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I've realized, that I have a big problem with right hand accuracy, when using a pick, especially, when I play arpeggios and have to skip a string or a couple of stings. Sometimes, I hit the wrong string, hit two strings instead of one or even miss a string at all.

On the other hand, when I use finger picking, the accuracy does not seem so bad, because each finger rests on separate string.

Looking at picking hand solves the problem in some way, but then I start to miss with my left hand - fretboard also requires some attention.

I saw many players rest their pinky finger on a guitars body, but since I was not introduced to this habit at the very beginning, I find this very uncomfortable.

Is there a way to improve a situation? Some best practices or exercises, ti improve right hand accuracy?

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I have the exact same issue. Although for me it's the pick itself which causes clumsiness... if I play with my thumb and index finger as if I have a pick, I am way more accurate. I find the thick plastic makes me lose all sensitivity –  Mr. Boy 2 days ago
@Mr.Boy A good pick can change a lot; if you feel that the plastic is making you more "distant" from the strings, try using something small, like Jazz III or M3; they require very precise hand movements and keep your fingers very close to the strings. –  Bartek Banachewicz 2 days ago
To restate what others have said earlier, you have to get used to using the pick. I learned to play guitar with my fingers, so the transition was a bit hard but after a while I eventually got used to it. It may seem hard now, but push through and you'll get there :D –  HLatfullin 2 days ago

5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I would say a couple of things may help you out here:

  1. Start by picking slow and intentional and then get increasingly faster.
  2. Do string skipping drills. Lots of string skipping drills.
  3. Make sure to practice consistency on your picking. Try to always pick down/up/down/up for subsequent notes on scales and solos. Concentrate on it, and ignore what your left hand is doing. You could start by playing simple scales for this, and then eventually incorporate string skipping drills.

I have the same problem and I'm working through it in my practice sessions. I have found that these three things are improving my right hand accuracy slowly but surely.

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+1 " ignore what your left hand is doing" –  DRL Jan 30 '11 at 21:52

Its hard to offer advice without seeing the picking in question but, if your having trouble with picking strings during phrases where you have to skip a string or to; try outside picking those parts, that is pick the lower string with a down-stroke and the higher string with and up-stroke.

$6.5  $6.8h   $4.5   $4.7h  $6.5  $6.8h   $4.5   $4.7h

The above is an example: pick the E string on a down-stroke, and pick the D string on an up-stroke, rinse and repeat as needed. Most of the answers to this question you asked can be picked in this way What is a string skipping exercise?

As for other situations AbstractDissonance is right practice will do the job, be careful though, practising something in a wrong way is worse that not practising at all, that's how bad habits can form, and the longer you practice something a specific way, the more ingrained it becomes and the more difficult it is to break out of further down the line.

With that in mind, for any picking the most important thing I tend to watch for is economy of movement. The less distance your fingers/hand have to travel, the more accurate you will be; this applies to vertical movement as well as up/down-strokes (vertical movement is the distance from/to your guitar that your hand/pick moves during picking).

Palm muting will help you greatly when learning picking patterns; having an anchor on the guitar may help, though is is more a personal thing, some people do, some don't. I often have some part of my hand anchored on the guitar (palm/finger/side of hand).

Also check out the type of pick your using, and how your holding it; thicker picks tend to be better for any kind of fast/alternate/sweep picking. The thicker material has less give when you pick a string, this allows you to pick the string more sturdily with less movement. Try hold the pick near the tip (with about 5mm protruding) and on and angle; pushing it into the side of your index finger with your thumb, this will give you a more sturdy grip which in turn allows you to have more control over the pick.

So practice your lines slowly; looking at your picking hand, alternate your picking and use outside picking(or any other type) where needed. If you have trouble fretting the notes while picking; then just don't, practice your picking patterns using a relevant chord(s) instead, or on open strings. If you start slowly and patiently enough; you should have it in no time, build speed slowly, until your up to tempo.

Each song/tune you learn in this way will make the next one easier.

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it depends. There are people that have "done it wrong" yet have done it really well and for them it is right. We judge based on what people have done. For all we know the great's "could be doing it wrong"(maybe there is a better way). –  Anonymous Jan 30 '11 at 21:15
In any case my main thing is that 99% of the people who pick up an instrument to learn will fail to learn much. Of that probably 99% of those will fail to be very good. Hence we need people to be innovated just in case they turn out to be the good ones so we can push the envelope. We don't need a bunch of copy cats. Luckily it seems most of the true great's are special and have done a great deal to develop our understanding of music. –  Anonymous Jan 30 '11 at 21:18
" There are people that have "done it wrong" yet have done it really well and for them it is right." - Absolutely couldn't agree more, I don't think it hurts to give people good guidelines though, especially if they are struggling. Eventually, everyone who plays for long enough will develop their own style anyway; having good technique to begin with can only enhance this. –  DRL Jan 30 '11 at 21:56
Edited to fix the link –  DRL Jun 1 '11 at 12:53

The single best way to do it is to use finger exercises - as have alrady been posted in answers - with the rhythm set by a metronome. Start off with a slow and easy speed which lets you have perfect accuracy, then speed up.

