Adambrad technique critique - Crossroads


#1

I found an old video of me from a couple years back doing the trick bag thing and thought of this thread. I thought the video of my technique from before I found CTC was interesting as I have no idea how I came to pick the way I do. I don’t remember it being as fast as it is, I thought I was a much slower player.

Terrible tone and badly made video but the speed is sort of there. I’m using a “reverse” malmsteen approach I think, entirely UPWS with sweeping descending and alt picking ascending (I’m not sure if I use legato or not - when playing 3nps I do inject legato mainly just because it sounds better but when playing complex patterns like the main parts of trick bag I think I pick everything as my hands loose sync if I don’t). Not sure how I’m doing the intro arpeggios, I think it’s badly executed cross picking but I didn’t know it was cross picking at the time, I was just alternate picking and hoping for the best that I don’t hit the wrong string.


"Eugene's Trick Bag" from Crossroads
#2

Damn dude even back then you had some pretty strong chops. Nice work


#3

Does anyone have any tips regarding the intro arpegggios? I suppose sweeping them is the easier option but it would be interesting to see if someone could take a crack at playing them with pure alternate picking.


#4

I 'm pretty sure I’m alternate picking them in the video above, I think for the 1 note per string stuff it’s a kind of cross picking I happened across without knowing it but I’m not certain. Maybe someone who knows better can say from looking at what my right hand is doing?

I only switch into “reverse malmsteen” once the faster stuff kicks in at 29 seconds in.


#5

Thanks for the info and taking the time to reply, very cool.

I think I only use forearm rotation of the wrist to pick and I only anchor the thumb side of the picking hand - the pinky side I try to keep lifted as otherwise it pulls the bridge sharp from my picking position.

However, I’m not sure your analysis applies well to what I do for fast playing. To be entirely fair I don’t think I’m the best candidate for technique analysis coz I’m a super brute-force kind of player. I posted a video the other day in the Euegene’s trick bag thread that I recorded a couple years ago which shows how my technique naturally evolved before CTC. One thing I should point out is that it looks in the video like I’m not putting in that much effort but I clearly remember my entire right arm burning like crazy and screaming at me to please stop playing the whole way through that recording from the very get go. This is normal for my fast playing. When I pick fast my right arm tenses immediately and doesn’t let up. I never seem to get tired, I can keep that speed up for hours, but the tension and burning is always there. When I was practising at my peak of around 11 hours a day for a few months at a stretch I eventually had to stop and take a month off because I developed quite a bad knot in my right shoulder blade muscles from the constant tension of playing at high speeds all day. I could still play at high speeds even then just fine but my shoulder just ached constantly.

I’ve never found a picking motion, even following different approaches outlined by CTC, that doesn’t cause my right hand/arm to tense up immediately, so it’s always just been a case of picking in a way that the tension doesn’t stop me from executing the sequence I’m trying to play. When-ever I’ve sought advice on it in the past I always just got the customary “relax your muscles!” sort of answer which isn’t very practical or very helpful because the tension is required for me to push the pick through the string - I just have very weak arms/hands. I think in truth I’m just genetically not pre-disposed to making these sorts of motions (for example my wrists are very inflexible, my wrist extension locks out at 40 degrees which is a good 25 degrees below what is normal), so instead I brute force everything and I’ve just found a “path of most resistance” to get what I want lol.

So in essence I think this is where the technique “switching” I mentioned comes from - whilst it should be technically possible for someone to make the motions needed with the wrist as you show, I suspect you have a quite relaxed hand and arm where-as I do not and cannot. I think there’s just too much tension in the muscles of my hand and arm required to make even basic picking motions for them to make subtle changes like you can on the fly. I have to stop, relax the hand, then tension it up again for the other technique and go again. In the Eugenes trick bag video I posted in the other thread there’s a big gap between the crosspicked and non-crosspicked sections so it naturally works but I couldn’t switch picking motion within a single run.

I’ll try and figure out a way to get a good camera angle on my picking hand in the coming days, I have a phone that can shoot slow-mo footage but getting the camera close enough to the hand to be useful is a challenge.


Troubles with UWPS string jump after an upstroke
#6

I’m merging a couple things into one thread here. Your video post from the crossroads thread and your comments on your technique from the uwps thread are all living together nicely in your own “technique critique” thread now!

This video is blazing! Your technique looks great, you’re doing a ton of things right, and I’m sure lots of people would like to have it.

I don’t know you what you mean by “brute force” or not being a “good candidate”. It’s pretty clear what motions you’re making, and we have indeed covered them in our various investigations of wrist technique recently. If you’ve still got these abilities I think both you and us could learn something from a better look at them. If you have a moment to an updated version of some basic playing — doesn’t need to be Crossroads — using a better phone, better lighting, and a more “down the strings” camera angle, that would be awesome. Some tips here:

Re: tension, this comes up all the time. I don’t think anyone’s muscles have innate bad tension that causes playing to suffer. This would hamper pretty much every activity you do in life, since these motions are fundamental and occur in just about everything you do with your hands. As you point out, creating tension is what muscles are designed to do. Instead, I think doing basic motions wrong causes fatigue, which is what people mistake for tension. So people think “relax” but it doesn’t work, because lack of relaxation wasn’t ever the problem.

