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Alternate picking: Should I use my elbow ?

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Joined: 7 years ago
Posts: 1
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Hello everyone,

I've been trying to learn alternate picking but I am self taught. So I tried to educate myself online on the right approach to this technique, but so far I have been getting mixed signals. I heard some people say that you should only use your hand (wrist) to pick, because using your forearm (elbow) would only create injuries;
and some other guys said that it was fine. What do you guys think about that issue ? I don't want to get carpal tunnel syndrome or something worse while practicing.

Thanks in advance for your help :)

Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 4472

Hi there

You're going to get many different opinions here, usually related to one's individual experience or preference.

For what it's worth, I find that ultimately one doesn't use either the elbow or the wrist, but rather the muscles at the base of the thumb (I believe they're called the "pollicis" - one is the adductor pollicis and the other is the opponens pollicis). Ideally you want to keep your movement as minimal as possible.

You can practice getting comfortable simply by placing your picking hand on a flat surface (holding a pick) and try to make a picking motion while keeping your wrist and forearm still.

Hope this helps. Please keep us informed of how things are progressing.


Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5342

I would suggest doing the movement from the wrist, keeping the forearm still. If you make the movement from the elbow you're really going to struggle to keep the hand movement small; don't forget that to play a single string the distance the plectrum moves is about the thickness of a pencil.

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