Trying to improve my flat picking accuracy

Guitar Tricks Forum > Guitar Basics > Trying to improve my flat picking accuracy

kmawad

Full Access

Joined: 11/29/19

Posts: 5

Hello all!

I made the mistake of not starting to play they guitar until I was in my late 30s and after my first child was born. As a result, I was short on time and ended up being "self taught" on my couch for a couple years. I've improved for sure but I find I still struggle with a basic skill that is really hampering the kind of music I want to play (blues and rock): poor flat picking accuracy! The "internet" convinced me early on that anchoring my picking hand would be counter productive and I tried for a couple years to get better with a a floating hand. That hasn't panned out as much as I wanted and I started anchoring my pinky down on the pick guard in the last 8 months with some success. What I am looking for now is a couple of exercises I could do for 10-15 minutes a day for a year or two to try and really improve on this so I can stop thinking about it while I play so much.

Any suggestions? I had made up random string skipping exercises in the past which helped early on but they were a little to "formulaic" and didn't translate to actual improved playing of songs. I read that classical etudes would help and I picked up a Carcassi peice I really liked (and it helped) but I seem to be stalled again.

I could really use some expert guidance from someone who feels they've overcome this roadblock.

Thanks!

Older but newbie

#1

Hello all!

I made the mistake of not starting to play they guitar until I was in my late 30s and after my first child was born. As a result, I was short on time and ended up being "self taught" on my couch for a couple years. I've improved for sure but I find I still struggle with a basic skill that is really hampering the kind of music I want to play (blues and rock): poor flat picking accuracy! The "internet" convinced me early on that anchoring my picking hand would be counter productive and I tried for a couple years to get better with a a floating hand. That hasn't panned out as much as I wanted and I started anchoring my pinky down on the pick guard in the last 8 months with some success. What I am looking for now is a couple of exercises I could do for 10-15 minutes a day for a year or two to try and really improve on this so I can stop thinking about it while I play so much.

Any suggestions? I had made up random string skipping exercises in the past which helped early on but they were a little to "formulaic" and didn't translate to actual improved playing of songs. I read that classical etudes would help and I picked up a Carcassi peice I really liked (and it helped) but I seem to be stalled again.

I could really use some expert guidance from someone who feels they've overcome this roadblock.

Thanks!

Older but newbie

aliasmaximus

Hippie at Heart

Joined: 02/22/22

Posts: 249

Hey there, I'm definitely not an expert but I know where you're coming from. For all intents and purposes I started playing at age 59 so I know how difficult it is to learn new complex fine motor skills as an "older newbie", as you put it. If you're looking for something that's not formulaic then you'll want to play songs scored in notes or arpeggiated chords. Most newer beginner publications starts out teaching chords whereas older publications tend to start out with flat picking. Check out your local guitar shop for new printings of older beginner guitar books. Or, Amazon allows buyers to sample something like the first 10 pages of any book. Or, you can check the song catalog for "Acoustic" songs. They tend to contain sections of flat picking.

If you want something challenging, check out the intro to "Hotel California" in the song catalog (taught by Anders). It's about 16 bars composed almost entirely of flat-picked arpeggiated chords. It's a great "exercise" to play over and over, even at slower rates. I've played it at least 200 times and still haven't mastered it. But I'm getting better.

Nicolai

"Whatever you are, be a good one" - Abraham Lincoln

#2

Hey there, I'm definitely not an expert but I know where you're coming from. For all intents and purposes I started playing at age 59 so I know how difficult it is to learn new complex fine motor skills as an "older newbie", as you put it. If you're looking for something that's not formulaic then you'll want to play songs scored in notes or arpeggiated chords. Most newer beginner publications starts out teaching chords whereas older publications tend to start out with flat picking. Check out your local guitar shop for new printings of older beginner guitar books. Or, Amazon allows buyers to sample something like the first 10 pages of any book. Or, you can check the song catalog for "Acoustic" songs. They tend to contain sections of flat picking.

If you want something challenging, check out the intro to "Hotel California" in the song catalog (taught by Anders). It's about 16 bars composed almost entirely of flat-picked arpeggiated chords. It's a great "exercise" to play over and over, even at slower rates. I've played it at least 200 times and still haven't mastered it. But I'm getting better.

Nicolai

"Whatever you are, be a good one" - Abraham Lincoln

kmawad

Full Access

Joined: 11/29/19

Posts: 5

Thanks Nicolai! I'll take a look at that lesson. I really apprecaite the suggestion.

Older but Newbie

#3

Thanks Nicolai! I'll take a look at that lesson. I really apprecaite the suggestion.

Older but Newbie

ChristopherSchlegel

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 08/09/05

Posts: 7748

Originally Posted by: kmawad
I've improved for sure but I find I still struggle with a basic skill that is really hampering the kind of music I want to play (blues and rock): poor flat picking accuracy!

