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  1. #1

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    Hi - new here. I've come from a classical background, first violin, then classical guitar, but I really love blues and jazz. I've picked up the electric guitar alongside my classical, but I just cannot get the hang of a plectrum. I've been trying to get used to it for over a year, but I always end up using my fingers in frustration after 30 minutes in a practice session.
    Are plectrums strictly necessary? I've heard that some jazz and blues guitarists don't use a plectrum at all - is this true? Browsing through this site, some of the lessons are done purely fingerstyle, but it seems to be a minority.

    Plectrums just feel so unnatural and counter-intuitive compared to my fingers

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Check out solo Joe Pass, George Van Eps, Ralph Towner, Mick Goodrick, Kevin Eubanks, Charlie Byrd and Ted Greene for a full on finger style approach. Wes Montgomery, later career John Abercrombie, Jimmy Ponder and Jim Mullen are good examples of using the thumb. Best wishes for your music!

    PK

  4. #3

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    Fair number of blues and rock players eschew the pick. Lindsay Buckingham and Mark Knopfler come to mind, and blessers that come from the acoustic guitar to the electric often play finger style as well. Rule #1: There are no rules!

  5. #4

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    If I live to be 90, I suspect I'll still be struggling with a pick.
    I play fingerstyle sometimes but it's not what I want to do most of the time, so I take up the pick. Some days are good, some are awful, many are so-so. Such is life.

  6. #5

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    I used a pick for years and in the last few years dumped it for fingers. It has benefits and drawbacks. There are people who can play very rapidly with their thumb/ fingers but I'm not one of them; you may be.

    One benefit is that flesh can sound a lot warmer than a pick, although that may depend on the kind of guitar you've got and how you set it up.

    So, for me, I've sacrificed speed for warmth. On the other hand, I feel much more in contact with the strings. But, of course, if you use a pick consistently, as I have before, you don't really notice that. And some people use both pick and fingers together.

    I'm aware that I've basically said absolutely nothing (!) so probably use whatever suits. You'll soon find out what's going to be right for you.

  7. #6

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    I have the exact same experience, and could have written your post.

    Necessary? No. But it is a worthwhile tool to add to your arsenal.

    What broke the logjam for me was Troy Grady’s exhaustive study on all things pick mechanics called, “Cracking the Code”. It’s not free, but I can heartily recommend it for truly understanding how to use a plectrum.

    It took some work, but I feel like I can play with my finger or pick interchangeably now.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro

  8. #7

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    I’m with Freddie King, Albert King, and Albert Collins, all of whom played the blues without picks. You can’t do better than that, and each of them had different and clearly recognizable sound and style.

    I often play a whole gig finger style, regardless of the genre. Play it your way and don’t worry about it at all.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by nevershouldhavesoldit
    I’m with Freddie King who played the blues without picks.
    Wrong:Freddie King used thumbpick and fingerpick...

  10. #9

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    Really depends on what you want to do? Fire off George Benson 16ths? pick. Play Freddie Green style rhythm? Pick.

    Almost everything else is "negotiable."

    So is it worth trying with the pick? Sure. Is it absolutely necessary? Not in the least.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mimsy
    Hi - new here. I've come from a classical background, first violin, then classical guitar, but I really love blues and jazz. I've picked up the electric guitar alongside my classical, but I just cannot get the hang of a plectrum. I've been trying to get used to it for over a year, but I always end up using my fingers in frustration after 30 minutes in a practice session.
    Are plectrums strictly necessary? I've heard that some jazz and blues guitarists don't use a plectrum at all - is this true? Browsing through this site, some of the lessons are done purely fingerstyle, but it seems to be a minority.

    Plectrums just feel so unnatural and counter-intuitive compared to my fingers
    I myself go back and forth - although hardly seamlessly - and contrary to popular belief, the jazz police haven't actually busted anyone that I know of for such a minor breach of common practice, but you never know....

    If you are more comfortable with fingers-only, that's cool. Play however you want, just play!

  12. #11

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    I play with a pick, hybrid pick, and play with my fingers.

    Most of the time I fingerpick and I like that the best. But I'm faster with a pick (not that I'm very fast).

    As an aside, I feel very comfortable in saying for slide guitar it is best to fingerpick given the need to mute strings.


  13. #12

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    I don' use a pick. Been playing for over 40 years now. Never liked the feeling of pinching plastic. Whenever I felt like I should I realized that it wasn't for me. It's just who I am.

  14. #13

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    Its just another tool in your tool box. I started playing only with a pick but an accident to my fretting hand 20 years ago left me with less mobility and it pushed me to playing fingerstyle and solo "chord melody". It has been a long slog to get where I feel proficient. There are a great number of musicians who play blues/rock/jazz at a high level with just their fingers. In addition to the players mentioned above I give you two more.




  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by TOMMO
    Wrong:Freddie King used thumbpick and fingerpick...
    He used different techniques at different times in his career and for different tunes. I’ve seen a few pictures of him with a standard plectrum between thumb and index finger, but most pics / album art / videos show him either bare fingered or with thumb & finger picks.

    He was purely a finger picker until after he arrived in Chicago from Texas, and he still used a bare middle finger for many tunes throughout his career. Supposedly, Eddie Taylor showed him how to use thumb pick and finger pick technique when he wanted more speed, and that’s when and why he adopted it. But he continued to play fingerstyle on most tunes, sometimes with and sometimes without thumb and finger picks.

  16. #15

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    It's just something you have to practice. It feels weird at first, but so did every other part of playing guitar, give it a solid go for a month and you won't think about it anymore.

  17. #16

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    This thread and another one, about doing solo "world music" and avoiding standards, bring to mind the Steve Vai quote:

    "Music is infinite, and you can do anything you want."

  18. #17

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    Pick is faster than your fingers.
    I don't like to play classical guitar with pick.

  19. #18

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    Imo, any guitarist should be proficient with a pick. You can learn pick and still keep or focus on your fingerstyle.

  20. #19

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    Depends on what you're aiming for. Typical "digging in" blues picking is going to be on the slow side with your thumb (not necessarily a bad thing). You can play swift passages with your fingers, but a bit in the style of the above Mancuso video, with light strings and distortion.

    This summer, I was roped into an impromptu jam on an old acoustic guitar with no pick in sight, and I use one 95% of the time. 2 hours later, the side of my thumb was black and swollen, but it was a fun challenge to take solos thus.

    Here's a quick and dirty video comparing attack etc with a Dunlop Gator pick 1.5mm and a good ol' bare pollex.


  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by rlrhett
    I have the exact same experience, and could have written your post.

    Necessary? No. But it is a worthwhile tool to add to your arsenal.

    What broke the logjam for me was Troy Grady’s exhaustive study on all things pick mechanics called, “Cracking the Code”. It’s not free, but I can heartily recommend it for truly understanding how to use a plectrum.

    It took some work, but I feel like I can play with my finger or pick interchangeably now.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro

    Cracking the Code is well-named. When I switched back to the pick after 50 years of finger style playing that focal dystonia destroyed, Troy's research and well-produced examples had me playing very well with the pick in a few weeks, and the price is only $25 per month, which you can cancel and renew any time. And the great players he has on video with slow motion and close-ups are amazingly good at explaining what they're doing and why.

  22. #21
    Thanks, guys. I'll probably keep hacking away at trying to get used to a pick, but good to know that if I need a break from the drudgery of it, there is plenty I can do with just fingers!

    Will also check out Cracking the Code. I personally don't think anyone has ever explained the pick to me properly. It can't be this hard, I'm doing SOMETHING wrong.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mimsy
    Hi - new here. I've come from a classical background, first violin, then classical guitar, but I really love blues and jazz. I've picked up the electric guitar alongside my classical, but I just cannot get the hang of a plectrum. I've been trying to get used to it for over a year, but I always end up using my fingers in frustration after 30 minutes in a practice session.
    Are plectrums strictly necessary? I've heard that some jazz and blues guitarists don't use a plectrum at all - is this true? Browsing through this site, some of the lessons are done purely fingerstyle, but it seems to be a minority.

    Plectrums just feel so unnatural and counter-intuitive compared to my fingers
    I have classical background and I play lute actively (I do not use nails and never liked it).

    I began to play with a pick when I was far over 20 already (and I played classical guitar since I was a kid).
    In those days I thought of plectrum as of limitation... and did not care about it.

    Later I got interested in early swing styles and I loved all plectrum technique - when you play chords and lines and all with plectrum only. I like some rawness of it.

    I can handle plectrum quite well...
    not some exceptional cross-technique but relly well I guess. I think the best school for me was when I got involved into bluegrass music and plectrum acoustic flat-picking. It really gets your chops with plectrum together.

    But at the and of the day I still feel more comfortable playing with my fingertips - I feel more control and flexibility in attack and phrasing (though sometimes I like usuing plectrum for colour).... I play in a sort of mix of lute and guitar technique... often using a thumb or index finger only...


    One idea: one should not be necessarily versatile and ideally perfect in all.. John Scofield plectrum technique can be considered quite limited but it is what perfectly works for his music...
    He switches to fingers occasionaly that can be also viewed as clumsy and awkward maybe... but it works fine.

  24. #23

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    Mimsy check out videos by Jake Reichbart forum member who aside from playing finger style does a good job in his you tubes of showing details of his finger style approach.

    My first classical “ teacher “ (a college prof, not sure she deserves the title ) told me to treat classical finger and Jazz plectrum as two entirely different instruments. Never let the two cross migrate. She also (seriously!) told my daughter when her horse died it was a good thing, it’s too expensive a hobby.
    I cut her lesson cash flow by one shortly there after.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by paulkogut
    Check out solo Joe Pass, George Van Eps, Ralph Towner, Mick Goodrick, Kevin Eubanks, Charlie Byrd and Ted Greene for a full on finger style approach. Wes Montgomery, later career John Abercrombie, Jimmy Ponder and Jim Mullen are good examples of using the thumb. Best wishes for your music!

    PK
    Add Lenny Breau, Lorne Lofsky — thumbpick and fingers.

  26. #25

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    Hacking away at trying to get used to a pick sounds like misery. I would stick with the fingers.