Picking Tips for Single‐String Playing

2021‐01‐13

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After years of trial and error, here are some general picking tips for single‐string playing on guitar at any speed (including fast tremolo):

  1. Rest your forearm on the guitar body. Just let it drop by its own weight. This is important in order to avoid tension in your upper arm and shoulder.
  2. Make sure your wrist is at least slightly arched. This entails keeping your elbow relatively close to your body. An arched wrist is important in order to get the right swing in your hand.
  3. Rest the pinky side of your palm lightly near the bridge across all six strings, leaving a small space for the currently played string so that it won’t be muted. Then it’s just a matter of lowering your hand a tiny bit in order to play muted. You can of course move your hand closer to the neck if you don’t need to play muted. It’s your forearm against the guitar body that controls the pressure against the strings. Let the fingers that aren’t involved in holding the pick rest comfortably against the pickguard/finger rest without any kind of pressure.
  4. Use a slight rotation of your wrist and forearm in order to pick the notes. Don’t flex your fingers. Try to keep it tight. You don’t need the plectrum to deviate more from the string than absolutely necessary. Don’t dig in too deep with the point of the pick, that will create unnecessary resistance.
  5. Move your hand slightly depending on the played string, in order for it not to bend excessively to one side. That will create tension.

This is a stable yet relaxed approach. As usual, to each their own.