Another technique critique

Hi all,

I was wondering if I could get some suggestions on how to improve my picking technique.

I am looking to find a way to get some proper usx happening as I am finding my current technique to be holding me back on a lot of double picked metal style riffs and pentatonic runs. Currently these sorts of things feel borderline doable but it is never comfortable and the speed is not really there for the pentatonic runs.

I would like to know the best way to approach this without changing my entire technique because for runs ending on a downstroke I feel reasonably comfortable.

Cheers in advance.


This sounds and looks really good to me! You have a good / fast DSX technique going, and your USX, while not as fast, seems technically good as well. This other thread might have some crossover info for you:

Watching your video a couple times, I’d guess you’re just not used to doing 2nps USX lines (or USX in general), making them more uncomfortable feeling than the other patterns that you seem very comfortable with (which are DSX and combinations with at least 3nps).

I’d recommend trying to develop your USX only for a bit. You can tie that with 2nps-only practice, letting you develop both pretty efficiently.

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I agree with @Pepepicks66 this is awesome playing.

Since your goal is some more proficiency in USX, a good way to advance would be to capitalize on what you’re already best at in that department. To me, your double picked metal riffs look smoother than your pentatonics. Do you agree with this? Do the metal riffs feel easier to you? Not sure what it would take for you to feel like you’re totally good to go with them since I thought they sounded/look great. But once you get to that point you should be able to contrast what feels different about this compared to your pentatonics.

Once that’s out of the way and you concentrate more on the pentatonics, you may want to try working in occasional downward sweeps. You are doing straight 6’s and they get a little burdensome over long periods because of the frequent string crossing. Guys who are the fastest with all-picked 2nps, like Eric Johnson and (especially) Shawn Lane throw in occasional downward sweeps. This allows fewer string crossings and helps with endurance. Another approach is the Zakk Wylde way where he frequently just stays on a group of 2 strings. At least with that way, the string tracking is a little easier.

Another thing that helped me a lot with USX was tremolo melodies that only change strings occasionally.

Sorry for being all over the place in this post, hopefully those ideas are helpful. Again, great playing!

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Thanks for the replies and kind words guys!

I guess the trouble I am having is while I can play some stuff with USX the speeds you can see in the video are more or less the ceiling of how fast I can play that way. It also gets tiring much more quickly compared to when I am doing DSX stuff.

I did a fair bit of work with the metronome in the early years of my playing and so while it sounds reasonably clean, I think the motions I am using for USX are maybe not the best efficiency wise.

@Pepepicks66 I have been focusing on just USX for a while now it has just never clicked the same way DSX did for me years ago now.

@joebegly The double picked metal riff doesn’t really feel more comfortable than the pentatonics but i have practiced it fair bit more recently which may account for the extra smoothness you are hearing.

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Interesting, and great clarification. I was in a similar situation where I posted a technique critique that was ‘acceptably fast’ (~16ths in the 180bpm range) but I complained of tension and endurance problems. I don’t think my problem was the same as…whatever your problem is :slight_smile: But I think it’s good to point out playing that looks ok and sounds good could possibly be better, due to some small (or in my case not so small lol) inefficiency.

We always hear the same advice on here: can you do a tremolo with a USX motion? If so, what speeds are you getting? If they are greatly above what you’re posting here, the motion is most likely different. Can you film a USX tremolo at your fastest so we can take a look?

@joebegly I can post another video tomorrow as its currently midnight where I am.

What I think will happen though is that if I try to trem pick with an USX motion it will be a similar speed to what you can see in the video. Any faster and it will turn into my DSX motion.

I also have a feeling that when I am playing the faster 3nps stuff that I might be swiping the change of strings that happen on the upstroke which is why I can play those lines but the double picked and pentatonic stuff is tiring.

I’m not convinced that at speeds higher than the metal stuff I played I ever have an USX motion.

I will definitely post another video tomorrow to confirm.

I was wondering this also cause with metronome beats app i top out definitely around 600 bpm, even this speed feels extremely tough compared to single string picking or three note per string stuff, which is like 100 bpm sextuplets 10 nps, but to be fair even 12 nps at 120 is still very difficult for me, this is only for specific sorta picking patterns, 11 nps seems more manageable. Funny thing is I was asking Cesario about this, and he said thumb technique, which is also how Michael Romeo does it with his whole tone lick off the young guitar video.

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But that is just a solution. It’s not the solution. Zakk Wylde, Eric Johnson both play at and above sextuplets @ 120 and they (at times) do this without the Cesario thumb technique. Interestingly both of those guys do occasionally use some thumb:

but it isn’t their main mechanic for the bulk of their fast stuff, as opposed to Cesario. Maybe worth exploring though if you can’t get a wrist/forearm (or blend) working at the speeds you mentioned.

