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Oscillation Picking

Has anyone heard of this? According to Tuck Andreas in his
picking article it is the best type of motion and can be sped up
to 20 notes per second without excess tension, while your hand
will start tensing at 10 and 12-13 nps using translation and
rotation, respectively.

Tuck uses George Benson as his model for pick hand technique
but since I play with distortion it probably wouldn't be the best
plan to base my technique around his. However, I have also
noticed that Shawn Lane and John McLaughlin also seem to be
using an oscillating motion and I have been trying to imitate
Lane's pick hand.

Basically I'm just wondering what peoples' thoughts are on this. I
can sort of see the potential with this type of technique but I'm
somewhat skeptical of Tuck's article as many fast pickers (John
Petrucci, Paul Gilbert, and Tony MacAlpine, for example)
definitely don't seem to be using any oscillation.

Adrian

PS. The fastest picker ever R.I.P:

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Re: Oscillation Picking

3/16/2007 10:10 AM

Christian Miller (1937) wrote:

As a total geek I find this a very interesting topic. I've not heard any guitarist aside from Andress take this view on pick technique.

I use something like what Andress calls the Benson pick stance habitually and have done so since starting the guitar as I never learned to hold the pick 'properly' (actually my 'technique' is closer to Carlos Santana in that the plectrum is secured with my middle finger and thumb, rather than my index which also rests on the pick.)

This is a happy accident, as people seem to think I have 'chops' but I've never have to relearn anything from first principals technically. There is a lot of stuff I need to learn, but my technique seems sound enough for what I need.

The article is confusingly written but also revelatory (for me) it took me quite a while to work out my grip on the pick was the one that Andress is describing. I find him to be an excellent teacher on his fingerstyle instructional video (serious stuff - get it) but he has the visual element. He should really have included some photos. His comments on wrist motion, however, are very valuable.

I find the pick stance, if not oscillation picking per se, to be extremely versatile. *The point of it is that you can use all three axes of wrist motion to play.* So you can go from jazz mode to shred and not alter the way you hold the pick, just the angle of the wrist and forearm.

When playing electric I use primarily economy picking so my technique is similar to a heavy rock guitarist - predominantly sidways lateral wrist motion - the type the Andress appears to frwon upon.

Over the last few years, under the influence of the Andress article I have started to introduce more rotational picking which allows me to vary the accents and dynamics on the notes.

I find this perfectly possible with the grease on - although I tend to use levels of overdrive about equivelant to a blues rock player when I do my odd fusiony/jazz rock masturbatory thingies - my hand is free to mute, but I may need to rotate my wrist into a more conventional position, flat against the strings.

I like this as even when picking quick subdivisions at tempo, it allows me to phrase through the run, rather than having to have everything at the same volume. I think there's a lot of possiblity to play fast and musical this way! With moderate gain you can really use the dynamics and different colours - which gets lost as the gain dial creeps up to around 7 or 8.

On the other extreme, I can also leave the wrist floating and use rotational picking to extract more volume out of an archtop or acoustic instrument. I've experimented with this, and after a few minutes of acclimatisation, can get almost as much volume as a Manouche player using a traditional gypsy 'Pompe' technique. I'm quite surprised by this as that school of guitar playing is so specialised!

Speed comes quite easily as well.

Strumming can be *very loud* if you 'oscilate'!

For both these applications I use relatively little wrist oscillation a bit perhaps mixed in with what Andress calls rotational and lateral movement. This is OK for my needs at the moment (realtively short bursts of quaver triplets at 200 bpm which is about 20 notes a sceond isn't it?), but the possiblity is there to oscilate if I want which may stabilise very fast playing.

So my 'wrong' self taught pick stance actually liberates my wrist to create different types of articulation, which is nice. It's lucky I never had a jazz guitar teacher - they would have beaten it out of me.

I find it particularly good, becasue if for example I want my picking to be louder, I can just pick harder with little sacrifice speed wise.

This stops me worrying about gear and focuses my attention on my playing of the instrument!

However for cultivating speed (which is not itself a virtue) I think the actual mechanics are less important then the psycology. All runs and licks you are likely to play are *even* subdivisions of the beat - not flurries. If you think of the time drummers spend learning to even out drum rolls, paradiddles and so forth, it should become obvious why some of the quickest players out there - Nuno Bettencourt springs to mind - started as drummers.

*I need to work on this as it's my big weakness.* When I work on my time, my 'chops' improve and my playing sounds about 200% more professional. When I'm not feeling the beat and really focussing on it, my playing sounds scrappy.

What makes fast guitar playing sound impressive is not the speed, per se, but the evenness.

Practice your time, and stay relaxed.


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Re: Oscillation Picking

3/17/2007 1:40 AM

Geoffrey Barnes (314) wrote:


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Re: Oscillation Picking

3/19/2007 8:59 AM

Christian Miller (1937) wrote:

Got my maths wrong: 20 nps is 16th triplets at 200 bpm! 10 nps is triplets, and on reflection, I can do semis at this tempo - circa 13 nps.

Shawn was great though, actually - great lines and melodic stuff! Would have struggled to get out of the shred box though, which would be a shame. You'll end up like a performing monkey, not a musician, if your not careful...

A sad loss anyway.


His mega fast picking I think is facilitated by his rather soft focus amp sound. I love hearing John McLaughlin on these Miles records miked up absolutely dry on a crunch setting. Can sound scrappy and nasty - but was certainly getting his chops together - check Live Evil. Not Shaun Lane speed, but not bad for 1970 - briliant music as well.

Anyway - I can play fast enough for my needs. You can listen to some relatively quick picking in my solo by my non Shawn Lane standards on Now's the Time at www.myspace.com/christianmillermusic at about 1:30. That's about the top end, and at circa 180 bpm, it's semi triplets (I think). So that would be about 18 nps ;-)

*I relaly need to get out more ;-)*

Nothing flash left hand wise, but quite pleased how clean it sounds. That's oscilation picking (I think)

Check out a friend of mine Ben Macdonald while you're on there - tipped by Gambale as the next big think in sweeps... He's a witch.

Santana uses oscillation picking and tremolo picks rather quickly I think - he never bothered to apply the technique to pick runs, but that would be more a matter of synchronising the hands, the brute RH speed is there.

Shred on dudes! ;-) x

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