Arranging Crosspicking


Ok, so I’ve made it through the getting started videos, Carl Miner, David Grier, and Molly Tuttle interviews (currently on Andy Wood acoustic), and one of the things that really jumped out to me was how they all talked about practice. None of them said that they spent a lot of time doing scales and arpeggios, etc., but they all spent a lot of time just playing songs and working through them. This is the same discussion I’ve had with my guitar teacher. I’ve pushed for exercises to simply get a feel for the mechanics, but he’s big into picking a song and using that as a way to pick up techniques. So it’s fascinating to see everyone pretty much agree with him.

Looking through some of the samples, I’m curious if @Troy asked any of these folks about how they take a simple tune and arrange it in a crosspicking arrangement. I’m sure they’d say that they just do it, but it’s not intuitive at all, IMO. I assume there are some strategies for crosspicking around a melody?

For example, David Grier played John Riley the Fisherman in a cross picked (A) and a simplified style (B). I’ve got a small handful of songs in the B category and would like to start working them toward the A category. Comparing the two different versions of John Riley it isn’t immediately apparent. I need to study them more though, I admit. I’m still getting acquainted with all the material here and will dive in deeper once I know what all is here.

I’ll ask my guitar teacher about this as well, but I just wanted to throw this out there in case anyone else had a similar question/thought.


I would say if it’s not coming intuitively, I’d recommend writing out the melody ‘straight’ and looking for ways to intersperse arpeggiated notes of the chord in between (or at times with) the melody note.

Often in this style the melody note is either the lowest note being heard, or the highest note being heard. If it’s in the middle it’s easy for it to not sound out as the melody note. And in any case it needs to be accented in dynamic above the other notes.


Yeah, but just because they didn’t do mechanical exercises doesn’t mean that they weren’t practicing those techniques repeatedly.

Andy specifically talks about finding a song that requires the technique you want to work on and practicing that song to boost your technique.

For example when Andy was practicing crosspicking his Bela Fleck-esque rolls He mentions that he would make it more of an exercise by elongating the timing on each chord change. This not only works the technique but still also sounds musical as you are building repertoire/vocabulary.

Of course you have to know what the movement/technique is and how to do it (or at least refine it through a process of trial and error) before practicing that technique otherwise you are wasting your time ingraining bad habits.

I’d gohre interested in a crosspicking then I recommend to check out this Albert Lee video where the wrist only motion for Supinated Crosspicking is explained-

And here is Troy’s shortened two minute tutorial on the same subject-

One thing to note is that David and Molly are doing a pronated version of Crisspicking- so the movement will look different from the Supinated Version that Albert/Andy/Carl/Steve/Martin Miller’s use. For Supinated Version, The downstroke is some combination of Wrist Extension, Finger Extension, and Ulnar Deviation, and the Upstroke is some combination of Radial Deviation, Forearm Rotation and Wrist Flexion.


Yes! This is very helpful. Great call.

I literally just finished the Andy Wood interview and I think it’s the best one of all the ones I watched because Andy was able explain his reasons and rationale for things in a more thoughtful and articulate way than some of the others (not to knock the others - I got valuable things from all of the videos). I have a feeling that this is the one I’ll keep coming back to the examples time and again more than anything else.

My grip is very similar to Andy’s. I just can’t play like him!


I am just guessing here… but it’s possible that the reason Miner, Grier, and Tuttle didnt do a lot of arpeggios for practicing, could also be because the style of music they played doesn’t rely on arpeggios so much.

On this forum, we use Crosspicking as synonymous with a double-escape picking method… when most people outside this forum consider Crosspicking more of a style of music translated to the guitar. So if your goal is to play the Miner, Grier, Tuttle type crosspicking lines… I agree with them that doing arpeggios, scales, etc may not be the best approach.

However, I am an Arpeggiophile, so I love practicing the mechanic with these types of lines. And maybe rock/fusion/jazz players like Martin Miller, may also practice arpeggios as well. I’m just guessing here.


