Alternative to a Plectrum

Post your question here and an experienced guitar player or teacher will get back to you.
ThomasG
newbie
Posts: 1
Joined: October 12th, 2009, 12:50 pm

Alternative to a Plectrum

Post by ThomasG » October 12th, 2009, 1:07 pm

I've recently started playing guitar again, self taught. (I'm a vocalist by trade)

I've been strumming using the back of my index finger. I tried using a plectrum tonight and really can't get comfortable with it, particularly on "up strums". It feels like it's catching the strings as opposed to "caressing" them.

Are there any alternatives to using a plectrum? Is it "ok" not to use one?

Cheers.

Elecktrablue
Guitarnoise Addict
Posts: 4373
Joined: September 6th, 2004, 9:44 am
Location: North Central Texas

Re: Alternative to a Plectrum

Post by Elecktrablue » October 12th, 2009, 1:33 pm

Welcome to Guitar Noise!! We look forward to seeing you around the forums!! :D

And, yes, it is perfectly acceptable not to use a pick. Fingerpicking is my preferred style. I feel as if I have better control over where my fingers go than I do with a pick. Plus, I prefer that little softer sound.

:D

Here are some links to get you started and be sure to check out GN's articles, threads, etc. on Fingerstyle guitar. (Just type "Fingerpick" into the Search box and you'll get a bunch of links!) Like this one http://www.guitarnoise.com/lessons/basi ... r-picking/ and this one http://www.guitarnoise.com/tag/fingerstyle/


http://www.activemusician.com/Basic-Fin ... ng--t13i32

http://www.guitarforbeginners.com/forum ... e-lessons/

Have fun!! :D
..· ´¨¨)) -:¦:-
¸.·´ .·´¨¨))
((¸¸.·´ .·´
-:¦:- ((¸¸.·´ -:¦:- Elecktrablue -:¦:-

"Don't wanna ride no shootin' star. Just wanna play on the rhythm guitar." Emmylou Harris, "Rhythm Guitar" from "The Ballad of Sally Rose"

Fretsource
Senior Member
Posts: 984
Joined: May 26th, 2006, 6:40 am
Location: Lanarkshire Scotland
Contact:

Re: Alternative to a Plectrum

Post by Fretsource » October 12th, 2009, 2:19 pm

Yes, you can strum without a plectrum in the way you described, or some other way such as holding your finger and thumb together as if you were holding a plectrum, but using the back of your finger (nail) for downstrokes and your thumb or thumb nail for upstrokes.
I often do that as, like Elektra, I play a lot of fingerstyle, and usually have no pick within easy reach if I suddenly change to strumming. When I started learning, I also got pretty good at using the side of my thumb for a barely audible strum that I could practise with at 2am without waking the whole house. :D

However, don't give up on the plectrum. I find great advantages in using a plectrum. It's very common for it to feel uncomfortable at first, but persevere and that will go away.

lue42
Full Member
Posts: 356
Joined: September 30th, 2008, 6:26 am
Location: London, Ontario, Canada

Re: Alternative to a Plectrum

Post by lue42 » October 12th, 2009, 4:55 pm

Watch out though... if you start strumming without a pick, if you are anything like me you are going to want to get all your fingers involved and get hooked on fingerpicking/fingerstyle!
My Fingerstyle Guitar Blog:
http://fsguitar.wordpress.com

My Guitars
Ibanez Artwood AWS1000ECE-NT
Schecter S-1 30th Anniversary Edition
Ovation CS257
LaPatrie Etude
Washburn Rover RO10

Shake Your Bottom
newbie
Posts: 14
Joined: September 14th, 2009, 9:15 pm
Location: US
Contact:

Re: Alternative to a Plectrum

Post by Shake Your Bottom » October 12th, 2009, 6:05 pm

Don't give up on the pick yet. Yea, it maybe uncomfortable, but so are a lot of chords. You don't want to get into the habit of giving up on things that seem too difficult and uncomfortable.

I learned to play with a pick and finger style at the same time so it is not like you have to choose one technique or the other. You will be a far more versatile musician if you learn multiple techniques.

