My picking accuracy is bad

I do something similar, except instead of consciously visualizing the string I want to pick, I try to be aware of how my hand feels against the strings, my hand position relative to my pinky (when using the pinky as an anchor), the angle I hold my hand when picking, etc. Once I internalize the sensations of moving my pick from one string to another, my accuracy improves greatly.

I first do this slowly while looking at my hand (to make sure my form is exactly how I want it), then try to repeat it without looking. I can actually start to detect my knuckles passing over the strings and the strings touching my curled-under fingers when I’m right-hand muting and feel the distance and angle between my pinky and my thumb/index finger when using an anchor-finger.

I deliberately practice this while looking at my hand until I can reliably pick the pattern I desire to a 60 bpm metronome, then start purposely closing my eyes for awhile, occasionally looking down at my hand to re-calibrate, then eventually do it at 60 bpm without looking, then start to increase the speed until I get it to where I want it.


For me, picking the right string is just one part of the task, combining it with muting is the second part I find quite difficult. Mostly, I get the right string but accidentally mute it with my palm, e.g. while playing scales. It gets better, but I find it difficult to find a good position for my palm to mute correctly. Does anyone have a suggestion how to practice this effectively?

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I use my ears and lots of repetition. I learned to play in the 70’s playing in a garage band and was told looking at your fingers was unprofessional and a very bad habit.
I also learned songs off tapes by listening. With the internet people now learn with their eyes by watching and not by listening. I’ve found over the years that people have learned buy listening pick up songs much faster than the ones you watch videos. Justin is also big on ear training and transcibing but unfortunately that the part most choose to skip.

Most of my right-hand string-muting difficulties were solved once I realized that maintaining the proper angle of my hand relative to the strings was most important. If I held my hand at the proper angle, the tops of my middle, ring and pinky fingers would mute the strings below the one I wanted to pick and the fleshy part of my hand opposite my thumb would mute the strings above the one I wanted to pick.

Originally, my hand angle would change as I changed strings, which would either mute the string I was picking or allow other strings to become un-muted. Once I practiced keeping my hand at the same angle as I moved up and down the strings from low E to high e, my muting improved immensely.

So, my suggestion is:

  1. Find the hand position that provides the best muting above and below the string you’re picking,
  2. Practice maintaining this hand position as you change strings
  3. Once you get the feel for this, just maintain an awareness of your muting while you play; don’t focus on it exclusively.

Me too. Combining one or more techniques ups the difficulty for me, for sure. As soon as I get the right string, I’ve gotten my fretting position wrong or I’m getting a dead string somewhere. Or vice versa. If melody playing is in a module, then no wonder it’s later in the course than where I am, because I can barely do one technique without getting it bungled up right now.

Ah, so you use a kinaesthetic approach rather than a visual mental image. It’s how it feels in your musical imagination, not how it looks.

Is that a good paraphrase of your approach?

Thanks so much for providing that level of detail…it really helps to have things explained so explicitly. Will def give that a try!

It’s almost always harder to learn two things at once. The literature on learning suggests breaking things down into the simplest possible pieces, and mastering them individually, before combining them.

Justin’s beginner exercises do a very good job of this…one of the reasons they are so effective, I think.

This is sometimes easier said than done, however.

Yes, exactly :+1:

Just another reason to relax and trust Justin’s process. Hard to do sometimes, though. And it may not sound like it, but I am enjoying this guitar journey, I just like to throw little fits now and again. :grin:


Hi Eddy, thank you for answering so detailed! I just grabbed my guitar to find out, what I am doing :joy:

  1. My hand angle stayes the same while working down to the high e string
  2. I position my hand at the bridge, play string 6 and then try to tilt my hand towards the higher strings one by one and mute the next string.
    That works good apart from tilting too much and catching accidently the next string too early.

Did I get you right? You use your fingertips of the right hand (strumming hand) to mute strings below the one you are picking? Isn’t that part of the fretting hand?

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I think pick accuracy takes a long long time. I pratice lots of lead stuff every day. Nearly 3 years and Im not pefect but it must be a lot better because I dont stress about it. I remember probably even 2 years in stressing that surely my accuracy should be better. Now I come to believe it just takes a very long time to get “good”


Hello Stacy.
As others have said, it’s practice. How about going over all the riffs you’ve learned so far, grades 1&2. The earlier ones were mainly 1 string riffs but you can play them on any string. They don’t fit the song doing that but it doesn’t matter, it’s just practice. You could play it on one string then skip a string and play it again.
Then there’s the scales you’ve learned. Don’t just play them up and down, play little 3 or 4 note melodies, again skipping strings if you like. Don’t worry if your melodies don’t sound good at first, they will the more you do it. When you hit on one you like, using different strings, keep repeating it then look away and keep playing it.
The more you practice these things, the better your pick accuracy will be. 🎸


Hey Andrea, I think Eddie means the back of his fingers brushing the strings with the fingers curled into a fist. I’ve found myself doing it like that.

