If you want to do some serious guitar picking you need a fairly heavy pick. I recently read a post on a forum where a guy said he uses a dime for speed picking. This might be a trifle extreme but it illustrates how far you can go in the pursuit of individual style. Whatever you choose for a pick, hold it between your index finger and your thumb. That might seem obvious but we need to be on the same page. And let's get something straight right away - you need to pay attention to how you hold the pick. The sound you get is cleaner if you are holding the pick parallel to the strings. Angling the pick gives a softer attack.
You pick guitar strings with the pointy part of the pick, and the idea is to pick clean and fast. But it takes practice. There are a few different ways of looking at developing picking speed. One school of thought says you keep your wrist rigid, starting the movement from the elbow. You can also just use the index finger and thumb in a circular movement but your body is probably going to want to move from the wrist.
Any mode of picking you actually use will be a mixture of the above methods reflecting your own body's way of working. Here is a good place to mention pain. Don't play through it, you will injure yourself. If your wrist or hand or arm hurts - stop. If it hurts when you start again tomorrow, maybe you should see a doctor. It's best to look after your body and live to pick guitar another day.
For playing fast you need to develop your alternate picking technique. Start with a downstroke and do alternating down and up strokes. Don't try for speed at this stage, you are just getting your muscles used to the picking movement.
Many guitar players mute the strings that they are not actually playing so no unnecessary sound is picked up. Place the meaty heel of your hand on top of the strings, in front of the bridge. If you are playing metal guitar, you will be going for the chugging sound that some pressure on the strings will give you. If you want to hear the notes ringing while you are playing fast, lessen the pressure of your hand on the strings.
Another consideration for a guitar picker is the dynamics of the sound produced by picking near the neck or near the bridge. You are possibly already aware that you get that Duane Eddy twang by playing close to the bridge, and the sound mellows as you move your picking hand closer to the neck.
Of course you are going to be in need of further exercises for getting your up and down strokes flowing automatically. You can get these from a teacher or from an internet search. For practicing muting and experimenting with different sounds, you should already know some songs you want to fool around with.
Do you want to learn to play the guitar? Learn How To Play A Guitar For Free is a constantly updated blog which contains all the resources you need for: learning to play solo guitar, how to learn guitar chords, how to learn to read and play easy acoustic guitar tabs, finding a free online guitar tuner, looking for free guitar lessons online, and how to learn guitar scales.
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