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I'm having some trouble with advanced picking. When I am trying to move between strings etc. my picking hand tends to move laterally from over or just behind the soundhole, where it should be, to get closer and closer to the saddle, which then throws my accuracy off. Is this common, and are there exercises to help avoid? In general I rest my palm on saddle near pins, but it has a mind of its own sometimes.

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    Concentrating on keeping it where you want it isn’t helping? – Todd Wilcox Jan 1 at 4:12
  • You say your hand moves from over/just behind the soundhole, then state you rest your palm near the saddle pins. I'm confused! – Tim Jan 1 at 8:15
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Besides slowing down and practicing mindfully, perhaps consider your overall posture. The way you're sitting (or your strap height if you're standing) as well as holding the instrument may be making it more difficult for you.

It's obviously difficult to give any specific advice just via text, but making sure that the instrument is secure and stable without any undue tension or contortion on your part is important for many aspects of technique.

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One thing you might try is not anchoring the palm. If you anchor the forearm on the edge of the guitar, a few inches from the elbow, and keep the hand floating more like the arm of a turntable, I think that will give you more control and stability.

By adjusting where on the arm you're planting, you can pick closer to the saddle for a brighter tone or closer to the neck for a sweeter tone. It should also be easier to use the palm for palm-muting.

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First off, what defines "advanced picking" relative to other picking?

If you are a beginner or intermediate player and you have not spent time developing basic right and left hand skills you are probably hitting a wall with new material.

There is a large body of basic exercises in most method books that are designed to help guitarists get past these types of issues. At the root it sounds like your body is not completely connected to the guitar yet, or that you may have felt that way but started pushing the envelope.

When it comes to developing accuracy I would avoid things like anchoring palm, pinky finger to the top, or other approach. In the end it may fix what's going on now but limit you later when you try something new.

Developing basic skills and accuracy requires isolating the movement or passage that seems to cause the problem and drilling it very slowly until you cannot do it wrong. You also need to eliminate all extemporaneous movement. The good news is that you recognize this movement of your arm so you are aware of it. Now practice that part slowly with a mental focus on keeping your hand where should be and you will come to feel that at normal.

  • Thanks. I started out with classical, trying to get technique from standard method books. They mostly say what you've written above. At the same time taking lessons from guy who palms saddle and doesn't seem to suffer much. Looked into this more because I wanted to start off right, and opinion seems evenly divided. T Emmanuel, C Atkins, others anchor the pinky and does not seem to limit them; at present my approach is agnostic. Trying to school myself on technique and develop my own. Grateful for your response; for now will simply slow down and try to be more conscious of where my plectrum is. – Brian Ó Ceallaigh Jan 7 at 16:38
  • "Doesn't seem to limit..." is a red herring of a comment. How do you know they do NOT play things because of their particular style? Most modern method books say it's okay and imo the picking hand gets very little attention other than "do what feels natural". The issue is that none of this is "natural". Anchoring can get results immediately while working through proper technique will take longer to get natural but take you farther in the long run. It's the tortoise vs the Hare. – ggcg Jan 7 at 17:01
  • I appreciate your advice, but this is getting a bit pedantic. It should be obvious from my first query that I am committed to developing picking hand technique. My point is that opinion on anchoring seems divided: there are very accomplished guitarists whose technique I will almost certainly never match who anchor and who openly advocate anchoring, and whose playing does not seem to suffer. On top of that I'm 60; don't really have the time now to be the tortoise. But I'm open minded; can you point me toward a method book you trust that goes through picking hand technique methodically? – Brian Ó Ceallaigh Jan 8 at 18:28
  • Sorry if you think I'm being pedantic but I vehemently disagree about "not suffering". When we sacrifice technique we tend to gravitate towards things that are easier to play given the self imposed handicap. There are a lot of great books that go into detail, Pepe Romero's book, Carcassi is a classic (but has limitations), But no book will tell you how to practice properly. One exception is Troy Stetina's Speed Mechanics for Lead Guitar. It is for electric but his lectures on practice habits apply to everything. – ggcg Jan 8 at 18:37
  • @BrianÓCeallaigh, you are the one who asked for advice here and I'm giving you my honest advise as a musician and music teacher. It has been my experience that any time someone leans toward a quick fix that almost always leads to (1) limitations, and (2) hand issues that require medical attention. As for "time", if you feel you are racing against the clock then do what you want. But experience has proven that following the correct path will lead to better results faster. – ggcg Jan 8 at 18:41

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