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Not the fingertips, the outside of the middle, ring and pinky fingers. I hold the pick using my thumb and index finger, and my middle, ring, and pinky are curled under. When I pick, the outside of the middle, ring and pinky are resting gently on the strings below the one I am picking. As I move my hand down to pick the next string, I actually feel the knuckles of my fingers pass over the strings.

In addition to the right-hand muting I described, I also left-hand mute, using the tip of my index finger to mute the string above and the inside of my index finger to mute the strings below.

Left-hand muting is most helpful when strumming or playing fingerstyle. Right-hand muting is most helpful when playing scales. Once you have gotten the feel of both, you are often doing a combination of the two when you play.

Instead of tilting your hand, move your hand up or down vertically when you change strings. This should keep your hand in the proper orientation to mute the correct strings at the correct time. My hand never touches the bridge unless I’m palm muting some power chords.

Remember, everyone’s anatomy is different, so you will need to experiment with different positions until you find what works best for you.

I remember spending many days with my right hand on the guitar and not fretting any strings. I’d pluck the desired string with the pick, then without moving my right hand, I’d use my left hand to pluck the strings above & below to ensure that they were muted, then move to another string and do the same thing. Eventually, I developed the feel enough to play a scale pattern up & down slowly without hearing any stray sounds.

Once you find the “happy place” for your right hand, you can just play without focusing on the muting. If you start to hear things getting noisy again, make small hand position adjustments as you play to get the other strings under control.

Hope this helps.

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Yep, me too. It takes as long as it takes. I’m not good yet, and it doesn’t bother me. A more focussed approach to practice would probably get me there quicker, but would just add a level of frustration I don’t need.

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Stacy, I think, you set the bar maybe too high for yourself at this stage. I’m kind of a perfectionist too and sometimes it drives me a little crazy, if tones are ringing out which shouldn’t. Give yourself the time it needs to progress. It’s a long way and it surely will get better with time. You are only six month in, don’t compare yourself with being perfect. Analyze your weaknesses and work on it now and during the consolidation after Grade 2. I’ll take my time to consolidate, because there were taught so many important basic skills that have to sink in. As you are pretty ambitious, you definitely will progress soon.

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@BurnsRhythm Thanks, David! I just saw that Eddie is explaining it in his next post. Thanks for clarifying!

@Fast-Eddie thanks for another detailed explanation!

I’ll try this!

I watched myself yesterday, my hand isn’t laying on the bridge and doesn’t touch the bridge either. " At the bridge" wasn’t very clear. It’s positioned towards the bridge, maybe the outer edge of my hand touches the bridge slightly.
Thanks for all the information, very appreciated, and: YES IT HELPS! :+1:

I’m the same - picking the middle strings - e.g. D and G - are the hardest. Especially when interspersed with strumming.

I was trying @Fast-Eddie 's approach this morning, and it seemed to help me somewhat. Though I was surprised to find that even when looking, I quite often picked the wrong string - especially the thinner strings. So maybe I need to do more “eyes open” practice before trying to play those strings without looking.

Also, I came up with my own exercise that seemed to help. I just strummed some open chords, and alternated with single notes - the root and octave in the chord.

Here’s a rough tab…let me know if it makes sense to you. (I know my penmanship sucks - an old boss cracked me up one time by saying “Tom, you have the handwriting of a serial killer!” :slight_smile: )

It’'s early days, but this really did seem to help…I tried playing WYWH again after doing it, and my accuracy seemed noticeably improved.


Thank you! I’ll screenshot this add it to practice. This looks very doable and if you saw some improvement, that’s a great encouragement to put effort to using the exercise every practice.

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I just noticed there is a related topic, based on one of Justin’s Grade 3 lessons.

There are some tabs in the replies, which I found very helpful.

This is a more complicated exercise than the one I posted…focuses on playing the 3 thinnest strings in succession in every bar.

It seems there is merit in both exercises - my WYWH riff continues to improve.

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