Paul Kleff: Guitar Picking Lesson For Beginners

Guitar Picking Lesson For Beginners – Upstroke Picking Control

Getting your pick hand to work smoothly and accurately is difficult for beginning guitar players.  You may find it easier to pick all single notes using only downstrokes, at least initially.  However, this all-downstroke picking method is very limiting and is actually more difficult to play once you learn how to use upstroke picking.  Learning to pick the guitar using both upstrokes and downstrokes will help you develop more pick hand control, improve your sense of timing and allow you to play faster with minimal extra pick motion.

This beginner guitar lesson will show you how to get control of your picking hand by reviewing the correct setup and giving you a short upstroke picking study to play to help you refine your technique.  The side of your pick hand should lightly rest on the front of your guitar—either on or very near the bridge of the guitar.  The feeling you are trying to achieve in your pick hand is very similar to the feeling you have in your hand when you write with a pen or pencil.  

Good results on the guitar start with the correct foundation and setup of your hands and body.  Since we are focusing on picking, let’s look at making sure that your pick hand is positioned in the right way so that you can get the confident feel in your pick hand needed for accurate picking.  Learn to upstroke pick the right way by watching this free picking video.

When you write, the side of your hand is normally in contact with the desktop.  If it is not, it is more difficult to control the pen.  Try it and see.  Write for a moment with only the tip of the pen in contact with the paper—do not let any other part of your hand contact the paper or the desktop.  Notice how it is more difficult to maintain control of the small movements your hand needs to make in order to write?  

This same idea holds true for the guitar pick.  The movements for single note picking are very similar to the movements of the pen when you write.  Keeping this idea in mind, it will be easier to consistently get your pick hand in the correct position for single note picking on the guitar.

Next, let’s look at the upstroke picking motion that we are going to practice today.  The etude (study) that we are going to play to develop and practice the upstroke pick motion uses just the first, second and third strings on the guitar.  Play the following picking sequence using upstrokes—make sure that your pick hand is in the correct position first:

Repeat this sequence several times.  Focus on the following points when you play it:

Keep the speed of the notes even.
Start slowly—this is about building the correct, accurate motion.
Correct hand position—side of pick hand resting near the bridge and not floating above the guitar.
Keep control of the pick motion—once you have picked each string do not use a large “follow through” with the pick.  
Make sure the notes are all sounding at an equal volume.
Ensure that the notes are sounding clearly.
Pick grip:  Not too tight—holding the pick with too much grip pressure creates tension in the hand that makes it difficult to move the pick smoothly.

Once you can play the three string sequence, try playing it with your eyes closed.  Don’t watch your pick hand at all.  If this is difficult for you to do, remember to get your pick hand into the correct position.  If your hand is floating above the guitar, you will not be able to feel where the correct string is located.  This is why the correct hand position is so important.

Get control of your pick hand by watching this beginner picking technique video that will get your upstroke picking working the right way.  When you are able to play the upstroke sequence smoothly, you can add the fret hand part of the Guitar Upstroke Picking Etude.

Part of the reason you practiced the picking sequence by itself without watching your pick hand is so that you will be able to focus your attention on watching your fret hand.  In the etude, your fret hand will play notes on the first string while you pick the first three strings in sequence.  Remember to keep the flow of notes even and clear with your picking.

Here are the major benefits that you will get by practicing and developing your upstroke guitar picking technique:

Your playing will become more consistent.
Better pick hand control.
You will be able to play at faster speeds and tempos more easily.
Your guitar tone will improve.
Your sense of timing and ability to keep a steady rhythm will improve.

Focus on developing consistency and accuracy in your picking.  It is the key to your timing and tone on the guitar.  Your picking hand is the engine that drives your guitar playing.  Most people tend to focus most of their attention on developing their fret hand.  While the fret hand is very important, nothing happens until the note gets picked.  This entire guitar lesson is available on video.  Click to see the upstroke picking lesson and get your picking technique on the right track.

About the Author:  Paul Kleff has toured in the USA presenting guitar clinics on technique and musicianship.  You can get more guitar lessons, videos and helpful guitar resources through his online beginner guitar lesson website.