Anyone have tips on how to get away from elbow motion?

I’m trying to work towards getting away from my DSX elbow motion in order to play yngwie stuff. Ive worked through the pick slanting primer and the volcano seminar and still just cant seem to get my wrist motion, or forearm motion fast enough. I just always default to using my elbow when i get above 160 bpm. Ive tried working on the yngwie forearm rotation, and the al di meola wrist motion to see which one would be an easier switch to make and i just cant get it down. Anyone else have any experience like this or any tips on how to get a different motion working at higher speeds?

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My previous technique was stringhopping. :kangaroo: Getting away from that has proven difficult, and I’m not done yet.

The first step was to get a single string tremolo which felt natural and relaxed at speeds above 140 bpm. I got this fairly quickly, although not immediately.

The next step was single string exercises, e.g. repeated 4 note chromatic descent. This was harder, because with the hand relaxation I kept dropping the pick or allowing the pick to slide into an awkward position, and I couldn’t do the exercise equally well on all six strings. I experimented a ton with different picks, different amounts of edge picking, and different hand positions. It took a lot of practice before I felt like I’d gotten it good enough to move on.

I’m still not at the point where I can do string crossing well at speed, and there are likely a few more stages to go through before I get there.

From what I gather, my experience is typical: it’s not easy to establish a new motion and you shouldn’t expect quick results.

My question to you is whether you can do any of those intermediate stages (string tremolo, single string exercises) at your desired tempos.

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I believe the conventional wisdom here would be to start with the table-tap tests, but maybe @tommo has better advice.

The weird thing is with dwps and al di meola wrist motion i can do multi string licks at like 170 bpm no problem, i even started working through far beyond the sun by yngwie malmsteen and am playing that no problem with wrist motion and dwps. That is until it gets to some of the single string tremolo licks, when i try to do a single string tremolo i revert back to uwps with elbow motion and i cant seem to get away from that.

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I was an elbow player for a long time, it can be a tough habit to change.

One suggestion I would have is this:

Instead of thinking about not using your elbow, think about keeping your wrist loose and continue to use your elbow. If you keep your wrist extremely loose, you will find that the elbow movement can translate into your wrist moving (almost appositionally) to your elbow. Think of this like a long bendy stick, by shaking one end, the other will also move but in a different direction.

You will see many ‘wrist’ players involving the elbow to some degree or another (especially at higher speeds) so I think it is more useful to think of them as complimentary.


Thanks man ill give that a try

This is too slow in my opinion, my inefficient motion could play at 160bpm 16th notes, it wasn’t until I started experimenting in the 170s that I discovered efficient motions :slight_smile:

Can you post some examples? 170ish is a good benchmark to aim for but on a single string seems to be the best test. Would be interesting to see both of these motions in action!

Definitely, I’m not an elbow player but I think I use the elbow to accent the first note in wrist DSX sextuplet phrases at higher speeds.

I think it’s common to struggle to only move the wrist when first starting out, I just had to imagine the rest of my arm was dead and really focus on isolating the movement to the wrist. If you’re going for a forearm blend that is a little different, it can be helpful to pivot off your middle finger on the guitar body, it can help guide the rotation of the forearm a little, it’s similar to key turning motion but only the very start of it :grin:

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Elbow guy for a long time here as well… I know just how easy it is to slide into something that has worked previously, but is not what you want! I am also a bit myopic and singular in my focus which can be very powerful. lol As an obstacle and moving forward! lol

There are times where elbow motion comes in handy, I haven’t lost the ability to still do that - it’s there if I want it.

I spent a bit of time with @Tom_Gilroy and he had a really awesome idea that worked pretty well for me and that was to select a different pick grip than I normally employed and do some tremolos as fast as I could, yet comfortable and “no tension” feeling for very short bursts and see what lands. From there it’s a bit of optimizing and tweaking but the result for me was a really, really reliable DSX using wrist.

And this approach has been helpful in developing a mixed escape as well. Both Tommo and Troy iterated and re-iterated smooth, and easy feeling tremolo first and foremost to me - once I started making tweaks that enable this I have a pretty quick (and getting quicker) mixed and double escape that dovetails nicely with what I developed with Tom.

