Harp graphic
 Traditional Music >> The Scottish Mandolin >> Tutorials >> Pick Direction 1

The Scottish Mandolin



Ex.2 & 3

Ex.4 & 5


Pinch of Snuff





Back to:
Tutorials Index

Mandolin Index

Traditional Music

Pick Direction 1




WHEN YOU STRIKE the mandolin strings, that's called a stroke. When you strike downwards it's called a downstroke, and with an upwards movement it's called an upstroke. Pick direction means the "up" and "down" motion of the pick when playing tunes. If you were to play a scale fairly slowly, the likelihood would that all the strokes would be "down". When tunes speed up, however, it is better to use an alternate up-and-down method; it makes your playing more fluid. There is a general rule about pick direction: use downstrokes on the beat and upstrokes between the beat (often portrayed as D-u-d-u D-u-d-u). This is what Niles Hokkanen calls a "default setting" for the right hand which "...ingrains linear rhythmic location within the meter."

Another way of explaining the rule: a 4/4 time signature means four beats to the bar. If these notes are quarter notes (as in the scales examples), they would sound like ONE - TWO - THREE - FOUR, ONE - TWO - THREE - FOUR, and so on. All these notes would be played with a downstroke. If the bar consisted of eighth notes, there would be eight notes in a bar, and it would sound like ONE-and-TWO-and-THREE-and-FOUR-and, etc. The notes on the beat (ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR) would be played with downstrokes, and all the "ands" would be played with an upstroke.

Some people despair about this aspect of playing the mandolin, and I'm sure there will be a few of you who will weel they're stepping backwards. However, poor pick direction technique could severely inhibit your ability to make progress beyond entry level playing, so working on it now will improve your playing along the line.


[Next Page]