A great way to coach physical movements – whether in sports, dance or instrumental music – is by giving the trainee a simple, but memorable, verbal cue.
This cuts down on excessive verbiage that might be required to explain the movement. It gets right to the heart of the matter.
Take, for instance, the concept of anchoring your right hand when picking single-note riffs and melodies. The vast majority of accomplished guitarists employ some sort of anchor to stabilize their picking hand.
It takes too long to say, “Place the edge of your right hand palm, near the base of the hand, on the bridge of the guitar to give yourself an anchor position.” Instead, I use a super-simple and instantly memorable cue that is almost impossible to get wrong: “Karate chop the bridge.”
Everyone knows what a karate chop looks like, so “karate chopping the bridge” is easy to visualize and gets you into a nice anchor position.
[Tweet “A simple and memorable cue for anchoring your picking hand: karate chop the bridge.”]
But this leads us to an important question: Why anchor at all?
Anchoring stabilizes your picking hand. It also helps in your judgement of string distance, thereby aiding your accuracy.
It helps you to connect to the instrument. This is pretty important since we tend to watch our fretting hand but only feel our way through the strumming and picking movements.
My recommendation is always to anchor lightly on the bridge. This allows your hand to move easily on the bridge as you pick through the strings.
We don’t want a strong anchor where you’re stuck in place – that will only encourage tension and force you to reach for the strings instead of moving your hand to them.
A light anchor on the bridge is also easily morphed into palm muting simply by shifting a few millimeters onto the edge of the string.
Finally, I like to cup my hand over the strings and let the fingertips graze the face of the guitar; it not only promotes a relaxed picking hand, but it enhances the connection to the instrument (check the pic above).
[Tweet “A light anchor will stabilize the picking hand and improve accuracy.”]
Don’t Anchor Me
Some guitarists like to plant their pinky finger on the face of the guitar. This is another type of strong anchor which I don’t recommend because it encourages you to reach for the strings.
It’s certainly not terrible, but it’s not as flexible as the bridge anchor. It also keeps your hand elevated over the strings rather than cupped over the strings, which is an overall superior connection, IMHO.
And although there are some guitarists who float their picking hand and certainly make it work for themselves – including a couple of my friends and guitar mentors – this has never worked well for me. I find that it’s much too easy to lose my place, which causes my accuracy to suffer. If it happens to me, I’m pretty sure it’ll happen to less experienced players.
And typically the “floating hand” guitarists play with a closed hand, which goes against my personal open-hand philosophy.
The Bottom Line: When picking single notes, karate chop the bridge!
QUESTION: What is your feeling about anchoring the hand? Leave me a comment below!