Troy’s table tapping tests taught us that these motions are not unattainable by the vast majority of people. We don’t lack raw speed, we lack the coordination of an unfamiliar motion and often other body parts creep in and mess up the mechanic we’re going for. That’s why finding what you’re naturally fastest at and using it as a basis is the recommended approach.

Yes for myself when I do tremolo picking, I will use elbow with the thumb for coordination. But this has taken me significate daily practice, probably two years, to overcome this hurdle to get control as well as speed. And I find these specific metronome burst patterns with the percentages to help, and focusing on 2 specific fragments, the diminished sextuplet tetrachord loop around lick 15, 14, 12, 11, 12, 14, and the sixteenth rhythm chromatic pattern based on the harmonic minor tritone phrygian dominant 2,3,2,1.

This is my metronome setting for sextuplet speed practice. If you are doing tremolo I would suggest lowering the tempo at first if youre having trouble maintaining the triplet feel, then start ramping it up.
I start at 80% and cycle through the percentages.

This is the pattern I use for sixteenths. I start at 80% and cycle through the percentages.

If you feel like you can burst longer then do it until you crap out. :yum:

When talking speed you really need to analyze what youre doing, and you better try to find the least path of resistance, using your strengths to your advantages.
Also understand that there is this finger language you are also trying to teach yourself, much like our mouths speak the language. So it can take a few days for specific patterns to sink into your subconcious so this is probably why they say dont spend to much time on a lick cause your body is trying to learn this wierd fingering thing youre trying to do.

Thats why I was showing you guys two simplistic exercises for speed training. Because in weightlifting if you never attempt heavy weight you wont ever get stronger. So just remember sometimes you will have to push yourself even if that means mental and physical anguish. And those exercises should make practicing speed in the beginning more approachable.

So in conclusion using those first few segmented beats helps speed up lagging spots in your hands. It will take consistent practice, and time to gain speed. And you might even need to offset those segmented patterns or start on an off beat to work every area of the fragment or lick out to help develop speed in every instance of movement. Nahre Sol has a great video on this sort of practice, this is why I believe gypsy jazz players are so fast is because of swing tempo.

So now to go further what I am doing to practice this is taking that 3 string up, one string down, three string up until i reach the top then descend it, doing this scale exercise with the most common pentatonic box shape and using that sixteenth burst pattern to push myself. With a lower bpm of course since 758 on this is well beyond my ability. :sweat_smile: :muscle::rofl::metal:

@bradejensen that’s all very interesting. Especially the dotted rhythm stuff. I’ve seen a virtuoso violinist suggest similar methods for gaining control at the fast speeds. I’m sure it helps with coordination. Plus I like the idea of short bursts because it allows us high exposure to speeds we’d otherwise not really play in very often, just due to the fatigue we could experience.

One important thing to bring it back to CtC principles (and not saying you yourself are guilty of this or anything, just pointing it out in general) is that if the motion we’re using isn’t right, this is all sort of a moot point. Since we know most people have the raw hand speed to play sextuplets at 120 with various joint motions, if there is some type of difficulty at a that speed it could be that the motion isn’t totally coordinated.


I’ve never seen a single post on here where Troy advocates viewing weight training and guitar speed the same. Quite the opposite. One’s athletic, the other is neuromuscular. Sure, to get faster we have to play at faster speeds to train the neuromuscular processes, because our brains are going to get different signals of info at the fast speeds. Anything with guitar that involves physical anguish is not a good idea.

Yes it really depends on the person in regards to physical anguish, but I am pretty sure we can come to an agreement that 12 notes per second, thats the low end of the fast chain, some players can go much much higher, either by genetic luck, or years of swing tempo or daily live playing of improv repetoire material, but those speeds are very physically demanding somewhere along the line in regards to human ability. We dont even speak this fast. So I have no idea what you mean because playing that basic diminished tetrachord loop around easy as pie lick for about 15 consecutive measures at around 13 notes per second anyone is going to start feeling that in their body regardless of how efficient you dissect the movements down to, and barely move. You will feel it, if you dont then you must be a robot.

I was mearly trying to bring across a point that they make in weight training, I never said they were the same. But even shawn lane said he would try to play ridiculously fast, and clean it up as time went on. What I meant was that if you never even attempt to play faster it wont happen magically. And in weightlifting if you don’t attempt to lift heavy weight obviously you won’t ever be able to lift it. It is just common sense really. This was the point I was trying to make.

But yes beginners dont need that mentality, I concur, this is for more experienced players who need to figure out why they cant handle certain tempos. And also lacking rhythmical, and musical comprehension can hinder ones speed also. Which is why I am a big advocate for bringing konnakol and tetrachords to the very beginning of ones musical journey.

Hey sorry @bradejensen I should clarify some of what I said. It didn’t come across as I intended.

