1nps: The hardest thing of all

After reflection in the shower, I believe that this summary is correct:

  • Easiest: Even number of notes per string (just keep UX or DX).
  • Easy: Odd number of notes per string (either HO/PO one note to make it even, or use 2WPS)
  • Hard: One note per string.

Everything complex and irregular comes from one note per string, including double-escape, sweeps, etc. Perhaps I was slow to realize how ugly the 1nps case is, but it really is a handful.


It depends.
For me uneven number of notes was always easier to play. Still trying to get used to even numbers -_-’

Even is arguably easier because it only requires one technique (UX or DX), but odd requires BOTH.

Note that you can turn even > 2 into odd with one HO/PO, somewhat the anti-YJM trick (he turns odd into even).

Once again, it depends. What works for one person, does not nececcerilly work for another. Different people, different problems.

For example, it’s hard for me to change strings when pick goes from the string I need to switch to (people call it ‘inner picking’ I believe…). It’s just how I played for years, and I just don’t have that motion in my arsenal. At least it’s not very comfortable to me.
If it’s ‘outer picking’ I can do sweeping or alternate picking in both directions - not a problem for me. But in other cases I do swiping or legato… or miss the note
In case of uneven number of strings I need to this untrusty motion only once per 2 string changes. In case of even number of notes I have to do it every string change. That’s why I can play 3nps scale 180-190bpm, and chromatic 4nps ~140bpm. Though for other people it’s opposite.

Obviously, it also depends on a direction (ascending/descending). So, the same 4nps chromatic in descending motion with DWPS is much faster.

Sorry, I am a little confused, if your pick starts escaped and you hit an odd (3, 5, 7, …) number of notes on a single string, does it end up escaped?

I find really fast pentatonic playing with mixes of 1/2/3 strokes per string harder than 1nps stuff. Significantly.

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If my pick starts escaped and I don’t change escaping motion (‘slanting’) then I end up trapped (trapped-escaped-trapped). If I change escaping motion I end up escaped (looks like trapped-trapped-escaped).

Hmm. If alternate picking, sure, but if we’re allowing slurs, economy/sweep picking, then one note per string can be pretty easy. Just depends a lot on the passage. Having a slur before the direction change (eg 4 notes down, slur, 4 notes up, slur, repeat) I think is more or less everybody’s first sweep lick, and is mostly one note per string


Some people find 1nps, 2nps, 1nps, etc to be more challenging than pure 1nps.

btw, if you wanna be more comprehensive, maybe include skipping.

For me, the hardest thing is outside alternation of strings with a 2 string skip.


also, this is really tricky:


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Right, all of the things that you mention have been invented to make 1nps “easy.” But the downside of them is that they break the symmetry of alternate picking, e.g., there is a very simple and regular way to handle 2nps or more, but all kinds of special-cases to deal with 1nps that are actually very difficult to get right (for example, sweeping at a constant speed).

All of the patterns that you put down look like brutal and are exactly why I think that 1nps is the hardest of all.

Yep, they are. But they are really valuable for sorta ‘getting up to speed’. Play those ‘impossible’ patterns a bit, then play simpler adjacent string 1nps patterns, and they will feel a bit easier.

1nps picking really brings your weaknesses to the surface… things that we’ve neglected for years.
When I started double-escaped, 1nps practicing, I couldnt believe how pathetically slow I was at outside transfers, especially ascending. I would slow to a crawl, and it felt so horribly awkward. For others, its inside picking.

yep, very well said.

If anybody cares, a while back I was curious to try to write a quick 1NPS etude that’s basically a pattern that’s as ‘un-patterned’ as possible. the odd groups (not just 3 or 5 but I think 17) means you can’t really get into a groove of a short pattern of movement like with a lot of other things. Also killer for the left hand/coordination too. Can I play it? um…

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“1nps: A challenging thing among challenges.”

Fwiw, master musician Rick Graham has a lot to say about this subject. I’d seek him out.

Wow, that is pretty hairy. Do you have video of you playing this?

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One thing I remember about R. Graham on this subject is that he talks about the importance of focusing on 2 string alteration, specifically focusing on your weakness (inside or outside). That’s really good advice.

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I found the activation and relaxation that is part of his “planting” method, compelling.

haha hell no, I definitely can’t play it at any sort of impressive tempo, and I hope my post didn’t imply that I could. But it’s certainly a workout. I ‘hear’ it at about 110 BPM, but again, can’t play it there, at least not with alternate picking. 1nps crosspicking-ish stuff is definitely my weakness in terms of picking

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Yes, I know about his planting, and how that helps improve control/reliability. But I am not sure how well that works with 1nps string stuff.

Well, not sure how to answer that. It was the focus of a lesson on 1nps playing that I took with him. Control and reliability are a part of 1nps playing, are they not?