Picking too deep, or in the wrong place?


ben.r.s
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Joined: 01/16/20
Posts: 14

Hi. I've come across an issue.

I've dome most of my playing on a PRS guitar, with H-H pickups.

Recently I've been spending some time on my S-S-S strat. I'm finding that my pick is sometimes hitting the middle pickup, which obviously doesn't exist on my PRS.

The guitar is one of the better strats available, and is set up properly. So I'm going to say that I'm the problem.

Am I picking too deep? Or is this just a thing that happens, and I need to just live with it and move either towards the neck or bridge?

I use the pick grip where the side of my index finger points straight down the pick, and thumb points across the pick.

My preferred pick is a Dunlop Flow 1.5, but I've experimented with some others and get the same issue.

I just measured the pick in my hand, and about 5mm of pick protrudes further than my fingertip. I tried pulling it back in a bit, but it just causes a load of pinch harmonics when I play fast.


# 1
Rumble Walrus
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Joined: 12/30/20
Posts: 306

Wow Ben -

I'm guessing you must be digging in pretty good. Rather than change your attack, I think your thoughts on moving your attack may be the easiest thing to do: move closer to the bridge or a bit closer to the base of the neck.

That'll probably mean changing your anchor - where your arm/hand/etc actually contact the guitar which may take a while to get used to as well.

I'm constantly shifting back and forth from my acoustic to my electric. Acoustic is my primary, so I still have to pause and gather my thoughts to change my attack on the electric or I'll rip the strings right off the neck.

Good luck and I'll be interested to hear from you how it goes.


# 2
ChristopherSchlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor
Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 7,920
Originally Posted by: ben.r.sRecently I've been spending some time on my S-S-S strat. I'm finding that my pick is sometimes hitting the middle pickup, which obviously doesn't exist on my PRS.

This is a common problem. I play S-S-S Strats 95% of the time. And I pick right over or near the middle pickup most of the time. It's the best place to pick! Sounds great & you can rest your palm on the bridge perfectly.

2 things will help here.

1. As you already figured out, don't pick as deeply. You just want the tip of the pick to graze across the top of the string.

This tutorial is about building speed. Even if you aren't interested in the topic you might enjoy my discussion of picking technique in the 2nd lesson.

https://www.guitartricks.com/lesson.php?input=10335

2. Lower the middle pickup.

Most guitars (especially Strats!) have the pickups set too high anyway. In many cases it actually improves the sound if you lower the pickups a bit. And the bass side should be even a bit lower! This screen grab is from the above linked lesson. You can see that the middle pickup is set quite a bit lower than the neck pickup. And I'm picking right over the middle pickup.

Hope that helps!


Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

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# 3
ben.r.s
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Joined: 01/16/20
Posts: 14

Thanks both for those replies.

I was working on my speed with a few exercises, I'll add that one to my practice routine and also try to dig less deeply on the strings. Think of grazing them as you described.

If I lower that middle pickup, will it make the output level lower than the other pickups? I like to be able to change the guitar settings and keep some volume consistency.


# 4
ChristopherSchlegel
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Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 7,920
Originally Posted by: ben.r.s

I was working on my speed with a few exercises, I'll add that one to my practice routine and also try to dig less deeply on the strings. Think of grazing them as you described.

[/quote]

Good deal!

[quote=ben.r.s]

If I lower that middle pickup, will it make the output level lower than the other pickups? I like to be able to change the guitar settings and keep some volume consistency.

A little bit, but not enough to make a big difference because the other pickups are also lowered & I'm relying on volume from the amp, not the pickups. Also what are you using the middle pickup for versus the other pickups?

Any pickup set too close is going to make an overcompressed sound that doesn't allow the notes to sing out & ring naturally. It's almost like getting right up on a microphone & yelling compared to keeping the mic back a couple of inches & giving it some space to capture the full range of your voice. Make sense?

I encourage you to experiment with it! It's one of the easiet tone adjustments you can do & redo.

Hope that helps!


Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

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# 5
ben.r.s
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Joined: 01/16/20
Posts: 14

Do you mean what pickup I'm using, or how I'm deciding which pickup to use?

The pickups are factory standard for an American Ultra. THey say noiseless on them. As for deciding which pickup... I'm not sure. Still experimenting really. I've had the PRS for longer - I started with a custom 24 as my 'main guitar' as it's so versatile (and it feels very good to play!). But then I wanted some other tone options, so I added the strat and also a PRS hollowbody 2. I'm still playing about with those two, finding the best way to use them.


# 6
ChristopherSchlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor
Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 7,920
Originally Posted by: ben.r.s

Do you mean what pickup I'm using, or how I'm deciding which pickup to use?[/quote]

When you put the pickup selector on the middle pickup what music do you play? Why do you select that pickup?

For example, I use the the middle pickup for clean-sh Buddy Holly chord timbres. Because that's the pickup he used on many of his classic tunes. Or Beatles & 60s type pop material. For what it's worth, you can see on pictures of Holly's Strat that the edges of the neck & middle pickup under the E & B strings are worn away from strumming!

I also combine the middle & bridge for a twangy blues lead tone. That's what is used for some of those songs to get that timbre. Having the middle a bit lower sometimes helps take the edge off the bridge pickup being so loud & bright. Or combining it with the neck helps get the twangy quack without the heavy bass of the neck pickup overpowering it.

I have Strats on which I keep the all the pickups the same height. But they are all lowered enough that it sounds good & they stay out of my way picking.

That blonde Strat in the screen grab is the main guitar I use for fast lead work. So it helps to have the middle pickup lower. And when I use it there isn't much change in overall volume anyway.

My point is that ultimately you set your guitar, amp & adjust your pickups for some specific musical purpose. If you are still learning & practicing & not sure yet, then don't worry too much about it until you encounter an issue that needs adjusting. Improve your picking so it doesn't interfere & see if that helps before you even worry about pickup height.

[quote=ben.r.s]I've had the PRS for longer - I started with a custom 24 as my 'main guitar' as it's so versatile (and it feels very good to play!). But then I wanted some other tone options, so I added the strat and also a PRS hollowbody 2. I'm still playing about with those two, finding the best way to use them.

Very different guitars! Have fun exploring all those tone options!


Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory
# 7