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:
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.
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!
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!