A Critique Request for my USX/DWPS Technique Please

Thank you Fry… Here is an updated video of me working on just one string. I found that when I tilt my wrist more umm ulnarized as Troy says, I get a better range of motion and I’m working on keeping my fingers more curled. Better support at higher tempos… please let me know what you think- BB

If you make the upstroke motion wider, does the pick hit the A string making it ring? If it does, you’re not escaping. Because that’s what it still looks like. I could be mistaken of course, but I kind of recognize that problem because that’s what I have unless I go very slow.

You look more comfortable in the latest video. As @SlowButSloppy said, there are some points where it looks like you might be “double trapped” rather than escaping on upstrokes. Re-watch the video yourself and notice how different the motion on your “warmup” slow tempo strokes looks compared to your fast strokes. There’s an ingredient in the motion of those “warmup” reps that isn’t present in the fast reps.

It looked like there were some bits around 1:30 where you were flirting with DSX again without realizing it.

I’d go ahead and test this with some simple adjacent-string changes to see whether you’re trajectory will actually clear the strings on upstrokes or not. With the combination of the dark pick and the angle, it’s not completely clear to me whether the upstrokes would escape or not. If you don’t clear the string when you try to make changes, try to get more of a tilt happening in your picking trajectory. Bear in mind I’m kind of speaking outside my experience, because my own USX approach is more in the vein of somebody like Joscho Stephan.

Hey Fry! Thanks for the input. Do you think this is happening at higher tempos because I need more time drilling the better mechanics from lower speeds? Just a muscle memory issue?
By the way when you mentioned playing something on adjacent strings what did you mean as an example? Please let me know and I’ll do a video of that with a clearer Ultex pick I have so we can get a better view of the upstrokes!
Have a great week all- BB

Thanks SBS for your reply! I don’t believe I had an issue hitting the A string. When you speed up, why do you think your mechanic starts to give? Any solutions you’ve been working on?

I probably gave you a bit of a bum steer mentioning the difference between your slow and fast. In your fast motion, you do have a motion that is smooth and fast, and the trick is getting it into a trajectory that will escape on upstrokes.

To test whether you may aready have that trajectory, pick any lick where you play on one string for a while, then play on the next higher (or next lower) string for a while, and see if you can make the transition smoothly at high speed. If you can’t, I’d guess the answer probably lies in experimenting with some different arm positions to get the “tilt” we’ve talked bout from the @Troy video you posted.

Note also what @Troy says (not sure if that’s the exact video), about the neutral position for wrist-deviation movements. Because the wrist has more range in the ulnar deviation direction than the radial deviation direction, the “neutral position” of that range actually sits in that we tend to think of as an offset in the ulnar direction (resulting in a position where the thumb appears roughly in line with the forearm). Experimenting with that as the neutral position might help with the “tilt” (and might also help things feel natural if you decide you need to try a posture where the forearm is rotated more in the supination direction).

You may also want to try experimenting with the height of the guitar on your body, and how that affects the angle your forearm approaches the body (i.e. try siting with the guitar on the left leg, or try standing with the strap adjusted to a few different heights), and see if any of those help you get your forearm lined up in a way where that fast, smooth picking you’ve got gets oriented into the direction you want. But again, before you do any of that, test whether the movement you’re making in your latest video already clears the string on upstrokes. If it does, there’s no need to go down this other rabbithole.


Great suggestions… I will do some 4NPS and 6NPS exercises and film them for review.
I did remember @Troy talking about the neutral position, I believe that was in the latest USX YouTube video. Will try some hand positioning then and see if that makes a difference. Talk soon!

Hi! Thanks for posting these updates. And thanks for making it through our lastest stuff. In general, as you go faster in these clips, you’re switching to an elbow motion, and elbow doesn’t do USX. Again, Zakk’s “mystery motion” which looks like elbow is something we still don’t 100% understand, even though I myself do a version of this which escapes on the upstroke. So, again, very simple explanation here: you’re not doing wrist motion when you speed up. That’s not a bad thing. Maybe you’re great at elbow motion. Maybe it’s super fast and reliable for you. Why not try more of that? Give it a shot.

Couple things. When you film yourself, you should review those clips in slow motion yourself to see if you’re doing the motion you think you are. Which way the pick is moving is something everyone can diagnose with the phone in their pocket. When you watch the clips you filmed, just see which way the pick is escaping and then you’ll know if that attempt did or didn’t work. This way when you post updates you’ll already know what is happening, will have already made some attempts to try do something different, and then our feedback can be much more targeted on other stuff you can try if you don’t like those results.

