Attack of the Pick

October 20, 2008 | By | 3 Replies More
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Years ago I was watching a Steve Morse instructional video (yes, on VHS) in which he talked about how he holds his pick. Specifically, if I remember right, he holds it with his thumb and first two fingers — contrary to the grip 99% of people seem to use, which is thumb and first (pointer) finger. I believe Steve said that grip gave him better control, allowing him to pick faster, and specifically alternate-pick faster.

I’d always held the pick thumb-and-forefinger, but started messing around with “the Morse grip” at the time I watched the vid and on-and-off since. No surprise — he’s right. That grip does provide better control, but it also feels different and you have to change your hand position here and there to do certain things, notably palm-muting in my case. It also makes pinch-harmonics more difficult, or at least different-feeling.

So what? Well, in my never-ending quest to understand and mimic Ed Van Halen’s tone, which includes his technique, I’m going through a phase of being amazed by his right hand strength.

Lots of people talk about how the best players have the lightest touch, and generally I believe that’s true. I’m sure Ed has a light touch when he needs it, but he also manhandles the guitar — tons of force when he wants it, and a way heavier touch than it might appear, even on the right-hand hammers.

Anyhow, he holds his pick with his thumb and the first two fingers, or thumb and second finger only at times with the first finger resting on the side of the pick. I’ve tried doing the thumb/second-finger-only thing, and it’s tough. I think what helps him do it — aside from all that practice — is his immense hand strength.

Anyhow, if you can get the thumb-and-first-two-fingers grip going, it definitely helps to get some Ed-related tones, at least to my ears. You can hit the strings a lot harder with a lot more control. Try it out.

Incidentally, I hold the pick with one of the fatter sides of the triangle hitting the strings. This is what George Lynch does, and it works much better for me control-wise than using the typical small-point-of-the-triangle grip. I never seemed to get the same grip every time when I did it that way, especially when my hand got sweaty.

Category: Edward Van Halen, George Lynch, Picking Technique, Steve Morse

Comments (3)

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  1. bowie says:

    Curious how Rick Medlocke holds his pick…. and I think you need to spend some time talking about Rickey and Blackfoot….

  2. Dan says:

    Rick uses brass picks to get that real bite. Top player ;-)

  3. James says:

    I don’t necessarily agree that the best players have the lightest touch…look at SRV – one of the greatest players who ever lived, and also one who used to attack his guitar mercilessly with a very heavy picking attack. I think the best players vary their touch…they know when to gently ease the notes out, and also when to bash those strings for all they’re worth and really milk the notes from the guitsr.

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