Making Music with Marshall

Picking hand techniques

Posted: 23 June 2020

Often overlooked when first picking up the guitar, the playing hand is just as important as the fretting hand.

No hammer-on, bend or harmonic will sound good if your picking hand hasn’t mastered these techniques. The more you practice these the more muscle memory you’ll build up, practice makes perfect!

Read time - 2 mins

Palm muting

Your hand will usually rest on the bridge of the guitar, if you bring your hand towards the neck and closer to the point which the strings leave the string saddles you’ll notice the strings will now have a deadened, muted sound. Try adjusting your hand to get the perfect balance of string muting and string resonance. This technique is used in almost every genre, from metal to funk.

Alternate picking

There’s two directions that you can pick and strum a guitar - up and down. To gain real speed and fluidity of your playing you’ll want to combine these directions. Try playing a minor pentatonic scale with a downward and upward motion after each note (down, up, down, up, down, up etc..) and you’ll notice the more you practice this the faster you can play. Remember that building muscle memory takes time and using a metronome is a great way to train!

Hybrid picking

A tricky one to learn, hybrid picking is where you use your pick in the conventional way with your thumb and first finger, but then you use a combination of the second, third and fourth finger to pluck the strings below your guitar pick. For example, you would pick the top E string, then your second finger would pluck the G string, and your third or fourth finger would pluck the high E string. This technique is commonly used in country and jazz music when playing double stops.

Sweep picking

Made famous by the metal shredders of the eighties, sweep picking is where you play an arpeggio on multiple strings in a stroke motion. If you master sweep picking it will allow you to play licks extremely fast! The trick to sweep picking is to be fluid in your motion and not hold the pick too hard and angle your wrist in the direction you are going.

These techniques will take a great deal of practice to master, but if you can get these down and mix them together with scales, hammer-ons, bends and harmonics, you’ll be shredding like the greats!