by Han Speek.
(Copyright © 1995/1996)
One of the main differences in how I use the right hand for melody playing is that the position of the fore-arm is (almost - it should be relaxed, not tense) fixed, and the movements come from the wrist. The edge of the palm of my hand (where it goes into the wrist) is resting gently on the bridge, or on the strings just behind the bridge. This functions as a point of reference, sort of, and doesn't mean that the hand is fixed in one position. Rather, the hand slides up and down, from high strings to low, and back depending on which string I play.
[I sometimes see people use their little finger as an anchor point, resting somewhere on the face (or pickguard if the instrument has one) of the instrument. This may work for some people who play the guitar, but for bouzouki/cittern-like instruments the bridge is usually set up much higher, which makes it hard to play on the lower strings, and may result in an awkward pick angle when hitting these strings. I advise against this technique.]
This hand position implies that the pick hits the string just about over the edge of the soundhole where it is nearest to the bridge. Hitting the string here results in a good solid tone. Closer to the bridge the string feels stiffer, which means you need more force to make the string snap away from under the pick. It also results in a sharper tone. Further away from the bridge the string feels looser, and it sort of follows the pick down a bit before snapping away from under it. This means your pick strokes get longer, effectively slowing you down. [This effect is similar to using a pick that is too thin. I prefer a pick about .70mm thick, or slightly thicker if using a nylon pick]
I usually do it the way it is described in most good mandolin/tenor banjo/flatpicking guitar tutors: alternate the pick strokes as much as possible, but always
use a down stroke for an accented note. This may seem contradictory to what I
said at some point in the backup chapter. But these are 2 reasons why it works
for me here, while it didn't work for backup playing: a) The hand movements are
much shorter, and b) usually the melody moves from one string to the other,
implicitly suggesting a (change in) picking direction.
There is also a very strong reason why you HAVE to do it this way: the angle at which the pick hits the string is very different for upstroke and downstroke, and so is the tone that is produced.
[If you hold the pick properly it's not parallel to the string, but at a slight angle - either inward or outward, whatever you prefer. This makes the pick "roll off" the string rather than having to force the pick past the string. I prefer a slight outward angle, which means the edge of the pick that is the furthest away from the wrist hits the string first. But careful, too much of an angle and you will have no attack left.]