Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 33

Thread: Is it necessary to keep the pick vertical to the strings?

  1. #1

    Question Is it necessary to keep the pick vertical to the strings?

    A teacher told me that if I was not keeping my pick vertical to the strings, I was not improving. That was 4-5 years ago, and believe me, I try. I play old time fiddle tunes on my mandolin, and for some tunes I find that my pick is vertical. Others -- particularly tunes I've played for years -- my pick is at a slight angle. Also, it's easier to keep the pick vertical when playing the A or E strings. It starts to slant when I play on the D or G string. Am I a hopeless case? It's just SO unnatural for me to struggle to keep my pick vertical ALL THE TIME.

  2. #2
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    North CA
    Posts
    3,583

    Default Re: Is it necessary to keep the pick vertical to the strings?

    Let me say I have strong ideas about picks on mandolins, and often they are not mainstream.

    However, the angle which you use to attack the strings, and by this I assume this to be the variance from the same plane of the string pair from the side, and the flat side of the pick itself, may not be a constant.

    First, if you prefer a round pick end or tip, I may not be addressing you, as I am a very serious advocate of a sharp tip on a mandolin pick, as per the hundreds of years of Italian classical tradition.


    But once you are used to using the pick as a tool for expression, like a violin bow, then the angle you use makes subtle differences in tone color.

    Combine that with playing nearer and further from the bridge, and you can get a wider variety of tone colors from the same instrument.

    So to address the concept;

    "for some tunes I find that my pick is vertical. Others -- particularly tunes I've played for years -- my pick is at a slight angle."

    That's what I mean, you are using the pick for different effects.

    The real issue is - do you control the pick or does the pick still control you? (OK not literally...)

  3. The Following 4 Users Say Thank You to DavidKOS For This Useful Post:


  4. #3
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    S.W. Wisconsin
    Posts
    4,274

    Default Re: Is it necessary to keep the pick vertical to the strings?

    I defiantly angle my pick at different times and as David says it has purpose. I use a round and pointed pick depending on what I am doing and I often tell people trying to get a good tremolo to angle the pick and not keep it vertical to the strings. It will glide easier and make learning the tremolo easier, you can also use it to advantage for volume control. More angle is quieter. I would not worry about keeping it vertical, but instead concentrate on when you want to angle it and when not by listening.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  5. The following members say thank you to pops1 for this post:


  6. #4
    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    Upstate N.Y.
    Posts
    1,057

    Default Re: Is it necessary to keep the pick vertical to the strings?

    ..and check your posture also....

  7. The following members say thank you to T.D.Nydn for this post:


  8. #5

    Default Re: Is it necessary to keep the pick vertical to the strings?

    Thanks, pops1! I had already discovered angling the pick for tremolo and getting a quieter sound, or at least use this technique for some practice. The angle I use for tremolo is not the same angle as I am concerned about, though. The angle I'm concerned about is when the flat of the pick is parallel to the strings, but the angle leans. The tremolo angling is when the flat of the pick is not parallel to the strings. Hard to describe -- you might have to see it to know what I'm getting it. I think I need to play more lightly -- I kinda "dig in" to the strings, always have and think this is a problem. I'm a loud player, and have a loud mandolin. It's a beautiful Flatiron, cherry red finish. I've never seen one like it. One teacher lusted after it and wished it were his own.

  9. #6

    Default Re: Is it necessary to keep the pick vertical to the strings?

    T.D., There are many different postures that different people use successfully. But now that you mention it, I will observe good mandolin players more closely and compare and analyse what people do.

  10. #7
    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    Upstate N.Y.
    Posts
    1,057

    Default Re: Is it necessary to keep the pick vertical to the strings?

    Quote Originally Posted by stringalong View Post
    T.D., There are many different postures that different people use successfully. But now that you mention it, I will observe good mandolin players more closely and compare and analyse what people do.
    Don't get overly technical about it,I mean basically don't slouch and sit up or stand fairly straight,,I notice when I slouch back,like on a couch,the pick angle can change all over the place,the more I sit up proper,the easier it is to control the pick flat right to the strings,,standing also can do that...

  11. #8

    Default Re: Is it necessary to keep the pick vertical to the strings?

    Pilots talk about roll, pitch and yaw to describe rotation on the three axes. How you manage all three affects the sound. As David said above, the real question is whether you control it or not.

    I have heard people say "Oh that's just my personal style" when questionable techniques were pointed out. It is only your "style" if it is a choice and you are capable of doing it either way.

    I personally do not usually like the sound all that well when hitting completely square to the strings for most songs. But I can do it that way if I wish to. I usually have it tilted a little around at least two axes. However think about what happens when you upstroke as well as downstroke. An angle that helps on a downstroke may catch and hang up when you start to upstroke. And remember that the pick is moving in an arc in one or two planes, not a straight line, especially when strumming. And how deep you get into the strings may be the biggest issue of all for speed, fluidity and tone.

