Advice sought: swiping back-to-back-to-back outside string changes

Hi folks! I have been studying the Pickslanting Primer and other CTC material since 2016, but this is my first post.

I am seeking any advice or insight as to how I can clean up my alternate picking on this ascending sequence which starts on a downstroke and involves back-to-back-to-back outside string changes:



(If this type of scale sequence - ascend 3 notes, drop back one, then ascend another 3 notes, etc. - has a name, please let me know!)

The video clip shows two repetitions. The first 4 seconds of the video clip show me playing two repetitions of this sequence at normal speed (16th note triplets at 100 bpm) and the remaining 8 seconds show the exact same performance, but at half speed.

On a good day I can play certain licks or straight ascending/descending 3NPS scales with a single or back-to-back outside string change somewhat decently (sometimes with swiping) by trying to use DSX or USX, but this sequence has me frustrated because it involves an ascending outside string change on a downstroke followed by a descending outside string change on an upstroke once again followed by another ascending outside string change on a downstroke. I seem to have a little less trouble on the higher strings, so I am sharing my attempt on the 6th and 5th strings where the problem is most apparent.

Because there are two downstroke string changes versus one upstroke string change, it would seem logical to position my arm in a more pronated DSX position to get two downstroke escapes and only swipe once on the upstroke in between, but I cannot seem to be able to do that for some reason once the tempo increases much past 70 or 80 bpm. It feels smoothest rhythmically to play it the way I am doing in the clip with either a slight USX or a totally trapped pick and plowing through the strings with swiping on all the string changes. Perhaps I am incorrect, but I say “slight USX” because I seem to manage to avoid swiping on the upstroke that restarts the second of the two repetitions. However, needless to say, it sounds sloppy with higher gain. At slower tempos, the swiping stand out as being more audible and thus even more annoying.

Perhaps someone with more experience can spot something I am missing and/or suggest a different approach.

Many thanks!

Can’t speak specifically on the escape mechanics, but it sounds like you might be palm muting too heavily and performing the swipes too slowly. Hopefully someone else can chime in with some additional insight.

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It looks to me like you do get at least one downstroke escape before the first string change but before clearing the next string you change direction and head straight into it, getting a swipe when you could actually have made the change without it. You also appear to miss the next note on the low string, the pick is just bouncing on the E string before returning to the A.

Also, I think your form and motion looks more like DSX than USX, but the motions are so small and somewhat erratic so it’s hard to tell. I think if you went for a bigger motion the string changes would be easier. I don’t know whether any of this is of any help.

Thanks to Pepepicks66 and Johannes for your comments!

I will experiment with different amounts of palm muting.

A couple of years ago when I built my Magnet, I analyzed my default picking motion and concluded that I was using DSX. Since then I have worked on USX, but it does not seem to feel as natural (yet).

I appreciate the observation regarding the size of my motions. I could be mistaken, but I feel that I am still relying on the pick’s proximity to the string to regulate my picking depth. I hope that with more practice and experience that I will be able to experiment with wider picking motions without feeling like I am losing my bearings.

The following thought might sound odd, but as I have learned more and more about alternate picking I feel as if one of my biggest challenges has been the fact that when I am tremolo picking (which I can now do reasonably well at 200+ bpm 16th notes), the point of my pick only moves a few millimeters on either side of the string, but when I have to make an outside string change, it has to move more like a centimeter – in the same amount of time! Of course that means it has to move perhaps 3 times as fast, and switching direction at that velocity feels very different. I have somewhat gotten used to this, but for the sequence in the clip where there are repeated consecutive outside string changes, I think that is still throwing me for a loop.

Again, I appreciate the comments regarding the picking width and the palm muting slowing me down, because those are related to this experience that I am having and gives me some things to focus on as I practice and work on improving.

If anyone has any other experiences, observations, or comments, I would greatly appreciate it.


Hi there @agt123, some thoughts from a non-expert:

  • “Because there are two downstroke string changes versus one upstroke string change, it would seem logical to position my arm in a more pronated DSX position” - I recall that pick slant is set by the string exit. If you’re leaving a string on an upstroke, use DSX (because the upstroke will “lift” the pick out from the strings); for leaving on downstroke, use USX. Since this pattern changes strings on downstrokes, my initial thought would be to use USX. See the “pickslanting” vid on youtube: With this, you still have the outlier (the single upstroke on the 5th fret), but I think that will still work out.
  • I agree with the others that the very very small pick motions you’re making might make this tough. With your current setup, you have a few radically different motions to weave together. Larger pick movements that “throw” the pick over or nearer to the adjacent strings might be more manageable, as the adjustments will be reduced. I have tried very small motions like this in the past, but found that I ended up creating more tension.

I’ll see if I can get an example up, with not too much tension in my hand :slight_smile: I’m still learning as well, and so my word is not gold. Cheers! jz

Yer hand should be tilted more updward coz now your pick looks up but hand is ± neutral
And you should pick with bigger motions coz what u’re doing now is not picking but just chewing the string

Hi again @agt123, I’ve worked on this and got it up to speed. Still not completely secure, but enough to know that it’s on the right track. I used upward pick slanting (new for me, it always seemed to want to move to downward slanting) and recorded a vid to show how I worked on it. When I’m completely locked in, it’s clear and easy, though I still need to work at it to make it consistent and unavoidable :slight_smile:

Some notes:

  • The video quality is crap :smiley: I just ripped it off. And I screw up the lick several times throughout. So take everything I say with a grain of salt!
  • My upward slanting isn’t great! Still needs practice
  • While my pick motion is small-ish, I wasn’t worried about that. In fact, while practicing, I sometimes used a wider stroke – the stroke length doesn’t matter much
  • getting the stresses right is important, I think: it’s good to clearly mark the sextuplets, and also the required accuracy translates to better picking (in the end, more speed)
  • when the picking was loose, the switching between the strings didn’t feel like much of a change to the motion

EDIT - reviewing your original video, I see that you hook your pinky under the high E. I tried that too, and it flattened out my picking hand a lot, meaning I couldn’t get the proper upward pick slant I wanted. Perhaps try unhooking and really tilting your hand, see where that gets you.

