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Thread: Need guidance for picking hand

  1. #1

    Default Need guidance for picking hand

    I recently began practicing mandolin, and I was delighted by how fun it is. However, my picking needs some guidance.
    As my first song I practiced Miss Shepherd's reel, in which I alternate the swingy rhythm. Especially after buying a triangular pick with somewhat rounded tips, I started noticing how my up-beats were much louder than the down-beats. When I try to balance the volume by picking harder, I end up having too much tensions in my right hand. If I try to play more relaxed, the pick barely plucks the string enough to be audible. Feels like it sometimes even slides over the upper strings without making a sound.

    I've tried different positions for my picking hand and different picks, but the problem persists. Has anyone had similar problems as a developing mandolin player? I hope my explanation was clear. 😅

  2. #2
    Registered User Ky Slim's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need guidance for picking hand

    Welcome to the Cafe! The Picking Hand!! As a lifelong picking hand technique crusader (and struggler) the best advice I can give is to consider getting some lessons from a qualified mandolin teacher. There are lots of virtual options available right now from great teachers. The best time to develop good technique is before bad technique has a chance to develop.

    Here are a few of the videos that get suggested quite often around here. Good Luck!




  3. #3

    Default Re: Need guidance for picking hand

    Thanks for the reply. How I've been playing is that I've planted the bottom of my palm at the base of the strings. I'm quite unsure about how the hand should move and I feel like the guy in the third video has the most detailed explanation.

    I've considered taking lessons, but I don't think I have the money for it...

  4. #4
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need guidance for picking hand

    I do what is in the last video. I do not plant a pinky on the top I do not rotate my arm to pick and I do not rub or plant my palm on the strings. The only part of my arm in contact with the mandolin is the forearm where it comes over the top for me that is at the tailpiece. At first, I wanted to rotate my hand to pick but forcing myself to use a movement similar to using a small tack hammer and those little brads for very small things that slight tapping motion with the writs is how I figured out how to approach a wrist only approach.

    I also found at first my ups were strong than my downs and a lot of it was I was tightening my grip on the ups and hitting the strings more square to the tip and on the downs, I was attacking at more of an angle. I can't say my forearm doesn't travel a very slight amount but it is almost imperceptible and I think has more to do with where I want to hit the string close to the tailpiece or fretboard. I would suggest recording yourself and watching it to compare with some of these guys and see how yours differs. Seeing it from the third person is an entirely different view and reveals a lot over our view while playing and perception of what we think we are doing.
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

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  5. #5

    Default Re: Need guidance for picking hand

    Thanks for the tips. Perhaps recording myself while playing will help me. However I adjust my hand, the upstroke seems to make more of a pluck. Truly relaxing my grip on the pick seems to somewhat balance the volume, but then the upper strings produce much less sound than with a stiffer hand. Can this also be a sign of bad strings? I haven't changed them yet after getting the instrument.

  6. #6
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need guidance for picking hand

    I think if the string sounds good in one direction and not the other or volume is good in one but no the other the issue isn't the strings. They really don't play any different up or down. It's generally in our attack.
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

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  7. #7
    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need guidance for picking hand

    Quote Originally Posted by Honey-Boy View Post
    Thanks for the tips. Perhaps recording myself while playing will help me. However I adjust my hand, the upstroke seems to make more of a pluck. Truly relaxing my grip on the pick seems to somewhat balance the volume, but then the upper strings produce much less sound than with a stiffer hand. Can this also be a sign of bad strings? I haven't changed them yet after getting the instrument.
    Most people have to work on making the upstroke sound as loud as the downstroke, not the reverse. In any case there is some work and technique involved in getting a good and even sound on mandolin, and you probably could use some guidance.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Need guidance for picking hand

    I mean the upper strings being much quieter in total is what I wondered to have something to do with the strings. My upstroke being louder is obviously a technique thing.

  9. #9
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need guidance for picking hand

    Yes, some strings can go dead before others. A string change wouldn’t hurt anything and could solve that issue. I didn’t understand that was what you meant in the earlier post.
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

    Creativity is just doing something wierd and finding out others like it.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Need guidance for picking hand

    It's okay. It's hard to explain all these things through text 😅

    I managed to find myself a teacher. Although mandolin isn't his main instrument, he promised me he'd be able to teach me the basics at least. Should be enough to get me moving, I guess. Forward more than backwards I hope.

  11. #11
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need guidance for picking hand

    I can understand the search for instruction. I travel way too much for a normal teacher and don’t know of any around here anyway. But I have been happy with online.
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

    Creativity is just doing something wierd and finding out others like it.

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