I'm assuming you mean using a pick to play single note lines, like lead licks & riffs. Picking requires relaxed, minimal motion for maximum efficiency.

I'm not sure what your skill level is, but have a look at some of these options & jump in where it benefits you.

Major & Minor scales are a great place to start on picking because you are using the raw materials of music to work on technique, building your physical skill along with your ear.

Major Scale Patterns 1

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=453

Minor Scale Patterns 1

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=887

There are more advanced tutorials that build on those.

Since you are interested in blues & rock, try working on some of these pentatonic licks. They are the kind of physical motions using pentatonic scales that form the basis of a lot of rock & blues style licks.

https://www.guitartricks.com/search.php?search=%22Connecting+pentatonic+patterns%22

You might also get a lot from these pentatonic exercises.

Pentatonic Major Exercises

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=722

Pentatonic Minor Exercises

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=185

Go slow at first! Play it right first, then gradually speed up using the video speed control when necessary.

And if you are working on rhythm guitar playing, this tutorial is aimed at developing efficient picking for that skill. Also first in a series of tutorials.

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=1492

Originally Posted by: kmawad
The "internet" convinced me early on that anchoring my picking hand would be counter productive and I tried for a couple years to get better with a a floating hand.

It depends on the person & the specific licks or techniques you are trying to accomplish. But in general it's a good idea to anchor you picking hand palm. I discuss that in many lessons, but especially in this tutorial aimed at building speed playing single note lines.

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=287

That's a pretty advanced tutorial, but it might help you get a sense of what is required to play faster in general.

Originally Posted by: kmawad
I had made up random string skipping exercises in the past which helped early on but they were a little to "formulaic" and didn't translate to actual improved playing of songs.

Exercises can wind up sounding sterile. That's when it helps to take it to the next step & learn actual licks. These tutorials are aimed at building a vocabulary of blues & blues-rock licks.

https://www.guitartricks.com/collection/Bread-and-Butter-Butter-Blues-Licks

Be patient with yourself! Best of success!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

#4

Originally Posted by: kmawad
I've improved for sure but I find I still struggle with a basic skill that is really hampering the kind of music I want to play (blues and rock): poor flat picking accuracy!

I'm assuming you mean using a pick to play single note lines, like lead licks & riffs. Picking requires relaxed, minimal motion for maximum efficiency.

I'm not sure what your skill level is, but have a look at some of these options & jump in where it benefits you.

Major & Minor scales are a great place to start on picking because you are using the raw materials of music to work on technique, building your physical skill along with your ear.

Major Scale Patterns 1

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=453

Minor Scale Patterns 1

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=887

There are more advanced tutorials that build on those.

Since you are interested in blues & rock, try working on some of these pentatonic licks. They are the kind of physical motions using pentatonic scales that form the basis of a lot of rock & blues style licks.

https://www.guitartricks.com/search.php?search=%22Connecting+pentatonic+patterns%22

You might also get a lot from these pentatonic exercises.

Pentatonic Major Exercises

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=722

Pentatonic Minor Exercises

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=185

Go slow at first! Play it right first, then gradually speed up using the video speed control when necessary.

And if you are working on rhythm guitar playing, this tutorial is aimed at developing efficient picking for that skill. Also first in a series of tutorials.

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=1492

Originally Posted by: kmawad
The "internet" convinced me early on that anchoring my picking hand would be counter productive and I tried for a couple years to get better with a a floating hand.

It depends on the person & the specific licks or techniques you are trying to accomplish. But in general it's a good idea to anchor you picking hand palm. I discuss that in many lessons, but especially in this tutorial aimed at building speed playing single note lines.

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=287

That's a pretty advanced tutorial, but it might help you get a sense of what is required to play faster in general.

Originally Posted by: kmawad
I had made up random string skipping exercises in the past which helped early on but they were a little to "formulaic" and didn't translate to actual improved playing of songs.

Exercises can wind up sounding sterile. That's when it helps to take it to the next step & learn actual licks. These tutorials are aimed at building a vocabulary of blues & blues-rock licks.

https://www.guitartricks.com/collection/Bread-and-Butter-Butter-Blues-Licks

Be patient with yourself! Best of success!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

kmawad

Full Access

Joined: 11/29/19

Posts: 5

Thank you Christopher! I will take a look at all of those.

Older but newbie

#5

Thank you Christopher! I will take a look at all of those.

Older but newbie

aliasmaximus

Hippie at Heart

Joined: 02/22/22

Posts: 249

Yo Chris, you literally "let your hair down" to teach those bomb basic Bread & Butter Blues Licks. Fabio ain't got nothin' on you, dude : )

Also, fun application of Pentatonic scales. Playing scales has never been more cool. Or more fun.

And what's up with that awesome looking pimped down, single pickup, single knob, all black, hi-gloss Strat? I've never seen anything like it.

You never fail to deliver!