Ande
Senior Member
Posts: 661
Joined: November 21st, 2007, 3:12 pm

Re: Alternative to a Plectrum

Post by Ande » October 13th, 2009, 12:39 pm

I used to use my thumbnail a LOT for strumming- got into the (bad) habit, though, of really moving just the thumb, not the hand/forearm- made it hard to really ring it out.

I'd back up what others say- learn to use the pick, then decide when/if you want to use it. But there are serious advantages to being able to use a pick, even if you often don't.

It took me quite a while to hold it firm enough to stop it moving around on me. But it was/is worth it, even though I don't use it all the time now.

Best,
Ande

Elecktrablue
Guitarnoise Addict
Posts: 4373
Joined: September 6th, 2004, 9:44 am
Location: North Central Texas

Re: Alternative to a Plectrum

Post by Elecktrablue » October 13th, 2009, 12:58 pm

They're absolutely correct about learning to use a pick correctly. I play 4 different stringed instruments and have picks for 3 of them, including the guitar even though I prefer fingerstyle, I, of course, don't use a pick for the bass, but I have to use picks for the mandolin and dulcimer (well, that's not quite true, you can fingerpick a dulcimer, but I like the sound better with a pick). So, by no means take my suggestion of pursuing fingerpicking as meaning that you'll never have to pick up a pick. Diversity is a good thing.

:D
..· ´¨¨)) -:¦:-
¸.·´ .·´¨¨))
((¸¸.·´ .·´
-:¦:- ((¸¸.·´ -:¦:- Elecktrablue -:¦:-

"Don't wanna ride no shootin' star. Just wanna play on the rhythm guitar." Emmylou Harris, "Rhythm Guitar" from "The Ballad of Sally Rose"

Vic Lewis VL
Albus Dumblechord
Posts: 10862
Joined: April 28th, 2004, 2:54 pm
Location: Newton-le-Willows, England
Contact:

Re: Alternative to a Plectrum

Post by Vic Lewis VL » October 14th, 2009, 4:09 am

I'd say about 99% of the time I spend playing guitar is without using a plectrum - about the only time I do use one is when I want to strum very close to the bridge. There are obvious advantages to not using them, chief among them being I can never remember where I put the damn things anyway! Seriously, I've always found it difficult to go from strumming chords to fingerpicking (in the same song) with a plec in my hand - if I'm fingerpicking, I tend to use the one finger per treble string, thumb for the E A and D strings method.

There are times when you NEED a plec, though, for a certain sound, so it's worthwhile practising with one every now and then.

:D :D :D

Vic
"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)

notes_norton
Guitarnoise Denizen
Posts: 1497
Joined: May 20th, 2008, 5:04 am
Location: Fort Pierce, Florida, USA
Contact:

Re: Alternative to a Plectrum

Post by notes_norton » October 14th, 2009, 6:14 am

If you can, rent the Jeff Beck DVD "Live At Ronnie Scotts". Jeff plays electric without a pick, and the camera operator must be a guitar player because he/she zooms in on Jeff's hands whenever Jeff is doing something extraordinary.

Watching and listening to that video made me come to the conclusion that finger-style is better. There is a greater variety of sound you can get by using fingernail, fleshy part of the finger, pulling the strings, etc, than can be attained with a plectrum.

Watching that video is a learning experience.

Whether you like Jeff's playing or not, you should rent it.

I am a lifetime professional musician, and I have met and played with some of the greats and we regarded each other on equal terms. It takes a lot to drop my jaw, and this video indeed was jaw dropping.

I'm starting to practice with my fingers, and after using the pick for a long time, it's difficult to start over again. You have the advantage of not having pick habits.

Notes
Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<

Ande
Senior Member
Posts: 661
Joined: November 21st, 2007, 3:12 pm

Re: Alternative to a Plectrum

Post by Ande » October 14th, 2009, 6:28 am

Watching and listening to that video made me come to the conclusion that finger-style is better.
I love that video. (Didn't rent it. Bought it. If you rent it, you can't watch it as many times.)

