How To Hold The Pick – Lesson 4

About How To Hold The Pick – Lesson 4

Level: Beginner

How To Hold The Pick – Lesson 4

In this lesson, we show you the proper technique for holding the pick.

Let me just say that this is the way that MOST great guitar players, (including Syn), hold the pick. However – I held the pick “wrong” for 40 years and still managed to play guitar for a living. I started working on holding the pick the right way about 3 years ago, and when I do – I still play at about 70% of my ability. It’s a daily battle for me.
So I would say, if you are a beginner or intermediate – by all means – work on holding the pick this way.
If you are an advanced player and hold the pick differently – you’ll have to decide if it’s worth the effort and sacrifice.
I believe that the ends justify the means. However you can play great – do that.

I will add one last point – if you’re not confused enough already. And that is: A great deal of Syn’s sound, smoothness, tone, speed & fluidity is due to the fact that he holds the pick the way I show you in this video.

Syn’s Tips

I had to relearn this technique about 6 years ago when I started playing gypsy jazz because it required a lot more strength than electric guitar to create the loud volume the gypsy sound needs.

I found that this gripping of the pick provided the most solid foundation for all styles of music.

If you have any questions, ask them in the "Lesson Comments" section below so we can all help you!

Lesson Comments

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Daniel Watts
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Daniel Watts This has helped soo much, it’s an understatement how often we forget the basics
Dan Shipway
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Dan Shipway Damn is this useful! I have had to learn this again after many years as I fell into a habit of picking as minimal as possible and using legato/hammer ons and pull offs, can't wait to start learning it again!
Robert Knebeg
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Robert Knebeg Haha. Sorry to keep posting but flipping heck has this helped!!! I'm smashing rake/sweep picking too! It comes so much easier now. And pinch harmonics! I had to really try hard before, again now they easy as my thumb touching the string natural if I give it a bit more oomph. Will have to post a vid on your forum soon of me having some fun!!
Robert Knebeg
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Robert Knebeg I think before, which obviously I learned to get good with, was slightly wrong and I was using more energy up on my wrist action. So thx guys, I think you just helped improve me!!! And sometimes it comes down to the small suttle differences and something like holding the pick has just helped me. Thank you
Robert Knebeg
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Robert Knebeg Anyway just by going on here I've found out I've been using the pick wrong all these years!!!! I would have my hand open and then make a 'O' with my index finger and thumb, and then the pick would sit in right at the end of my finger which was pointing towards my body. And my fingers would dangle. BUT I tried your way of having a fist, so index finger pointing towards thumb and picks sit on side of finger rather than the end.... And it's amazing. I find tremolo picking so much easier and quicker now!! It's natural
Robert Knebeg
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Robert Knebeg Wow! This website is amazing! Syn really is right by doing this and you never stop learning! I've been playing for 16 years (seriously), I'm a hard-working man but always the guitar is in my heart so I'm always picking it up and playing in my spare time and creating time for my guitar. So I guess I'm like a part-time guitarist lol. Anyway, l don't like to blow my own trumpet (dah dah daaaaah) but I'm quite good (not syn good yet!!). I'm self taught as well. Never had any lessons but always knew there were ways to improve so it's great that you guys are doing this and it's free. So thank you and it's well cool.
Mihai Doana
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Mihai Doana So i've been playing guitar for almost 3 years and I could say I am a pretty decent guitarist(I didn't learn any kind of musical theory though.. Until now). I don't remember exactly how I started to hold a pick, but at a certain moment I started letting my fingers loose. It didn't bother me, in fact, I think this helped me at palm muting so I could mute mor strings simultaneously. However, on such techniques like economu picking and sweep picking, i couldn't really nail them, probably because you need more strength and control that you can get from tucking your fingers. So yeah, if it weren't for this cool site that sun offered us, I wouldn't be able to play solos properly. And this is jus the beginning. Looking forward on mastering the guitar and helping you guys if you ever need it.
Ike Machover
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Ike Machover is it up down up on coming back down?
Ike Machover
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Ike Machover Is it up down up on the way back?
Sander Saarpere
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Sander Saarpere
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Sander Saarpere This short lesson ... Seriously helped me. I always wondered why my fingers got tired so easily and it seriously irritated me. But now I know better.
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Recently i have been trying to find a way to hold the pick than i have before. I always held it as kinda a “duck” shape. Also when i tilt the pick i sometimes tilt it the opposite way. It seems to work pretty good. Should i change it.
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Also i have been playing for around 3-4 years and i play lead and solos.
