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Thread: About my pick grip

  1. #1
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    Default About my pick grip

    As I often do, I evaluate and re-evaluate my right hand pick grip. When watching many good players, and how they hold their picks, they have their picking hand fingers tucked in a loose fist. When I do that I find my pinky, ring finger, and sometimes middle finger, rub the the strings as I play. Is that inevitable, natural, don't worry about it? I can't really tell if I'm muting the tone or not. And I guess it's relative to whether I'm above or below the bridge. Is the pick hand supposed to float over the strings while the heel of the hand lightly rests on the bridge, or at least uses the bridge as a reference point?

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    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
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    Default Re: About my pick grip

    I’ve never believed there is any “right” or “wrong” way to hold the pick. Just use whatever is the most efficient way to get the tone and speed you are trying to achieve. While I see lots of great players holding their thumb and index fingers in a pinching type of grip on the pick, I curl my index finger under the pick with my thumb on top. I also curl my other fingers under a bit and my curled pinky finger rests very lightly on the mandolin top (mostly as a reference). The palm of my hand rests very lightly on the bridge top (again as a reference point) and sometimes on the strings behind the bridge.
    This technique would most likely be thought of as “wrong” by many teachers but it’s what has worked if me for 45 years and if I tried to grip like many of the pros do, I would barely be able to play.
    Point is, find what’s most comfortable for you. If someone points out something that helps you and you find it works, then by all means do it. Your right hand needs to be comfortable.

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    Default Re: About my pick grip

    You know it's funny. When I "mime" holding a pick my last 3 fingers naturally fold back into my palm, as if ready to form a fist. But with mandolin in hand it seems more challenging to keep that position and play. I've read here on the Cafe where players gradually gained the comfort and playability with fingers folded back. But it took a good bit of practice to get there. Supposedly you are reducing "swing weight" when fingers are "retracted" compared with them dangling down or even extended out straight.

  5. #4

    Default Re: About my pick grip

    Quote Originally Posted by dorenac View Post
    As I often do, I evaluate and re-evaluate my right hand pick grip. When watching many good players, and how they hold their picks, they have their picking hand fingers tucked in a loose fist. When I do that I find my pinky, ring finger, and sometimes middle finger, rub the the strings as I play. Is that inevitable, natural, don't worry about it? I can't really tell if I'm muting the tone or not. And I guess it's relative to whether I'm above or below the bridge. Is the pick hand supposed to float over the strings while the heel of the hand lightly rests on the bridge, or at least uses the bridge as a reference point?
    Everyone is a little different, but I think there are certain things that will put a "ceiling" on the technical side of playing. There is a good video on youtube where Chris Thile discusses his right hand technique that I thought was pretty helpful. But keep in mind, it's all relative. If you can get good results with what you are doing, don't have a lot of tension, and are able to technically play everything you want to play then the benefits of you really deconstructing your right hand aren't going to be apparent.

    I really like right hand discussion though. I know I've read and heard Thile talk about having to deconstruct his and do it differently over the years. When he recorded Deceiver I saw an interview asking why he didn't do something more akin to Not All Who Wander Are Lost, one of his reasons was that he was doing something to change his technique and didn't think a record requiring playing that technical was a good idea in the midst of that.

    All that to say-- if what you currently do works and you are satisfied with it, I'd hesitate to change. If you feel like your right hand is hampering your progress, then there is no shame is deconstructing and rebuilding your technique.

  6. #5

    Default Re: About my pick grip

    I think the most important part is to stay relaxed.

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: About my pick grip

    Quote Originally Posted by mandobassman View Post
    I’ve never believed there is any “right” or “wrong” way to hold the pick. Just use whatever is the most efficient way to get the tone and speed you are trying to achieve. .
    There is the fact that mandolin method books have been around for over a hundred years and the way to hold a pick has long been established; however, the concept of "most efficient way to get the tone and speed you are trying to achieve" is a fine goal.

    I guess I want to suggest that new players do not have to re-invent the wheel in terms of mandolin technique, most issues have been well covered in the various classical methods - and the technique can easily be applied to other styles of mandolin playing.

    Quote Originally Posted by MandoManCaleb View Post
    Everyone is a little different, but I think there are certain things that will put a "ceiling" on the technical side of playing.
    I do believe that there are more and less efficient ways to hold a mandolin pick; it's best to play well because of your technique than in spite of it.

