5 note descending pentatonic line from Cliffs intro

Is there some magic approach to playing the final descending 5 pattern at the end of the Cliffs intro really fast? It’s that last part that repeats these 5 notes.

E |----------------------------------------|
B |----------------------------------------|
G |----16—14--------------------------|
D |------------------17—14------------|
A |---------------------------------17----|
E |----------------------------------------|

If you end on a downstroke then you’re skipping a string to start the sequence again on another downstroke. I can get it kind of fast, but I’m still unsure how this is done at blazing speeds with that string skip between repetitions. On 1988 Austin City Limits recording he seems to pull this off even faster than than in the studio version.

If this is the preferred picking structure, then I’ll just keep hacking away at it.

There is a whole chapter of “Cascade” devoted to this:

Oh haha, haven’t gotten to that yet, only on chapter 14. I’ll take a look.
I just got done analyzing that part of the Austin City Limits video on super slow motion using Transcribe and it looks like in that instance that he may actually be brushing across the string instead of actually skipping over it; there’s a small audio cue that sounds like he’s hitting the muted string between the repetition. But regardless, I’m sure the link you included will provide a definitive answer.

Yeah I’m re-watching it myself. I can’t recall the definitive answer lol! I remember several different theories including what you’re describing, another where you do the 5th note of the pattern as a hammer-from-nowhere. Somewhere in there is Troy playing a drum kit too lol!

I should really just reserve any Eric Johnson technique questions until after I’ve actually finished watching the Cascade Seminar lol

I always find that particular section to be troublesome because of the string skip back to restart it.
Seems to require an unatural secondary motion, I think I will try the hammer on from nowhere like @joebegly said.

So I went ahead and watched the Skip Fives chapter, and it’s quite interesting. At the beginning when I thought Troy was making the conclusion that it involves a bounce over the string, I was about to protest that it didn’t look like that’s what is happening at all in the Austin City Limits video when I watched that section at super slow motion. But sure enough he doesn’t end up landing on that conclusion at all. It seems most likely that in the clip Eric Johnson is using perhaps a combination of a “hammer on from nowhere” and a very light sweeping through of the string. I don’t think EJ is doing the rest stroke thing that Troy uses later in the video. Interestingly the “rest stroke” idea is an approach I was playing around with the other day though I wasn’t really conceptualizing it that way. I was thinking of it as more of a sweep, with the first downstroke to start the repeat sequence being a single movement that first sweeps through the middle string and then hits the first note, which is similar to what Troy employs. In any case, a very helpful video, and I think between the “hammer on” and “rest stroke” approach there are some good viable options for actually getting up to speed. Now I can finally abandon the hopping/bounce approach I kept using, since that was probably going to be mechanically futile. :slight_smile:


The bounce is similar to what I have always done and I keep doing it even though I try not to.

I keep saying this but after playing for so many years with these bad habits, that are for sure not efficient and not effective every time, I find it hard to change.

Even if I spend days concentrating and bedding in more efficient techniques and motions, I always seem to revert to the bad old motions automatically. I guess it’s a time and effort thing to make the new motions and techniques automatic, just needs a lot of playing time and concentration which is hard to achieve when you’re working and everything.

If you’re just trying to do a non-stringhopping motion, that kind of thing should be one of the first steps and not something you have to work on day-in, day-out. In general this is something I’d want to take a look at to make sure you’re not wasting time on things that aren’t working. Alternatively, maybe things are working and you’re being too hard on yourself.

Feel free to put up a clip in Technique Critique and we’ll take a look.

Thanks @Troy. I’ll see if I can post a video.

I took a bit of a break after playing a lot last year as I had to start a new job, but now I’m back on the mission.

I posted a couple of videos last year and got some help from @Fossegrim who told me that my wrist motion was good but I had to work on using my thumb more to help make string direction changes, where the direction changes from USX to DSX etc.

My big problem is with the Gilbert lick and similar where my legacy jerky ‘wrist flick’ is most prominent and that’s the motion that I just cant seem to unlearn, it’s been there so long its completely automatic and instinctual.

I’m ok with general USX descending, pretty fast, but if I have to go back up again with a downstroke the jerk is my goto motion, it’s the way I’ve always changed direction, same if I’m going DSX ascending then have to do an upstroke to come back like the Gilbert lick for example.

Ive tried swiping but the additional muted note never feels or sounds right and messes up my rhythm.

Anyway I’ll post something over the weekend thanks for the help.

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The thumb thing that Pepe and I mentioned was more about adding that slightly extra juice that you can get with some of those movements when you combine them.

In general the advice with your picking hand was more about just making it a bit more stable, and so that it doesn’t wander really, or hit unintentional notes. In general by trying different places to pick and keeping them consistent I think is a pretty big thing.

Congrats on the Job!


Yes I remember now, I was trying different anchoring points to improve the stability of my picking hand.

I’ll create a new thread later to continue this. Thanks for the help.