Eliminating Picking Hand Tension

Posted: October 11, 2012 in Guitar playing

Lead with the fretting hand.

What the hell does that mean ?

It’s something I discovered naturally once when trying to take my mind away from my picking hand by focusing all my attention and energy onto the fretting hand.

Rest your picking hand against the strings and now forget about it.

Look at your fretting hand. Imagine that your fingers are somehow connected to your picking hand so any time one of your fingers move, it automatically moves your picking hand. Maybe imagine that there’s an electronic impulse that connects each finger with your hand or even a series of pulleys that pull the picking hand along when the fingers move.

Whatever way you choose to visualise it with, the key is to get the idea that the fretting hand fingers initiate all movement. Most of us look at the picking hand as the hand that drives things along, right ? Well, now the fretting hand is the one that drives and the picking hand is getting pulled along for the ride. So imagine that the pick does not move at all unless the fingers move it. Weird, I know.. but stick with it. 🙂

I recommend to let the pick rest ‘on the string’ ready. Try it on one string only at first and use something like a repeating 3 note lick.

What it does for me (and many others who’ve tried it and reported it to me) is that by taking away the focus from the picking hand, you automatically reduce the tension and effort that you put into it. I’m not saying it will all disappear totally and you’ll magically be able to shred like M.A.B. but you should notice a dramatic reduction in tension.

I liken it to shining a spotlight on somebody. With the spotlight on them they become self conscious and very aware of everything. Maybe uncomfortable and nervous. But you take that spotlight away and they can relax. All we’re doing here is taking away the spotlight from the picking hand and allowing it to perform its function without any pressure.

Now, reduction of tension is one thing but the other thing I noticed whilst ‘ leading with the left hand ‘ is that by concentrating intently on my finger movement my pick was able to follow anywhere on any string without having to think about it at all. That’s the kind of hand co-ordination relationship you want to build.

This approach really makes you realise how accurate your fretting hand is and highlights areas where your finger positioning and shifting could be improved. The way I see it, the fingers running over the fretboard is mapping out a pathway for your picking hand to follow. I call it  ‘ Drawing the map. ‘ If you draw the map correctly there’s more chance of the pick following accurately.

Draw the map and lead with the left hand.

Give it a go and let me know what you think !


As well as write & record in The Reckoning, I teach guitar at http://www.guitarmasterclass.net



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