's directly attributable to having a looser pick grip. Not only does a looser pick grip necessarily require a wider swing than a tight pick grip, it does wonders in loosening up the wrist as well.

I have a small (2" diameter) squeeze ball I keep at my desk at work to help keep my fingers & wrist limber. If you have something similar, try this: (1) sitting down, hold the ball loosely like you'd hold a pick while resting your wrist on your knee. Swing your hand back and forth as if you're picking a mandolin. It will probably feel pretty loose and bouncy, which is good. (2) Now grasp that ball tightly like you have a death grip on a pick. Go ahead and swing your hand back and forth. If you're like me, I think you'll notice all that looseness and bounce has disappeared. So, work on keeping that pick grip loose.


Jul-17-2005, 11:20am
Sam Bush is another with large pick strokes.

Most pro-players I have seen recently seem to have very conservative pick strokes. I have been trying to focus on this and my the way I hold the pick to improve. Compton and Long and many many other recommend a loose pick grip, with a fulcrum of your index fingers first knuckle. This also leads toward a loosely closed fist. When the pick hits the string on the downstroke, it flexes up and through the strings and the opposite occurs on the upstroke.

This has been rather challenging so far for me.

Jul-17-2005, 1:45pm
Well it all depends on the style you play. Your pick stroke gives you your individual sound. That's why Grisman and Bush don't sound quite as clear and crisp like Thile or even Josh Pinkham. Both Josh and Chris play with a somewhat shorter and lighter pick stroke giving them that extremely clear and crisp sound. Yet David and Sam both have a learger and harder stroke giving them that loud sound. The reason Sam Bush's stroke was a little larger is because he uses more arm because he broke his wrist I think in a car accident which doesn't allow him to use a lot of wrist action.

But as for what they have in common is a light grip, constant motion, and perfect timing.

To obtain this, first just practice holding the pick very lightly while playing. At first this will slow you down but as you get a hold of it your speed will increase. Then get out the metronome and practice with it, trying to keep your pick stroke moving freely yet only hitting the strings when you need to. Do this will increase your speed and playing with the metronome will greatly help your timing. All in all your playing will get better a lot faster and your pick stroke will be rock solid. As for the distance your pick should travel...well that's up to you.

Hope some of this helps...

Chip Booth
Jul-20-2005, 3:14pm
I agree developing a loose grip is important for several reasons, of which here are a few:

1) A tight grip tenses muscles (duh) which will eventually inhibit speed and smoothness. Try tremoloing quickly with a loose grip, it starts to come together, then try a tight grip and watch your hand sieze up.

2) Speed can be inhibited by a tight grip due to the extra tension against the string. A loose pic will flex in your hand and slide off the string (which usually creates a quieter note with less bass). This minimizes the resistance and keeps speed up. A tighter grip will cause the pick to stay more "in place", and you get more resistance, therefore it takes more energy to get speed. At some point I just give out of energy.

3) If you start with a tight grip you can't tighten it even more http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif What I mean by that is that you can use the tightness of the pick to vary the volume of indivdual notes. I often vary the tightness of my grip to emphasize or demphasize certain notes in a melody rather than pick harder or softer.

Bertram Henze
Jul-21-2005, 6:32am
I think the secret with the wide swing is that the pick is not really following a straight line. Instead, it goes along a curve, swooping down on the target strings and pulling up again like a fighter plane. The hand desrcibes a half circle with every stroke. At least, that is how I do it.
From a point of view, this is a reverse fiddle concept: the fiddle has a curved bridge to let the straight bow play single strings - the mandolin has a straight bridge, so it takes a curved "bow". Sorry for this excursion - I was forced to learn the violin for 9 years when I was a boy, and I hated it (but I use that same left-hand technique on the mando today, thanks Mom and Dad).

Jul-29-2005, 8:39am
relaxed pick grip and looser wrists are so key. though i am far from an expert and wont offer technique advice here, i do see whether just messing around or playing live/in groups, that when my grip tightens (left hand as well) and my wrist tightens, my playing weakens significantly.