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Thread: Pick Direction

  1. #1

    Default Pick Direction

    How do I figure out the pick direction for a tune? Ain't much on music theory and stuff. Hope it don't sound stupid, just confusing to me!

  2. #2

    Default Re: Pick Direction

    The general rule is to pick down on the beat and up on the eighth-notes in between and to keep that pattern even if some notes are missing (either downs or ups). In jigs and other triplet based music, the traditional way is to play dud dud dud dud, which keeps all of the beats on down-strokes. Many people just play alternate picking on triplets, though. There are many exceptions to this general rule, for many reasons. Using the general rule as your default, but changing for a good musical reason, is the best method.

    Playing an upstroke just because you are moving to a physically higher string (from D string to G string, for example), or vice versa is NOT a good idea, as a general rule. Pick direction shouldn't be determined by what string you are playing (very often).

  3. #3
    Mandolin Friendly Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick Direction

    Quote Originally Posted by JamesHall77 View Post
    How do I figure out the pick direction for a tune?
    You have to get a feel for the TIMING of the tune. I've no idea what type of music you play, but in general, a knowledge of "music theory" is not necessary, but a feel for the timing of a tune is an absolute necessity. You have to learn to keep good time.

    Are there four beats to the measure? This is the most common timing. A waltz will have three beats to the measure. Etc., depends what type of music you play, music is written in different timings and rhythms - you need to know or feel the rhythm before you can get a good 'pick direction pattern' going.

    In general, as David L already wrote, you make downstrokes on the downbeat and upstrokes on the off-beat, backbeat, etc. but this is not always the case.

    What is most important is to realize that your right hand is where your groove is. Your right hand is your body's metronome pendulum in general. So one good program is to get a feel for the timing and the rhythm of the tune, and get your right hand grooving to the beat, and pick or strum the strings accordingly.

    See? Not much 'music theory' there! (Not that there's anything wrong with studying music theory. I'm guilty of that.)
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  4. #4

    Default Re: Pick Direction

    I'm a bluegrasser all the way man! I think I understand what you're saying by feeling. Kinda naturally comes, I guess...if I'm understanding you right, LOL!!



    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    You have to get a feel for the TIMING of the tune. I've no idea what type of music you play, but in general, a knowledge of "music theory" is not necessary, but a feel for the timing of a tune is an absolute necessity. You have to learn to keep good time.

    Are there four beats to the measure? This is the most common timing. A waltz will have three beats to the measure. Etc., depends what type of music you play, music is written in different timings and rhythms - you need to know or feel the rhythm before you can get a good 'pick direction pattern' going.

    In general, as David L already wrote, you make downstrokes on the downbeat and upstrokes on the off-beat, backbeat, etc. but this is not always the case.

    What is most important is to realize that your right hand is where your groove is. Your right hand is your body's metronome pendulum in general. So one good program is to get a feel for the timing and the rhythm of the tune, and get your right hand grooving to the beat, and pick or strum the strings accordingly.

    See? Not much 'music theory' there! (Not that there's anything wrong with studying music theory. I'm guilty of that.)

  5. #5

    Default Re: Pick Direction

    Quote Originally Posted by David L View Post
    Playing an upstroke just because you are moving to a physically higher string (from D string to G string, for example), or vice versa is NOT a good idea, as a general rule. Pick direction shouldn't be determined by what string you are playing (very often).
    To follow up on this, are you saying it is a bad idea, if I am playing from the D string to the G string and happen to have played an up stroke on the D, to follow through and play an upstroke on the G?

  6. #6
    Mandolin Friendly Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick Direction

    Quote Originally Posted by JamesHall77 View Post
    I'm a bluegrasser all the way man! I think I understand what you're saying by feeling. Kinda naturally comes, I guess...if I'm understanding you right, LOL!!
    You got it there James, no matter what instrument you play, you need to be able to keep time . . . count time in the music. Your picking strokes should come as naturally as possible from your right hand keeping time with the beat of the music.

    One thing that might help is go to YouTube and watch closely videos of Bill Monroe playing. Do the same with Tim O'Brien, Sam Bush, Sierra Hull, name your favorites. Look for closeups of their picking hands and watch how they move up and down with the beat. Try to learn to keep time with your right hand like the pros do, pick strokes have to fit into the beat, wrist and hand relaxed, etc. Just watch and learn.
    Technique, theory and fun, fun, fun. I love playing, studying and sharing MUSIC.
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    Default Re: Pick Direction

    Quote Originally Posted by fishing_with_john View Post
    To follow up on this, are you saying it is a bad idea, if I am playing from the D string to the G string and happen to have played an up stroke on the D, to follow through and play an upstroke on the G?
    Yes, you are right: this is generally a bad idea, especially if that note on the D string was an eighth note (and probably on a weak beat), and the following note is another eighth note on the G string (probably on a strong beat). As a general rule, in 2/4 and 4/4 time, you try to alternate the pick direction for every single eighth note (irrespective of the string!), and play every strong beat as a downstroke. Exceptions can and will occur when there are quarter notes interspersed with eighth notes, tempo or time signature changes, picked triplets, and so on.

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  9. #8
    Mandolin Friendly Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick Direction

    Here's Don Julin's demonstration

    Technique, theory and fun, fun, fun. I love playing, studying and sharing MUSIC.
    "Life is short. Play hard." - AlanN
    ------------------------
    - Advice For Mandolin Beginners
    - My YouTube Videos
    Join the Newbies Social Group here at MandolinCafe! --> Newbies Group

  10. #9

    Default Re: Pick Direction

    Here I am picking along to a jam track. How bad am I? LOL!


    https://youtu.be/pl-6Sk8wvnE

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Pick Direction

    Good start! Minor advice: when moving to the G chord, try to place your pinky down onto the fretboard at the same time as the other fingers of the left hand, and not after them all.

  12. #11

    Default Re: Pick Direction

    To follow up on this, are you saying it is a bad idea, if I am playing from the D string to the G string and happen to have played an up stroke on the D, to follow through and play an upstroke on the G?
    The problem is not on the notes you are picking at the time but what it does to you a couple or three or five notes later. I have found when I consistently crash and burn on a tune nearly every single time it is because I have pick direction turned around and once I fix it, voila, the crashes cease.

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