    You can use any shape pick you want and hold it anyway too - but many of these homestyle variations on proper technique will prove to be limiting in some way or another - that is, if you play music that requires such technical efforts. Many styles of mandolin music do not make the same demands in terms of range, speed, scales, etc.

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    Default Re: About my pick grip

    I also monitor my pick hand as I try for more smoothness and speed, using the most commonly recommended pick holding technique.

    As for classic instruction, it reminds of a an old wood turning book where the fellow states (paraphrase) ‘people can do the opposite of my recommendation and achieve some success, but I’ve done this all my life so I suggest you try it first’.

    We are mostly the rule, not exceptions.

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: About my pick grip

    Quote Originally Posted by dorenac View Post
    As I often do, I evaluate and re-evaluate my right hand pick grip. When watching many good players, and how they hold their picks,
    I think it more important to watch the good teachers.

    I find my pinky, ring finger, and sometimes middle finger, rub the the strings as I play. Is that inevitable, natural, don't worry about it? I can't really tell if I'm muting the tone or not.
    Hmmm. That can't be good. If i understand what you are saying you will get blisters on the fingers of your strumming hand? On the knuckles. Maybe have the pick extend a bit more from your hand.

    Is the pick hand supposed to float over the strings while the heel of the hand lightly rests on the bridge, or at least uses the bridge as a reference point?
    That sounds like what Mike Marshall advocates, in that now famous video, and if so, that is an excellent way to go.


    With regard to
    I’ve never believed there is any “right” or “wrong” way to hold the pick. Just use whatever is the most efficient way to get the tone and speed you are trying to achieve.
    I would respectfully disagree.

    My thoughts on that are here.
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    Default Re: About my pick grip

    Well ….. loose fingers loose wrist … after that watch John Reischman, Jethro Burns and Mike Marshall ….. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: About my pick grip

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    My thoughts on that are here.
    I really appreciate that article. Especially this part:

    "The fallacy in this thinking is that these great mandolinners certainly did not get there by playing non-standard. Their success is more explained by talent, practice, and experience, and getting so many other things super right, and as a result these noticeable non-standard things don’t get in the way. Furthermore, amazing talent knows when and where to hold to the standard, where and when the standard doesn’t apply, and where and when deliberate violation of the standard is a good artistic decision. "

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    Default Re: About my pick grip

    I have noticed pretty much all guitar players I see use a fairly open hand shape. It is likely due to the fact they are jazz or other electric guitar players. (I see Tony Rice seems to use the closed-hand shape.) Dudu Maia explained to us at this year’s choro workshop that he used to use the closed grip but switched to open. Hamilton de Holanda also seems to use the open shape, with only the index finger curled.

    Position and instrument shape matters, I think. The archtops have that elevated bridge which leaves plenty of room for the curled-up fingers, as opposed to my flattop pin-bridge instrument. And classical players, as it appears to me, have the instrument angled upward which affects the way one’s hand addresses the strings.

    Perhaps if I was mainly interested in conventional classical mandolin and bluegrass I would try harder to emulate those pickers, but I am more interested in jazz, and my style is effective for my chosen repertoire and genres.
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    Default Re: About my pick grip

    [QUOTE=Tom Wright;1714793]I have noticed pretty much all guitar players I see use a fairly open hand shape. It is likely due to the fact they are jazz or other electric guitar players.

    I, too watch jazz players, and in particular I watch Pat Metheny, and his pick holding style is something like, but not exactly, Chris Thile. The main concern of my post is the finger brushing or rubbing on the strings. If that seems to be a common result of the closed hand method then I'm doing it correctly. If not then I have to practice some more or change.

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    Default Re: About my pick grip

    Quote Originally Posted by mandobassman View Post
    I’ve never believed there is any “right” or “wrong” way to hold the pick. Just use whatever is the most efficient way to get the tone and speed you are trying to achieve . . . (my) technique would most likely be thought of as “wrong” by many teachers but it’s what has worked if me for 45 years and if I tried to grip like many of the pros do, I would barely be able to play.
    I couldn't agree more.

    To illustrate my point, I often tell people to look around at others while they are writing something, and watch the way that they hold a pen or pencil. There are some pretty strange gripping techniques out there, but they all work for the person who is doing it - so who is to say what is 'right' or 'wrong'?
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    Default Re: About my pick grip

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeZito View Post
    I couldn't agree more.

