Monday, March 31, 2008

If you keep pickin' that thing, it'll never heal

Was reading Nels Cline's web page on gear:
When I was 18, I went to a series of "Master Guitar Seminars" with some leading guitarists - mostly jazz guys. Only 2 things from that experience really stand out to this day: One negative and one positive. The negative one involved acoustic session guitarist and onetime Gabor Szabo collaborator (and former Guitar Player Magazine columnist) Jimmy Stewart. He was appalled first that we didn't all have guitars with us (things were pretty unstructured). He then (after handing out several photocopies of his GP column) proceeded to show us all HOW TO HOLD THE PICK. I was pretty much sure at this point that I wasn't going to get too much out of this session! I'd love to accumulate photos of "guitar greats" and focus on their picking hand (those who pick, anyway). It would very quickly become apparent that it's a highly personal matter. Why? Because guitarists quite often are self-taught maroons?? Partially. But also because (I think) that our physiology differs. Look at how Pat Metheny holds the pick ("correctly", in Jimmy Stewart terms) and how John McLaughlin holds the pick (coincidentally very similarly to yours truly). Which one has achieved the greater technique? Who cares! It's obvious that while a few guidelines are OK (to avoid the pifalls of tendonitis or scoliosis perhaps),it's a very individual choice - or accident. To my mind, this holds true for almost all aspects of musicmaking - indeed, of life.
I didn't get the bolds, which sucks. But what is funny: I read an interview with Pat Metheny where he says he developed his picking style in Missouri, and when he got to Florida, he saw others hold the pick 'correctly', tried it their way and decided it was too late to change. He thinks his picking holds him back.

At least that's how I remember it.

Which reminds me. My other guitarist noticed me "picking up" my picking hand when picking. I do that. I know I do. It's a choice. I'm trying to get somewhere between a funk bassist's pop and chicken picker's cluck. It comes off one way when I hybrid pick and grab the note with my Johnny Cash finger, but sometimes I'm just playing with the pick. Curl the pick under the string and lift the hand and you have your pop. And your hand about 2 inches above the strings. Not good for picking fast. But do you always want to pick fast? If I'm popping a string, I kinda want it to stand out, so having to reset the hand works for me.

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