View Poll Results: What is your primary picking style?

123. You may not vote on this poll
  • Fingerpicking good!

    33 26.83%
  • Plectrum/pick

    67 54.47%
  • Hybrid country style

    15 12.20%
  • My thumb

    8 6.50%
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  1. #1

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    So, I'm at a point where I kind of need to pick a primary picking style.

    I started playing rock/pop and of course a pick is great for most of that. Then, when I started playing jazz, it was a combo of pick and hybrid.

    As I started to appreciate piano playing and chord melody more, I switched to strict fingerstyle.

    Of course, there's advantages to each. I prefer fingerstyle, because most of my influences are pianistic, but I cannot get any fluidity with lines.

    It's hard to cleanly arpeggiate chords with a pick and you cannot get them at the same time.

    Hybrid, you can only use three fingers, fingerpicking, you got 4. That makes a big difference.

    So, I thought it'd be fun to start a thread. What's YOUR primary picking style and why? Apologies if this has already been done before here. I'm not that prolific here.


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #2

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    I'm a hybrid picker, been so since my teen days, trying to fill out lead lines more in the "jam band" style group I was in. It's just what feels natural to me.

    I will also play completely "fingers-only" from time to time, particularly when playing nylon string.

  4. #3

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    Hi, I mostly play lines with a modified flamenco rest stroke technique. It gets me closer to the kind of attack that I enjoy from Gypsy Jazz rest stroke picking.

    im alternation, various ima alternations, and also some reverse raking. I incorporated the raking because strict flamenco technique is not much use for improvising and it is especially bad for wide intervals.

    These days I'll practice things with several contradictory RH fingerings and that way I am less likely to stumble if I fall on the wrong finger at the start of a line or if I felt like adding some LH legato that suggested itself.

    For more sonorous/tectural playing pretty much what Hertz said.


  5. #4

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    I've always done both fingerstyle and hybrid.

    Most recently I've moved from mostly hybrid to maybe 90% fingerstyle. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, and as I've said several times before, forum member Tim Lerch is responsible for this change. I love the tone he gets with a tele fingerpicked without nails, that is using the flesh of his right hand fingers. I tried it and I like it.

  6. #5

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    I use classical rest stroke I-M mostly alternating for lines/scales. Only time I wouldn't alternate is when I play an adjacent or non-adjacent string below, in which case I would always use my Index Finger.

    I know this is a major sin in classical/flamenco circles but it feels way more natural to me as oppose to strictly alternating. To this day nobody has given me an adequate reason/explanation why this is such a horrible sin. I can play very very fast scales or lines anyways lol. I've seen Kazuhito play like this (though it may have been for effect), and I heard that Pepe Romero advocates this way of playing.

    So yeah sorry for the mini rant lol

  7. #6

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    I have pretty much eschewed picks all my playing life. That's like almost 40 years now. Never liked pinching a piece of plastic and have always liked feeling the strings with the fingers on both of my hands. I do appreciate players that use picks, however. Just not for me.

  8. #7

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    I've always used a pick, but I just bought a crossover thumbpick and plan on trying to learn to use it and my fingers. So far it's very difficult. I need lots more practice. On the upside, it's completely usable as a flatpick while on my thumb, so I can slide into it slowly. It works well for strumming chords.

  9. #8

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    For quite a few years I was just using fingers, and for more acoustic music, with a thumbpick as well. For solo, chord melody playing, it's just the ticket. But in the last year I started taking lessons again, and also went to some jam sessions where I needed a pick to "cut through". The lessons thing is relevant not because picking is something we're covering- it's because the players I like stylistically used a pick.
    I still use fingers sometimes for comping or other kinds of music.

  10. #9

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    I play a bunch of different ways depending on the music and the surroundings. here is a vid I made a while ago showing my approach

    all the best

  11. #10

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    Thumb for single note , thumb and index combo if I want down/up or up/down on the same string, thumb for down index for up . Thumb, index , middle , ring for chord work. I don't like the sound of plastic on metal when I try to do it. Love hearing it when others do it .. go figure

    Last edited by WillMbCdn5; 02-01-2018 at 10:43 PM.

  12. #11

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    Everything but thumb. Love Wes though !

  13. #12

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    Sloppy and inefficient.

  14. #13

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    For me it really depends on whether I'm playing a steel string or a nylon string guitar.

    If it's a steel string guitar I will use a pick because I don't want to wear down my nails which steel strings will do.

    If it's a nylon string guitar I will use classical guitar technique where my nails have a lot to do with the sound coming out of the guitar - and I know they aren't going to be worn down.

    Steven Herron
    Learn To Play Chord Melody Guitar

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    I've always used a pick, but I just bought a crossover thumbpick and plan on trying to learn to use it and my fingers. So far it's very difficult. I need lots more practice. On the upside, it's completely usable as a flatpick while on my thumb, so I can slide into it slowly. It works well for strumming chords.
    I'm using a Crossover pick now too. For a week or so now. Like it a lot. Amazed by it, really. Will make a video in another week or so. It solves my greatest problem with playing guitar: keeping the pick in place! (Picks always seem to "turn around" while I'm playing. Never drop them, but they move around and it causes an inconsistency that frustrates me.)

