Only twice have I touched a guitar over the last month, but in those two brief sessions I was able to refine my picking technique significantly. Maybe because I was just screwing around and not really thinking about it (or maybe I was) I probably reverted to my old picking technique that I learned from my first Mel Bay book 23 years ago. However, I noticed that I was suddenly able to play faster and more consistently, particularly on upstrokes and and sweeps. When I stopped to examine my right hand, I lost whatever grip I had and control along with it.

That got me thinking about what I was doing again. A few years ago, I had read a series of articles on Tuck Andress’ website about picking in which he tries to analyse and describe George Benson’s picking technique. I tried applying this based on the written descriptions provided, but it’s hard to break old habits. Then more recently I found some online lessons with George Benson describing it himself. Seeing this was much more effective than reading about it, but I was still not satistfied with the my application of it. I didn’t like the sound or feel I was getting because I lost alot of warmth and rythmic feel. There no shortage of those qualities in George’s playing, so I wasn’t convinced that it was simply a matter of “Oh, that’s his style — not mine.”

Finally I made a breakthrough while sitting on my couch while watching a Sci-Fi B-movie Sunday night. I looked down to find my pick pointing on an oblique to the tip of my thumb. The ass-end of the pick was aligned with the joints of my thumb and forefinger, supported by the others stacked neatly underneath. Unless I just didn’t understand before, my current technique is really a compromise between my old way and George’s way, which is as it should be though since I’m using George Benson’s signature model guitar, I sound damn close minus the harmonic sophistication and shocking speed. I’ll never play just like him, even if I really wanted to. There are always things that I would want to do differently, more of, less of, etc.

A week after arrival, the Vintage Vibe pickups are in my G&L Legacy. I’ve been dreaming about these for months, and I’m not disappointed. The high end on these pickups is beautiful, and they sound warm without being boomy or muddy. Still, after trying it out through my new headphone amp and H&K Tubeman, I felt the sound was a bit too fat at high gain. Fortunately, you can swap bar-magnets with these pickups and customize the sound.

During installation jack wire severed from the ground plate, the leads were too long to fit in the cavity and I wired the pickups in reverse again. After fixing these things, I used the opportunity to swap the magnets while the pickguard was removed. I replaced the Alnico II in the bridge with Alnico III, and put Alnico II’s instead of V’s in the neck. The middle sounded fine with Alnico III’s so I left it as is.

The swap gave me a sweeter clean sound in the neck, a harder sound with hi-gain at the bridge AND better cut coil sounds. Just for an experiment, I will try Alnico Vs in the bridge and III’s in the neck, and then maybe V’s in the middle. First I have to test it through my Mesa/Boogie tomorrow at Blues Tsuki. Then I’ll be able to evaluate the current configuration. However, I think these pickups will save me parting with this guitar for a few more years. Let’s make it 20.