I do remember a good month of it feeling really, really alien to do just wrist… And the background tension that came with my approach still has influence so it’s a lot of constant optimization, that’s for sure!

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For me stringhopping craps out at 120 bpm or so — which I understand is not uncommon. Getting above 140 was enough to force a change in motion.

Insisting on a threshold of 170 would have been gratuitous and frustrating-inducing, and had I received that advice it would have done me a disservice. Although now I can play tremolos at 180 and chromatic 4-note patterns at 160 (cleanly), it took work to get there.

I’ll ponder how to formulate this notion to accommodate player-dependent thresholds next time so that we don’t have to have this conversation again.

I could string hop rolls at 130bpm, my 160bpm motion wasn’t stringhopping but it wasn’t efficient :slight_smile:

Trying to do something you can’t do is definitely frustrating but once you can do it, it’s easy! I think that’s why efficient motions are efficient, it’s because you’ve found the easy way to do it.

When you say it took work what do you mean?

I don’t think there are player-dependent thresholds at these lower speeds, maybe when you start getting to the real extremes, like over 270bpm 16th notes. Troy talks about this a little in his recent video on RDT:

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Thanks for the mention :slight_smile:

Yes, starting from the motion tests is always good idea. If you manage to move any other joint at a good enough speed without the distraction of a guitar, you’ll know/feel how it is in principle possible to get fast picking motions from a variety of joints and motions, not just the elbow.

An even better idea is to to the tests as well as the following steps under the supervision of a teacher.

@TylerM5 it looks like you have an active membership at the moment, so I’d definitely recommend to post a technique critique on the platform and I or Troy will be happy to take a look!

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I obviously don’t have a physical limitation that restricts me to sixteenth notes at 120 beats per minute, since I’ve reported doing tremolos at 180. My table tap test results are in the normal range. I agree that physical limitations generally are not what hold people back – but when I mentioned “player-dependent thresholds” I was referring to technique-specific limitations, not anatomical ones.

My stringhopping is apparently not the same as your stringhopping, but please believe me when I say that 120 bpm is the ceiling of my stringhopping. What I found was that by playing faster than 140 bpm, my picking motion was forced away from the stringhopping boomerang path into an easier and more efficient back-and-forth path.

The learning approach I took follows CtC canon to develop motor programs in appropriate speed ranges – and it was successful, in that I arrived at a tremolo which worked not just at 140 but up to 180. So even if you quibble that 140 would have been too low for you, it worked for me, in exactly the way I understand it was supposed to.

Now, 140 bpm is not an appropriate threshold for @TylerM5, who started this topic – but I stipulated as much in my first post by inquiring whether they could play tremolos and single string exercises “at your desired tempos”, which Tyler had already indicated were “above 160”.

I described my experiences above:

I went ahead and spent the last two days reworking through the motion tests and I just created a technique critique for the Al Di Meola Style motion test. I would really like to work towards this becoming my primary motion, as it suits most of the stuff I enjoy playing, I’m just having a tough time figuring it out.

Thanks for responding to my forum post!

Excellent! I can see it in my queue so I’ll take a look soon :slight_smile:

For the benefit of the other readers: filming the tests (ideally with high framerate) is always a good idea, because when you look back at the video you can check whether you are really using the joint motions you think you are using.

So, for example, in your case you are trying to learn a new motion that is not elbow. The first step for that is to verify that you can perform some other tap tests correctly (e.g. the di Meola motion), and that they are not just becaming all elbow as you speed up.

The advantage here is that the tap tests remove all the complexities / variables associated with the instrument itself, so you have a better chance of correcting things at this simplified level, before moving on to applying the motions to a guitar.

I didn’t say you did! Sorry if it came across that way :slight_smile:

Could you expand on this?

I’m not trying to be rude to you or big myself up in anyway, I was hopeless with my picking until very recently! I just don’t believe you can achieve an efficient single escape motion starting at 140bpm 16ths. 180bpm 16ths is a good speed but I don’t think with an efficient motion that should be your upper limit. I can do deviation (which is less efficient) with an upper limit of 200bpm 16ths.

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In my experience, switching to a trailing edge grip unlocked a lot of tremolo speed. I suggest giving it a shot even as a mere experiment. Once you find a fast motion, sometimes it translates well to other motions and pick grips.