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Flamenco Guitar Techniques: How to Play Picado

Learn how to play picado in this flamenco guitar lesson video from Howcast.


Hi, so I'm going to explain the technique of picado. Picado is a very unique technique and it's very characteristic of flamenco guitar. It's done by alternating your index and middle finger on a particular string, usually to play a scale or passage. It doesn't have to be something very fast, but it can be something very fast. But it's got a couple of tricky spots and we're going to explain them. Okay, the key word is alternate.

You have to alternate between index and middle all the time. Also, it's a restful technique, which means you strike the string and you lean on the string right above it. Yeah, one finger after the other, and thumb is usually relaxed and leaning on the sixth string, and the hand kind of comes out a little more. It's also relaxed, but it's got to play with a certain amount of attack. That's how you do picado.

Now the tricky part comes when we switch strings, okay? Because like I said again, the key word is alternating and this is what happens with picado. When you're hanging to one string, it's okay, because you're alternating and going at a slow tempo. Now what happens when you have to go to a new string. This is what happens and this is what gets people confused. If I played my last note on the first string and I'm doing a free stroke technique, my index finger is already leaning on the second string.

So now my next note, I have to play it on the second string, now since my index finger's already leaning on there, I might as well play it again with my index. I mean that's the first thing your brain tells you, especially when you're learning this and you're playing very slow. And if you're playing very slow it might not make a difference, so you would go...

So that's the first mistake people make when you learn picado, even though yes, you're index is leaning on the second string; you have to alternate and you have to have your middle play the next note, because the index was the one that played the last note, regardless of what string you play it at. So one more time. I'm going to do an exercise, we're going to play three notes on each string.So it's going to be index, middle, index, and then the last one I played was index. Now the next string I start with the middle.

Now I'm going to go to the next string and my middle is leaning on the third string, but that's not the one that's going to play the third string. It's going to be my index and so on. If you don't alternate your picado, it's almost like trying to run with one foot. Like taking a couple of steps with two feet, and then hopping on one, you're not going to get very far, very fast. So learn how to alternate from the beginning, okay?

I'm telling you it's very tempting to repeat the finger, especially when you're going slow, but when you start speeding up, it's going to be a big inconvenience to correct this. So correct it from the very beginning, always alternating, and program your brain to alternate, so you don't have to think about it. So always alternate and then you can push forward.

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