  12. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to CarlM For This Useful Post:


  13. #9
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    North CA
    Posts
    3,583

    Default Re: Is it necessary to keep the pick vertical to the strings?

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    And how deep you get into the strings may be the biggest issue of all for speed, fluidity and tone.
    That may well be true - I think one reason I prefer a very sharp point on my pick is that I can get a good "pluck", but not too much pick has to dig in to get that sound. When i try to use rounder tips, they have too wide an area to get what I want without going "too deep", so to speak.

  14. #10
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Manchester - Lancashire - NW England
    Posts
    13,749

    Default Re: Is it necessary to keep the pick vertical to the strings?

    In a similar way,some folk hit the strings with the front edge of a pick - hence the bevel,others hit the strings 'flat on'. Personally,i hit the strings on the bevel,but maybe a bit 'flatter' that some folk,as i try to get more volume by pushing the strings & not simply sliding over them. Unless i noticed a deterioration in my tone / volume,i'd not change anything - so to the OP,i'd say listen to the tone & volume that you're getting playing as you normally would do,& if you're ok with it - leave it - the teacher's opinion was just that 'his' opinion,
    Ivan
    Weber F-5 'Fern'.
    Lebeda F-5 "Special".
    Stelling Bellflower BANJO
    Tokai - 'Tele-alike'.
    Ellis DeLuxe "A" style.

  15. #11
    Some Ability - No Talent MikeZito's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Location
    Connecticut, USA
    Posts
    986
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Is it necessary to keep the pick vertical to the strings?

    This is where you have to define between the terms 'necessary' and 'helpful'.

    Playing in tune is necessary; playing in tempo is necessary, not playing to loud or too soft is necessary, playing the song that the rest of the band is playing is necessary . . . . angle of the pick, hand position on the fretboard, sitting, standing, crouching, slouching, eating while playing, etc. - those can be helpful tips, but as long as you are making reasonable progress towards achieving your desired results, they are not necessary.

    p.s. - Just because your teacher is telling you that you are not improving does not necessarily mean anything. Teachers have opinions, they are not infallible. I once heard of a young boy whose piano teacher told him he was not really playing music because he couldn't sight read - but he kept winning piano competition after piano competition . . . obviously, sight reading was helpful but not necessary.

  16. #12
    Chief Moderator/Shepherd Ted Eschliman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Nebraska
    Posts
    4,301
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default Re: Is it necessary to keep the pick vertical to the strings?

    One of the best things I got from a John Reischman clinic was the concept of a slightly angled pick yielding more string fundamental. I feel you get more string and less pick in your sound when you play that way, especially in slower passages. It certainly works for him.
    Ted Eschliman
    Tenor Guitar Enthusiast

    www.JazzMando.com
    Author, Getting Into Jazz Mandolin

  17. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to Ted Eschliman For This Useful Post:


  18. #13
    Gibson F5L Gibson A5L
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    1,905
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Is it necessary to keep the pick vertical to the strings?

    Well ... when you think about it between a loose wrist and slight elbow movement the angle of the pick striking the strings is always going to be slightly changing anyway. T.E. is correct in citing J.R. on pick angle. Lean the pick slightly forward / down on the side of the pick away from the bridge and you will have better tone and easier access to tremolo. Play on! R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

  19. #14

    Default Re: Is it necessary to keep the pick vertical to the strings?

    T.D., I definitely agree! Thanks for further clarification of what you meant. I could not even think about slouching on the couch to play. I'm used to piano playing and choir singing, where posture is all-important.

  20. #15

    Default Re: Is it necessary to keep the pick vertical to the strings?

    Thanks, everyone who just wrote more about the angle of the pick. I really like playing with a slight bevel. And that's so true that a teacher has the opinion of him/herself. Different teachers say different things about the same matters and so one has to come up with what works for oneself. I think all your comments are very helpful!

  21. #16
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Manchester - Lancashire - NW England
    Posts
    13,749

    Default Re: Is it necessary to keep the pick vertical to the strings?

    Ted - That's pretty much the way i use a pick - 'slightly' angled.

    From Stringalong - " Different teachers say different things about the same matters and so one has to come up with what works for oneself. " Absolutely !!. However,always listen to the opinions / advice of others. It may work for you or it won't. Use whatever works & improves you, & discount the rest,
    Ivan
    Weber F-5 'Fern'.
    Lebeda F-5 "Special".
    Stelling Bellflower BANJO
    Tokai - 'Tele-alike'.
    Ellis DeLuxe "A" style.

  22. The following members say thank you to Ivan Kelsall for this post:


  23. #17
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    0.8 pc from NGC224, upstairs
    Posts
    9,587

    Default Re: Is it necessary to keep the pick vertical to the strings?

