357 mag - picking motion experiments

One video shows me picking from the wrist just three notes on the low E string. Here is the video link:

The other video is of me tremolo picking just one note. I’ve had problems with this. If you listen you can hear me missing some notes. It does not sound smooth. I don’t know why or what I’m doing wrong. Here is the video link:

If you see me doing things wrong please advise but as far as I know I’m pretty close to what should be correct.

There is no such thing as wrong here, there is only not right for you. You don’t look incredibly comfortable trying to pick with that stiff forearm movement in the second clip, which is why you are likely overshooting a bit and missing the string here and there. is that the picking mechanic that feels the most natural to you? I would be willing to bet that it might be the one in the first video as you look less tensed up, even though you are playing slower with it. It might be even a combination.

When tremolo picking it’s the first thing that came to mind was picking like that. But as I said I was missing notes and the sound was rather choppy and unsmooth.

So when you try to pick fast tremolo using that first motion with your wrist or rather the motion in the first video with the three notes, what do you feel gets in the way of going faster with it? To me it looks like the way you are anchoring your hand with your fingers on your guitar is what is putting a leash on it.

When I try to do tremolo picking using just the wrist you mainly hear the note on the downstroke. The note on the upstroke you don’t hear nearly as clearly. The downstroke seems much heavier. I would think that tremolo picking would be easier than this but I guess I’m wrong. I don’t know what is preventing me from tremolo picking smoothly.

Are you just trying playing unplugged like that, or are doing these things with some amplification too?

When I practice I am plugged in.

So when you are plugged in, do you have the same trouble of hearing the note on the upstroke? Could you post your next videos plugged in.

Hey @357mag, I agree with @Fossegrim that it would be good to hear the amplified sound too, so that we can have a more realistic idea of differences in volume between ups and downs, if any.

I would try both clean and distorted, they are both useful for checking different things.

More general comments:

  1. in the first video you are playing too slow to determine whether the motions are “correct” or not: you could easily play the same part with only downstrokes. Whatever you do at these low speeds is not going to give you a realistic picture of what it feels like to pick fast

  2. the second video is closer to what we want in terms of speed, but it still looks like you are holding back. We really want to see what happens when you go all out on a single string (in the way that you find most comfortable).

On a related note, it would be interesting if you put the guitar down and took one of our “table tap tests”, then tell us what sort of speeds you can manage with that. This will give us an indication of what kind of tempos you might expect on a guitar.

One of the table tap tests is freely available on YT, you can check it out here:

That is likely my fault, in another thread I’d told him to shoot for 140 - 150 bpm since that’s above string hopping speeds and I clocked him ~140. @tommo is the recommended starting speed for the tremolo test higher than this? I swear I didn’t just make that number up lol!

But yeah @357mag I totally agree with Tommo that you appear to be holding back. I’d give his table tapping tests suggestion because that could expose a fast joint motion you didn’t know you had.

If you do happen to find that elbow is your fastest (many do), a tweak to your grip and setup could help. Bill Hall has an awesome elbow mechanic. He slightly pronates and only ‘anchors’ by gently placing the thumb side of his palm heel on the bass strings. As for the angle of the pick itself, this will cause either neutral or slight ‘upward’ slant that looks quite a bit different from what you’re doing. Different is good, because if what you’re doing doesn’t work, try something else and see if that does!

Overall I think we’re getting closer to finding your natural fast motion, then you’ll be off to the races! Obviously it’s not there yet, but you’re finding more things that don’t work to cross off the list so it’s still great progress.

1 Like

Well if my neighbor agrees to come over I will have her film my right hand again and I will try to play faster and upload the videos.

1 Like

This first one I’m playing some notes on the low E string. I’m trying to go faster than my previous videos I uploaded. I can feel tension though. This picking back and forth from the wrist does not feel all that good to me. Here is the link:

The second video I am going faster tremolo picking. Definite tension I am feeling I can’t go any faster. Here is the link:

The second tremolo is the most promising thing we’ve seen. Does the pick feel like it’s getting snagged at all for you?

I still think if you had a more traditional elbow mechanic setup (Vinnie Moore, Rusty Cooley or Bill Hall) you may get even better results and be able to go a good bit faster than this. So:

  • slight pronation
  • no fingers anchoring on the body (I think this may actually be holding you back)
  • light contact on bass strings with the thumb’s palm heel
  • slight upward pick slant

I think compared to everything else though, we have to say this is better because it’s faster. The other movements seemed very limited, this one, with more tweaks, seems like it has plenty of potential for faster playing.

I think it would have to be a downward pick slant. I don’t know why the pick should be slanted towards me. I think it would need to be slanted away towards the floor correct? I mean the top part of the pick the part that I’m using my thumb and finger to hold would be slanted towards the floor and the escape motion would be upward.

My fingers resting on the body are just falling naturally. They are not tense. I don’t think that is a problem.

Not sure what you mean by pronation. You mean curving my hand and holding my arm off the body of the guitar and the hand is curved at the wrist?

You’re using your elbow to move the pick though. That doesn’t naturally pair with a downward pick slant. It’s the opposite where it will allow you to change strings after down strokes. It’s the opposite of the EJ/Yngwie system. I can’t tell from the angles, but is your picking trapped on the upstrokes or the down strokes? I’d expect the upstrokes, but if not, you’ll need to address that. Trying to get a downward pick slant going with your elbow as the main mechanic can work (i.e. Zakk Wylde) but it’s not the norm.

I could be wrong, it looked like it was locking you into a movement that’s not natural for an elbow based setup.

It means to rotate your forearm slightly counter clockwise so that your picking hand thumb is a little closer to the strings. There’s no wrist curvature involved. Brendon Small does this:


If you look at the closeup of his hand, he’s pronated.

I should add, since you’re in the stage where you’re trying to find what you’re fastest at, you may want to try a movement that’s based on forearm rotation. That would pair more naturally with a downward pick slant and allow you change strings after upstrokes. Not sure if that’s what you’re after or not. I know the recommended approach is to go with what’s easiest for you, not necessarily what you want. Since you haven’t tried that motion out, who knows!

I filmed myself tremolo picking again. In this first video I tried to use my wrist more. Here is the link:

In the second video I tried to keep my wrist more still and use the arm and elbow. Here is the link:

I’m not sure how you guys do it or how it’s supposed to be done but what do you think of these? The sound still sounds kind of unsmooth to me. I’m not really happy with the sound yet.

Which one feels less tense and more comfortable for you? You are definitely getting closer to finding it, and not anchoring your fingers is definitely helping m.

1 Like