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I believe much of the 'tone in the fingers' of all these famous guitarist ,and there is so much talk on, is ironically no so much in their fingers per se but in their pick. Frankly, there is only so much you can do with your left hand, mostly affecting your phrasing but the tone lies first and for all on your right hand. How you pick and then on the left hand, the amp, effects etc.
I wanted to discuss about the aspects of the picking area, picking depth (or the amount of the pick that scrapes the string) ,pick velocity (or speed with which the pick hits the string).
1) Picking area
As you would probably already know picking closer to the bridge brings out louder harmonics thus giving a treblier tone and what many call brilliance. Picking closer to the neck gives more volume to the fundamental frequency but not so much harmonics, so the tone has more low end and no piercing highs. While picking in between the bridge and the neck end gives a balanced tone which many seem to prefer. Others simply because it's the most confortable position and more advanced players stick to it most of the time for the desired tone.
But I mostly wanted to get into the other two aspects of picking that go regurarly overlooked but affect much the resulting tone without you having to tweak any eq settings or dial in effects.
That is how much pick area touches with the string. Tonewise picking with high depth gives better sustain and balanced tone. Picking with the tiniest tip of the pick, on the other hand, gives less sustain and treblier tone with minimum low end. But for playing fast picking with the minimum depth, only using the very tip of the pick, is better for you as a player as your pick won't get 'stuck' on all that picking and for the sound overall. You don't want all that picking noise to be too upfront overpowering the actuall notes, especially with hi gain. This may be common sence for an advanced guitarist but for the beginner one the sooner he understands the sonic possibilities the better and should consider it.
The actual speed with which you pick the strings. When playing fast there is no other way to play than high picking velocity, especially if you are more of a picking than legato guy. But for normal to slower speeds, the picking velocity can bring out a lot of subleties in your playing. Especially in combination with picking depth some very interesting results. Do you want a tone with brilliance AND sustain? High velocity, low depth is the unswer. Do you want the opposite, low end and less sustain, a tone that will die quickly? Low velocity, high depth.
As you see the combinations are many and can make your tone shine and really use it to its full potential. I reckomend you play a single note and try for yourself the pallete of tones available in this way. Hope you enjoyed my little lesson and you got something out of it!
Last edited by ragasaraswati; 11-30-2008 at 11:21 PM.
Something I find affects your tone alot is the direction you pick in, how your pick hits the string, and the angle of your pick.
If i pick by rotating my wrist, to me it sounds more snappy and full. If i pick side to side (translation) however, it sounds more mellow with less high end.
How the angle of your pick affects your tone i think is linked to how thick your pick is and how its edges are shaped. If you have a thin pick, on the wound strings you tell an aggressive sound. If it's rather thick with rounder/smoother edges, again it'll sound more mellow.
Just my experience. Could be different for anyone though.
I noticed that where you pick along the guitar has something to do with tone as well. Picking really close to the bridge you can get a sitar-like vibe and if you pick close to the neck your sound will get warmer. I think Eric Johnson does this a lot, but I'm not entirely sure.
He's dark. He's a man.
Just to add my 2cents...
There's a technique of picking that Eric Clapton used in his "wailing" heyday with Cream etc. I believe he kind of wiped the pick along the string slightly as he picked it. It gives a very smooth sustain and almost no attack. I discovered it by mistake but immediately recognised it. I don't know if this has been mentioned before. It probably has.
Interesting. I've never heard that before, I'll have to try it. Thanks
Originally Posted by Darkman
Hey. Interesting read. I'll haveta mess around with it a bit methinks...
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