    To illustrate my point, I often tell people to look around at others while they are writing something, and watch the way that they hold a pen or pencil. There are some pretty strange gripping techniques out there, but they all work for the person who is doing it - so who is to say what is 'right' or 'wrong'?
    I am also a calligrapher; there are pen grips that will write letters with a ballpoint that will not work for fine lettering with a real dipping pen.

    Just because people can hold a pen or pencil almost any way and write is not proof that there is not a better way to hold a pen.

    Same with mandolin picks. "work for the person who is doing it" is not the same as "works well, easily and efficiently for the person doing it."

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    Default Re: About my pick grip

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    I am also a calligrapher; there are pen grips that will write letters with a ballpoint that will not work for fine lettering with a real dipping pen.

    Just because people can hold a pen or pencil almost any way and write is not proof that there is not a better way to hold a pen.

    Same with mandolin picks. "work for the person who is doing it" is not the same as "works well, easily and efficiently for the person doing it."
    I agree with David,,I am a professional tattoo artist for over 30 years,and there is really only one way to hold that machine grip,you can for sure hold it any way you want,but your work will be poor quality or even worse results.some time ago I had a fine player show me my errors of my ways of holding the pick,I want from finger tip to closed fist and that was the one single thing that changed my playing and took it to another level,I played closed fist and I never hit the strings,or the Florida for that matter...

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    Default Re: About my pick grip

    If you are learning, try several ways to accomplish any of the mechanic of playing. If after serious trying it is awkward then try something else. I don't believe there is only one way to do anything,consider everything, try everything, do what works best for you. You notice I said if you are learning. I've been playing 50+years any I'm still learning. I think the only people that aren't have either given up and don't try any longer or else they have died.

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    Default Re: About my pick grip

    This thread really caught my interest. I've always relied on an open right-hand "floating pinky" style (guitar and mando).

    Today I made an effort to try a more closed right-hand while practicing.

    * It takes some effort and concentration, but it's doable
    * I feel like I have a different level of control over the pick.
    * It seems like I can more easily vary (or maintain) the pick angle on the fly to achieve the consistent tone that I want.

    Maybe I just had a good practice session, but I feel like I've made a breakthrough.
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    Default Re: About my pick grip

    I feel like I’ve recently made a breakthrough just playing REALLY slow, using a firmer grip, bigger angle into the octave mandolin rather than across the strings and playing much louder -and getting angry if there’s any string buzz at all.
    (The neighbors can hear it now, so I have to time my practice sessions)

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    Default Re: About my pick grip

    I wish I could recall where I read it 20 yrs ago...I had an article about pick grips of 20 famous mandolin players. Most styles of grip were present. I was moved to follow the closed fist method, and forced that to be my habit. No regrets, no pick guard/pinky platform, no scratches, no top wear.
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    Default Re: About my pick grip

    And when you watch Robin Bullock, on this week's Mando Monday, it's pretty clear that it can be done with an open hand and a pinky plant. Find what works for you.
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    Default Re: About my pick grip

    Quote Originally Posted by A-board View Post
    And when you watch Robin Bullock, on this week's Mando Monday, it's pretty clear that it can be done with an open hand and a pinky plant. Find what works for you.
    In my opinion,he's not "playing the mandolin", he's doing guitar type strumming "on a mandolin", there's a difference,,it looks like he's using an open hand,pinky planted,finger type pick grip,,there's no way he's playing Calace or Monroe with that grip..

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  32. #22

    Default Re: About my pick grip

    there's no way he's playing Calace or Monroe with that grip..
    At least, he plays Bach with that grip:

    By the way: Caterina Lichtenberg also has a non-standard pick-grip
    She doesn't plant her pinky, but her index finger isn't curled the way most players do it:

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  34. #23

    Default Re: About my pick grip

    " Practice every time you get a chance." - Bill Monroe

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    Default Re: About my pick grip

    " Practice every time you get a chance." - Bill Monroe

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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: About my pick grip

    This is something I need to go back and work on. Was lectured a bit at a workshop a week ago about using my fingers on top of the instrument. Not planted, a light glide. But the instructor felt that it was still too close to a plant to be proper technique.
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