Anyway I think getting a better look at what’s going on is a good step. Your playing is great and I’m certain some more awareness of what you’re doing will help you utilize only the muscles you need to use, and not the ones you don’t, at levels of force which are appropriate to the activity in question and not overkill.


#7

Ok kool I’ll see what I can do about some close up videos this week!

I haven’t been practicing technical stuff for about 2 years now so I’m not as slick with it as I was back when I shot that video, but I still have some facility. I mainly find the legato stuff is what suffers from lack of practice and the picking has stayed OK. I only play fast when I have a gig on and I spend my music time writing songs instead these days. I’m just getting interested in technique stuff again though so will be a good way to figure out what I should work on to get around my problem areas.


#8

OK I’ve made a bunch of videos of widdling that include slow-mo. The quality isn’t great, esp the slow mo coz I had trouble getting the camera to focus on the right hand instead of the left :<

It’ll take me a while to edit the widdling stuff so for today here’s just the first two. Notice how intense my angry stare gets during fast runs :stuck_out_tongue: Did I mention picking makes me tense?

Improvised Picking Runs

These are some reverse malmsteen runs that went OK - I have another video with a mixed bag of good and bad ones including some that went quite badly wrong and some bits of string skipping so I’ll post that next once it’s edited.

Intro arpeggios to crossroads

Bit rough and ready, fluffed a few notes I think but OK-ish.

Edit: I just noticed from listening on headphones that the video recording software recorded both the distorted guitar from the room via the microphone on the left channel and the dry guitar signal into the right. So if you use headphones you can isolate the distorted and completely unprocessed guitar signal to see what the same run sounds like distorted vs. dry. The dry version is literally straight from the pickups with no amp.


#9

nice. Whats the camera setup?


#10

The ‘fast’ camera is my laptop webcam. The slowmo camera is my smartphone (nexus 6p) at 120fps. You can see the smartphone camera from the webcam camera, bottom left of the picture.


#11

Thanks for putting these together! And great work on the two cameras. The trick for getting the slow motion camera to choose the correct hand is to lock focus. On the iPhone that is done by pressing and holding on the item you want to focus on until the “AEF Lock” icon appears. A similar process is available on most other phones. You can get someone to do this for you while you’re in position. Or you can do what I do when I’m filming solo - just set the guitar on a floor stand at the exact distance your picking hand will be, and the headstock will usually poke into view on the camera. Just press and hold on the headstock until it locks.

Great playing here. For the scalar stuff, you’re using a system we have generally called two-way pickslanting. This is where you assume one arm position which very briefly switches to a different position to grab certain notes, and then switches back. This is most obvious when you do the Gilbert-style patterns where the upper note is a downstroke.

Here’s Teemu Mantysaari playing a similar line. You can see how his arm position alters ever so slightly as he grabs that upper note, and reverts back when returning to the lower string:

Where it falls down a little is the hand synchronization. In the first example, I’m not precisely sure what phrase you’re going for, because some of the notes are missing in the pattern. I think it’s basically the Gilbert-style pattern, just moving through positions?

Since your foundation is fine here, it’s usually pretty easy to clean up hand synchronization issues by choosing a slightly simpler repeating pattern and ensuring that the initial pickstroke is always locked with the initial note. The other notes will tend to fall in line when you do that. The Yngwie six-note pattern is a good choice for rock players. But any repeating figure will do, including four-note units like one-finger-per-fret chromatic sixteenths, repeating in a single position.

If that all works and there are no dropout notes, then the next thing to do is to move those patterns across the strings without two-way pickslanting. In other words, you want to stick to phrases where you only switch strings on a particular pickstroke. This is how you check if your base string switching strategy is clean, because these phrase types are simpler.

In your case, because it looks like you’re making a downstroke escape motion for your fastest playing, then your go-to string change pickstroke is the downstroke. So you’re looking at phrases where the downstroke is always the final note on the string. This is probably the most bone-stock pattern I can think of for this type of string change, both ascending and descending:


The idea here again is to ensure that the string changes are clean, you’re not hitting any string you’re not intending to, and there are no note dropouts. In the scalar examples you’ve posted, it’s tough to tell because the hand synch is a little off, so these patterns are simpler and will help you iron out what if anything needs to be cleaned up.

