Submitted on Friday, February 5th, 2016 - 14:04
It's funny when people think of the guitar or the pedal steel, they generally admire the dexterity of the left hand and all that it does. Rarely when first beginning do we think about the importance of the right hand. As we continue our studies with either instrument we often find that the right hand is more important in giving us solid technique and tone. If you think about all the greats a lot of their character and expression came from the right hand. Buddy Charleton with his lightning quick ability to palm block real stacatto. Paul Franklin with his very clean and fast style of pick blocking. On the guitar side, you have Wes Montgomery who created a warm/soft tone only using his thumb, or Mark Knopler with his countrified rock and roll that mixed long legato lines with quick staccato blasts using just his bare fingers. The point is that in all these cases these guys had unique right hand technique all different from each other.
So how do you start developing right hand technique? In my own practice, I watched Jeff Newmans' Speed Picking videos and his unyielding commitment to palm blocking and only using two fingers to pick single note passages. This seemed a little kooky to me as I thought that three fingers seemed more efficient than two and pick blocking rather than palm blocking seemed more natural to me. But, I figured Jeff sure had a lot more experience than I did, so I should try my best to follow his path and see if his way was truly better. So that's what I did, I vowed to only use two fingers and palm block for three months. After three months I tested myself on the same passages using two finger palm blocking vs. three finger pick blocking. I found that not only was three finger pick blocking faster or just as fast, but it was more natural and comfortable for me. That's not to say I didn't learn a lot from taking Jeff Newman's road. From Mr. Newman, I learned that a lot of passages only require two fingers and that a third should be used sparingly. I also learned to quantify and practice my technique consistently thereby instilling it in my muscle memory. My point is that sometimes you have to travel the road that you are not inclined to travel in order to find the road which best suits you. Is my technique the end all be all of right hand techniques? No. But, it is for me.
The fruits of this journey can be found in the new series of pick blocking exercises I've posted in the Greenhorn and Journeyman sections. Exercise 1 and 2 are on three finger pick-blocking, 2 and 4 are focused on two-finger speed picking. They all have accompanying backing tracks that you can download to help you practice I will continue to add more this month! Pick on!!!