I did say that most people have the ability to play sextuplets at 120 (12 nps). I don’t know that I said anything about 15 consecutive measures. What I meant was like the examples in Troy’s table tapping tests. He was usually going for just a few measures, not the duration of a long drawn out musical section. His purpose for these was to show that the average human can move several of the joints needed to pick fast at a speed like this. He was always doing 16ths in the tests, but 16ths @ 180 bpm is equivalent to sextuples @ 120 bpm in terms of ‘notes-per-second’. On just about any joint he tested, he was well beyond 180 before he felt it was getting out of control. I tried the tests out and I got similar numbers. I think most people will, and that’s what I was trying to convey. The ability to move our joints at these speeds aren’t freakish or robotic. The ability to get the fine grained control over these movements and apply them to the guitar is another matter obviously.

But, if someone is an advanced player and is using an efficient motion, I don’t think a few measures of sextuplets at 120 should feel difficult. That’s been my experience anyway. Prior to having Troy straighten me out, a speed like that, even for a couple measures, felt challenging. Now I feel really relaxed when I play at speed like this. If I try going for 15 measures straight, yes tension starts happening along the way and I lose it.

To bring it all back to the technique critique that’s the subject of this thread, @sassek is already shredding. If the USX motions don’t feel as comfortable there’s likely just a motion that isn’t quite as smooth as it needs to be. He can clearly move his wrist at/above 12nps for DSX. Why should the USX feel more difficult? So, tremolo test :slight_smile:

Yes for me i feel the tremolo is the ultimate test. This for me, I feel myself being hindered because of rhythmical comprehension, and lack of frequent playing swing tempo. 16ths are so much easier, and I can go well beyond my sextuplet groove, which for some if I’m not mistaken is opposite, some players are faster at triplets than sixteenths. If I use that metronome app and use this speed over time setting it helps me maintain the groove, with proper relaxed technique. However I still have trouble if I just go straight to a faster tempo dialing in the proper rhythm, unlike if I gradually go to it with the metronome.

Yeah I’m actually trying to normalize the whole 16ths/sextuples difference perception in my own playing. I don’t know this for sure but I think one of my issues was accents. Like, for 16ths, I just emphasize the down beat of each beat. ONE ee and uh TWO ee and uh. Sextuples…I think I used to play them and like ONE two three FOUR five six. Almost like 2 really fast triplets and accenting the downbeat of each triplet. That was making the picking a little skewed. Now I try to just feel the downstrokes in general, whether 16ths or sextuplets. Not even really accenting anything at all either.

My first real breakthrough was when I tried to play the descending 4s down a single string but in sextuplet groove. I never realized how musically and rhythmiclly illiterate I was until I tried to do that one easy thing, at first it is very challenging, but if you are patient things like this can help with comprehending things better. Take things you know in 16ths, but play them in triplet/sextuplet groove. :sweat_smile:

I believe we need a more concrete rhythmical system like konnakol, solkattu can be helpful.
mattias eklund uses this to help him.

It might not seem difficult to them because they have an easier time saying what they are hearing in their head, I am saying it requires alot of physical effort whether one realizes it or not. You would need to look at blood flow in those areas that you are using, and yes you better believe you are going to have insane blood flowing in those areas you are playing at 12 nps and higher utilizing. Some people have an easier time conveying what they are trying to say, making it appear effortless, and to them it might be unless they are in for over an hour of this sort of playing, others arent so musically minded, and are going to get speed bumped by not really knowing what they want to say, or where their playing is going, and its going to make it feel impossible. Which maybe we should just get down to it, and we should just analyze eric johnson for a few months. I bet them 2s wouldnt be so hard any more. :sweat_smile: Tell me them gypsy jazz players couldnt crush your hand, or them flamenco picado players. So if it is so easy wouldnt we all be playing flamenco or gypsy jazz?

Hi again all, @joebegly

I have attached another video of me first doing my dsx motion and then attempting an usx motion.

Looking at it my self it makes sense to me that I have trouble with faster usx stuff as when I go to a higher speed the escape motion seems to disappear. This leaves me with swiping or an inefficient motion that gets tiring quickly and is not that fast.

The trouble is i’m not sure exactly what changes I should try to make to achieve the usx at higher speeds as my form looks similar to other videos I have looked at minus the pick ending up above the strings. I am not sure where I am going wrong?

I will approach another way. Could you soundslice the lick youre working on so I could better understand what you mean. As when I practice 2 note stuff I’m making sure that I’m only using downward pick slanting, and forcing outside strokes on the descending portion. Are you trying to do descending fives with an up sweep like a reverse version of ascending 5s using a down sweep?

Hi @bradejensen,

Hopefully this slowed down clip can help illustrate what I mean.

In this clip the pick is clearly escaping on the upstroke however it is pretty much the maximum speed I can play this way.

If I try and speed things up beyond this, the motion that is allowing the pick to escape strings on the upstroke pretty much disappears and it all falls apart very quickly.

I am trying to find a new motion that allows me to keep the pick escaping on the upstroke while also reaching a higher max speed and being more relaxed while doing so.

It feels like my current faster motions only really work for escaping the string on a downstroke or swiping through the string I am moving to.