Philip Sayce Column Vol.2 “Right Hand Rhythm & Picking Technique”

Last time, I had the opportunity to share some of my approaches to finger vibrato. I hope you enjoyed it, and that it was helpful in your journey as a guitarist and a musician.

Today, I’m going to share some of my personal thoughts and techniques with regards to picking and right hand rhythm. I pick with my right hand, with a pick and my fingers. Sometimes all at once, other times just one or the other. It really depends on the moment and what I’m looking for in the song. I’ve always been fascinated with legato phrasing, and have not always looked to pick every single note of a phrase, whether fast or slow. I personally prefer a combination of picking, pulloffs, hammerons, slurring, and bending as if to emulate a horn or wind instrument, and “popping” the strings by getting under them – a technique often used by guitarists such as Albert Collins & Stevie Ray Vaughan. I admire certain players who pick every note of a run with exact precision, however the combination of different and unplanned, improvised passages is how I usually approach my guitar playing.

<Rhythm Picking>
To me, rhythm is the backbone of all playing. Your picking feel is of course directly connected to your own personal inner rhythm, and the music that comes out of you, through your instruments. 
Example 1 is how might I use ringing open chords, and pick or pluck each string with every finger on my right hand, while using my thumb for the low notes. Although this is a free time passage,  it’s an example of the direct influence from many of my favorite musicians – guitarists, drummers, piano players, and anyone with a great sense of melody and rhythm.


Example 2 is something inspired directly from Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix, as well as a sort-of flamenco style percussive technique. A simultaneous rhythm and lead style of playing. Try playing the bass notes with less power and hit the hi part of the chord harder (and the other way around) for different impact and flavor. I also love to just mute the chord and simply strum the strings. Add wah wah or a Mutron and make it funky!

Mark Knopfler was my very first guitar hero.  I have only ever seen him play with his fingers in a unique and captivating way. I cannot stress enough the importance of playing with your fingers to capture your own personality and unique tone in your playing. Albert Collins is another favorite player who used his fingers only, and could cut you in half with his power!

<Pick & Fingers, Rhythm & Lead>
I first learned about this technique from Stevie Ray Vaughan. It adds such an expressiveness and signature to what would otherwise have just been played with a pick…It makes certain notes JUMP out at you. I was always deeply moved hearing players use this technique. Certain notes would sound different, and somehow more emotional in the middle of a run, and to me, add a sense of personality, depth and power. Here’s an example of how I use pick and fingers together. Listen for the hi E string, and the way certain notes jump out. There’s also a bit more of the rhythm and lead approach we discussed in Example 2, having fun with the rhythm and staying loose in it.

I hope you find this column inspiring and useful, and that it adds something new to your playing. Remember, there are no rules. Just play what you feel, and what comes from within. Most of all, enjoy your music!
Thank-you for reading and watching,

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