Attaining a Clean Left Hand

Any video from this freak of nature will do. But man. How in the hell does he have such an impossibly clean left hand. I feel like that can’t possibly be all right hand muting technique, especially with the position shifting with both hands.

When I’m playing with my normal anchored wrist position, I’m pretty clean on distortion. I get very little unwanted noise. I have a pretty good muting technique with both hands.

But this kinda stuff is just in another universe to me. When I attempt to play unanchored and copy Troy’s “no muting, no problem” video, I get noise all over the place and no matter how hard my pick attack is, the open string noise overcomes the transients. I would love to be able to at least experiment with Benson style picking on overdrive, or explore crazy 2 handed stuff like this. But when I do, it makes me realize how dirty my left hand really is.

I’d love to see a video with Troy on this, as I feel it warrants further investigation than just “no muting, no problem”. Like when MAB takes the string damper off and still sounds just as clean with out it. That just seems impossible to me. I know they don’t focus much on the left hand, but there has to be something I’m missing out on. I always mute the next string down with the underside of my fingers. First finger is generally muting everything under the current string I’m playing. I do struggle with muting both sides of the string. It’s only consistent when playing octaves and power chords. That’s one that will take lots and lots of mindful repetition in my 21st year of playing to ingraine.

If I pick unanchored, the top 3 or 4 strings ring like a banshee on clean or overdrive. I feel like that has to be from a less than optimum left hand.

I’d love to hear a more advanced discussion on this. I feel like fret hand pressure and tension also has a lot to do with this.


Well in that video M.Romeo is doing all tapping so he probably has some muting going on with his left hand/wrist/forearm.

With MAB, I need to re-watch some videos it I thought he doesn’t play across lots of strings all at once. Could be wrong though but I thought most of his fast licks happen across 2 or 3 strings before he moves on but could be totally wrong

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I have a hard time reproducing the “no muting, no problem” scenario too. I can’t get the plucked notes to really drown out the unmuted strings, not reliably anyway, and not without picking too hard for comfort. Sympathetic resonance happens quite easily too.

One thing I’ve noticed however is that it’s surprisingly easy to accidentally touch the unwanted strings with the fretting hand fingers in a way that makes them ring. So there’s usually probably some noticeable clean-up potential within just the fretting technique you’re using.

I’d love to see more videos and discussion on this topic since it is possible to do - for example Teemu Mäntysaari does it really well in his interview.

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I haven’t done it in a while, but I feel like even just two or three strings still gives me more noise than the average bear.

And I venture to say that Zakk Wylde is going across lots of strings with his fast pentatonic runs. And insane vibrato (which I don’t think he mutes with his RH either??)

If I play just a repeated, Zakk style alt picked pentatonic pattern on the B and e strings, I get tons of noise unmuted. Now, I’m not very clean on single escapes yet. That’s a relatively new concept for me. It’s not as clean and reliable for me as economy, 2wps and sweeping. So I know I am probably having some artifacts from less than clean picking as well.

I haven’t played with the wrist anchor position in awhile, but I will try it again tonight or tomorrow. Usually when I have tried it (and I do like the position, I just haven’t given it enough time and usually default back to others) I don’t get much unwanted noise. The issue I have is the right hand/wrist motion to get across all 6 strings. I often try to play licks across all 6 strings and I’m beginning to realize there just isn’t much of a point to it. It’s not very economical and I don’t see many top guys playing stuff across all 6 strings often. Very flexible opinion on that though. I started throwing in more legato now, so maybe with some legato the wrist anchor can be made easier

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I feel like Troy and Eric and Zakk and Bonamassa are doing that all over the place. But I have never really specifically paid attention to that. So that would be a good thing to investigate - do elite players have a lot of 6 string licks in their vocabulary? Especially ascending from the E string?

For me, alternate picking 2nps across all 6 strings is absolutely the hardest thing. Its not necessarily the speed, it’s the constant string switching. I can really only play fast and clean 2nps across 2 or 3 strings. After that, I lose sync with both hands. I can burn pretty well on 4 or 6nps Yngwie kinda stuff. But personally, as more of a well rounded, improvising musician, I don’t find those types of licks that valuable for my musical arsenal. So I don’t tend to focus on them much other than maintenance purposes. I would LOVE to be able to incorporate those kick ass Joe Bonamassa and Eric Johnson double time pentatonic licks in my arsenal but I just can’t get them up to speed. The only real way I feel comfortable with that kind of picking is with the George Benson floating approach…but I cannot get it to work with distortion so I never bother practicing it. It’s even dirty sounding to me on an acoustic lol.

Could just be that I’m hyper aware of the noise and maybe the listener wouldn’t really be able to tell…

I should’ve clarified that I meant specifically 2NPS & 3NPS alternate picked licks across all 6 strings. It seems like not many people do that straight through without adding some sort of extra note here or there, or some strategic modification to get through. EJ doesn’t blast a 2NPS pentatonic run across all 6 strings with alternate picking. Maybe I’m wrong but after reading through this forum it seems most players make a modification to get through strings easier

Yea the famous Cliffs of Dover 5s I suppose wouldn’t count as purely alternate picking across all 6 strings. He’s certainly moving thru 5 and 6 strings on the Austin City Limits video. But not strictly 2nps. I will check out some Zakk Wylde riffs next to see if he’s doing that.

I agree with this, with the further explanation that I mean straight through the scale. That doesn’t mean he never plays phrases that go through all 6 strings. He certainly does at times. There is always an interesting contour though, where there’s a gentle rise and fall within the line. Some may even call this a cascade lol! So, descend a couple strings, then an ascending sweep, descend a couple more, turn around and ascend 3 strings etc. That is WAY easier than blasting through something like this, at the same speeds:


Plus lets be honest, full on ascending or descending across 6 strings in a row is super boring and predictable sounding.

The fastest Zakk Wylde stuff I’ve heard is probably Speedball. That’s got a lot of 6nps, so again, the tracking isn’t really as much of an issue since there is always plenty of time for the picking to shred on one string before it needs to go to another string. I guess he’s got some really fast 2nps pentatonics in Miracle Man also. But, I think that is all on the E and B strings. So, same story, He’s not playing only 2nps. Just patterns where there are 2 different notes on each string.


Well that give me a little hope for my alternate picking situation cuz since my discovery of CtC, I’ve used that exact 6 string pentatonic scale run as my litmus test for good picking. I’ll have to really start paying attention to players and see if there are examples strict 2nps across 6 strings.

If I do the pentatonic, I’m far more comfortable doing 2 or 3 strings sequences. Like I’ll do E, A and D, then descend to A and repeat a sequence on the A, D and G, etc.

So maybe the non anchored players aren’t doing full 6 string runs in a strict 2nps fashion. Cuz I’ll be damned if I can get that with little to no perceived string noise.

Yeah, like the tab posted above, you just don’t see a lot of guitar players rip that in their music. There’s always something a little different going on. My overall point with this is, I use to use the 2NPS pentatonic lick like the tab above (across all 6 strings), as well as a 3NPS lick across all six strings as my benchmarks for effective technique, and I no longer think they are good benchmarks. I still try them for fun and the challenge but I just don’t attempt those licks live. Across 3-4 strings then for sure. So to bring it back to the wrist anchor, maybe try going through 2-3 strings, then come back and do a sweep or something strategic. It may help with more control as opposed to just trying to plow through all 6 strings unless you add more notes