Mike Urban
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Mike Urban This video is a game changer. I held the pick very close to this method, so I wasn’t too far off.... but when I tried tucking my fingers in the way Syn holds the pick, the fluidity, clarity, and accuracy of my solos improved dramatically. Thank you!
Fraser Hyde
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Fraser Hyde I've been playing with the pick between my thumb, and index and middle fingers and with my pinky on the pick guard as an anchor that I move with my hand. I can play fairly well (not spectacular, but good), but some things I just can't get a handle on, and I reckon playing like in the vid will help me do that. It'll be nice to have 2 picking styles instead of one haha
Tyler Sanders
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Tyler Sanders Brian Haner Sr. I actually figured out I was holding my pick wrong this whole time so I had to cut about three years of wrong pick holding out and start fresh and now I actually can hear myself playing faster and more clearer than before so thanks for this pick tutorial sr.
Robi Turner
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Robi Turner i have to know what is the size pick for shredding
Petter Tjärnås
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Petter Tjärnås t.i.l i've been holding the pick wrong for 4 years..
Cecile N
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Cecile N Now I really want to get the techniques right, because I‘m only being self-taught and I see more and more things to improve.
Cecile N
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Cecile N When I started watching these lessons, I really wanted to master techniques, because I‘ve only being self-taught.
Logan Pennington
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Logan Pennington Its really tought not having my last three fingers loose while I play as opposed to this closed style I also noticed that I rest my pinky on the pick guard while I'm playing for stabilization like a kick stand is this limiting me ? ive never noticed until now
Thomas Lovell
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Thomas Lovell I've been playing guitar forever and I now know I've been holding the pick wrong. I always held it in the pads of the index and thumb rather than as you described. It actually makes a big difference for me when alternate picking as its now more accurate and has more attack. Cheers
Brian Haner Sr.
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Brian Haner Sr. The right hand is soooo much harder to master than the left. Keep at it. Glad you are making progress!
Andy Marttala
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Andy Marttala Is there somewhere I can buy some of Syn's rock picks? I can't find rock picks anywhere. Thanks!
Supraja Vadlamani
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Supraja Vadlamani I'm more of an advanced beginner or a beginner intermediate (hope that makes sense haha) but I've always struggled to play with a pic. What would you recommend if everything I've wanted to play until now has been better mastered without a pic than with one? When I do try to use a pic to get the hang of it, I struggle with strumming two strings together etc and don't like the back and forth to using the pic and then not. Any advice for someone who just doesn't like using a pic?
Supraja Vadlamani
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Supraja Vadlamani Thank you, Papa! I'll certainly try to practice with a pick as well 🙂 - I already am but sometimes it just gets frustrating..hopefully practice will make it better!
Brian Haner Sr.
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Brian Haner Sr. It's always good to have more than one technique to chose from. I play with my fingers A LOT! I would suggest you work at using a pick to at least a little. But in the big picture - if you can play your ass of with your fingers - DO IT!
Chris Coutsoukis
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Chris Coutsoukis That moment when Papa Gates makes you realize you have been holding a guitar pick wrong since you were eight years old... hahaha.
Chris Coutsoukis
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Chris Coutsoukis I am trying Syn's grip out and I like it. I can see different techniques where this will add more speed and efficiency. As I adjust to this new grip, I am having a more difficult time palm muting and I can also hear the sound of the pick on the string because the pick is slightly diagonal to the strings. Any suggestions?
Szymon Dec
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Szymon Dec First of all thanks for this awesome site. You did amazing job! My question is: When I play high strings I rest my palm on low strings just like when I palm mute. Without it I can't pick fast and it also helps to mute those strings. Is it bad habit? Should I change this and just let my hand float above strings?
Geoff Pinyard
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Geoff Pinyard Thanks for this insight. Being a basic bass player (finger style) holding the pick for a guitar seemed so foreign.
Élton Zobisch
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Élton Zobisch About two months after I decided to take the guitar studying seriously, I was watching a video about holding a pick and the guy suggested to watch a guitar player you like and copy his pick holding style. The two guitars players I copied were Syn and Alexi Laiho, who holds it very similarly. Now I got glad for noticing that I've been holding the pick in the "right" way for about 8 months.
Alex Oliveira
