A Guitar Picker Picks No Pick

Marco playing guitar at Solomon's Porch

Today’s guest post is from Marco Solo, guitarist and lifelong musician.

Guitarists are notorious amongst musicians for obsessing about ridiculously small details of their craft. That being said, I have recently changed my style of playing, leaving my old flat picks behind in favor of finger-style playing. To me, this is huge; although to the rest of the world it is a “say what?”

So radical a change is it for me that I still feel compelled to carry around one last flat pick, just in case. Just in case what? I don’t know… but there is is still in my left front pocket.

One of the reasons for this change is that I recently switched from acoustic guitar to electric; I no longer have to hit the guitar so hard to get volume. Although certainly nobody in the audience is aware of my difference in technique, many have commented on the change in the overall feel of the music. I find myself playing in a more relaxed and less frenetic way.

While I may have sacrificed some speed and dexterity, I feel that my increased control over tonal colors and overall control of the instrument are worth it.

Musicians, especially guitarists, are often guilty of “crowding all of their goods into the shop window.” By this I mean crowding all their best ideas and licks into every solo, and not leaving anything else to discover. This new approach to guitar playing has helped me to avoid this common pitfall. Without the pick, the temptation to crowd 10 notes into a space where one will do is lessened.

Singers are often guilty of this exact same phenomenon: trotting out all of their best licks in every song. While they cannot fix it by leaving a pick in their pocket, the basic concept of “leaving more for later” is exactly the same.

I once heard a singer who used one of my favorite vocal licks at the end of virtually every phrase. By the end of one song, the voice in my head was saying “would you please stop doing that?!”

In my musical career, I’ve heard many guitarists who, with pick in hand, proceed to blast out as many notes as fast as they possibly can, saying “it’s jazz.” No it’s not. It’s just a bunch of fast mish-mosh.

I have sometimes been guilty of mish-moshing. Here’s to hoping that my change in approach to the instrument will diminish this tendency (pun intended).

Marco Solo has been a professional musician most of his life, getting his first paying gig at age 14. He plays guitar, bass, flute and pan flute, and can often be found performing in Panajachel, Guatemala.

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1 thought on “A Guitar Picker Picks No Pick

  1. This summer I had the pleasure of watching Derek Trucks up close, finger picking as he does with every song. It opened my eyes to what is possible without that little piece of plastic in your hand.

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