The Grip is kind of irrelevant to crosspicking. You can use any type of grip. Steve and Albert use a 3 Finger Grip. Martin and Andy use fhe “angle pad” grip on the side of the index joint.

The test is that you can do the individual movement of the downstroke and upstroke without changing position.

So for a pure wrist only version of crosspicking in a Supinated manner the Deviation will clear the upstroke- just like in Eric Johnson’s DWPS. Then Extension and Flexion will create the downstroke bay escapes in an UWPS manner. You should be able to do DWPS and UWPS in the same Hand posture without having to rotate the hand position. Deviation for DWPS, Extension/Flexion for UWPS. Then simply combine the two components into one curved pickstroke.

Once you have this then start doing tremolo exercises to build speed, and start playing some tunes that require crosspicking to build the technique. You can also work on various 3/4 String Forward and Backward Rolls, or continuous Inside/Outside Picking Etudes between two strings to work the technique.


Just very general comment on this: it all comes down to the music you listen to, you’re familiar with and you learn to play. Arranging a fiddle tune with crosspicking motifs probably comes easier if you’ve listened to lots of Bluegrass stuffs. I remember a YT clip about Kenny Smith on his tune ‘Studebaker’ (side note here : Kenny Smith is a wonderful player) and it was obvious that there was some ingrained stuffs he learned that he would naturally apply for arranging the tune, crosspicking-wise.

I guess if you’re more of a jazz player, you would be more naturally inclined to create chord melody arrangements, and you can use crosspicking for that. Same if you have a background in classical music you can apply crosspicking technique to some pieces of the classical repertoire (e.g. the Bach prelude in D minor is a good candidate for that). Same for folk etc … lots of potential crosspicking application for stuffs like Joni Mitchell songs, or Bert Jansch etc …


Right. I should have made it clearer in my original post. I was inquiring about approaches to arranging tunes in a crosspicking style/approach in order to facilitate practicing the crosspicking technique (double escape). Given that these players recommend just trying stuff within songs, I wanted to see if anyone had suggestions for going beyond alternating bass/strumming, and an occasional picked passage to a crosspicked arrangement. For example, Will the Circle Be Unbroken. I’m working on playing the melody inside the chords. The next step, it seems to me, is to figure out how to arrange this to include the melody and crosspicking so there’s only an occasional accent strum, instead of that being the primary rhythm component.

For sure. It was just more of an, “oh, cool!” type of realization.


This is a bluegrass thing. The musical style is rooted in a fixed number of standards and everybody needs to know them or you can’t play along during jam sessions, etc. It’s a song-based culture with a specific canon. That’s why they learned this way.

Be careful, there is a technical subtlety here: David Grier always crosspicks. Doesn’t matter what kind of line he is playing. Even when he is playing a scale, all pickstrokes escape. He was not aware he was doing this - that’s the “catching air” part of our discussion. The point of that interview was to sit down with someone who learned to play this way, and does it habitually and automatically, to see how the motion works.

In other words, in Cracking the Code, when I say “crosspicking”, I’m talking about a mechanical concept, not a type of music. It’s a picking style where all picktrokes are fully escaped. The counterpart is the “pickslanting” style, where the players uses an angular picking motion and only half the pickstrokes escape. The player can combine different angular motion paths which is what we call “two-way pickslanting”, but each path is still angular. The concept in pickslanting is that you choose the picking motion to fit the line. One approach is not better than the other, these are just tendencies we noticed when we interviewed players so we created these terms to describe them.

Point being, if you want to learn bluegrass tunes, most of those players use a crosspicking movement, where all the notes escape. So that’s what I would recommend. A great way to do that is to start with roll patterns because they are essentially like mini bluegrass songs. If you can do the pattern, then you can do things like this which are halfway to bluegrass, minus the standard melodies:

This is why I outlined the path above. To recap:

  1. Work through the Picking Motion broadcast and try the different arm / hand movements. There is some fundamental knowledge in there, like forearm position and anchoring and wrist offset, that is common to all picking styles, whether they are pickslanting or crosspicking.

