A Constructive Critique From A Newbie On CTC

Hello everyone. I hope that this is the right category to put this, but I just want to say I started playing the guitar since 9 months ago and am now playing quite well, thanks to CTC. However, the fluid picking motion that I have recently discovered and have been practicing with solid improvement, was definitely an interesting journey. The purpose of this post is to inform CTC about the perspective of a beginner and some things I think can be super helpful for newer players like myself trying to “get” this motion.

I endlessly stared at the screen in slow motion on nearly all of Troy’s picking techniques, tried to emulate at half speed/slow etc, but really getting no where. I mimicked the downward pickslant that he had, and even performed a rest stroke to pass the “test” of figuring out my motion. But I kept failing for 3 months straight. I didn’t see nearly any progress except that I could kind of do a 3NPS sweep with a very harsh attack, guitar center picking, lol.

Something started to click when I made a realization that was never spoken of before on CTC to my knowledge. FINGERS! My picking was wild and all over the place, massive attack because I only learned how to play fast and furious downstrokes. Everything came into place in a very, VERY quick “overnight” breakthrough when I realized that I was doing some sort of blended motion between my wrist and my THUMB (middle joint, very positive thumb overlap) doing this hammering, smashing motion. As soon as I loosened my grip, I was blown away. I wasn’t all of a sudden in shred city, but I could chunk patterns across 6 strings at around 110 BPM 16th notes. Before that, I could barely play anything on even ONE string without sounding like a mess! I am observing this motion becoming so much stronger and fluid and easy. When I turn the gain down, the picking dynamics are quite consistent as well. I mentally focus on moving my forearm and my wrist does a standard USX looking motion. The point is, maybe it could be helpful to point out that the pickslant alone wont do anything, and two, the motion of picking fast is NOT your hands moving fast but feels like a specific joint is “doing the motion”, my FOREARM moves my hand for me, I don’t physically feel like i move my hand. I don’t know what I don’t know, so if i completely missed an instruction that covers this, then I am sorry for wasting the time of whoever is reading this. If I somehow help someone that feels completely lost, that would make my day! Thank you so much CTC, you guys have changed my guitar playing life!


Thank you for the feedback @guitarlover12! Indeed we are becoming more and more aware that “pickslanting” is only one part of the whole picture. In fact, we now tend to place more emphasis on escape motion as the core principle behind clean string-switching.

I see you are a full subscriber, may I ask if you watched our most recent additions to the pickslanting primer, for example the sections on pick grip, wrist motion and forearm motion? Additionally, the free Frank Gambale analysis that Troy published recently on YouTube summarises a lot of our current understanding (Frank’s playing, perhaps surprisingly, has much more than just sweeping in it :slight_smile: )

It would be great to have your opinions on those, and see if they address some of the points you mentioned - and also if not! We’re always working to make all these concepts more accessible!

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Hi Tommo! I do wish to mention that I have watched over every single section of CTC more than twice at this point, and I will tell you at first, i DID skip over the motion parts, went straight to pickslanting because i thought “thats what REALLY matters!” I quickly realized that wasn’t the case, then watched everything start to finish. The problem was, Troy was explaining things with great accuracy, and I focused on matching his motion, and for the most part, looked quite similar, until i would end up stringhopping because I was getting other joints super involved. Going back and watching the videos now makes more sense because i mentally have the correct “context” compared to when I was just starting and watching. The main point I am trying to make, if Troy simply mentioned something about “Finger Motion” or “Tight Fingers” that might be useful, or even the fact that the motions that Troy demonstrated can look quite similar on one string, what REALLY clicked is that whenever I tried to “go fast” I switched from my experimental motion back to stringhopping and aggressive finger picking. I currently am just rewatching and reviewing and Troy’s explanations on Blended FW motion sounds identical to the motion I have discovered, which feels so awesome.

So in summary, something that as a new player i’ve learned, is that my thumb was heavily involved in picking and “got in the way” of my motions. If there’s a specific mentioning about how the fingers are more of a “placeholder” than a motion, that might snap the unawareness of newbie players like me, and get to fluid playing even faster than you guys have already done for me :slight_smile:

Edit: If something about specific finger motion was included in pick grip and a reminder in wrist motion, that might solve this dilemma. If I am a rare exception and the only guitarist who accidentally learned “its all in the fingers man!” then woe is me. But as I watched these videos I never heard a single thing about what the fingers DO. Yes, you HOLD the pick, but, if your wrist is doing an ulnar deviation from center, and your thumb presses against the pick, well, it’s gonna fly and cause some stringhop (in my experience)

Not certain this is where you’re coming from, but I also binge-watched Troy and, despite just loads of great, inciteful instruction, felt like there may have been one thing missing… and it might be what you’re talking about. When you watch Troy and all the terrific players in these vids, notice the thumb/index finger ‘unit.’ It is almost completely static. It’s as if those two fingers are in a cast. There’s lots of various deliberate motion in the wrist and forearm - but almost without exception, close to none in the thumb-index. I don’t recall that being pointed out or discussed, but it is clearly ubiquitous in advanced-level playing. Is that what you’re talking about? If so, yeah, that might merit a chapter of its own in the otherwise excellent Pickslanting Primer.

