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Question of the Month: How to Pick Your Picking Style

Question of the Month: How to Pick Your Picking Style
Photo by Katherine Salvador

Guest picker Mei Semones joins reader Jin J X and PGstaff in delving into the backgrounds behind their picking styles.

Question: What picking style have you devoted yourself to the most, and why does it work for you?

Guest Picker - Mei Semones

Mei’s latest album, Kabutomushi.

A: The picking style I’ve practiced the most is alternate picking, but the picking style I usually end up using is economy picking. Alternate feels like a dependable way to achieve evenness when practicing scales and arpeggios, but when really playing, it doesn’t make sense to articulate every note in that way, and obviously it’s not always the fastest.

Obsession: My current music-related obsession is my guitar, my PRS McCarty 594 Hollowbody II. I think it will always be an obsession for me. It’s so comfortable and light, has a lovely, warm, dynamic tone, and helps me play faster and cleaner. This guitar feels like my best friend and soulmate.

Reader of the Month - Jin J X

Photo by Ryan Fannin

A: For decades, the Eric Johnson-style “hybrid picking” with a Jazz III for “pianistic” voicings. Great for electric, though not so much acoustic. I’ve been recently learning to use a flatpick, à la Brian Sutton, by driving the pick “into” the string at an angle—which makes me think of Pat Metheny and George Benson, without irony.

Obsession: I’m still focused on understanding the concepts of jazz, neo-classical, and beyond, though I’m also becoming obsessed with George Van Eps’ 7-string playing, flatpicking, hip-hop beats, the Hybrid Guitars Universal 6 guitar, and the secret life of the banjo.

Editorial Director - Ted Drozdowski

A: Decades ago, under the sway of Mississippi blues artists R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, and Jessie Mae Hemphill, I switched from plectrum to fingerstyle, developing my own non-traditional approach. It’s technically wrong, but watching R.L., in particular, freestyle, I learned there is no such thing as wrong if it works.

Obsession: Busting out of my songwriting patterns. With my band Coyote Motel, and earlier groups, I’ve always encouraged my talented bandmates to play what they want in context, but brought in complete, mapped-out songs. Now, I’m bringing in sketches and we’re jamming and hammering out the arrangements and melodies together. It takes more time, but feels rewarding and fun, and is opening new territory for me.

Managing Editor - Kate Koenig

A: I have always been drawn to fingerpicking on acoustic guitar, starting with classical music and prog-rock pieces (“Mood for a Day” by Steve Howe), and moving on to ’70s baroque-folk styles, basic Travis picking, and songs like “Back to the Old House” by the Smiths. I love the intricacy of those styles, and the challenge of learning to play different rhythms across different fingers at the same time. This is definitely influenced by my classical training on piano, which came before guitar.

Obsession: Writing and producing my fifth and sixth albums. My fifth album, Creature Comforts, was recorded over the past couple months, and features a bunch of songs I wrote in 2022 that I had previously sworn to never record or release. Turns out, upon revisiting, they’re not half bad! While that one’s being wrapped, I’m trying to get music written for my sixth, for which I already have four songs done. And yes, this is a flex. 💪😎


On her new record with her trio, Molly Miller executes a live-feeling work of structural harmony that mirrors her busy life.

Photo by Anna Azarov

The accomplished guitarist and teacher’s new record, like her lifestyle, is taut and exciting—no more, and certainly no less, than is needed.

Molly Miller, a self-described “high-energy person,” is fully charged by the crack of dawn. When Ischeduled our interview, she opted for the very first slot available—8:30 a.m.—just before her 10 a.m. tennis match!

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On this season finale episode, the actor and musician leads a Prine-inspired songwriting session about how few tools we have in our collective toolbox.

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Featuring enhanced amp models, a built-in creative looper, AI-powered tone exploration, and smart jam features.

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Donner andThird Man Hardware’s $99, three-in-one analog distortion, phaser, and delay honors Jack White’s budget gear roots.

Compact. Light. Fun. Dirt cheap. Many cool sounds that make this pedal a viable option for traveling pros.

Phaser level control not much use below 1 o’clock. Repeats are bright for an analog delay. Greater range of low-gain sounds would be nice.

$99

Donner X Third Man Triple Threat
thirdmanrecords.com

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A huge part of the early White Stripes mystique, sound, ethos, and identity was tied to guitars and amps that, at the time, you could luck into for cheap at a garage sale. These days, it’s harder to score a Crestwood Astral II, or Silvertone Twin Twelve with a part-time job in the ice cream shop. Back in the late ’90s, though, they were a source of raw, nasty sounds for less than a new, more generic guitar or amp.

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