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Lesson Series

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Nick Jennison - Picking Strategies Pt.1 - Lesson 1: Core Concepts & Terminology

Lesson Notes

If you want your picking to be the very best it can be, it's very important to understand the fundamental principles of playing the guitar with a pick. In this lesson, Nick Jennison guides you through the core concepts that will be used throughout this course - and which form the basis of any successful picking strategy.

Some important terminology:

"Alternate picking": a picking style that uses alternating downstrokes and upstrokes.

"Downstroke": a pickstroke that starts "above" the string (closer to the ceiling) and ends "below" the string (closer to the floor).

"Upstroke": a pickstroke that starts "below" the string (closer to the floor) and ends "above" the string (closer to the ceiling).

"Elbow mechanic": a style of alternate picking that uses movement of the forearm at at the elbow joint to move the pick across the string. While this strategy is often maligned, it's actually a perfectly viable way to move the pick.

"Wrist mechanic": a style of alternate picking that uses side-to-side movement at the wrist joint to move the pick across the string, keeping the forearm static. Often held up as the "best" way to alternate pick - while this is certainly a useful and very viable movement, it's by no means the ONLY way to pick successfully.

"Finger mechanic": a style of alternate picking that uses movements of the thumb and index finger to move the pick from string to string, keeping the wrist and forearm static. While this style may feel clumsy for some players (myself included), others may find this to be a very effective way to pick. It's also very useful for hybrid picking and some economy picking situations, even if it's not your primary mechanic.

"Forearm/rotational mechanic": a style of alternate picking that uses a rotational movement of the forearm and wrist to move the pick across the strings. Often blended with a side-to-side wrist mechanic, this style of picking can be very effective, especially in a single-escape "escaped upstrokes" strategy (more on this later).

"Sweep picking": a picking style that strikes several adjacent strings, one after another, in a single motion. Frequently used for playing arpeggios, but definitely not limited to this application.

"Economy picking": a picking style that uses a combination of sweeps and alternate picking to find the most "efficient" way to play a line (ie: with the minimum number of escaped pickstrokes).

"Escaped pickstroke": A pickstroke that finishes it's travel "above" the plane of the strings (ie: further away from the guitar's body than the strings). This pickstroke is free to transition from string to string in any direction.

"Buried/trapped pickstroke": a pickstroke that finishes it's travel "below" the plane of the strings (ie: the tip of the pick is in the space between the guitar's body and the strings). This stroke makes it more difficult to transition from string to string using alternate picking, but can transition easily to another adjacent string using sweeping.

"Downstroke escape picking:" A picking style that moves the pick between "buried" upstrokes and "escaped" downstrokes.

"Upstroke escape picking:" A picking style that moves the pick between "escaped" upstrokes and "buried" downstrokes.


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