    Whoever gives advice should be able to explain why their way works better. Otherwise they take for granted that
    - everybody is like they are (which is not very realistic)
    - at least everybody should become like they are (which is impossible)

    To make teaching work, the differences must be explored, not ignored.

    Bottom line: don't let Zaphod Beeblebrox tell you that you need two hairdryers.
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

  24. #18
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    In hills, FRANCE.
    Posts
    173

    Default Re: Is it necessary to keep the pick vertical to the strings?

    I found that say five minutes of eighth notes all played as upstrokes doing scales or arpeggios really helps to get my hand to sort of loosen up and explore the different possibilities. You could maybe change the angle of the neck of your mandolin to the ground too. A little too high, then a little too low. See how that feels.

  25. #19
    Registered User Frankdolin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    near Boston, MA
    Posts
    206

    Default Re: Is it necessary to keep the pick vertical to the strings?

    I use a rather heavy ,rounded, and beveled edge BC pick with heavily angled attack. I do this to try and cut as much "click" as possible and most important to get the tone I like. I will flatten out when play very fast and any time I think the music calls for more articulate note definition, if that's a thing. Just remember everything and I mean anything you do or change in your own playing style our your equipment will effect your sound in the end. Keep pick'n and grin'n.

  26. #20
    Emando lover David Lewis's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Sydney, Australia
    Posts
    912

    Default Re: Is it necessary to keep the pick vertical to the strings?

    One of the best pieces of advice I got was from an interview here, I think it was with the late John McGann, and he said you treat the pick like a bow. Slightly drag it across the strings. At a slight angle you get a nice effect.
    JBovier ELS; Epiphone MM-50 VN; Epiphone MM-40L; Gretsch New Yorker G9310; Washburn M1SDLB;

    Fender Nashville Deluxe Telecaster; Squier Modified Vintage Cabronita Telecaster; Gretsch 5420T; Fender Tim Armstrong Hellcat: Washburn Banjo B9; Ibanez RB 5string; Ibanez RB 4 string bass

    Pedalboard for ELS: Morley Cry baby Miniwah - Tuner - EHX Soul Food Overdrive - EHX Memory Toy analog Delay
    Fender Blues Jr Tweed; Fender Greta;

  27. #21
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    S.W. Wisconsin
    Posts
    4,274

    Default Re: Is it necessary to keep the pick vertical to the strings?

    The most important thing about pick angle is your ear. I change the angle constantly as I play depending on what I am hearing and doing. I don't really think about it, but the tone you get is what is important. If you play with your pick angled and you like the tone great. Being able to play loud when you need to and soft when you need to and most importantly accurately all the time, loud or soft. That is the important thing, how you do it is up to each individual. There is plenty to think about without worrying about what angle my pick is at. Listening to your sound will give you the angle that works for you.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  28. #22

    Default Re: Is it necessary to keep the pick vertical to the strings?

    Thanks again, everyone. Ivan is right that listening to the opinions of others is very important and useful. As a teacher myself (many subjects including piano at one time; now retired) I had to make a major adjustment in my own thinking at one point. I had always thought that it was important to have only one teacher at a time. I loosened up my attitude about that when I realized that being 1000% "loyal" to one teacher is not always the best idea. It can be, if your teacher's advice always works for you, but there are new ideas all over the place. This thread has been very useful -- thanks folks.

  29. #23
    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Statesville, NC
    Posts
    2,738

    Default Re: Is it necessary to keep the pick vertical to the strings?

    By luck alone, I just happened upon the following page on Frets.com. This MAY be what your teacher is talking about.

    Take a look and see what you think:
    Link at Frets.com
    Phil

    “Sharps/Flats” ≠ “Accidentals”

  30. #24
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    0.8 pc from NGC224, upstairs
    Posts
    9,587

    Default Re: Is it necessary to keep the pick vertical to the strings?

    Quote Originally Posted by Philphool View Post
    By luck alone, I just happened upon the following page on Frets.com. This MAY be what your teacher is talking about.

    Take a look and see what you think:
    Link at Frets.com
    If that is what it's about, it is plain right. The reasons given (up/down symmetry and buzz avoidance) are clear and simple, that is how explanation should go. What the explanation omits is the concept of attack angle (a different axis of rotation) to ease picking forces, whose avoidance is often the reason for developing the slant pick attitude shown in the pics.
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

  31. #25

    Default Re: Is it necessary to keep the pick vertical to the strings?

    Quote Originally Posted by Philphool View Post
    By luck alone, I just happened upon the following page on Frets.com. This MAY be what your teacher is talking about.

    Take a look and see what you think:
    Link at Frets.com
    Thanks, Philphool, I'm sure that is what my teacher is talking about! Very clear. I don't know why in some of my tunes I hold the pick vertically, and in others, at a slant. Also, when I jam I "naturally" revert to a slant.

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •