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Thread: Pick orientation to strings

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    Default Pick orientation to strings

    Iím a newbie, coming from the guitar camp. On guitar I angle the pick upwards (Hendrix, Benson, Santana), while most players angle downwards. It seems most mandolin players angle downwards too. One of the benefits I find is its more conducive to using forearm rotation when strumming. Iím thinking I will need the bevel on the other side of the pick (left handed?). Does Anyone have any insights to share?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Pick orientation to strings

    John Reischman holds his pick as you're describing, and yes, if you buy a beveled pick, you'll want a left hand bevel.
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    Default Re: Pick orientation to strings

    You may have to alter your technique from guitar. Tutorials from Marshall and Thile are excellent starting points

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7vqNh5k96o

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdhVC0DzfFY

    also one of my favorites, 5 top players side by side https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTJJdlswFPE
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    Default Re: Pick orientation to strings

    Does mandolin pick orientation largely result from the angle of the forearm to the instrument? I see photos of some bowlback and classical players whose forearms run more or less straight up the instrument, and some folk and country players whose forearm is at quite an angle to it.

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    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick orientation to strings

    I'm not a classical player and my forearm ,wrist and hand run pretty much parallel to the mandolin,and my pick is perpendicular to the strings,,

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    Default Re: Pick orientation to strings

    In the case of Hendrix, with the guitar strung "upside down" wouldn't his pick angle be considered a forward or downward angle?

    Another probably silly question, if angling the pick upwards do to a double jointed "hitchhiker thumb"?

  7. #7

    Default Re: Pick orientation to strings

    For my own understanding... does a downward angle mean the picking hand's palm rotates towards the ground whereas an upward angle means the palm rotates to face the sky?

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    Default Re: Pick orientation to strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Pgambon View Post
    Does Anyone have any insights to share?
    I think the first step, (and you have done it) is to divorce entirely from what was-is-might be done on guitar. It is a mandolin decision, based on mandolinny things.
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    Default Re: Pick orientation to strings

    Don't worry about changing from how you hold the pick with guitar to mandolin. I have a friend who does the same thing on both guitar and mandolin. He is quite good and the angle is no problem between either instrument. You will have to buy a left handed pick, as mentioned, if it comes with a bevel.
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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick orientation to strings

    I'm curious about the rotating the forearm comment. I know I do a little but most of my movement comes from up and down writs movement with a bit from up and down forearm movement and finger movement. I absolutely don't or seriously try not to rotate my forearm. Is that odd?

    As to pick orientation I like mine pointing toward the top of the instrument and when it slides/rotates in my grasp a bit I tend to manipulate it back to pointing at the instrument, but I notice that it is also dependent on tip shape and what I am playing at the time. A rounder tip is more parallel to the strings while my pointy Jazz tip sometimes is a bit out of parallel with the strings. Again is that odd?
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  11. #11

    Default Re: Pick orientation to strings

    By angling the pick upwards do you mean pulling upwards on the string before letting it go rather than straight across or down?...makes a bit of pop.

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    Default Re: Pick orientation to strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Joed View Post
    By angling the pick upwards do you mean pulling upwards on the string ...
    Good question! I had assumed that he means picking downward while leading with the the "back" end of the pick, the edge nearest the bridge rather than nearest the fretboard. Or maybe not?

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    Default Re: Pick orientation to strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Pgambon View Post
    I’m a newbie, coming from the guitar camp. On guitar I angle the pick upwards (Hendrix, Benson, Santana), while most players angle downwards. It seems most mandolin players angle downwards too. One of the benefits I find is its more conducive to using forearm rotation when strumming. I’m thinking I will need the bevel on the other side of the pick (left handed?). Does Anyone have any insights to share?
    Generally this comes from holding the pick somewhat like a pencil, where the thumb and "fingerprint" part of the first finger hold the pick. That is how the guitar players you list hold their picks (and a great many others) and how some mandolin players hold their picks (including me). The more generally accepted pick hold used on mandolin and to some extent on guitar as well is where the pick is held between the thumb and the side of the first finger, result in a more closed fist, at least for the thumb and first couple of fingers.

    My reasons for gripping the pick the way I presume you do is that, first, I came from guitar too and, second, it lets me extend the pick out a bit further while still "feather touching" the heel of the hand against the strings behind the bridge. By "feather touching" I mean just brushing sometimes, to keep a point of reference, not clamping down.

    True, the most famous mandolinists use the fist grip and if you change to that, it would probably be good (and you don't have to buy left handed beveled picks, as I do) but I don't see any harm in using the grip you are using. Give the fist grip a chance for a while and see if you take to it. Otherwise, don't worry about it and play.
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    Default Re: Pick orientation to strings

    Thile uses a closed fist but holds the pick high on the shoulder, which gives him reach. Brazilians are more likely to use the fingertip grip -- Dudu Maia explained he changed his grip from the more closed grip to the more fingertip hold. It doesn't really matter in early days, and one can change later. If you plan to only play one kind of music, say, bluegrass, you may settle into one grip, one style. It seems the closed, down-angle grip is good for volume.

    I began with the Reischman style reverse grip, but found use for the down-angle later. Now I use down-angle or flat, and occasionally reverse. I don't use a closed fist, probably as a violinist and sometime guitar player. I vary the grip from covering most of it and exposing only the tip, to backing off to barely holding the pick high on the shoulder. But I play some classical, some contra dance and English Country dance, and straight-ahead jazz, along with occasional Americana. I need a range of colors and different facilities.
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    Default Re: Pick orientation to strings

    Thanks for all the great responses. I’m still trying different approaches. I went to the upward slant for two reasons. It felt right and it allowed more forearm rotation as opposed to wrist movement. The benefit, as I see it is you don’t have to change your technique when going from strumming to picking. Something I’m starting to realize is that with the mandolin you only angle the pick very slightly no matter which direction you go.

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    Default Re: Pick orientation to strings

    I personally would recommend trying to limit forearm rotation and play with all or almost all wrist movement. The arm is too much mass to move quickly. Early on it feels right but later it may bite you.
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    Default Re: Pick orientation to strings

    Two things I found most helpful when starting out were 1) Not to approach the mandolin like it was a small guitar, so leave the guitar technique on the shelf and 2) Watch lots of videos of great players to study both their right and left hand technique. In the absence of working one on one with a good instructor it can be easy to ingrain less than ideal habits and as many folks here can attest to, including myself, it's a lot easier to embed good practices from the get go than it is to undo well practiced less than ideal one. My recommendation would be to try to (if you're not already) get a least a couple of one of one lessons under your belt with a really good mandolin specific instructor.

    I still sometimes go down the rabbit hole of watching video after video, focusing solely on either the player's right hand or left hand - then sit down to practice in front of a mirror to check my own technique.


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    on essential techniques (focus on his right hand/wrist here):



    Sierra Hull:

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    Playing a tune Ė focus on her right hand technique, itís all mostly coming from the wrist with some slight forearm movement when strumming.:



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  20. #18

    Default Re: Pick orientation to strings

    My forearm comes straight over the tailpiece and bridge (with wrist slightly arched so there is little or no contact with the bridge) and my pick hits the strings flat so that the plane of the pick is the same as the plane of the strings. That is, no pick angle. I hold the pick between thumb and index finger in a loose closed fist grip. Movement comes mostly from my wrist rather than my forearm. Picking this way provides me maximum contact between pick and strings and (to my ears) results in best tone and maximum volume. If I want less volume I donít pick so hard. When I try to angle the pick my tone is thin and my volume drops way off. This ďno pick angleĒ approach works for me. As an aside, I find it much easier to eliminate pick angle when my forearm comes straight over the tailpiece and bridge rather than over the bass side of the top. Playing this way also eliminates the need for an armrest.

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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick orientation to strings

    I noticed myself doing the same thing this morning and wondering if that was odd. I guess not!
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    Default Re: Pick orientation to strings

    Troy Grady does a whole Cracking the code series with camera closeups of picking hand but it didn't work on mandolin. But this clip with Andy Wood is informative, around 40:00 he's talking about Chris T changing grips while others don't

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxjoEZoQXJU
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    Default Re: Pick orientation to strings

    Quote Originally Posted by gtani7 View Post
    Troy Grady does a whole Cracking the code series with camera closeups of picking hand but it didn't work on mandolin. But this clip with Andy Wood is informative, around 40:00 he's talking about Chris T changing grips while others don't
    One can use different pick angles for different musical effects. Violinists change the part of the bow and how the bow is used depending on the musical need - so should mandolin players alter their picking as needed.

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    Default Re: Pick orientation to strings

    Quote Originally Posted by gtani7 View Post
    Troy Grady does a whole Cracking the code series with camera closeups of picking hand but it didn't work on mandolin. But this clip with Andy Wood is informative, around 40:00 he's talking about Chris T changing grips while others don't

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxjoEZoQXJU
    Thanks for that - part of it seemed to be that he reckoned certain grips used less energy, which is useful.

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    Default Re: Pick orientation to strings

    Quote Originally Posted by John Bertotti View Post
    I'm curious about the rotating the forearm comment. I know I do a little but most of my movement comes from up and down writs movement with a bit from up and down forearm movement and finger movement. I absolutely don't or seriously try not to rotate my forearm. Is that odd?

    As to pick orientation I like mine pointing toward the top of the instrument and when it slides/rotates in my grasp a bit I tend to manipulate it back to pointing at the instrument, but I notice that it is also dependent on tip shape and what I am playing at the time. A rounder tip is more parallel to the strings while my pointy Jazz tip sometimes is a bit out of parallel with the strings. Again is that odd?
    No, and I don't know.

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