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I bought my wife a Baby Taylor for Christmas (she hasn't played for thirty years). She uses a pick; I usually don't. She seems to be lightly pinching it between her thumb and pointer so that the pick is almost an extension of her finger; is that all right? When I use a pick, I place it firmly at a right-angle to my thumb.

Another question: can thumb picks be used for upstrokes? I started trying to use them (usually I just strum with my thumb alone), and I haven't had much success with upstrokes? Any tricks, or should I just use the pick for downstokes and single notes?

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By the way Stuart, I thought I would add a couple of comments to encorage you a bit.

It is more than 30 years since I bought my first guitar. Two to three years ago I made a personal decision that I could not look at myself as a serious player unless I went back and got soaked in an area that I had always avoided - fretboard theory. So I found myself a player/teacher that could help take me down that path. I quickly discovered so many of the bad habits I had picked up that were holding me back. So he made me sit down, go right back to basics and then correct those bad habits. It was a really frustrating battle and it took longer than it should have because those things had become so engrained in my playing.

One of those areas was my strumming and my timing. I had never really sat down and learnt the correct use of timing and playing. It was well worth it. I encourage you to look at doing something similar.

Oh and before you resort to the Pete Townsend approach, remember there are people like me out here that would gladly give your guitar a new home before seeing you wrapping it round a tree.

Hope this helps.
Thanks Nicholas.

Basically you're saying slow it down and concentrate on precision, ideally with tutorial help, then build back up from there.

I've had a look at a few video lessons and was reminded of a couple of things. Firstly, to strum more from the elbow than the wrist - which may be the reason for my tendency to slightly 'snatch' at the strings in a almost U-scoop (from the wrist) which can give an unclean sound and also be quite inconsistent. Also, it pointed out that the angle the pick meets the strings (say straight on, to around 45 degrees) is just a question of preference as it gives slightly different sounds. I would assume that logically you would have to hold the pick more firmly if you strum at an angle as the string will tend to twist the pick as you strike it.

But... I'd been getting my most satisfactory results when holding the pick lightly and quite high up (i.e showing a lot) and trying to glide across the strings (rather than get too deep a contact) but when playing faster songs the pick slips about a lot....

Maybe i just have mild brain damage ?
This is a bit like riding a bike. You will suddenly reach a place when you know you have got it, and then there is no looking back.

Yes, slow it right down, even to the point of just playing downstrokes till you have reached the arm/wrist combination that best suits you and gives you the right sound. And you have got to have movement in the wrist so that the pick can stright the strings at an angle that is comfortable for you and works. Personally I found that initially that a much lighter pick best because of the increased flexibility. As things progressed I went to harder picks to get different sound, volume and control.

The only thing about holding the pick too lightly is that you could find it flying off at time. so you want to make sure that you have sufficient grip to prevent that.

A lot of this is about you finding the comfort point and the sweet spot that suits you. So persist, and stick with it. At least 30 - 60 mins a day if you want to see change.
Hello Nicholas,

I did write a lengthy reply to this but it hasn't been posted....?


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