    Here's a live video of Ron Eschete playing with one. A blues in Db. Not an attempt to show all the pick can do but the film angle does show a lot of his right hand using the pick. Ron's not what one normally thinks of as a thumb picker...(I don't know why he started using a Crossover pick, frankly.)

  16. #15

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    He's using it for hybrid picking. That's pretty much what I want to learn to do. It's ideal for hybrid picking, using the pick a lot but adding in the fingers now and then, or even often.

  17. #16

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    My experience that I've seen with a few friends and definitely see with my own playing: The older you get and the longer you play jazz guitar, the closer you get to going all thumb.

    I used to comp with pick and fingers, but almost exclusively come with either pick or thumb now. For single note lines, I either use my kinda hacky benson-esque approach, or thumb.

    Here's a video of my picking style

  18. #17

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    Very interesting Tim

    what's the guitar in that video Tim ?

    I like it

  19. #18

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    I use a mix of pick and fingers, sometimes together, sometimes just pick, sometimes just fingers, and sometimes thumb. I don't know which to call my "primary" style. It never occurred to me to, uh, pick just one.


  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by pingu
    Very interesting Tim

    what's the guitar in that video Tim ?

    I like it
    Its a Grez, Grez Guitars | Custom Guitars | Petaluma, CA

  21. #20

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    Nylonstring guitar- no picks
    jazz guitar/hollow body/- no picks...but I started to use pick 4 weeks ago...

  22. #21
    Thank you for the responses!

    Unexpected results. I would have thought hybrid was more popular as it gives you both fingerpicking and the pick. But I find my 'claw' doesn't feel as natural and fluid as fingerpicking.

    Overwhelmed by the amount of people who use pure fingerstyle. Very unexpected.

  23. #22

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    I use a 1.0 Wegen; down stroke works for me because I like to limit how I play against the other instruments. I used to play mostly Western Swing or Cowboy Jazz, and I noticed most of the guitarist did this "hit the root bass note, then down stroke on the next beat, never up down, up down," kind of thing. One of my Western Swing Mentors, fiddler Cotton Roberts, told me once "Boy, you're a good picker, just remember your right hand is a good dog, it'll follow what you do with your left hand." Lead breaks depends on the tempo; slower tempo I like down stoking the notes, adding a bit of syncopation when it fits, for faster- "quick steps" I use a type of Bluegrass Flat Picking technique.
    Last edited by Donnie; 02-08-2018 at 06:01 PM.

  24. #23

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    Hybrid. Hybrid and stylistically anarchic

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by TLerch
    Thanks its very nice

  26. #25

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    Pick for soloing and (usually) fingers for comping. A lot of times for comping, I'll hold the pick in my teeth, so I can use all the fingers on my right hand. I like being able to hit all the notes of the chord together, instead of a strum. But I'll switch to strumming if things get loud or especially energetic.

  27. #26

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    I use the Dunlap Jazztone 204 for single line and add middle/ring fingers to grab chords...

    Those who hate the sound of picks need to try the Jazztone picks. Very warm and organic sounding...

  28. #27

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    I paid attention to what I do since I read this thread:

    1. I use a proplec pick and almost always sweep when changing strings.

    2. I use leggato very often because I don't like the "plec plec plec" sound of alternate all the time. On the other hand my pull off technique is poor so I always alternate in that occasions.

    3. I'm trying to pluc the strings for chords with hybrid picking... I hate to drop the pick to do that or "hide" the pick inside my hand.

    4. Most important of all: I do all this stuff very bad...I need work on it very much

  29. #28

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    Primary is hybrid.

    I will also do only thumb (nice for quarter note comping), only pick, and only fingers. Sometimes I stow the pick between my index and middle picking hand (got this idea from Brian Setzer's Hot Licks video).

  30. #29

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    I'd very much prefer a pick. It sounds good, feels good and is cooler anyway. But the trade-off is too much for me. Although fingers do have some trouble areas that a pick can do better. In my case, not enough to switch.

  31. #30

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    Coming from a steel guitar background I always used a Thumb pick and 2 finger picks. One on my index finger and the other on my middle finger. This never seemed to work out well for me on "armpit" guitar. Andy Reiss turned me on to V picks and I have since modified my technique to hold the flat pick between my thumb and index finger and my middle and ring finger picks up the slack without finger picks.
    Took several months to get accustomed to the change after 40 + years, but it is working itself out. Using a thumb pick and 2 finger picks I was finding that the attack was just to harsh for a nice smooth jazz styling.
    I have gotten so comfortable with it that I did a gig a few weeks ago..... (western swing so I used a console steel ie; non pedal steel) and only used the thumb pick.... worked out great ! My tone was softer and a tad more mellow. I really enjoyed my fingers making actual contact on the strings. One of the things that I enjoy about using the flat pick.... 2 finger combination on the regular guitar is that the string to flesh contact that I get seems to allow me to be more expressive.

  32. #31

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    Plectrum. I need that bite

  33. #32

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    I use my fingers 90% of the time on my L5, and use my index finger like a pick if I'm doing a fast succession of single notes between chords. On the other hand, If I'm playing a Stratocaster I use a flat-picking style.

