1 year still struggling with downward pickslanting

hey guys,

After a year of trying downward pick slant while I’ve made progress, it’s not where I need it to be (I’d like to be a pro player).

I have an issue where I have trouble keeping my fingers from muting and cutting g notes short. I also can’t really get a fluid movement going across all six string preventing me from doing fast two note per string stuff. Chunking and coordination is also not working at higher speeds. In general my playing is suffering. Any advice? It’s getting depressing.


1 Like

Others may know more than me on this, but you seem to be using a lot of pick to play each note. I’d try using less pick depth.

I’d also focus on two note per string runs across three strings, because trying to play all six strings is difficult indeed.

1 Like

I’d say you’re almost there man!

Try slow it down a tad and dig in harder on the 1st note of both chunks, that may help your brain ‘reset’ at the beginning of each 3 string chunk.

1 Like

I’m with the others in thinking that you are getting there! You clearly have the speed, and if I am not mistaken you seem to escape the string plane correctly on the upstroke. It now seems a matter of cleaning things up and making them less variable.

Trying smaller string sets as the others suggested may be one way to figure out whether it is hand sync or string tracking that gives you the most trouble.

1 Like

Out of interest, how long have you been playing guitar?

I’d say you’re almost there man!. Try slow it down a tad and dig in harder on the 1st note of both chunks, that may help your brain ‘reset’ at the beginning of each 3 string chunk.

I’ve been doing “slow” practice on some licks, which has helped but ultimately it feels like I’m taking one step forward and two steps back.

I’m with the others in thinking that you are getting there! You clearly have the speed, and if I am not mistaken you seem to escape the string plane correctly on the upstroke. It now seems a matter of cleaning things up and making them less variable. Trying smaller string sets as the others suggested may be one way to figure out whether it is hand sync or string tracking that gives you the most trouble.

Any specific things to try? I’m trying to get some of the fast George Benson pentatonic/blues scale stuff together. Do you have any advice for the muting. The high e string and first few strings seem to be the biggest offenders. In jazz you dont’ want muting on those strings like you would in metal for obvious reasons.

Out of interest, how long have you been playing guitar?

Too long for my skill level (on and off since 6th grade). Cracking the code kind of saved me from my inefficient string hopping techniques.

1 Like

I only ask because I think I get frustrated comparing my own 5 year progress with someone who’s played for 10 - 30 years. Not sure if its lack of ability with me or just lack of feel which comes with time.
Anyway, you sound like you have nearly got it down :slightly_smiling_face:

These look great as usual. The motion looks smooth and fast. I know we’ve got players here who would like to have this level of raw motion ability.

One thing I will say is that a lot of the clips you’ve posted seem very bursty and exercisey in nature. Short patterns played super fast and repeated. Benson- and Eric Johnson-style pentatonic stuff in particular has very low mechanical variety — same down-up sequence on every string. If something is not working, and hasn’t the last two hundred times, there isn’t a whole lot of variety in these types of phrases to give you something else to “do” to accidentally get it right.

Playing longer tunes with more musical and mechanical variation is a nice way around this. The first thirty seconds of Affirmation has all kinds of cool stuff going on, including three-note-per-string sweeping, arpeggio work (sweeping?), some nice chords. It’s great playing:

I’ve come to think that for the best technique building, a diet of (I’m guess here) 80% music and 20% shorter “exercise” type phrases is more balanced than the other way around. I live with a classical player and I would say with her it’s more like 90% tunes and 10% exercises. She’s becoming a pretty good mandolin alternate picker with almost zero intervention from me, too. It’s amazing to watch.

Also, have you tried using a dfifferent technique, like any of these?

There’s nothing objectively wrong with what you’re doing, but mechanical learning can be unpredictable. For whatever totally random reason, using a three-finger grip and going Albert Lee style, you might be better at certain things for no reason you can predict or explain. You don’t have to commit to that full ltime. But when you’ve done the same things hundreds or thousands of times with similar results, you are starving your motor system of any new experiences. Take a chance and try something way out there. You can always go back to what you’re doing.

5 Likes

These are great. Sometimes I find jamming with others (either in practice or gig situation) can really make something your working on click. Keep going. You have this.

2 Likes

The only thing that has not been mentioned by others is that you could also experiment with different pick gauges/shapes. That’s another thing that can introduce healthy variations in feel and perhaps even subtle mechanical changes!

1 Like

Thanks for all the help guys!

I do spend quite a bit of time learning new licks and solos. It seems like the same issues seem to crop up repeatedly esp with fretting hand folllowing my right hand at fast speeds. I’ll try supinating more, what do you do if you find anchoring with fingers uncomfortable? It’s weird, there is some motions I can do one pentatonic pattern with pretty cleanly at 16ths at 160:

…but if I apply it to a normal pentatonic scale it falls apart quicker (like in the above video).

Would learning the first 30 seconds of affirmation be a project you’d suggest? I’ve tried some of the very hard benson arpeggio with long 5-6 fret jumps but couldn’t get them working either. I was going to try and learn some stuff off this as my next project:

Do you think this has enough variety?

1 Like

Sorry for my confusing response! I was suggesting the middle-finger type grips as a way of mixing things up, to break out of a rut. Not because there’s anything wrong with your picking motion per se. It’s fast and smooth, looks awesome, sounds awesome. No need to change it or fix it or do anything to it. When I watch these videos of the drilling of fast repetitive patterns, especially with a metronome, I just feel like you’re barking up the wrong tree, hammering away at the same stuff that isn’t going to change because it’s so thoroughly memorized for you at this point — including the fretting, and the hand synchronization.

I don’t have a good sense of what the problem really is here. Your playing looks and sounds great to me. Is it that you have hand synchronization issues, sometimes, on certain phrases? If so, awesome, welcome to the club! Totally normal. Does this only happen at certain speeds, and is it usually only at the “blaze” level of speed, and on certain textbook type patterns and fingerings? What about all the other tempos below that where music occurs? Is it fine at those tempos? Do you have any pieces you can play that involve playing at medium-fast speeds here and there, with slower playing in between, and where the left hand isn’t pattern-based? Can you do those with synchronization? How does it sound?

Again, I think I’d throw music at this, at somewhat less than “blaze” tempos, because it’s clear that speed itself isn’t really the issue here.

2 Likes

@Troy, @ParkerLicks this hit home, I’ve also been obsessing and struggling on similar licks , spending too much of my practice time on them and feeling like it was 2 steps forward one step back when not the other way around, and wondering if I will ever be able to play fast.

However Troy’s suggestion made me give this Benson tune a try, only to realise that some of his licks that seemed unattainable in the past now seem like I can almost nail them after 10 minutes - so clearly something is working :slight_smile:
I will take your suggestion to spend way less time on technique and get back to learning more tunes, even if I don’t feel like I’ve “completed the task” of getting some technical licks where I want them to be before moving on to something else.

2 Likes

For what it’s worth, I’ve started using backing tracks to get more musical while keeping the freedom to repeat licks at will when I feel something needs focus. I’m learning that my ‘speed’ is better than I thought - however my ability to focus on chord tones on the spot it seriously lacking (a good thing to recognize).

So I guess I’m saying I see three strategies to blend between in the practice room that has different advantages:

  1. rote shredding on your own to forge new skills
  2. backing tracks to improve musicality
  3. copying favorite songs/licks to feed the inspiration and develop new vocabulary
1 Like

I can play changes just fine. It’s technique I have issue with. I also prefer playing to records over backing tracks.

Thanks for the response troy will respond later and clarify!