Picking Hand Positioning For Fast Playing Styles

This lesson focuses on how your picking hand should be positioned when trying to build speed.

I know everyone approaches picking a little differently, so what I tried to show in this video is the basics of how most guitarist's with fast playing styles have their picking hand positioned.

The biggest key of all is to keep the picking hand wrist and forearm as relaxed as possible. Tension only slows you down, however when many guitarist's start trying to build up speed the first thing they do is tighten up.

Hopefully the positioning tips I show in this video will help you keep the tension down and the speed up. πŸ™‚

So start with this video and don't be afraid to experiment a little bit to find what works for your hands.

Thanks a lot!! Have Fun!!

If these free lessons help you, please donate to keep new ones coming daily. Thanks!! πŸ™‚

Donate to GuitarLessons365
Other Amount:

Picking Hand Positioning For Fast Styles


  1. Dave on March 28, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    I just wanted to say thank you for this site! It’s really helpful and I look forward to more lessons (I’m also glad you don’t plaster on distortion like a lot of instructional videos. It really allows the student to hear what’s going on :D)

    • Carl Brown on March 28, 2010 at 10:18 pm

      Thanks a lot Dave for checking out my site. Just let me know if you have any questions at all and I will respond as quickly as possible. πŸ™‚

  2. Barney Wenograd on July 4, 2010 at 7:15 am

    Hi Carl,

    Based on your detailed analysis of Eric johnson’s picking style, could you demonstrate his picking motion and “bouncing”. It was not clear from his video.

    He also mentioned the use of “Circle picking”. Does he actullay use it in his general playing? Can you demonstrate it?



    • Carl Brown on July 11, 2010 at 4:52 pm

      Hey Barney, I agree that his description of those two techniques are kinda vague in his instructional videos.

      I think part of the reason is that both of those techiques are actually more difficult to feel when playing slow. But yes, I do think he uses lots of circular picking in very virtually every fast picking run he does. I will see if I can work something up that will help show the two techniques better.

      Cheers!! Carl..

  3. Aviral on August 23, 2010 at 12:01 am

    Hi!!!This is an awesom site and the instructional videos are really helpful :D. However, could you please explain in some video how to mute and get around in fast legato runs or piking coz when i do them(try to them rather),i produce a lot of unwanted noise from string,particularly when handling different string..
    It would really be aprpeciated…
    Great work,keep it up!!

  4. Caleb on November 30, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    My hand is really big and I started playing the guitar with just my pinky anchored down. I am the most comfortable with my pinky muscle muting the strings, but my pinky muscle seems to be muting all of the strings so I don’t know exactly where to put it and if my anchored pinky is pulling the pinky muscle down on the strings.

    • Carl Brown on December 1, 2010 at 4:47 pm

      Hey Caleb, I use the same technique. My pinky muscle takes care of most of my muting. However, I am able to create kind of a tunnel with the underpart of my pinky muscle that allows any string that I don’t want muted to ring freely just by slightly lifting my pinky knuckle.

      If you watch that part of my picking hand during solos and stuff you can see what is going on. It also creates a lot of stability in my right hand which allows for more speed without tension. Hope this help!!


  5. Caleb on December 1, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    Thanks! You really know your stuff πŸ™‚

  6. Max on January 1, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Hi Carl, i find that you are doing a terrific job, and of course i like your lessons, i would like to see some advice to keep in shape the hands, because it happens sometimes that my hands get tired very quickly, and again gut gemacht!!!


    Max Moses

    • Carl Brown on January 1, 2011 at 11:02 pm

      Hey Max, thanks for the feedback on my lessons. πŸ™‚

      For finger strengthening I usually do some legato exercises using all 24 fingering combinations available with the left hand. You can find those exercises in the either the advanced or intermediate lessons archive, I can’t quite remember. πŸ˜› The name of the lesson is fret hand/pick hand synchronization. Take those picking exercises and do them all as pure legato on every fret and every string. They are broken up in groups so maybe do one group a day. After a while you will probably notice a difference in your finger strength and stamina. πŸ™‚

      Cheers!! Carl..

  7. Troels Andersen on February 29, 2012 at 12:46 am

    Hi Carl,
    thanks for this great site. I’ve only just started playing the electric guitar and your lessons have really been a real help. Thanks a lot.

