Difficulty keeping the pick stable playing up-tempo bossa rhythm

bohemewarblerbohemewarbler St. Louis, MO✭✭✭✭ Jordan Wencek No.26, Altamira M01D-12 fret
in Gypsy Picking Posts: 243

I have been playing gypsy jazz rhythm for quite some time, yet I can't seem to keep the pick stable when playing up-tempo bossa rhythm. I can get get a somewhat decent 140 bpm on For Sephora, but Bossa Dorado, even at 140 bpm (which doesn't do the tune justice), just crashes or sounds clumsy at best. The time spent working on it seems futile. Given that the right hand and left hand technique is fairly straight forward, I'm wondering what makes this rhythm so difficult using a pick. I wonder if my light-guage strings are part of the problem, but for 99% of what I play, that's my go-to gauge. Any suggestions?


  • pdgpdg ✭✭
    Posts: 462

    Just a few observations from my own experiences:

    What does the pick do? Rotate?

    How pointy is the pick? A rounded point and/or thicker pick will glide over the chords more smoothly, putting less force on the pick. If the pick is more pointy and/or thin (unless it's so thin that it bends each time), then you probably have to hold it more loosely.

    Does the pick feel too smooth? A little sweat, saliva, etc. could make it "grip" a bit better. The Wegen picks can be a bit slippery.

    Also, very subtle changes in how you hold the pick could make a difference -- not too tight, not too loose; which part of your thumb (and how much of it) holds the pick, same with the index finger. Depends on your own hand/thumb/finger shapes.

    There are lots of variables in the wrist motion, angle of pick striking the strings, etc.

    Bossa rhythm gypsy-jazz-style has a lot of continuous down-up; maybe your wrist is tightening up.

  • bohemewarblerbohemewarbler St. Louis, MO✭✭✭✭ Jordan Wencek No.26, Altamira M01D-12 fret
    Posts: 243

    I use a "Manouche Picks" made by Jokko Santing (button style 25. mm wide, 2.2-2.4 thickness), which I love. I don't have this issue with the pick except when playing the bossa, and come to think of it, with the tremolo. I must admit, however, that I played guitar for years without using a pick. It was only when I came to playing gypsy jazz style that I had to use a pick. So historically, playing with a pick was an challenge to be reckoned with and accustomed to when learning and mastering le pompe. As noted, I've also never been able to get a good tremolo to last more than a few seconds before it crashes. That also requires a straight up and down motion with the right hand.

  • BonesBones Moderator
    edited August 2022 Posts: 3,319

    I wish I could tell you why but that used to happen to me in the beginning but it just stopped after a while. Not sure why but just keep at it. Maybe only practice at a tempo that is slow enough that it doesn't happen then try to speed it up just a little but I wouldn't practice at tempos where it happens or you are just practicing the stuff that isn't working. Also maybe try a Dunlop Primetone 2.5mm and use the side corner not the pointy one. Primetones have a grippy surface and contoured edges. Also maybe stay relaxed and let the pick glide over the strings just on the corner of the pick don't dig in too much??? Good luck and let us know how it goes.

    PS- Edit, thinking about it a bit maybe make sure the pick is not at too much of an angle to the strings??? This might decrease the tendency for the pick to spin in your fingers.

  • stuologystuology New
    Posts: 196

    I have four suggestions, hopefully one of them will be of some help.

    1 - I doubt it is the strings causing the problem but it's an easy enough theory to test - put on some 11s and see if that makes any difference

    2 - try playing along to actual records rather than a metronome e.g. the Rosenberg Trio's Bossa Dorado and For Sephora. There's a lot of subtleties and feel in the rhythm playing that get missed out in lessons. Also, you'll soon notice that there are a lot of different ways of playing the so-called Gypsy Bossa and that can help you build a groove more suited to your way of playing.

    3 - if all else fails, it's always worth considering going right back to the beginning and learning it all over again.

    4 - and if none of that works, put it aside for a few months. Sometimes these things can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. You can't afford to be thinking too much at faster tempos, it has to be second nature - so best of carrying on practising at the slower speeds, and focus on other things for a bit, then come back to it later

    I hope this helps, good luck!

  • Posts: 4,736

    I was going to ask how is your tremolo when I read the opening post then I read your subsequent post. That would tell me to look closely at two things:

    wrist needs to be rubber loose. Loose enough to drop from its own weight and it's only moving up because of the lower arm muscles (I'm really guessing that's the motor behind it)

    And look at how far the pick protrudes behind the strings. And aim for it to be just brushing the surface of strings.

    When playing pompe and single notes, we can get away with more of a tip going behind the strings, but with tremolo and bossa, because of the upstroke it needs to be only as close to strings as needed to make sound.

    Rounded tip helps but you already have a perfect pick for that.

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • bohemewarblerbohemewarbler St. Louis, MO✭✭✭✭ Jordan Wencek No.26, Altamira M01D-12 fret
    edited August 2022 Posts: 243

    Greatly appreciate all the advice here. Long live Djangobooks!

    Getting serious about all this, I suddenly remembered a technique I used in the past that I almost forgot about because I just don't play bossa rhythm regularly.

    That technique is to use my middle finger as a sort of brace to my forefinger. That seems to help keep the pick stay more stable while keeping my wrist loose. Generally, I play rhythm with a pretty darn loose grip--as loose as I can get away with.

    The next step, following comments here, was to find my baseline tempo in which I can play bossa rhythm completely comfortably without forcing it on to a faster tempo.

    Moving on, was to determine what that baseline tempo was without getting into the metronome messiness (all that tick-tock gets on my nerves). To determine that baseline tempo I recorded myself playing "Bossa Dorado" (the particular tune I'm preparing for) on my cellphone's voice recorder.

    Next, using my laptop, I went to This website allows me to playback my recording and tap out the tempo from my recording on any key on my laptop. The website "listens" and then calculates the average bmp! (BTW, I'm steady with my bpm.)

    To fix my issue that will get me up to speed comfortably on this tune, from a comfortable 130 baseline to at least 150 bpm, I think I will be using these steps and method illustrated above.

    If anyone has further tips to offer on this topic, please feel free to offer them!

    When I get really good, maybe I can get it up to about 174bpm as in this playback recording.

  • TDogTDog Victoria, BCNew Shelley Park Montmartre; Cigano GJ 5
    Posts: 35

    I have similar issues holding on to the pick on bossas / fast tempos. I have tried a number of picks, but always go back to a Wegen GP 250, using the pointy end.

    I am still working on this but one thing that helps for me is choking up on the pick, so that less of the pick extends beyond the fingers. As others have mentioned focusing on brushing the strings also seems to help. I have experimented with using the round side of the pick, but I don't like rotating the pick to play a solo.

    I'll try your suggestion of using the middle finger as a brace.

  • lukejazzlukejazz Natchitoches, Louisiana✭✭✭ Dunn Belleville, Dupont MD50
    edited September 2022 Posts: 39

    I recently was having a problem with “pick drift” while soloing and playing rhythm. I believe I wasn’t grippimg the pick hard enough. It’s tricky holding the pick tightly enough and keeping a loose wrist. My tone has improved because the orientation of the pick is now more consistent and I have better control of the dynamics. Hope that helps.

Sign In or Register to comment.
Home  |  Forum  |  Blog  |  Contact  |  206-528-9873
The Premier Gypsy Jazz Marketplace
Banner Adverts
Sell Your Guitar
© 2024, all rights reserved worldwide.
Software: Kryptronic eCommerce, Copyright 1999-2024 Kryptronic, Inc. Exec Time: 0.046299 Seconds Memory Usage: 3.653366 Megabytes