  2. While you do this, even if you want to learn crosspicking movements, I would still recommend trying the pickslanting motions themselves because they are the simplest movements you can make, mechanically, and it’s a good learning experience to understand how your parts work!

  3. Once you’re done with that, watch the Albert Lee video and try to understand the concept of how the wrist is supposed to move in a crosspicking style. Then once you’re done with that, watch the roll tutorial and read through its thread.

I’d also recommend taking a look at @tomatitito’s thread because he’s got it:

What he’s doing here looks almost exactly like what I’m doing in the tutorial thread and videos. So far as I can tell, this form, because there are so few moving parts – only wrist – is the simplest way to try and cop at least one simple, functional way of doing bluegrass roll patterns. So it’s worth trying that and seeing if you can make it work. Use the videos as a reference and see if you can make your movement look like what you’re seeing. Once you have at least a week of attempts under your belt, post a clip and we’ll take a look. This is a simple movement of primarily one joint with a single anchor position, and if you eliminate all other variables and simply attempt to copy exactly what you’re seeing in these clips, you’ve got a good shot at reproducing it.

There’s a lot here and I apologize for the complexity. In the future we’ll be simplifying this with more concise tutorial material. But that’s the roadmap for now!


Well, I personally like to use X-picking in the CAGED system. So if I am playing over a specific chord… I will often just go ahead and setup a CAGED equivalent to that chord, and use that as a template, and start picking away. I know that is a bit limiting, but I think it’s still a great way to keep it simple.

By the way, I’ve also seen Martin Miller discuss this. Ive heard him say he is not really a 3NPS player, and I think a lot of that stems from his picking versatility.

My own personal preference is to practice X-picking for arpeggios, especially 7th Arps. These have a lot of alternating 2NPS, 1NPS. And I’ve found these sequences are ideal for X-picking… it just makes it so much easier to do and keep in time.


Right. The trad bluegrass tunes are one thing. I’m thinking more along the lines of what Molly Tuttle did with White Streamliner, taking a folk/singer-songwriter song and arranging it with a crosspicking style approach.

What I’m thinking about is extending the habit of song-based practice to non-bluegrass standards. I don’t want to simply play standards. For example, I’d like to be able to take a country rock song, like Glendale Train and arrange it with a crosspicking approach in order to practice my mechanical crosspicking technique, as described here.

Right. I tried to clarify this point in one of my subsequent posts. Apologies if there was confusion. I wasn’t trying to make you repeat yourself!


Sorry my turn to apologize! It sounded like you were asking the more general question “should I practice scales and arpeggios, or should I practice songs”, because you were getting conflicting info from teachers and the like.

I think the best answer is that if what you are trying to do is play stuff that is stylistically similar to bluegrass tunes, and requires those techniques, the then the best answer is not shred-style exercises, or bluegrass tunes themselves, but roll patterns. This is because the roll pattern is not only an important building block of bluegrass style songwriting, but it also requires the movement you are going to need in order to play songs in that style.

As to the arranging, I understand, different question, and I’ll leave that others! But as to the fastest way to build the chops for this type of playing, I would say start with the forward roll applied to chord shapes because it’s almost like playing a mini song. As an aside, I find this type of practice way more nice to listen to than exercises, even if they are in some sense an exercise.


This is really helpful! Yes! And it’s certainly one of the building blocks/starting points I was looking for. Many thanks!

EDIT: For posterity, I found this article last night, but didn’t get around to reading it until this afternoon.

It talks about forward and reverse rolls with the wonderful Molly Tuttle. Seems like a good starting primer to me. I’m sure I’ll be spending the next few weeks doing these exercises (and variations thereon).