Scooping comes up in in this answer:

Move your hand in parallel with the strings (i.e. don't scoop)

What exactly does that mean? I've only seen it in reference to tone.

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    I have the suspicion it means... not moving the hand in parallel with the string, as if with a scoop (youtube.com/watch?v=zXIPaKibKKg) Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 12:08
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    You could leave a comment under the answer asking for explanation. What I think he means is that for this technique you shouldn't turn your wrist, i.e. make a circular movement with your pick, but instead move it in a straight line.
    – Matt L.
    Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 12:23
  • @SomeDudeOnTheInterwebs ha, i like the cutco video. i guess i don't see where, on a right handed guitar, the right hand would move parallel to a string while picking (while tapping, i could see). for picking consecutive notes on a string, i don't tend to move much, if at all. if i pick notes on two different strings, i generally move perpendicular to the strings, not parallel. i imagine that means i don't scoop but i'm still not sure what plane the circular motion from 'scooping' happens in. Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 13:30
  • @MattL. okay, actually curling the wrist makes sense i think. as in i shouldn't keep my forearm still, curling my wrist to reach strings, i should try to move in a straight line across the strings, perpendicular to the direction they're strung in, which will require my forearm to move a lot more? if you post an answer, i'll accept. Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 13:38
  • music.stackexchange.com/questions/20637/what-is-a-flat-wrist -- I think that this is a similar idea in the context of bass guitar.
    – Dave
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 15:26

3 Answers 3


As mentioned in my comment, it would be best to ask the user who answered that other question what he exactly meant. Here I can tell you what I think he meant, and also what my take on this issue is.

First of all I think that "scooping" is not at all a standard term when it comes to right-hand guitar technique. What I think is meant by it in the context of the question is the movement of the pick on a circle that is perpendicular to the plane of the strings (which is of course only an approximate plane, depending on the fretboard radius and the setting of the bridge). This movement is caused by a curling movement of the wrist (like playing badminton).

Instead, what (I think) should be done when playing fast downstrokes (this is what the original question is about) is a small up-down movement of the pick by moving it in the plane of the strings. This movement will usually also follow (a very small part of) a circle, but this time the circle lies in the plane of the strings. The movement won't normally be an exact straight line because usually palm muting is required and your palm is fixed to the low strings. So I think that a large portion of the movement should come from your wrist and not so much from your forearm, it's just that the wrist moves differently: it moves up and down and doesn't turn.

  • yea, i commented on that answer, asking for an explanation. i just assumed this was a widespread term i hadn't heard of yet/i didn't know i'd get such varied answers. Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 19:52
  • standard term or not, kiprainey did clarify. your original suspicion appears to be on point. Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 11:04

Particularly when using only upstrokes with tones on the same string, at least I get a more pronounced scooping motion when the pick moves towards the string. You still strike perpendicular to the string. I believe what is described is whether or not this motion is parallel to the body of the guitar.

If you try striking a a chord using up- and downstrokes, and you limit yourself to only move your wrist, not your lower arm, I think you will see this scooping motion. (Don't anchor the palm on the bridge, since then it won't be as noticeable).

  • +1 i actually think i do have a slight problem with this and i suspect my anchoring may play a large role in it...not to the bridge, to the pick guard, but still. Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 11:02
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    @aeroNotAuto: For clarity: anchoring to bridge or pick guard is not wrong by any means, I just meant it should be avoided in this case to see the "scooping" effect more clearly. Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 11:06
  • if the avoidance of scooping means moving the hand parallel to the plane of the strings in order to move from string to string, doesn't anchoring keep the hand in one place, forcing me to scoop? edit: nevermind. i just tried it and anchoring just gives me a feel for distance from the guitar; my hand is still able to move enough between nearby strings. excuse my haste. Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 11:14

In the answer you linked, the reference to scooping could have meant to keep your pick close to the strings as you move up and down the neck as opposed to allowing your picking hand to "scoop" (drop) below the neck. Obviously the only person who can say for sure is the person who posted said linked answer.

This advice applies to playing fast picking runs where you don't want any wasted motion slowing you down. So you don't want your pick to stray too far away from the strings you will be picking.

It does not refer to the picking motion itself (which would be perpendicular to the strings) but to your hand position as you move to different places on your fretboard.

To use an analogy - if you are playing a fast run on the 2nd and 3rd strings - pretend like those are the rails of a railroad track and your picking hand is the train. Don't let the train get off the track as it moves back and forth to play higher or lower notes on the fretboard.

  • by scoop below the neck you mean move toward the bridge? is this related to your comment about straying too far away from the strings to be picked? i am unsure why the pick would be farther from the strings when picking near the bridge, and closer to the strings when picking near the neck. i certainly could see lots of wasted motion if the picking hand were moving between the neck and bridge repeatedly, though. Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 18:25
  • @aeroNotAuto Not closer to bridge closer to the ground. If you are playing a fast run on the 2nd and 3rd strings - pretend like those are the rails of a railroad track and your picking hand is the train. Don't let the train get off the track. Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 18:29
  • sorry if i'm being dense, but i don't get what direction you mean by the ground. if i'm standing, playing an electric, toward the ground takes me away from the strings i'm playing/prevents me from playing the strings i want. we are talking about the same thing, right? for a right handed guitar, left hand moving about the fretboard, right hand nearly stationary, picking notes on the g and b strings (unless you mean while tapping). is scooping common in that people will downpick and follow through with their hand, moving it in the picked direction, and then have to return to the string? Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 18:54
  • @aeroNotAuto Yes - I think you are getting it. Most beginning guitarist or those who don't play really fast picking patterns tend to scoop their picking hand down past the strings and then come back up. That is a good way to play rhythm guitar because you can get your wrist swinging in time with the rhythm like a pendulum. But it will slow you down if you are doing fast picking. Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 20:19
  • ohhhh it totally makes more sense now that you put it in the context of rhythm guitar Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 20:41

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