Jamal Millner, Flat-pick and fingerstyle guitarist


“I have to be careful, think about closing doors and stuff like that more than anyone else does,” says Millner.

A guitar, flat-pick, sometimes a slide.
How did you learn your craft?
I started playing when I was a little kid, on the banjo before I picked up the guitar. As far as flat-picking, I tried to flat-pick since I started playing, so it’s been 30-odd years now.
How do you care for your hands?
Generally, they might get tired or sore, especially if I haven’t played acoustic in a while and I have to go out and play a lot of gigs. I actually broke my wrist last April and had to get wrist surgery. It didn’t really affect my flat-picking but my fingerpicking definitely suffered.
Hand care?
I use lotion, try to take care of my fingernails, stuff like that. I wear gloves when it’s cold. I have to be careful, think about closing doors and stuff like that more than anyone else does.
After a long set, how do you wind down?
Usually it takes me 45 minutes to an hour to relax before going to sleep, so I’ll sit down, watch a game on TV, something like that.
Usually I don’t have a problem. I think most guitarists would agree that one of the hardest chords to play is an F bar chord, so if I’m playing a lot of those, I’ll cramp up on occasion.
I can do a lot of stuff with both hands. When I was a kid, I shot a basketball left-handed, and would kick a soccer ball with my left foot, but I’m more right-handed in reality. Playing guitar, you have to develop your left hand, or whatever hand you aren’t dominant with.
When you aren’t playing guitar, how do you keep your fingers in shape?
I use therapy putty, so if I’m on a long drive, I’ll knead it into a ball with the hand I’m not steering with. Maybe I’ll use a racquetball for finger strength and do wrist exercises, things like that.