Two, make sure and watch all seven wrist motion chapters and try everything. Chapter two, for example, where we run through all the grips and arm position, is something that helped me understand how all these pieces fit together. Even if you ultimately go back to the grip and arm position you are using here, it’s a great learning experience. Not only that, but you might just discover that something you weren’t expecting, like maybe three-finger / middle-finger grip produces great results. If so, why not use that? Eddie Van Halen gets plenty of speed that way.

Watching and trying all the chapters also includes the DSX motion chapters, and the pronation chapter. Again, everything you succeed at doing helps everything else you are trying to learn. I tried to make this clear in the lessons themselves but I’ve noticed that for whatever reason, the guy on the video is less persuasive than the guy in the forum, even though it’s the same guy! Anyway, if you skip out on some of these, you’re leaving some potential progress on the table. If you never do anything but “USX” and “2nps” stuff, and that stuff isn’t quite working the way you want, you’re not giving yourself any opportunity to have any little victories. Every victory leads to another. So if you haven’t already, please go back and try all the stuff from all the chapters and see if any of them work better. If you can be blazing on McLaughlin-style scale things right now, that’s a nice learning opportunity and step forward that you can take. And again, don’t forget about that elbow motion. Take the victories!

Re: arm position, you’re already using more supination than I use when I use the grip you’re using here. So you don’t need any more of that. In fact, for every arm position you can have, there are three motions that exactly match that arm position that allow you do to USX, DSX, and double escape. In other words, every arm position is a “neutral position”. This is, again, what we’re trying to communicate in Chapter 2. Try all the grips, which means trying all the arm positions, which means trying to find all the motions that match with those grips and arm positions. If you get any of them, you’re one step closer.

What I will say is that for all these grips and arm positions, the matching motion feels flatter than you think. When I use a trigger-style grip, the typical viewer won’t notice anything unusual about the arm position. It’s going to look “neutral” to most people. Which, again, is a term that makes no sense since every arm position you can have is a “neutral” position. But with a trigger grip, when you achieve the three anchor points — forearm, pinky heel, and thumb heel — the arm will appear to rest flat against the guitar. It won’t be, it just looks that way. From this position you can still do, once again your three core motions. As you move toward middle and three finger grips, those anchor points change. Again, refer to Chapter 2 for that. But in this case, for your grip here, you want those three anchor points.

Again, experiment relentlessly and when you find something that is smooth and fast, immediately go with that and try doing more of it. Do not limit yourself to just USX, just this grip, just this arm position, or even just wrist motion. If your elbow is what’s delivering, do more elbow. In general, take the hint the video is giving you. If you think you’re doing USX but you film it and it’s DSX and it’s fast and smooth, go with that and do more of it. Nothing wrong with that. Take the victories you can take, and don’t waste time on “Zakk”. You will get them all eventually.

Re: the metronome usage, I really don’t think that’s helping here. The single quarter notes you’re doing at these tempos aren’t teaching you anything. They’re not even the same motion as your sixteenths, so why even do them? Just turn off the metronome and try out these different grip/arm families, and find one that goes fast right now. You don’t care what the exact tempo is, you just care that it’s fast. You can always measure it later to see what it is once you find something.

Good luck!

1 Like

Sorry for the confusion here! I actually removed this from the lesson chapter. It’s still in the YouTube version, but now gone from the the chapter on the site. Reason being, it’s really about anchor points. When you establish the anchor points, that gives you the right arm position, so there really shouldn’t be any need to take further steps. In an ideal world, we should be able to provide simple enough instructions for positioning that don’t require an ambiguous final instruction (“tilt”) to complete the form. I think the anchor points do that, but we’ll see as more players attempt this.

Again, what I will say is that the 10- to 15-degree escape produced by all these arm positions feels very flat. It feels like it shouldn’t escape — in either direction — but it does. And that isn’t the arm position doing that, it’s the motion. Because again, no matter the amount of supination or pronation, as long as there is some, there is a picking motion that will match with that that should work.


