Picking hard

It was brought to my attention some years ago that I didn’t pick the strings very hard, so I began to analyze my right hand technique and to experiment with picking harder or softer.

It was brought to my attention some years ago that I didn’t pick the strings very hard, so I began to analyze my right hand technique and to experiment with picking harder or softer. It seemed to me that when I was in doubt, like when I wasn’t real sure that I could accurately play what I was trying to play, or trying to play faster than I really could, I picked softer, in case I fucked up. But that’s a double-edged sword. If I did fuck up, I might have time to mute the offending note(s), back off the volume pedal or correct the clam. But, playing softer seemed to take a little bit of the edge off my technique, and actually made me play less accurately. It also seemed to have a deleterious effect on my tone, and that’s the last thing I want.

So what are ya gonna do, risk a hairy ol’ clam hanging out there like a big Matza ball or go for the gold? Hell, I’ve heard Joe Pass records where he muffed a note, but producer Norman Granz let it go by because the rest of what he’d played was so great.

After many years of experimenting I now vary my attack on the strings considerably. I wang the hell out of the strings sometimes, and barely let a pick graze them, or it, at other times. Like, I’ll play a G chord at the 10th fret and then work my way down to the 3rd fret when I’m about to go to the 4 chord and just barely pick the 9th string to get that dominant 7th in there before I go to the C chord.

If you’re fortunate enough to be playing with a good bunch of musicians who actually listen to what you’re doing, you can play with a lot of dynamics – louder and softer as the band follows you – and create something worth listening to.

Author: Cal Sharp

Nashville pedal steel guitarist for over 30 years. Credits include Stonewall Jackson, Little Jimmy Dickens, Red Sovine, Faron Young, Ernest Tubb, Ray Price, Johnny Russell, George Fox, Vern Gosdin, Del Reeves, Gilley's, the Palomino Club and a few others. Retired from the road, playing sessions and clubs locally. I also develop websites, like this one and other music-related sites. Contact me if you need a website. Email: cal at caligraphics dot net or fill out the contact form. http://www.caligraphicsdesign.com/contact/

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