  34. #33

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    My picking style is a mess. I play with my fingers half the time because I have those stupid see-through yellow Jazz IIIs and they go missing the second they're out of my hand. I learned that chet-atkins picking thing... or (Merle) Travis picking, but it requires heavy offbeat accents (1&3 is muted) that sound silly outside of country. I tried also to learn Holdsworth legato and then found I wasn't even really that interested in his playing after a few years of being enamoured by his technique and alien sound. In conclusion, it's a bastardisation of all the types, and none particularly well.
    Last edited by JustMac; 05-31-2018 at 05:39 PM.

  35. #34

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    Pick. I did good with directional with the wrist but now Im playin with alternate kinda from index and thumb. Not thumb joint circle picking but moving the fingers from the knuckles in the hand like when classical/flamenco players picado index and middle from those same knuckles for fast scales... At fast speeds it feels like your using hand muscle. Not just fingers or wrist.

    I think the most important thing picking fast is just push/rub/listen. It dosent really matter alot where it comes from. I know of 2 ways to pick from index and thumb, 4 ways to move the wrist, and 2 ways to pick from the elbow - and all 8 of those work good with alot of practice.

  36. #35

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    Another all finger style player. I wish I was versatile enough to play hybrid or with a pick, but I just can't. Like tying your shoes with gloves on.

  37. #36

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    I use a hybrid technique but have never played a country song in my life

  38. #37

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    No primary style. I use both finger style and pick and I am equally comfortable with both. I make a point of not neglecting one at the expense of the other. Also use hybrid occasionally.

  39. #38

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    I just don't know any more. *sob*

  40. #39

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  41. #40

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    For single notes and most double stops I use just the pick, for most chords I just use the pick, but for some double stops with an un-sounded intermediate string or particular chords where I want to emphasize an upper lead voice I use either the pick and additional fingers, or sometimes just all fingers.

    I generally rest my fourth finger on the pick guard to provide the "pinion" for my hand as a "rack", so moving from string to string is a rack and pinion movement that provides relative reference, and provides a set mounting contact against which to apply force when changing pick direction up and down. In suspension terms, my hand is the "sprung weight" with my fourth finger also serving as the damper (shock absorber).

    I hold the pick very lightly between the tip of my thumb and the side tip of my index finger on the side edge of the pick... if you look down and imagine that the pick shape represents the infield of a baseball diamond with home plate being the point, I hold the pick on the third base line.

    Looking down at the pick, I rotate it around its longitudinal axis so as to lower the left edge slightly but maintain the pick's longitudinal axis parallel to the floor.

    Picking itself is through flexing of the thumb and index finger in conjunction with a very slight hand movement of wrist flexing and rotation; my arm does not move, and the hand movement is almost undetectable. Guitarists always ask me how I'm making all those notes because they don't see any familiar apparent movement.

    Self taught, I developed all this myself, discovering only decades later that aspects of it were named various things; Chuck Wayne picking, circular picking, scalpel picking, economy picking...

    As to picking up and down, I actually use a reverse version of economy picking where I favor "outward" picking rather than "inward" picking between two adjacent strings. When the number of notes on the strings works out, it often just looks like alternate picking, but I don't think about it either way; I never concern myself with how to pick anything, whether to start a line with an up or down stroke, or how many notes per string a line might use... it is all totally transparent and natural to me, and has served me well because its articulation, tone, and phrasing stay coherent twice the pace of anything called to perform, which is nice in terms of comfort and confidence.

  42. #41

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    I wonder if the results are skewed. Because at first I was reluctant to vote because of the category ”hibrid picking country style”. I hibrid pick but don’t consider it “county style”.

  43. #42

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    Pelctrum as my most used But would also consider thumb and finger picks as same. other style is flaminco finger style with or without Thumb.

  44. #43

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    I feel pretty comfortable using either a pick or fingerstyle. Couldn't do hybrid if my life depended on it. Learned Travis picking from some book by Happy Traum as a young teenager, and I still only use thumb, index, middle. And can't use finger/thumb picks at all. I need the touch of string on skin to tell my nails what to do. I find fingerpicking on a Les Paul harder because of the closer string spacing. Thought about getting a Fender Jaguar because of the combination of short scale-length but wide string spacing.

  45. #44

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    Excellent question.

    If people understand how I pick, they can be sure not to do it the way I do it. And, that will help them.

    I learned alternate as a beginner. Then Sweep Picking, Chuck Wayne style. Then alternate with pulloffs and shifts, Warren Nunes style.

    And, that was all it took to screw up my right hand forever.

    But, even after that, I self-taught some fingerstyle which I use for comping, not single note stuff.

    And now, I can play tied whole notes at a moderate tempo.

  46. #45

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    I first started hating plectrum playing and loving fingerstyle - probably because I had some mild 'fingerstyle' experience from pizzicato violin playing in my youth, and because some slower Metallica riffs lent themselves well to fingerstyle. But eventually I buckled down and put in some serious dues practicing with a plectrum, which is now my main (99%) approach.