The Kessel Approach to Picking

December 21, 2009

Nicolai Foss

Anyone who has seen a Kessel video (e.g., this fun footage with Barney playing “I Love You” with an unknown rhythm guitarist, probably late in the 1980s) will know that he used a highly unorthodox approach to picking: Rather than resting 1 to 3 fingers on the pickguard while picking or, alternatively, keeping the hand entirely free of the strings (like the Manouche players), Kessel rested the hand on the strings, removing the hand from the strings as the picking approached the bass strings.

I use the same approach myself (I didn’t emulate Barney — there were no videos around in those days — but just picked it up somehow (sorry!)). I don’t know of anyone else who uses it. The only guitar teacher I had, Nicolai Gromin, commented that as long as this unorthodox appraoch worked for me, there was no reason to change to the orthodox, finger-resting approach.

However, I wonder what are the benefits and costs of what we may call the “Kessel Approach.” It seems to me that it makes it possible to pick really fast in a small “neighbourhood” of the fretboard; however, it it not so easy to pick clean and fast when the picking involves large intervallic jumps. (In fact, this seems to me to be the problem that Kessel confronts in fast tempos where he sometimes sounds sloppy). Any opinions?

One Response to “The Kessel Approach to Picking”

  1. Carsten B Says:

    Spiller du stadig?

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