Clark JM Jazz Mandolin
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Sage Wisdom

"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."

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December 18, 2005 | Picks and Doorknobs

FAQ: How should I hold my pick?

Long Answer: Because everyone's hand shape, wrist flexibility, and finger length is unique, the correct answer to this question ought to be equally individual and situational. The trick is to look at the principles and work your way backward. Two things you want, though: pick control and lack of tension. Unfortunately, these two goals can be at odds with each other!

Step away from the mandolin and try this exercise: Reach for a doorknob and as you are lightly twisting your wrist to turn it, sense that gentle, relaxed feeling of natural wrist and hand motion. Memorize that sensation.

Now go to the mandolin and reach for your pick. Hold it between your thumb and 1st finger, just tight enough that it doesn't get out of your hands. Now pick some open strings keeping as little tension in your wrist as possible. Mimic the fluid wrist and hand motion of the doorknob movement. Grip the pick with just enough pressure to keep in your fingers, and only tighten if you need to play louder. Even then, don't lose the relaxed wrist and forearm, even playing fast. (If anything, you need to loosen up even more in the fast strokes.)

Note we aren't telling you how to hold it, this is your choice. Work from the two principles of 1.) good Right Hand finger control and 2.) no wrist or arm tension. Your fingers will fall right into place.

Let us know if these thoughts open some "doors" for you!

Email feedback.

Posted by Ted at December 18, 2005 6:00 PM

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