T-rev's Old Guitar Hints

Anchoring - Valid technique or bad habit?

In the Caedmon's Call song "Table For Two," the first (smallest) string is not played throughout most of the song. I often mute it with my fretting hand, by just wrapping my fingers a bit too close around the neck (you know, the way we all do by accident when first learning to play). Another option: rest a finger or two of your picking hand on the 1st string for muting plus increased pick control. This technique is known as "anchoring."

Anchoring is considered a bad habit by many. On the other hand, I've also seen professionals (e.g. local Jed Clampit) use the technique described above, and it just seems really "folky" to me. A more common form of anchoring—in fact, standard practice for bluegrass banjo players—is resting a finger or two (pinky and maybe ring finger) on the edge of the sound hole (or banjo head) when playing fingerstyle.

Put simply, the main reason anchoring—with or without a pick—is "bad" for guitarists is that while it can make easy music easier, it can also make difficult music more difficult by encumbering your picking hand. Because "Table For Two" is built on its bass line, it's a good song for practicing accuracy without anchoring (or with it, if you dare).

So, if unpolished/self-taught/folky is your style (my personal preference), anchoring could be a neat thing to pick up. But if you want to be "correct" and increase your technical skills, you might want to avoid it. You got that fer free.

T-rev 1/11/2001

Other Hints

9/7/1998   -    Partial Capoing
1/11/2001   -    Anchoring
3/1/2001   -    The harmonic
10/22/2002   -    More about capos
3/24/2007   -    Intervals and consonance

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