Basic Guitar Technique Part Two

The Right Hand (for flatpickers).


An often misunderstood area of guitar technique is the correct functioning of the right hand. It is very important to spend time developing correct plectrum technique and developing technical facility with the right hand.

The right hand elbow should be placed on the body of the guitar at the uppermost point or corner (on acoustics – the arm places just below the elbow on electric guitars). The plectrum should be held between the thumb and the first finger with the fingers curved so they are pointing back down along the arm as pictured.

To move from one string to another we use the arm as a fulcrum from the elbow. To pick a string we move the wrist in a down or up motion. At slower to medium tempi only downstrokes (usually with a rest stroke onto the next string) should be utilized, for medium and fast tempi we generally use alternate picking. Always pick from the wrist (not the elbow or within the hand via the thumb and fingers)

At very high speeds, many heavy metal players appear to lock the wrist and pick from the elbow, as the great Al DiMeola once said “picking from the elbow looks as bad as it sounds”.

I believe it is essential to ensure that you are very proficient at alternate picking before attempting sweep or economy picking and even then, one should proceed with caution. In order to truly articulate musical ideas one must be well trained in alternate picking.
Keep an eye out for forthcoming articles on plectrum choice and the rest stroke.

Brendan Hains

4 Responses

  • Kostas Vertsonis 22 Aug 15 @ 9:19 AM Reply

    This is something that i spend a lot of time trying to perfect. Though I find it can get very uncomfortable, the benefits are surely worth it.

  • GTM 24 Aug 15 @ 4:35 AM Reply

    It is definitely worth the effort Kostas. Your technique is coming along very well.

  • Cristian 06 Sep 15 @ 12:02 PM Reply

    There’s an EXCELLENT you tube series by a guitarist name Troy Grady called “Cracking The Code”. He breaks down right hand techniques of all the big guns like Yngwie, Eric Johnson, Van Halen, Randy Rhodes, Steve Vai etc.. and its presented in a very engaging and entertaining way. It’s really worth checking out.

    • GTM 07 Sep 15 @ 4:27 AM Reply

      Thanks Cristian, I will be sure to check that out!

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