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Alex Oliveira I've been holding my pick with the tip of my pointer finger since I've gotten my guitar, and I can do picking techniques fairly easily that way but I'm having a lot of trouble holding it "the proper way". If I play easier the way I have been should I continue with it or change how I pick to "the proper way"?
Brian Haner Sr.
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Brian Haner Sr. I would switch. You'll suck for a while, but in the long run - you'll be a much better player.
Markus Nick
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Markus Nick I hold my pick like you would hold sushi-sticks with 3 fingers lol. For 8 years. Not sure if I should switch, could take ages :/
Richard O'connor
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Richard O'connor ...thats fucked up
Brian Haner Sr.
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Brian Haner Sr. I have no idea what you're talking about - but I agree.
Héctor Borges
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Héctor Borges i´ve been holding the pick wrong for the last 4 months so im trying it, as far as i can see, its better than my other way, now i do not miss the strings so much as i used to, so thats a pro, but the con is that i loose like 30% of my speed and its akward to my fingers, but can go wit practice! Once More Thanks for this awesome site!
Brian Haner Sr.
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Brian Haner Sr. Yup. Took Syn a couple of years to get to 100%. After 2 years - I'm still not at 100%. It takes longer to break bad habits that it does to learn the right way to begin with. Stick with it. The payoff is worth it.
Kyle-James Parsons
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Kyle-James Parsons I’ve been playing for years holding the pick the way Syn used to hold it. Guess I might have to try it this way and see how I get on.
LifeofChris YOUTUBE
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LifeofChris YOUTUBE I hold my pick like the people that play that finger hole game where they hold the fingers by their side lol 👌🏻
Héctor Borges
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Héctor Borges so do i, but i feel an improvement wit this new way!
Ram Kumar
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Ram Kumar Great lesson. I'm glad to know that I've been holding the pick in the same way that's shown in this lesson.
Edward Williams
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Edward Williams Guys if you really wanna get comfortable with this, practice sliding your thumb forward (so there's barely any pick showing) like you're gonna do a pinch harmonic, (you might as well do one while you're at it heh heh) and then practice sliding it back to your original position. If you have to rest your fingers on the guitar like Papa Gates was saying, that's fine, but once you start getting comfortable/stronger your fingers just kinda naturally curl up and you hand starts to "hover" (used to think this was an impossible feat of strength, now I can't play any other way) I find there's actually a very VERY subtle wrist flicking motion involved, 'cus you really wanna be as deliberate with the pluck as possible, (so take it slow) and also I totally recommend the 2mm Gator Grips or the other Dunlops with the Rhino on them, because you gotta put a lot of force behind them, (I like that) and they just kick ass and shred fast.
Ezequiel Romanko
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Ezequiel Romanko i've seen syn anchor his pinky to the guitar body, does it help with control or speed? and i've been 7 seven years holding it wrong and now i've passed three days trying to learn this way and i can't barely play but i'll try so hard cuz i feel this more comfortable, a question for syn? how do you hold the pick for muting?
Stella Gole
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Stella Gole is it a good thing being self-taught ?
Dominic Osborne
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Dominic Osborne “I would suggest you buy maybe a yellow one a green one, get a variety to see what’s best for you” - Papa Gates Guys over at Dunlop: “Yes! Make us lots of money!” Great clip by the way... 🤔
C K
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C K It seems like Syn would hold the pick with his pointer and middle finger especially when playing the higher strings. Can Syn confirm this?
Krzysztof Kartasinski
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Krzysztof Kartasinski He used to play like that, but a few years back he has changed his technique. Read the caption, Syn is pointing that out 😀 Hope it helps
Kimberly Kelly
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Kimberly Kelly I have been doing everything totally wrong! Thank you so much, these videos are giving me a much better understanding than the way my dad was trying to teach me.
Edval Francisco Junior
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Edval Francisco Junior I use jazz III pick from jim dunlop, for me it's perfect. Papa Gates you are the man! Great video.
Levi Böhm
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Levi Böhm Does it have any effect on the tone or playing effort if the pick gets more dull over the time? Or how often should you change the pick before it gets too used, or does it even matter?
Kyle Vaughan
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Kyle Vaughan Some picks don't wear down very much. But if it does, change it every time you change strings. Or 2 times as much. Have multiple picks within reach
Joanna Plaza
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Joanna Plaza Does it matter if you’re learning with a light or medium pick?
Jake Young
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Jake Young In general, a light or medium pick is great for strumming but not so great for playing leads! You CAN do it but it's harder to play faster type stuff if the pick is giving with every stroke