Cheers! jz

I know this is confusion that we ourselves created, however we no longer use the term “pickslant” to refer to the path the pick travels. Pickslanting is only used to refer to the appearance of the pick, i.e. whether or not it is slanted. The reason is that not all escape motions use or require a “slanted” pick.

In this case specifically, players who can do these types of phrases very often use picking motions which do not use or require a pickslant.

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This is not correct. The hand and arm position we’re seeing in this clip look pretty good, and similar to what players like Andy Wood use when playing phrases like this. When we’re looking at picking motions, you have to be careful about looking at the “slant” of the pick, because lots of expert players, like Andy, very often use a pick orientation which looks vertical (straight up and down), even when the picking motion itself is moving on a diagonal.

I know we’ve been less than clear on this subject, so I apologize! But picking motions are complicated and we’re always learning more as we go.

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Thanks for posting! In general this looks pretty good as far as your overall form. i.e. There is nothing obviously “wrong” with holding the pick this way, placing your arm in this position, and using this motion, which appears to be wrist motion.

However I would echo what @Johannes is saying in that the motions themselves are small and possibly erratic, and also like @Pepepicks66 I think the heavy muting is making it a little challenging to hear what you’re playing. It also might be interfering with just doing the motion itself smoothly.

Can you film a clip of playing a single note on a single string using whatever motion is most comfortable and with no muting at all? That would be a good first step to making sure the motion itself is smooth.

Does your phone have a 120fps mode? If so, I recommend using it because 60 and 30 are still usually pretty blurry and make it hard to see what you’re doing. If you don’t have 120, that’s fine, just film the normal speed video. Also, if you can move the Magnet slightly farther away from your picking hand, that will provide a better view of what’s going on with your wrist and arm as well as the pick/hand.



Hi @Troy, what terms are currently used? Is there a reference video/page? Cheers, jz

The Primer is our main resource for everything we know about picking motions and how they work:

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Wow! Thanks for all the replies from everyone. The people on this forum are amazing in their supportiveness and generosity. I especially want to thank jzohrab: I was not expecting an in-depth 8+ minute video lesson. Thanks so much, jzohrab!

Some of the things that jzohrab mentioned are familiar to me, except I cannot do them as well. Beyond these, some of jzohrab’s suggestions I will definitely try in the next few days are not anchoring the pinky, focusing more on anchoring the part of the palm where the thumb meets the radius, and starting on the second half of the first sextuplet to isolate the string changes.

jzohrab, if I am not mistaken, it appears that you introduce a subtle forearm supination as you initiate the upstroke on the first note on the A string as discussed in Antigravity. I have experimented with this, but I cannot seem to do it smoothly at faster tempos.

And Troy, thank you for your participation in this thread (and also obviously for all the amazing analyses and interviews you have shared over the years)!

In response to Troy’s request, I have embedded another video of me tremolo picking a single note using my most comfortable motion, with no muting, and hopefully showing more of my arm. The first 4 seconds are at normal speed and the second 8 seconds contain the same performance at half speed. This is my “normal” default - I was not consciously trying for DSX or USX, although I see a subtle DSX position and motion (please correct me if I am wrong).

In the clip my picking width again appears to be quite narrow and, whether or not that is the primary issue in my original clip, I think that is something I should work on. That will also be a focus during practice time this week.

This looks pretty good, and it sounds smooth. Is this close to max speed for a single note or are you just choosing a comfortable moderate speed to give us a look at the form? If so, no worries.

Keep in mind that when you look at this and see “slight DSX” that is the result of your joint motion plus your arm position. You’re not really “doing” DSX, you’re “doing” a particular wrist joint motion, which in this case looks like the kind of wrist motion Al Di Meola uses. It appears side to side but in reality moves up and to the right relative to the pinky-thumb axis. Whether that motion is parallel to the strings or “escapes” in some way just depends on your arm position. If you were to turn your arm toward your thumb it would appear to be “more DSX”, if you were to turn more toward your pinky it would appear trapped. But the joint motion would still be the same — still up and to the right, relative to your wrist joint.

Anyway that’s a little academic. The small size of the motion is something we suspect might be problematic just from looking at clips here on the forum, but we have no hard evidence that it is. If you can play multi-string phrases with a small motion then if it works, it works.

Can you play a simple DSX pattern that moves across the strings, like if you had six or eight notes per string, switching on downstrokes each time? And is that smooth and do you clear the strings?

Hey @agt123, great picking :slightly_smiling_face: My vid is just ideas, not a lesson — I’m a learner too! But it was a good chance for me to explore some practicing ideas which I used to apply to piano.

I think I did do some forearm changes on that first A string note, but not consciously: that was likely a byproduct of me striving to not stress that first note, it was super loud when I started. And the issue only happed at high speed, of course, so I worked on keeping the stresses only on the first note of the sixes. Andy Wood talks about stressing selected notes as a way of improving accuracy, give it a shot. Cheers! Jz

Folks, thank you. Work is keeping me busy this week. I will post the requested video in a few days!

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