Clark JM Jazz Mandolin
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"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 11, 2008 | Under my thumb

We recently received an interesting observation from one of our JazzMando regulars, Tom Weisman in regards to thumb position on the pick. Tom writes, "For whatever reason, over the years of using the flatpick on the guitar and now mando, I micro-managed the pick by flexing/extending the distal interphalangeal joint of my thumb. My insight is that the joints of the thumb should be passive, and the up/down picking of individual notes should arise from the wrist (the major pivot point). By looking at videos, it seems like the thumb joints are usually left in extension, but even if held in some degree of flexion they remain stable and the motion (and hence control) is at the wrist. This increases accuracy/consistency/control. After 4 years mando/35 years guitar playing I have developed a habit that has significantly limited my sound. I am working on this change whenever I practice, but recognize when I approach a difficult passage, my tendency is to revert to my old habit."

There are many variables to pick grip, and not many are a "one-size-fits-all" proposition, but we feel quite strongly that a loosely extended thumb is not the best way to control the pick. Tom makes a good point. A slightly bent lock gives much better control as well as power. Think about a tennis arm swing; if you extended both upper and lower arm in the swing rather than locking the elbow cocked at contact, you'd lose exponential control over the ball during the swing.

The same could be said pushing a '72 El Camino out of a snowbank. Imagine leaning over the back bumper with your back and legs extended straight. You could never get the grip, traction, or power to really push if you weren't in some kind of locked, semi-crouch position. Your thumb plays the integral part of power in your pickstroke; a healthy downstroke depends on a healthy, vital grip on the pick.

More thoughts on pick grip.

Posted by Ted at December 11, 2008 3:47 PM

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