Very simple - but it is hard work. Although I am the lead guitarist in my band, my rhythm guitarist always had better picking accuracy at speed: his trick - half an hour a day of metronome practice.

I've been doing that now for the last couple of months and it is really working for me!

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The secret to superfast, blazing alternate picking is knowing the fundamentals and ergonomics of your right hand. First, the picking motion should come from rotating the wrist just like opening a doorknob. Some call it sarod picking. Watch pebberbrown on youtube youll get the idea. Second, holding the pick with the SIDE of your index finger and PAD of the thumb. If you hold this way, you dont need to hold the pick too tightly and the pick will still be in place regardless of how fast you play. Third, the angle of the pick. The pick should not be pointing towards the ceiling or the floor as it will put one motion in advantage and another at a disadvantage. ( ceiling: makes downstrokes easier but upstrokes harder to play and vice versa). Fourth and the most important of all.. Practice superslow practice.. As in one note per second. This will help you analyze your picking problems more clearly as you play very very slowly. Hope this helps.. Im picking 16notes at 250bpm now. What a great feeling it is.:)

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Just practice! If playing guitar was so easy everyone would do it. You tend to fix problems with practice or develop bad habits which people end up trying to copy once you have practiced enough to become great.

There is no way to learn guitar but through practice. Now, learning how to practice efficiently is something that can be taught.

If you have a problem area such as this you must makes sure to practice it every day(you should be practicing a minimum of 1 hour a day anyways). Learning songs that exhibit your problem is a good way to both learn songs and fix those problems. Noodling is another way.

If you haven't spend at least 10 hours(not continuous but say over a week or two) specifically practicing this then that is the reason you have that problem.

The best advice I can give you is for you to learn to develop yourself(I know it sounds harsh but it is the best way). Once you get to a certain level there are no books, teachers, pills, or anything that an help you overcome your issues. If you develop a good understanding of how to solve your own problems it will pay off down the line rather than you plateauing and no body can help.

As then old saying goes, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach". i.e., your "teachers" are people that really can't help you.

The best thing about teachers is they can keep you focus and inspire you. There are some very good teachers but usually 95% suck. They simply regurgitate what they were taught. I can give you specific advice about how to solve your problem as others here will but it will do you very little good because there are to many variables involved to say if it will work for you.

What I do know, and you should know too, is practice will overcome all problems. Quick fixes won't. This is why there are so many good players with such a wide variety of ways to do it. They learned it through practice because their mind/body chose that way because it was best for them.

Just as a teacher can help in some cases with specific problems they can also hurt because they think that is the way it is suppose to be done when it actually won't work for you.

You might not like this advice but you know I'm right! ;) (j/k)

BTW, you might not know what I mean by practice. Basically practice is intentionally working(as if it were a job) to accomplish goals(Both long and short). Just a like a job, it's up to you to figure it out(That's why you get paid). A lot of practice is simply spending countless hours playing the same thing over and over because you have issues with it. If you have string skipping problems then spend hours playing stuff that involves it. When you hit something you just can't do. Spend an hour on it forcing yourself to do it(slow, fast, how ever works for you which you'll have to figure out). Do it the next day maybe vary it up a little. Day after that take a break and work on something else. You'll see over time that after a few days of this you'll generally have no issues with it.

Teachers are great for beginners though as all the stuff to learn can be overwhelming for some. For others teachers just get in the way. Ultimately though if you need someone to tell you how to do something you'll never get very good(who teachers the masters? They teach themselves!).

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"Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach" - I suppose this is true in with regards to some people; but you also hear this kind of nonsense from people who don't know enough to teach (non-field specific). Its the same kind of phrase as "Learning music theory makes you unable to produce music with feeling" when actually the opposite is true. –  DRL Jan 30 '11 at 16:22
Music theory allows you to understand what you are composing; without understanding how music woks, you will, as a musician remain in a very confined box. That is to say, your compositional capacity is very restricted, making it difficult to express yourself fully as a musician/'composer'/artist. Any 'composition' would be formed from basically stumbling around in the dark, trying to decide what note sounds better with another, even just for a single instrument, composing for an ensemble of any kind would be much more difficult. –  DRL Jan 30 '11 at 17:30
Of course anyone can knock together a progression and play some blues stuff over it; with feeling, and without any knowledge of how it works. Which is good and takes practice; but if they want to take that further and be real artists they need to have access to all the tools. –  DRL Jan 30 '11 at 17:32
Yes, but you know what you are doing if you have developed your innate musical abilities. 90% of music theory is simply about naming things. That's very good to have when you need to quickly communicate your music thoughts or understand someone elses. But the fact of the matter is that many of the best musicians don't know squat about theory which proves that it isn't needed. –  Anonymous Jan 30 '11 at 19:27
My intention wasn't to anger you; and yes as I mentioned, you can create music without any knowledge. Whether you or I are able to form music in our heads is immaterial, knowledge gives us the tools needed to express and expand it. Knowledge of these things does not hinder or 'hurt' the creative process in anyway. –  DRL Jan 30 '11 at 20:32

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