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Guitar Picks & Strumming Techniques

by Claude Samard Polikar

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If you want to get away from the mainstream guitar repertoire and play some more specialized styles, you‘ll probably have to set aside your standard picking habits for a while. This is true for any kind of style, such as using a thumb-pick for the Atkins-Dadi picking, your thumb for the Wes Montgomery cool jazz, pick and fingers for the Albert Lee or Brent Mason hot country. These adjustments are inevitable to reproduce their genuine sound. Some stellar guitarists break the rules like Eddie Van Halen, Jeff Beck or Matteo Mancuso...
A lot of guitarists in the world have been highly influenced by the other plucked instrument techniques (flamenco guitar, oud, mandoline, bouzouki etc...) they daily play along with in their bands.
Some are clearly influenced by the Django Gypsy Jazz style, others by Flamenco or by what I would call the Latin & Eastern picking approaches. It sustains the fact that style, sound & technique are similar.
Since those “live” musicians need to play loud and efficiently on their acoustic guitar, more often without any previous warm up or rehearsal, many guitarists will revert to a technique used on those “cousin” instruments that will save their right hand a lot of excess strain. That’s why some call this : “economy picking”.

Here are two examples for pickers who need a Flamenco digest. These two licks are in the phrygien E mode. It sounds typically 'Spanish', when it’s really a C major scale based on an E major chord.
Sample #1 for starts, is to train yourself on going up the scale. Notice the lesser effort produced when moving accross the strings. Pick attacks are closely related to a Gambale 'sweeping' technique. You'll have to break the wrist angle a little to ease the strokes and make sure to execute a single movement when crossing strings.


This technique is quite compatible with alternate picking when required or with legato playing, hammers and pull-offs. It’s definitely an interesting additional option that you may apply to certain circumstances in order to ease the strain, gain speed and authenticity.

You can now whip out your first emergency kit with a few arabic-andalousian chops, which will benefit greatly from this technique. Try these scales with three strokes per chord by following the first example, and in addition this time, mute the strings with the palm of your hand, which will certainly give you instant access to an Al Di Meola touch. The same on a saturated electric guitar will help you build a solid shred guitarist reputation in your house. 'It's a Small World' !
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