Joanna Plaza
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Joanna Plaza Never mind. Just got to that part. This is where you should watch before asking 😂
Matthew Jackson
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Matthew Jackson Well I've been holding a pick wrong for 6 years.
Gizelle Sergio
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Gizelle Sergio Thanks Papa Gates👍👍😀
Sydney McDonald
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Sydney McDonald As someone who has never tried to play guitar before, these lessons are so welcoming and enjoyable! I'm having so much fun learning how to play!
Coda Calypso
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Coda Calypso When I started playing I used a thin pick and would hold it between the pad of my thumb and the tips of my first two fingers. When I learn how to do a pinch harmonics I had to change to the "proper" grip I spent two weeks not playing music only playing exercises with focus attention so I didn't go back to the old grip. I change to the Jim Dunlop jazz III. With the thicker gauge I had more clarity in my playing and the thinner pick let me rest it between the first two knuckle of my finger. Last year I took online lessons from Paul Gilbert and his lesson said to hold pick like I did at first when strumming but my new style for riffs and solos. Personally I never change my grip while playing I just use more arm movement and a looser wrist while strumming and more of a rotating motion for riffs and solos. Now I use a DAVA jazz grip It is very similar to the jazz III, but the back is coated in rubber so I never drop my pick.
Daniel Kiebeck
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Daniel Kiebeck I´ve been holding my pick with three fingers as long as i can imagine and... i don´t know this is the only way it feels right for me. Thank you for this great website!
Sven Barnitzki
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Sven Barnitzki It sounds a little funny, i think, but i‘m Playing intensely guitar for the last 3 years, and i had always a feel of doing something wrong in my picking a felt a lil uncomfortable. This Lesson helpt me so much. My playing is now way better and cleaner. Thank you Papa Gates!
Andoniriana Andrianina Andrianaivo
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Andoniriana Andrianina Andrianaivo I did some research and I found that if I want to do rythm, I need to show a lot of my pick and if I want to do solo I don't need to show my pick a lot (sorry for my bad english).
Jasper Polder
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Jasper Polder Thank you so much! I held my pick wrong for 5 years. Let's practice this struggle!
Blake Morgan
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Blake Morgan I find for an all around great sound, feel and fluidity Dunlop’s Jazz 3 ultex 2.0s are amazing. They are thick so you can get that meaty rhythm but also have beveled edges and sharp tip that seem like it just slices through the strings like a knife through water doing soloing stuff. Plus they’re a little bigger than the normal, smaller jazz 3s.
Slyde .
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Slyde . thank you so much... been struggling with this for a while. just what i needed
Krzysztof Kartasinski
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Krzysztof Kartasinski I've also studied Syn's picking style for years and always wanted a proper closeup of his right hand - thanks to this school it finally happened. This style is much more stable than his previous one, and I've also changed it when Brian did this a few years ago. At first it was a really hard process, but after some time it became like second nature. It helped me to play much faster and clearer, but sadly I found one serious disadvantage that comes with it which I'm trying to resolve over past years. The problem is that it's not the most comfortable technique to play while standing, especially with Syn Custom and while playing the rhythm (lower strings) because you have to curl yourself strangely. I've also noticed that nowadays Syn is hunching a bit while shredding which I think didn't happened that much when he used his old style of picking during Nightmare era (it seems like previous one was more comfortable on stage), so maybe it's not just my own problem? Any tips on how to solve this? I would love to hear what are your thoughts on this Syn 🙂
Edward Williams
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Edward Williams yeah man it's gonna take some finesse to pull it off on stage, but to get around the hunching you need to bring the guitar up higher-- around say the stomach vs the hip. (just look in a mirror at the angle of your arm) I feel like this is why a lot of dudes put a leg up on something when they start to solo actually.
Justin Vernon
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Justin Vernon I struggle with the pick shifting as I'm playing guitar. I attribute part of this to poor technique, and the rest of it due to pick material. Some picks end up holding onto the oil release from your fingers, and it makes the pick slippery. There are picks out there that help your fingers stay dry (not sure what the materials are called). If you're struggling with sweaty/oily picks, try to find these kind. They help immensely!
Randall Nichols
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Randall Nichols I used to never have a problem playing fast riffs, but I stopped playing for 7 years until about 3 months ago. The problem I've been facing is my pick starts rotating and I'm playing it on it's side and start missing notes. I'm hoping since I'm still in the process of "relearning" I pick it up quickly.
Annelene Frabe
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Annelene Frabe For me it's the same! But I'm still a beginner.