BUT...it's hard to generalize. I think a lot of us here are into a lot of different kinds of music. And different sounds call for different approaches.

I like a lot of old-style folk-style guitar music, think Woody Guthrie. I don't use a pick; some is fingerpicked, some is strummed using the whole hand, which seems to give me more sound and a nicer feel than a pick can. Also makes it easy to switch- when I tried to use a pick, I kept dropping the pick when I went to fingerpicking or sticking it in my mouth and choking on it when I tried to sing. I hardly ever use a pick on acoustic nowadays.

But I also like hard rock and metal. Don't see how you can play metal without a pick. The rapid runs, the pinch harmonics, the galloping on two note chords...for metal, I personally need the pick a lot.

I'm trying to learn to use my fingers more on electric, and it's worth it. But I wouldn't say what one way is better than another. What you want to play sort of determines how you have to play, and there are some sounds and styles that, for me at least, need a pick.


Best,
Ande

cnev
Guitarnoise Addict
Posts: 4906
Joined: June 2nd, 2003, 11:07 am
Location: New Britain, CT

Re: Alternative to a Plectrum

Post by cnev » October 14th, 2009, 6:41 am

Ande I agree you aren't going to be able to play hard,fast music without a pick just won't get the sounds you need
"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!

notes_norton
Guitarnoise Denizen
Posts: 1497
Joined: May 20th, 2008, 5:04 am
Location: Fort Pierce, Florida, USA
Contact:

Re: Alternative to a Plectrum

Post by notes_norton » October 14th, 2009, 6:47 am

Ande wrote:<...>I love that video. (Didn't rent it. Bought it. If you rent it, you can't watch it as many times.)<...>
After renting it, I went out and bought it myself.

I don't play metal, so I wasn't aware of that, but now that you mention it, I suppose a pick is necessary for that.

My main instrument is sax, and I've been playing that for many years. I got serious about the guitar a couple of years ago (it's my 7th instrument) and I mostly play for an adult market like yacht clubs, country clubs and the like (short hours and good pay). So I get to do a variety of music, but nothing too hard core.

Notes
Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<

TwistedLefty
Guitarnoise Addict
Posts: 4180
Joined: October 30th, 2004, 2:43 pm
Location: Excelsior Springs. Mo. USA

Re: Alternative to a Plectrum

Post by TwistedLefty » October 14th, 2009, 10:18 am

ever try a peso?
#4491....

Minotaur
Guitarnoise Denizen
Posts: 1092
Joined: July 15th, 2008, 5:43 pm
Location: USA, Monmouth County New Jersey, at the shore.

Re: Alternative to a Plectrum

Post by Minotaur » October 14th, 2009, 10:34 am

Ande wrote:I used to use my thumbnail a LOT for strumming- got into the (bad) habit, though, of really moving just the thumb, not the hand/forearm- made it hard to really ring it out.
That's also an open invitation for an overuse injury, and tendonitis at the base of the thumb.
It is difficult to answer when one does not understand the question.

Elecktrablue
Guitarnoise Addict
Posts: 4373
Joined: September 6th, 2004, 9:44 am
Location: North Central Texas

Re: Alternative to a Plectrum

Post by Elecktrablue » October 14th, 2009, 11:52 am

When I strum without a pick, I mostly just use my thumb and occasionally my forefinger if I need a softer up stroke. (Well, OK, now that you're making me think about it, I also occasionally use all of my fingers (except for thumb) for strumming, depending on the music I'm playing and what sound it requires.) You really just have to work out what's best for you and do that. And take care of your fingernails, it's amazing how many times I've gouged a chunk of nail right off (sometimes in the middle of the nail).
..· ´¨¨)) -:¦:-
¸.·´ .·´¨¨))
((¸¸.·´ .·´
-:¦:- ((¸¸.·´ -:¦:- Elecktrablue -:¦:-

"Don't wanna ride no shootin' star. Just wanna play on the rhythm guitar." Emmylou Harris, "Rhythm Guitar" from "The Ballad of Sally Rose"

Post Reply