Reasons to Ditch Your Guitar Pick

Lately, I haven't been using my guitar pick all that much. I got this tab book of some good ol' Gatemouth Brown finger picking blues. I've been enjoying myself so much trying to get this fingerpick thang goin'."

I'm starting to understand the arpeggio-phrasing technique a lot more. Gatemouth Brown is a legend and a true musician. He plays acoustic / electric guitar in all genres. He can also play the fiddle like nobody's business. He is also a drummer, harp player, and banjo playing fool.

So, let's cover some of the techniques I've found to be very effective in my playing. Using these techniques can add color to your performance. Think of it as a small toolbox of tricks you can pull out to add character to your songs and live set. Effective pick-hand technique provides the kind tone and textures that can give a personal touch to an old classic or to provide a step off point for other creative musical endeavors.

Try Different Styles and Genre

Play the root notes with your thumb. The down-strums with the tips of your fingernails, and upstrokes with just you finger tips. Get yourself a metronome and play to different speeds, Do some stagger strumming. Strum to the off beats. Download or find music that you might not jam to. Try a calypso feel. Do some cowboy songs and "Yes" hammer-on those top bass strings and get into some alternate picking, etc. Try a walking bass line while playing the three higher strings open. These are just ideas to opening your mind!

Turn Your Acoustic into a Percussion Instrument

Bang on it like a hand drum. Strike or tap the strings with the inside surface of your fingers as if you swatting a fly. Now? don't bang on it to hard. I don't want to be blamed for someone's guit-box being damaged. Let your fingers kind of bounce off and away from the strings for them to ring-out. Experiment with different taps all up and down the fret board and back side of the neck too! Use the top of the guitar as a drum. I've seen duos with one person playing the guitar and the other person playing the percussions on the back of the guitar laid flat across the their lap. Remember to use the different parts of the hand to include knuckles, fingers -rings, etc.

Slap and Pop Technique

Bass players use this technique for rhythmic power. Use the outside of your thumb joint to attack the strings. If you experiment with this approach, try getting bell like tones out of those bass strings.

Put Some Snap into Your Playing

Use your index finger to snap those high strings when playing lead solos. Try yanking lightly on each string, releasing it against the fret board with a bright snap. Give those strings a real pinch when needed too (Don't be shy...). This is good for rock and blues flavored solos.

Use Muting and Volume in Your Playing

Slap and pop with some funk. Use your thumb and middle finger playing octave notes. Kinda like a cat claw approach. Don't forget to use the heel of your pick hand to mute and use as a volume control for the strings. Rest the heel of your hand lightly on the saddle. Now practice strumming and muting the strings while the heel lightly lays across the strings. Next, mute the strings with your chord-hand by lightly touching the string while strumming your guitar with your nails on your finger-tips. Kinda like playing percussions on the strings. I call it chickin'- scratchin' those strings.

"Again, I hope I've sparked some imagination for playing without a pick. These ideas will help you develop your own style too!"

Scott Thomas
Managing Editor,

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