Miroslav DIlov
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Miroslav DIlov I don't think that the arm needs to be straight. Look at Marty Friedman, or Michael Angelo Batio, their arms aren't straight at all, but they can play amazing.
Ethan Allan
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Ethan Allan I believe the reason why it is recommended to have a straight arm is so that you don't develop carpal tunnel in your wrist or damage any tendons by stretching your wrist that way
Brian Haner Sr.
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Brian Haner Sr. True. I'm really addressing how Syn does it - and what most good players consider proper arm technique. And I agree - Marty & Michael are amazing!
Kevin Reyes
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Kevin Reyes i really wish there was a "next button" to go to the next lesson instead of having to go back into the list of lessons to find the next one.
Brian Haner Sr.
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Brian Haner Sr. There is - on each side of the screen after Syn's tips.
Connor Smith
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Connor Smith Just watching these vids before I start playing for the first time and some of the best advice and nice and easy to understand
Edward Lilly
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Edward Lilly I’ve got to say that I have studied syn’s picking style a lot and I do use black 2.0 MM Dunlop picks but I seem to get trouble sweep picking around the D,G,and B strings with the pick getting a little bit of a drag or stuck like feeling. Do you think there is a certain tension to grip?
Brian Haner Sr.
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Brian Haner Sr. This is really a question for Syn - but for me, yes - there is definitely enough grip to force the pick through those strings without suffering any drag.
Kyle Vaughan
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Kyle Vaughan Does Zacky tend to hold his pick differently then Syn? I see their live stuff and it looks different but I can never get a good enough look
Brian Haner Sr.
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Brian Haner Sr. That's a question for Syn. Not sure how Zacky holds his pick. But EVERYBODY holds the pick a bit differently.
Allan V
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Allan V He’s right i have even read some guitarist will hold the pick between their thumb and middle finger so it truly depends on the guitarist. Great lesson papa
Ale Algara
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Ale Algara oh oh. I Hold the guitar pick the same you did, with the finger tips, and the pick is pointing up. years ago I realized that and told my teacher but he said that there are great guitarists who use the pick that way. guess I´ll have to use both techniques. thank you
Manuel Iglesias
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Manuel Iglesias I used to be scared that me resting my ring and pinky fingers on the guitar body when playing solos, or just picking would be wrong or a bad habbit, but thankfully now i know its not actually. Thanks 😉
Brian Haner Sr.
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Brian Haner Sr. Everybody holds the pick a little differently. You have to be comfortable to play well.
Nate Stranieri
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Nate Stranieri I consider myself to be more intermediate maybe on the line of advanced when it comes to picking because I can do most of the types of picking but thought it would be good to go back and correct anything I'm doing wrong. I hold my pick with more of the tip of my pointer rather than the side and it feels somewhat awkward to do it the way you are? Is my way bad or wrong because if it is I will definitely need to adjust to this new picking style.
Brian Haner Sr.
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Brian Haner Sr. That's exactly how I hold the pick - with the end of my index finger, not the side! In this video I am showing how MOST great players (including Syn) hold their picks. When I hold the pick this way, I can play at about 70% of my abilities. I'm still working on it - mostly for Gypsy Jazz. So obviously it's not the only way to hold a pick. Experiment with it a bit, but obviously - if you are intermediate or advanced already and you can tackle some of the more difficult picking techniques with ease - DON'T CHANGE! We may get some push-back from Syn on this, but I believe we need to play the best we can play - however we can get there.
Ben Thorpe
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Ben Thorpe that moment when you realise youve been holding the pick wrong for five months.... then i hold it like this and now im never hitting the wrong string or missing the correct one.
Brian Haner Sr.
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Brian Haner Sr. Yeah, I held my pick wrong for 40 years. I still do. lol. But I have been working hard over the past couple of years to hold it correctly. I'm about half way there.
Jonas H
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Jonas H I feel like I´ve been holding my pick wrong for the nine years of playing.. but with this technique i can´t get a clean tone out of my guitar 🙁 And to make it worse, my thumb keeps "slipping" in the direction of the neck so it looks like I am playing in a "thumbs up" position ..
Brian Haner Sr.
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Brian Haner Sr. Haha! Yeah, join the club. I did this video to show how MOST guitarists hold their picks (including Syn). I don't hold my pick this way. Hold the way you can play best.
Jose Vazquez
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Jose Vazquez This video is what i'm looking for, i'll be practicing this, thanks Papa Gates👍