Wrist vs. Forearm Picking – Which Is Better?

When playing the guitar, picking from the wrist vs. picking from the elbow or forearm is something that is very important to think about, especially as a beginner.

When I first started playing, I gravitated towards playing from the forearm when picking as opposed to the wrist. As a result, I found it difficult to play a lot of alternate picking exercises and it also made certain types of rhythm playing much harder then they needed to be. I continued this way for a number of years, and it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I tried to break myself of this habit. It was actually Al DiMeola who suggested in his REH instructional video to focus on playing from the wrist. And while I was watching how flawless his technique was, it really hit home with me. While I still at times get the forearm involved, I think I pretty much play from the wrist for the most part now, but only after practicing exercises very slowly and speeding them up, all while concentrating on picking from the wrist. It helped to look in the mirror and make sure that I was.

The habits you form early on will be tough to change as you play more and more. I won?t say that you should do one or the other because ultimately its up to you. And there are certainly plenty of players out there who pick from the forearm. But I would still like to recommend now that you try to focus on picking from the wrist whenever possible. The reasons for this are as follows:

1) You have much more control with using only the wrist.

2) Picking from the wrist minimizes overall movement which makes it easier to play complex passages.

3) Most rhythm playing (especially on acoustic) can be done more easily and sounds less mechanical by using the wrist.

4) Its easier to play muted passages using the wrist.

Again, it?s a matter of personal preference, and there are some players who pick primarily from the elbow (Michael Angelo and Vinnie Moore) and do it very well. But the vast majority of players pick primarily from the wrist.

Experiment with both and see which feels more comfortable for you. But keep in mind once you get used to one, its tough to break the habit.

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