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This isn’t entirely true. Two players that come to mind that do incorporate finger motion into their playing are Andy Wood and Martin Miller. Andy occasionally incorporates finger motion into his picking and Martin actually uses finger motion as a core component of his DBX playing.

I don’t think that it’s fair to say that finger motion in picking is inherently bad, however, I can absolutely see how the added complexity of finger motion could be a roadblock for a lot of people. It is unquestionably mechanically simpler to keep you fingers in a static position and let everything else do the moving. I would guess that this is at least part of why Troy recommends starting with a trigger grip & wrist motion approach to all of these concepts. It is mechanically simpler and easier to handle and the trigger grip likely helps to eliminate unnecessary finger motion that might otherwise get in the way.

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Hey guys! Both great points, and also, yes, it is true that finger motion is required in some way. I have experimented and noticed I can slightly change the attack in a way with the thumb and pointer, or alternatively I can simply add a bit more “forearm” or “intent” to the motion to change the attack. But the biggest click for me was that I used to pick with my thumb being the “focus” without realizing and this caused some very strong stringhopping.

Point taken, MyAudioDNA. To be sure, some thumb-index ‘gyration’ may work. But I think you’re also right that trigger grip is meant to remove this variable - i.e. it’s something to negate at the earliest stages, since it can cause trouble.

So Guitarlover, the static index-thumb thing was in fact the discovery you’re talking about…?

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Yes! I picture it like, my wrist or forearm is doing the movement, but when i learned to pick i used my thumb. I smashed the strings because i thought to play guitar you had to “play HARD”! but ill take fluid and smooth, accurate picking any day now lol

I wouldn’t say I was thinking that. We see lots of clips on here in “Technique Critique” of players who have bits of finger motion in their technique. It seems pretty common. Enough players seem to find their way to techniques that involve some kind of finger motion that I wouldn’t outright guess this is harder to learn than other set of techniques. Throwing a ball involves lots of different joints, but almost everyone can do it.

The only reason we started with elbow, forearm, and wrist is because they are the most common. That’s it! There’s nothing wrong with finger motion in my book. It’s not bad but it’s also not required. These are all just different techniques. If we can figure out some common ones, and think of a way to teach them, we are happy to do it eventually.

Fair enough, thanks for the reply!

Hey Troy, thank you so much for replying in this post! After more practice I’m still figuring it out. It felt like i “had it” and could escape and sweep well memorized patterns, but the next day I woke up and it felt as if I had never played a guitar before! I keep feeling like the thumb is “creeping in” and i get thrown off, not to mention that if i go down the strings i start building up a big ulnar offset with my USX motion instead of keeping it straight. I used my forearm to “reposition” the wrist and thats what worked for me, for a couple hours. I’m back in string hoppers anonymous and maybe that’s normal.

If I was to just describe it simply:

  1. Wrist goes ulnar and back, free on the upstroke.
  2. Arm moves to the strings I need, like a crane machine
  3. Thumb and pointer keeps the pick firm but not too tight
  4. brain tells the left hand 1----, 1----, 1----, 1----

Brain -> Left Hand -> Wrist -> Arm (After further thought, i cannot tell if I am using my forearm or not.)

Honestly, when you find yourself writing posts where you try to describe motions in words, that’s how you know it’s time to post a video! All this stuff you’re describing may or may not really matter at all, so I would try not to nerd out too much on the joints and particulars. In general, if it’s fast then you’re on to something. If it’s not, then you have to keep trying different stuff until it is.

Feel free to put up a clip, that’s really the best way for us to see what’s going on.

Hey Troy, I will be doing so soon. I defenitely am not there yet, im onto something, but not there. ill upload a clip here.

Alright, here’s the video. Earlier today I was doing these same motions with a bunch of accuracy while just “jamming around” with a backing drum track. I suprised myself, but, when I started thinking hard about it, it just went away. Any critique would be appreciated.

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Thanks for the video @guitarlover12! It’s a bit difficult to analyse what is going on based only on this perspective (that we call the “audience perspective”) - also because everything is a bit dark on the clip.

When you have time, have a quick look at our advice for filming your technique (attached below) and give it another shot, possibly including both the “audience” and “magnet/down the strings” perspective (explained more properly in the link).

Another thing that will make it easier for us to analyse your picking is to focus on a specific lick/riff, something a couple of seconds long, that you can repeat a handful of times. If you have a phone that can do 60FPS or higher, and/or even slow motion that would be a plus as well :slight_smile:

Sounds good tommo. I’ll check that out and come back to you soon with it. Thank you again.

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