Pick placement observation

Pick placement observation

Postby Jon S. » Fri Apr 20, 2012 9:52 am

File this one under "insanely simply tone tips." I'm at the local Meet-Up last night for the '89 Alpine Valley show film. Lots of Jerry picking close-ups - really close up and ""big screen. And I'm seeing how Jerry's almost always picking the strings between or around the neck coil of the bridge humbucker to the bridge coil of the middle humbucker.

I'm off work today so I plug in and pay close attention to where I'm picking my strings and damn if it isn't just a tad closer to the neck. So I adjust my palm placement to move my picking up closer towards the bridge and find that it does make a difference. Best I can explain it is the tone is a tad more acoustic/piezo-ish picking picking closer to the bridge.

This is going to be hard for me to adjust to after so many years of relying mostly on my Tele before copping my Tiger-style axe but what I'm hearing is that it's worth it. Anyway, thought I'd share this observation in case others want to look into it with your own picking (if nothing else, you can't beat the cost - $0 - to try it).
"For me, I think the only danger is being too much in love with guitar playing. The music is the most important thing, and the guitar is only the instrument." Jerry Garcia
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Re: Pick placement observation

Postby eric » Fri Apr 20, 2012 10:04 am

I totally agree..Luckily , that's where I naturally pick anyway . That's also the spot I like to try and get those quirky pinch harmonics from ala loser etc...if you look at the video I posted last week of a guy named Oolz (criopeowner on RuK) it looks like he's almost picking behind the bridge he's so far back ! his whole hand is behind the bridge at times , it's a great example .. Thanks for the tidbit Jon
Last edited by eric on Fri Apr 20, 2012 10:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Pick placement observation

Postby hippieguy1954 » Fri Apr 20, 2012 10:14 am

I've seen Jerry play up by the neck and down by the bridge, but predominantly right where you saw, Jon S. :smile: :smile: :smile:
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Re: Pick placement observation

Postby wolftigerrosebud » Fri Apr 20, 2012 1:19 pm

I figured this out when I switched to guitar from bass and started playing with a pick... it really does sound very Jerry-ish when picked in that general vicinity. Even closer to the bridge pup neck coil than the middle position bridge coil IMO really makes it sound like Jerry. I was at that thing last night too, and when I wasn't dancing, I was noticing the subtlety and variation with which Jerry used vibrato. He had really fantastic technique.

Nevertheless, half the reason I learned to pick like Jerry was so that I could move up and down the strings uninhibited with only a pinky for support instead of sitting around in one position. Tom Verlaine tone comes from playing up close to the neck with the bridge pup active btw.
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Re: Pick placement observation

Postby Jon S. » Sat Apr 21, 2012 7:06 am

Upon continuing to experiment with my pick placement in this regard, I'm increasingly pleased with the outcomes. The improvements in tone from better pick placement alone appear to me to be at least in the ballpark of some of the detailed preamp and amp component changes that tend to get so much more attention. This tip is not one you can pay someone else to do for you and then it's done - you have to do it yourself and keep doing it, at least until it becomes natural - but it's free and literally in our hands.
"For me, I think the only danger is being too much in love with guitar playing. The music is the most important thing, and the guitar is only the instrument." Jerry Garcia
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Re: Pick placement observation

Postby Jon S. » Fri Jun 01, 2012 4:52 pm

See beginning at 4:38:

"For me, I think the only danger is being too much in love with guitar playing. The music is the most important thing, and the guitar is only the instrument." Jerry Garcia
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Re: Pick placement observation

Postby JonnyBoy » Sun Jun 03, 2012 8:34 pm

I've been noticing this all over the place now, he is really close to the bridge, right over the bridge pickup when he played Aligator for Europe 72 vids. Like mentioned above it is my preferred area to pick too naturally. Finally something goes my way naturally! :lol:
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Re: Pick placement observation

Postby mijknahs » Mon Jun 04, 2012 2:26 pm

I've seen video examples of Jerry picking down by the neck pickup too. But yes, it's usually right in between the middle and bridge pickups.

I don't think I'd want to sound more "acoustic/piezo-ish" if I had a choice. Of course as with anything that alters tone, it depends on how the rest of the rig/guitar sounds. So picking the strings at "where Jerry picked" may or may not improve your tone. For some people's setups, it could be overly bright (just like adding JBLs may be too bright with your setup).
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Re: Pick placement observation

Postby Jon S. » Mon Jun 04, 2012 3:32 pm

mijknahs wrote:Of course as with anything that alters tone, it depends on how the rest of the rig/guitar sounds. So picking the strings at "where Jerry picked" may or may not improve your tone.

Pay the man, Shirley. :smile:

Seriously, what you just wrote applies to everything gear-related and cannot be overemphasized.

This being said, adjusting where I'm picking just slightly has done me a world of good and it's my favorite kind of "mod" because, literally, "it's in my hands."
Last edited by Jon S. on Sun Jun 10, 2012 5:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"For me, I think the only danger is being too much in love with guitar playing. The music is the most important thing, and the guitar is only the instrument." Jerry Garcia
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Re: Pick placement observation

Postby mijknahs » Mon Jun 04, 2012 4:15 pm

Jon S. wrote:
mijknahs wrote:Of course as with anything that alters tone, it depends on how the rest of the rig/guitar sounds. So picking the strings at "where Jerry picked" may or may not improve your tone.

Pat the man, Shirley. :smile:

Seriously, what you just wrote applies to everything gear-related and cannot be overemphasized.

This being said, adjusting where I'm picking just slightly has done me a world of good and it's my favorite kind of "mod" because, literally, "it's in my hands."


That's awesome Jon

I just put on new strings (after not changing them for about 3 weeks) and it sounded like I just got new speakers or a new amp. It always surprises me with the improvement in tone.
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Re: Pick placement observation

Postby TI4-1009 » Sun Jun 10, 2012 10:50 am

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Re: Pick placement observation

Postby Smolder » Sun Jun 10, 2012 1:37 pm

Jon S. wrote:This being said, adjusting where I'm picking just slightly has done me a world of good and it's my favorite kind of "mod" because, literally, "it's in my hands."


...and we can all afford that mod.
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Re: Pick placement observation

Postby mijknahs » Sun Jun 10, 2012 4:16 pm

TI4-1009 wrote:Image


Before he switched to the Adamas 2.0. That must have been a Fender Extra Heavy.
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Re: Pick placement observation

Postby mijknahs » Sun Jun 10, 2012 4:46 pm



Look at the first solo on this Sitting in Limbo from 1980 (starts at 3:42). He starts picking between the bridge and middle pickup and then moves towards the neck pickup picking somewhere around the neck coil of the middle pickup to in between the middle and neck pickups.

He definitely uses the position between the middle and bridges the majority of the time but the position between the neck and middle is also a "go to" spot.
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Re: Pick placement observation

Postby Jon S. » Sun Jun 10, 2012 5:31 pm

To me, the most important point is not even where Jerry himself played most or some of the time, it's that changing your picking position very much changes your tone. I see threads where people discuss for pages minor differences between similar speakers that mean less, in the scheme of things, than the picking position. That's why I thought it worth sharing now. :smile:
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