Nicolai

"Whatever you are, be a good one" - Abraham Lincoln

#6

Yo Chris, you literally "let your hair down" to teach those bomb basic Bread & Butter Blues Licks. Fabio ain't got nothin' on you, dude : )

Also, fun application of Pentatonic scales. Playing scales has never been more cool. Or more fun.

And what's up with that awesome looking pimped down, single pickup, single knob, all black, hi-gloss Strat? I've never seen anything like it.

You never fail to deliver!

Nicolai

"Whatever you are, be a good one" - Abraham Lincoln

ChristopherSchlegel

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 08/09/05

Posts: 7748

Originally Posted by: kmawad

Thank you Christopher! I will take a look at all of those.

You're welcome!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

#7

Originally Posted by: kmawad

Thank you Christopher! I will take a look at all of those.

You're welcome!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

ChristopherSchlegel

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 08/09/05

Posts: 7748

Originally Posted by: aliasmaximus

Also, fun application of Pentatonic scales. Playing scales has never been more cool. Or more fun.

Thanks! My goal is to make technique building & scale practice practical by making it musical.

Originally Posted by: aliasmaximus
And what's up with that awesome looking pimped down, single pickup, single knob, all black, hi-gloss Strat? I've never seen anything like it.

That's a parts-caster I put together originally to have a Van Halen style superstrat. I often use it when I want a humbucker tone. I documented the assembly process in this tutorial.

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=1121

Enjoy!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

#8

Originally Posted by: aliasmaximus

Also, fun application of Pentatonic scales. Playing scales has never been more cool. Or more fun.

Thanks! My goal is to make technique building & scale practice practical by making it musical.

Originally Posted by: aliasmaximus
And what's up with that awesome looking pimped down, single pickup, single knob, all black, hi-gloss Strat? I've never seen anything like it.

That's a parts-caster I put together originally to have a Van Halen style superstrat. I often use it when I want a humbucker tone. I documented the assembly process in this tutorial.

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=1121

Enjoy!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

aliasmaximus

Hippie at Heart

Joined: 02/22/22

Posts: 249

Originally Posted by: ChristopherSchlegel

That's a parts-caster I put together originally to have a Van Halen style superstrat. I often use it when I want a humbucker tone. I documented the assembly process in this tutorial.

Cool, a bona fide Frankenstrat !

Couple of questions for you:

- What makes it a "superstrat"?

- Why only the single humbucker?

I'm building my own electric Frankenstein and it looks like a few of those lessons are going to come in real handy. Thanks.

Nicolai

"Whatever you are, be a good one" - Abraham Lincoln

#9

Originally Posted by: ChristopherSchlegel

That's a parts-caster I put together originally to have a Van Halen style superstrat. I often use it when I want a humbucker tone. I documented the assembly process in this tutorial.

Cool, a bona fide Frankenstrat !

Couple of questions for you:

- What makes it a "superstrat"?

- Why only the single humbucker?

I'm building my own electric Frankenstein and it looks like a few of those lessons are going to come in real handy. Thanks.

Nicolai

"Whatever you are, be a good one" - Abraham Lincoln

ChristopherSchlegel

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 08/09/05

Posts: 7748

Originally Posted by: aliasmaximus
What makes it a "superstrat"?

My black parts-caster is because it has:

1. Single bridge position humbucker (instead of a single coil & no other pickups).

2. Volume knob, no other switches or knobs.

3. Vibrato bar. To be precise this is usually a locking system (Floyd Rose, Kahler, etc.). But I prefer the standard system.

There are a number of other elements that can be regarded as contributing to a superstrat. Essentially, it's a fancy, updated version of the standard Strat.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superstrat

Originally Posted by: aliasmaximus
Why only the single humbucker?

This guitar has one function: loud, bright, overdriven 70s-80s classic rock tone. That streamlined aesthetic is part of the EVH legacy: everything you need, nothing you don't.

Originally Posted by: aliasmaximus
I'm building my own electric Frankenstein and it looks like a few of those lessons are going to come in real handy. Thanks.

Have fun with it!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

#10

Originally Posted by: aliasmaximus
What makes it a "superstrat"?

My black parts-caster is because it has:

1. Single bridge position humbucker (instead of a single coil & no other pickups).

2. Volume knob, no other switches or knobs.

3. Vibrato bar. To be precise this is usually a locking system (Floyd Rose, Kahler, etc.). But I prefer the standard system.

There are a number of other elements that can be regarded as contributing to a superstrat. Essentially, it's a fancy, updated version of the standard Strat.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superstrat

Originally Posted by: aliasmaximus
Why only the single humbucker?

This guitar has one function: loud, bright, overdriven 70s-80s classic rock tone. That streamlined aesthetic is part of the EVH legacy: everything you need, nothing you don't.

Originally Posted by: aliasmaximus
I'm building my own electric Frankenstein and it looks like a few of those lessons are going to come in real handy. Thanks.

Have fun with it!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory