Have you wondered just how fast a speed you can pluck in fingerstyle guitar? Well today we're going to explore a plucking technique from the flamenco style that could enable us to reach blazingly high speeds on fingerstyle guitar! The technique is called 'picado', which literally means 'chopped'. Imagine chopping up meat at incredibly fast speeds... we'll be chopping strings with our fingers!
Welcome to 'Ethnomusicology For The World', my online lesson series where I strive to help the world better understand and appreciate its diverse musical cultures. Let's delve right into our musical concept for today: Picado.
Before You Begin:
Download my free resources to guide you along!
Musical Concept: Picado
What I love about flamenco guitar techniques is that they are incredibly simple, but painfully difficult to perfect. The concept of picado is as simple as it could be: play a succession of notes alternating your index and middle fingers.
That's it! Simply use two fingers in alternation to play any melody. Once you've gotten the concept (how hard could it be?), then we'll need to find the best way to physically execute it.
Here are some tips I've found useful to getting picado right:
- Keep your fingers as close together as possible
- Minimise the movement of your fingers (less movement, more speed)
- Keep your hand and arm as relaxed as possible (easier said than done)
- Rest your thumb on the lowest string where possible, move it onto the soundboard when playing on lower strings
Musical Example: 'The Wall Fell Flat' (Neil Chan)
Today's example of picado will be my own little short composition called 'The Wall Fell Flat'. It's a small musical section fusing modal jazz harmonies and flamenco techniques, including picado.
Observe my right hand as I play those fast melodic lines. Again, the concept is simple: alternate your index and middle fingers. The rest is hours, days, years, and a lifetime of continuous and enjoyable practice :)
Musical Exercise: Picado on C Major Scale
Today's exercise will be straightforward. We're going to play the C major scale in open position, repeating each note four times.
Play every single note using the picado technique, using a metronome and follow the tips mentioned before to get the picado right.
Try playing this same exercise on different scales and positions. To help you out, I've created a scale position guide with all the scale positions you could ever want to work on your picado!
Simply download them from this link: www.neilchanmusic.com/resources
Now that you've got the concept, technique, and exercise, the last thing you need is the mental resilience and patience to get to your goal. Don't be in too much of a rush, or you'll frustrate yourself. At the same time, don't give yourself too many excuses to be lazy, or you'll never achieve your goal. Be realistic, enjoy the process, and enjoy becoming a better musician.
Do leave a comment with any questions you might have and I'll do my best to answer them. Follow along my musical journey on my YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and website neilchanmusic.com as I share new music videos and lessons on those very music videos, each and every week, to help you along your own musical journey.
Until next time, I'll see you again!
By Neil Chan