Here is a lesson in the series on guitar picking and strumming techniques for intermediate guitar players. In this lesson we’ll be seeing some exercises designed to develop pick hand skill so you can learn to pick specific strings accurately.
One of the most difficult things to learn is the position of your picking hand. It takes time to develop the feel so you’ll know when your hand is in the right place.
As you first work on the picking exercises below you will be tempted by two traps:
- Looking at the strings as you pick them all the time
- Resting a part of your hand or a spare finger on the guitar somewhere to hold it in position
At first you will need to spend some time looking at where your hand is to check you are picking the right strings. But try not to get into the habit of looking at it all the time – remember the aim is to develop a feel so your arm and hand automatically fall into the right position. You can try working in front of a mirror, this gives you a different angle of view so you won’t be head down staring at your hand.
You’ll see some players resting their little finger (or pinky) on the table just below the strings to keep their hand in position. Although this does make it easier to get your hand in place at first, it stops you moving your hand freely longer term so try to avoid it.
Now, as you keep these two points in mind, have a go at the exercises below…
Chord Picking Exercises 1
This first series of exercises uses a stationary E chord – that way you don’t have to worry about what the other hand is doing at the same time. Repeat each exercise a few times over, your focus should be on hitting the right strings with your pick and keeping an even tempo.
For the quarter notes in this exercise you can use down strokes only.
Chord Picking Exercises 2
This second series of exercises uses an A chord. The rhythms become a little more complicated here and there are both up and down strokes to play. Notice how the different picked notes give more movement than strumming all six strings, even without changing the chord.
To learn how to pick a specific string, or group of strings, you need to spend time to develop a good sense of the position of your picking hand so that the pick falls on just the string, or strings, you want.
The exercises above are examples of the kind of picking practice you can add to your routine to build this sense. There’s no need to spend ages on them, simply choose a couple of exercises and spend 2 or 3 minutes on them each time you practice. Repetition over time will take care of the rest. You can make up your own exercises too, just remember to keep the chord fretting simple so you can focus all your attention on your picking hand.