Four score and seven years ago … ish — amidst trying to make my way through yet another speed picking exercise — I stumbled upon a piece of advice that would forever change the way I thought about practicing. Sound dramatic enough?
A few months ago I began teaching my first left handed guitar student. I’m not sure why it took so long, but probability finally caught up to me. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew nothing about adapting standard guitar lessons to lefties, I had very little experience with playing left handed guitar chords, and I feared I would need to flip my guitar over every time I had to teach a chord. I even — for a bit — considered recommending a left handed guitar teacher.
I’ve said it before, but there’s no greater return on investment in the world of guitar playing than that which can be had from adjusting your pick technique. Guitar scales, theory, rhythm, nuance, all of those can take years to perfect, but small adjustments like those we’re going to cover here can instantly improve your playing in a very noticeable way. If you’re just starting out — and have decided to go it alone — you’ll want to pay attention to this post as it will most assuredly take your playing to the next level.
HOW TO PLAY A GUITAR [PART 4]: MANIPULATION VIA PICK TECHNIQUE
I can still see them in my dreams … The things of which nightmares are made. Shelves stocked full of books promising to teach you guitar, but instead delivering a labyrinth of scales, frustration, and confusion.
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve discussed this topic with a student both on and off this website, I’d be writing this article from the moon. Nevertheless, it’s one of the most important points to understand if you’re going to reach your goals in a timely manner and, sadly, it’s often overlooked.
Every guitar teacher is different; there’s no doubt about that. Each has their own style, their own method and, inevitably, each tries to move you towards a slightly different target (more on that in another post). There are many aspects of the learning process, however, that you can control, and that’s what we begin focusing on today with Part 1: All About the Warmup. Heed my advice and your transition from non-guitarist to exemplary student will be nothing short of a breeze!
In Part 1 of this series, we looked at the three qualities you must adopt if you expect to reach your guitar-playing goals. If you haven’t read that article yet, here it is. Part 2 will lay out the three qualities you should avoid (or rid yourself of on the off chance you already possess them) on your way to said goals. Not only are these three nagging character traits far too common amongst students, they are a fantastic predictor of a student’s potential for achievement throughout the course of his training, however brief. Analyze your habits carefully, and avoid these at all costs.
The three qualities we’ll be discussing in this post are not often found in your average person. These qualities are rarer still amongst guitar students. In fact, in thinking back through my full roster of students I could only come up with one whom I felt truly embodied all three. And while there are many who may check one or two of these boxes, if you truly want to be exceptional, you will need to push yourself until you can confidently check all three boxes. I’m confident a few amongst you will. Here we go …
I think it was Lincoln Brewster that first (indirectly) introduced me to the concept of NOT speeding up a riff in order to master it. At the time it seemed a bit counterintuitive to me — as I’m sure it does to you now — but as the years and practice sessions have progressed, I’ve found myself employing this technique almost daily.
We’ve talked talked many times about using various pick techniques based on goals and style of play. Today I’m going to introduce you to one small modification which can have a drastic effect on both your picking speed and control. The adjustment? Turning your pick (horizontally) 120 degrees so as to pick with the rounded edge.