  8. ayush bahuguna on March 30, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    hey sir, can you give me some ideas, so that i can play sweep picking in a clean manner…

  9. suraj h.s on November 2, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    thank you sir your lessons make a lot of sense…by the way which amp do u use???…and im really looking forward to subscribing for your premium lessons πŸ™‚

    • Carl Brown on November 6, 2012 at 2:34 pm

      Hey Suraj, all of my lessons are filmed with me playing directly into my audio interface through a Line 6 POD HD500.. πŸ™‚

  10. hugo hugo on January 20, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    Hi Carl, I really love you website I have learned a lot and continue doing it πŸ™‚
    I want to make a donation but I have little money right now πŸ™

    Well my question was: what kind of pick do you use? English is not my main language and I dont understand you in that part of the video

    • Carl Brown on January 20, 2013 at 9:49 pm

      Hey Hugo, I currently use the Ultex Jazz III by Jim Dunlop.

      I have been using it for about 3 years now. πŸ™‚

  11. hugo hugo on January 22, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Hey Carl thanks for the answer.

    I’m a metal guitarrist and the fastest I play on a riff is 220bpm, I cant play faster those 1/16 notes.
    I use 1mm picks, maybe switching to jazz III will make me play faster? and if I do it my solos will be harder to play?

    • Carl Brown on January 22, 2013 at 3:18 pm

      I think a lot of guys enjoy the sharper point of the jazz style picks since you get a quicker snap across the string which helps increase speed.

      However, it may feel a bit awkward in the beginning. Once you get used to it you will probably never go back. I know I couldn’t. If I tried to play with a normal pick now I think it would feel like a boat paddle or something. πŸ™‚

  12. bill norum on January 4, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    Hi carl thanks a lot for this amazing lesson; but I have problem with alternate picking from 6th string to 1th string I don’t know how to play very fast,you said in this lesson our palm should be stable but in full performance lessons for study you move your palm I think, and how about my forearm when its stable I skip the notes in the middle of playing ,I really get confused please help me ,thank you carl you are the best teacher in the world.;D

    • Carl Brown on January 4, 2014 at 5:22 pm

      Hey Bill, thanks for watching!

      With such a large skip there will obviously be movement of the hand but you can still find a pretty decent pivot point where your hand can be planted and reach both of those strings.

      But, inevitably, you are never going to be able to make such a large string skip as fast as the easier ones. It is just a huge leap and way to much distance to cover to really be able to go back and forth between those two strings quickly.

      If you really want to do fast string skips that are that large, I would suggest using hybrid picking instead. πŸ™‚


  13. Alex Roberts on September 16, 2014 at 1:27 am

    Dude thank you SO much for making this website πŸ™‚ this is an amazing resource for students and teachers alike. Thank you again so much!!!!

  14. Michael Ruth on December 18, 2016 at 6:04 am

    Hi Carl,
    Can’t thank you enough for putting all these lessons together. I’m a bit confused though. You say “plant” or “anchor” your hand (and forearm), but when your right hand picks up and down (vertically from strings 1 to 6 and back at 3:31 in the video), your hand & forearm seem to move over the bridge. So, should I plant my forearm and allow the movement over the strings to come from my wrist or should my hand & forearm move over the bridge as well? Thanks!

    • Carl Brown on December 18, 2016 at 9:46 am

      I would say slightly move from the elbow to move your picking hand wrist over the bridge. That way you can keep the wrist angle the same for all strings. Try to keep the wrist straight and making very small movements in order to do the picking. Then move from one string to the other by moving your wrist across the bridge by using the elbow but it is a very small movement. That way, every string will feel the same wrist angle wise.


      • Michael Ruth on December 18, 2016 at 1:03 pm

        Thanks for the recommendation Carl. I’ll try that. So one more plaguing question:
        When I’m picking the top strings (1-3), I seem to be okay but when I get down to the lower strings (4-6), my hand tends to lose contact with the bridge (and consequently loses its muting ability i.e. the thumb muscle in my palm is not in contact with the strings anymore). Should my hand always find its way back to the anchor point (mentioned at 4:04 in the video) and somehow still mute the lower strings? Thanks again!

        • Carl Brown on December 20, 2016 at 9:29 am

          Hey Michael. You should also be using the large muscle group underneath your picky. In fact, that is where most of the muting comes from.

          That muscle group makes up almost the whole outside edge of your palm. It will stay in contact with the bridge when playing the lower strings. The weight of the muting should be on the pinky side of the palm.

          • Mats Peterson on January 12, 2021 at 5:14 am

            Very good, Carl. I have adopted the same hand posture, with the pinky side of the palm across the bridge or strings. This will create a solid foundation, and it will also make it very easy to palm mute just by lowering the pinky side of the palm a tiny bit. Now on a Strat, the fingers not holding the pick will touch the pickguard, but I suppose you just let them lay there, you don’t use them actively as a height reference.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.