I made a major change to my picking technique the other night, and it instantly transformed my playing. Needless to say, I'm excited.

cimg0014.JPGHere's how I used to hold it, using the pad of my first finger and the pad of my thumb. Fingers two, three, and four were relaxed and hung loosely, ready to engage in hybrid picking. The problem was the pick's position at the end of my first finger. It was too floppy, yielding to every struck string and limiting the speed and force with which I could pick. I dig speed and force, so that is a detriment.

cimg0013.JPGHere's my new method. Relative to my thumb, the pick is in the same position, at the same angle, but I've curled my first finger around so that the pick rests on the side of my outer knuckle. My second finger can either support my first for stronger picking or roam free for plucking. My third and fourth fingers follow my second, whether open or closed.

cimg0012.JPGThe biggest advantage is the amount of force I can put behind each note. Positioning the pick at a point on my first finger with less unwanted movement, combined with coupling my first two fingers for support, adds mass and rigidity behind the attack. My picking is far more stable than it was, regardless of how hard I'm playing. I finally feel like there's hope for me to learn all those Al Di Meola and Paco de Lucia lines that I love, the ones that sound like machine guns playing musical notes.

There is a slight problem with this new method when softly picking or strumming the high strings. The pick angle I'm using is a little awkward for the high strings, and the sound of the pick briefly scraping each string comes through more than I'd like when playing lightly. And that extra rigidity I've gained doesn't lend itself to a consistent, soft dynamic. But I'm working on some solutions. I may have to change my forearm position for the higher strings to keep the pick attack perpendicular to the strings, eliminating the pick noise. And I think I can just work on loosening my grip without losing the pick to achieve the soft dynamic.

I realize that I'm now conforming to the technique employed by most guitar players. I've considered using it before, but it never felt comfortable, particularly when palm-muting the high strings. I'm choosing to use it not because anyone else does, but because I now see its advantages. (It helped that I found palm-muting a little more comfortable when I tried it the other night.) I never realized how much more speed, accuracy, and force I could get out of it.