Duly noted. :+1: 20 characters

Hi @Troy! Sorry for replying now, just getting to my computer. I will definitely review again the wrist motions chapters as you recommended. I am stubborn so I promise I am equally difficult to Troy in the videos and Troy on the forum :slight_smile: But rest assured, eventually I listen…
My goal at this point more than anything is to find what is smooth and fast, but specifically to ensure I am not stringhopping. I may be using elbow at higher speeds, etc. but getting away from “bad” movements is what I wanted to accomplish.Was there anything “bad” in what you saw from when I first joined on CTC??
So as of right now, is elbow to you, physically moving on a diagonal up and down (12 to 6 or 6 to 12) using the elbow joint? At higher speeds I feel like my forearm and wrist kind of become one unit? That is how I could describe it…At higher speeds I can tell the wrist locks up more and my arm itself kind of takes over?
Finally, the motions I used do feel flat than when I first started on CTC. I made the error of trying to replicate Zakk etc. And when I watched your videos you always seemed “neutral” meaning the forearm rotation, the wrist flex, and so on was minimal. Your playing appears to be “normal” and so trying to mimick what you do has been a challenge. Maybe other CTC members feel the way I do or I’m alone on it, but having the confndence that the pick will escape at such “neutral” angles took some acts of faith on my part!
Thanks again and have a great week- BB

I don’t see any stringhopping in this clip. I do recall that used to be an issue so I think you’ve effectively kicked that habit. Which is no small feat! Rejoice.

There’s no “clock face” for elbow. It only moves back and forth so there’s no way of assigning numbers in a circle like you do with wrist motion. For movements in general, there’s no “neutral” and there’s no “normal”. There’s just your joints and the way they move.

If you find yourself getting a little lost in technical details, the simplest terms your main goal here is just to move as fast and smoothly as you can using the anchor points and arm position we show you in the tutorials. For someone at your level, where you have a foundation already, I’d like to see fast and fluid motion with decent hand synchronization applied to phrases that are still a little bit of a reach for you as far as note accuracy and string changes. If you can get into that zone where everything you play is fast and smooth but a little bit sloppy, then you have succeeded in getting to the next level, and you have something you can really work with and clean up over time.

1 Like

To read that you said I am not stringhopping is an early holiday season for me! See, stubborn but I get it eventually haha.
Not trying to get in the weeds with the anchor points but I reread the USX motion checklist. Got confused on one part. It said- “You can either rest the palm heel anchors on the strings, or on some combination of the bridge and strings. If you choose the split method, the pinky heel rests on the bridge and the thumb heel rests on the strings.”
I’m trying to imagine what this looks like because if I rest perfectly flat on the guitar, my palm heel rests on the bridge/strings. If I tilt, then the pinky heel will be resting on the strings correct? Is there a photo/video of this again for reference? Again apologies if I am in the weeds. Just trying to visualize this split method. I’m imagining this is possible only if we have that tilt.
Thank you again and have an awesome week- Bullseye

Sorry for the confusion. I’m not referring to tilting the arm. I just mean whether you rest the hand closer to the bridge or closer to the pickups and not on the bridge at all. If you’re closer to the bridge then the pinky heel rests on the bridge and the humb heel rests on the strings. Closer to the pickups, then both heels are on the strings. I can eliminate this note if confuses more than clarifies.

I sort of get it and I rest closer to the bridge/bridge pickup?
In terms of a practical set up with the anchor points, does this matter much for purposes of our conversation? For me, I have my forearm on the body, the palm heel on the bridge(ish) (is that a word) area, and I’ve been really focusing on keeping my right hand fingers closer and out of the way. That helps with my upstrokes. My fingers would fly all over and I’d be making an OK sign. In some playing that is fine, but I realized my challenge is on the lower thicker strings and not getting that smooth upstroke like I do on the A and D strings. With more finger support I have more control over that low E string. If you have any other tips for the lower strings please let me know…
Thanks a million- Bullseye

Not really following what you’re asking. But again I think you should just follow the guidelines in the Primer on form, and not overthink this stuff. Just attempt all the wrist motions we cover there, and try them with phrases that they fit with. Try the DSX pickstroke with really simple downstroke escape phrases like this one:

…and see if you get it happenign at a nice smooth medium-fast speed or better. If it sounds at least reasonably smooth, do more of it and try connecting stuff together into long phrases where you can keep that motion going.

1 Like

Sorry for the delay in reply. I guess the previous note regarding the palm side placements got me confused. I know my pinky heel rests more on the bridge and when I’m in a downstroke my thumb heel is closer to the strings. Beyond that I never paid much attention to this aspect of picking… I’ll review the Primer wrist section as soon as I get a chance. Ah one thing please- once you find a smooth/fast set up, were there any phrases or exercises you especially felt helped your new found mechanics? Did you work on chromatics, sixes, Yngwie patterns? Thank you.