Don’t hammer away on these all day - it’s boring, and not it’s about repetition anyway. Instead, just use them as tests for cleanliness. You’ve got the camera rig - just make sure to get the focus tight so you can really see if you’re hitting these notes. Pointing the headtock a little more at the camera will also help, because this will give you a more “down the strings” view. This will let see pick/string contact and spot which notes are really being hit.

For the arpeggio stuff, that actually strikes me as somewhat cleaner because it’s a slower tempo where you need to be more particular about the note choices. It’s also a slightly different picking motion. You’re using a crosspicking motion for that, similar to what I’m using here:

This is the wrist-based crossicking technique we discuss in our lesson on the topic, which you can find right here:

I recommend watching it because you’re essentially doing it already. Some more clarity on how these motions work might just make you more aware enough of your motions that you’ll naturally have a little more control over them.

In general, you have a wrist technique which is capable of just about any complexity level you could want, at most speeds you could want. Not only that, but there is not a dramatic difference in appearance or feel between the shred-style pickslanting motions and the crosspicking motion you’re using in the crossroad clip. That’s the nice thing about wrist motion - it’s all one big happy family with a similar arm position, similar picking motion. Your clips demonstrate that pretty clearly. You’re just looking to become more aware of these motions and clean them up a little.

Again nice work here and let us know if we can help.


#12

Ok lots of info to work through. I’ll try and get videos made of each pattern in the next week.

First thoughts;

The teemu pattern feels real easy, I think coz it’s close to what I do all the time anyhow so long as the note on the string on its own is hit with a downstroke like you say.

However the next 2 Gilbert things, the asc and desc 6’s are really hard, they both feel really tense in my picking arm, I get the same feeling if I try to do that teemu pattern with outside picking (single note on its own string hit with an upstroke). I can get through both of them but it’s really hard work and if I were playing live I definitely couldn’t complete those runs without it falling apart. I tend to avoid this sort of pattern when I improv (esp desc version) in favour of sequences that I can sweep upwards on the string changes or where I can insert those teemu like paterns in order to switch the picking around with 1 note of legato.

On hand sync/missing notes. I think it’s a combination of really bad sense of timing and also that my left hand slurs some of the notes between pattern changes. It does like a grace note on the first note of the next pattern of 6 as I can only change pattern horizontally on the index finger. The later issue i’ll make a video to explain in another post so it’s more clear what the problem is.

On the former issue - the bad timing - I have trouble with timing even just playing strummed open chords, always have. I’ve spent probably a few hundred hours doing click exercises for improving timing like doing the click-dropout thing and similar (I think Guthrie govan talks about it in one of his books) but never had any improvement. Sometimes my strumming is out by as much as a sixteenth and it’s not a consistent amount. It’s one of the reasons I got frustrated and I gave up with the focused guitar playing and switched to focusing on songwriting, coz in recording I can just fix the parts in the DAW and all is well :stuck_out_tongue:

I’ll do the videos for each pattern one by one over the next week so you can see what’s happening and we can figure out what I need to do to move forward.


#13

Here’s the teemu pattern


#14

Here’s the Ascending 6’s

And here’s some videos of me yammering about problems with paul gilbert style patterns and other picking stuff


#15

Great post, Troy, and I spent a lot of time thinking about this over the weekend, when I finally got some time to really sit down and practice (thanks to a head cold, lol), and really think about technique.

I was surprised how much of this stuff I was doing instinctively - you’d pointed this out in my playing in the past, where I do this thing that - to me - feels like I’m kind of “cocking” my wrist, winding up before a downstroke, and I couldn’t figure out why or what was going on, but it certainty didn’t seem mechanically optimal to me, and you pointed out that this was actually a pretty standard two way pickslanting thing to do, I guess. So, I spent some time trying to figure out what exactly I was doing. There’s definitely some arc to my picking mechanic, though maybe not currently enough to be an efficient crosspicking motion all on its own (I’m still working on this), but with a deviation based picking mechanic I do seem to escape on upstrokes (and I remember when I first signed up I thought I might be an UWPS player, and then promptly confused the hell out of myself, haha). Stuff like the Gilbert sixes pattern comes reasonably easy to me, with most of the trouble being on the single string accuracy and string tracking on larger moves (especially treble to bass) and less on the string switching.

And, sure enough, that “winding up” feeling motion happens consistently when I need to switch strings on an upstroke, after an escaped downstroke. It’s funny because this is something I could definitely feel in my playing, but didn’t have the faintest idea why I “wound up” for some pickstrokes. I figured it was just an awkward jump or something - which, I guess, it is, and kind of IS why I was doing it, though not for the reasons I thought.

Fascinating stuff… I spent a lot of weekend drilling single-string stuff like 3-5-7-3-5-7 triplets to try to burn that in and smooth out the coordination between my hands, and I honestly think it’s going to be that, and not the string changing, that’s going to emerge as what was holding me back the most.

That said, I should probably shoot some more video to make sure I really do understand what’s going on! :rofl: