Bluegrass technique - am I stringhopping?

Again, thank you, very much! This gives me hope! One question, tho…by roll pattern, do you mean an alternating crosspicking pattern?(i.e. ds/us/ds/us, etc.)

Sorry, I’m in deep with this bluegrass stuff! The forward roll is when you play a three note arpeggio, but only ascending:

Sometimes players will add a couple notes onto the end to make it fit neatly into one or two bars, like this:

For more musical examples, the tune “Beaumont Rag” has a ragtime-flavored roll pattern in it which I think of as a famous example of how rolls are used in bluegrass:

You can also create little variations on the pattern, like doing the roll descending, or back and forth (low note, middle note, high note, middle note, etc.). But just the three strings, ascending, is probably the most basic thing you can do. You just want to have something you can play to get the hand motion moving.

Also, when you post YT links, make sure the link is on its own line by itself, and not at the end of an existing sentence. That way the forum will embed the video and we can just click to play it. Not a big deal, I edited the ones you’ve already posted.

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Got it! Thanks again! I can see my wrist motion getting flatter, already! :+1::wink:

ok, I’ve been doing the forward roll exercise for a couple days now and it feels smoother but do I still have too much bounce? Am I doing it right, as far as wrist motion?

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It does seem a bit bouncy but it’s difficult to tell at that speed. The true test is whether you can speed it up significantly without tensing up. Around 120 bpm 16th notes or faster.


Hey @blackie69, for future reference I edited your post so that the YouTube video is embedded. In future posts you can do it like this:


Video link


The embedded video will make it more likely that other users won’t miss it :slight_smile:


Thanks for taking a stab at this! Yes agree with @Johannes, this is stringhopping. However the arm position and wrist postion and grip all look good! So that’s a good step.

Sorry, I meant to reply to you earlier that I don’t want you to put “time” into this like an exercise. It’s not an exercise. You don’t want to “work” on this for a period of days. You’re just using it as a test to see if your guess about the motion is right. Do it a few times and film it and post it here. If it’s bouncy then it’s wrong, you can try another way. This cuts out a lot of wasted time. You just keep trying something until you sort of get it right.

Go sideways with your wrist, and don’t turn your arm at all when you do this. Make no attempt to get over the strings by lifting the hand up in the air. If this means you hit wrong strings, hit them. Do the strum thing if need be. I’d rather see that than see the bouncing. Try that and see what you get.

Don’t be afraid to over-post here, we can take it!

Edit: Also, have you watched our lesson on this subject? Here’s the link:

This goes over the two arm positions you can use for this, either the Andy Wood style or the Molly Tuttle / David Grier style, in a little more detail. Sorry for not bringing this up earlier if you haven’t seen this yet.

Edit again: You’re using the Andy Wood style, and it looks correct. So no need to change this specifically. If however you try the Molly one and you can get the motion quicker that way, then totally fine, use that way. Options are just there to give you more chances to do it right.


Troy, thanks for clarifying and for the reference clips. I’m on it! :+1::wink:

La mejor que puedes hacer es ser consciente de todo movimiento que realiza tu mano derecha, con la técnica correcta que aquí se enseña, la velocidad vendrá por añadidura.

Sorry, no comprende! I wish I spoke Spanish. :thinking:

K, I’ve been working on my right hand wrist motion and even though it seems to be improving, ever so slightly, I can feel much tension in my hand, elbow and shoulder, which I know is bad.

I’ve also been experimenting with the elbow technique ( see second video) but as you’ll hear, I lose volume and tone, even though there’s no tension at all. I’m sure you’ll tell me to persue the elbow technique because of the lack of tension but I just can’t seem to play very accurately and it only works on strictly alternate picking. Will this improve with time?

My frustrations continue! Help, please!!!

Thanks for the update! No tension is good! That means something is working with what you’re calling the “elbow” motion. The angles you’re filming at are perfect but the camera is a little far away to see clearly what’s actually going on in that mode. Also does your phone have a 120fps “slow motion” mode? That will make the video much sharper too, because there will be less motion blur. If you have that mode, and film the exact same “elbow” clip again, from closer up, that might provide some answers as to what’s going on there.

As for the wrist stuff, you feel tension because it’s still stringhopping. Also, you’re doing repeated downstrokes in there at various points. In other words, instead of DUDUD as in alternate picking, you’re actually going DDUDU DDUDU here and there. I don’t know if you can feel that. But if you’d like to build up tension quickly, repeating the same pickstroke is a good way to do it.

Anyhoo, the homework assignment was not to play a whole tune like this. Even thought it sounds pretty decent, the motion isn’t right and doesn’t feel right. The homework was very simply to take a few minutes and do the roll pattern fast and flat with mistakes if necessary. If that didn’t work, then the homework was to downgrade to a three-string wrist strum that’s also flat, and at least 110-120bpm sixteenths.

So in other words, what I’m looking for you is a quick test where you try to make the wrist motion flat and have no tension. I don’t care if there are mistakes or if it’s quiet. The idea is to learn what it feels like when you move from the wrist with no tension. Once you have that in your mind, you can then try to reproduce that feeling of easyness while playing more accurately.

Given that a shot when you get a moment, and we’ll take a lookt!


There isn’t much I can add to the (excellent) analysis that’s already going on in here, and I apologize for being a little late to the party here…

…but the one thing that jumped out at me, precicely becase this is something I also atruggled with when I first joined here, is yout single-string alternate picking in your first video isn’t especially even. What you describe as an “upwards slanting” technique (actually downwards slanting/escaped upstrokes as others have pointed out) is actually a lot smoother and more even than your escaped downstroke technique you start with, which I suspect is what your “normal” approach is, and looking at the videos elserwhere here when you’re not doing one-note-per-string stuff it seems you do gravitate to this a little more.

But, something that helped my picking a disproportionate, unexpected amount, as a guy used to leaning on his fretting hand to get by, was just working on single-string picking drills for a while, to really build up some groove to my picking hand. It’s crazy, but that really helped my picking while changing strings, too.


Thanks Troy and Drew! I will try to put your good advice to use! Thanks for watching and for your input! :+1:

ok Troy, I think this is what you want to see, as far as the wrist motion test is concerned. Right?

I admit, I don’t know what this proves or disproves, tho.

So, this is far as I’ve gotten with the mostly elbow technique… which I know is not so good but I just want to know if I’m on the right track.

It seems to be getting a little more accurate but far from where I’d like to be! I can’t slow down the video without changing the pitch, sorry! Also I’m apperantly still not embedding these videos, properly. Again, sorry!

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Haven’t heard from you since March 27th. Did I do something wrong?

Nope, we’ve just been swamped! My life is all laundry and dishes now. It’s amazing how much more domestic stuff there is to do when you can’t leave the house.

These are both good clips, thanks for doing them. Re: the wrist test, the motion you’re making when you’re hitting all the strings looks good! Do see you how it’s much flatter and smoother than the bouncy motion you start to make when you try to play individual notes? That flatter and smoother motion is almost exactly what the motion will look like when done correctly, except that you won’t be hitting all the strings, you’ll be hitting individual notes.

The point of this test is to give you a feel reference and visual reference for “correct”. Of the two, the feel reference is most important. When you do this test without looking, can you feel the difference between the two motions? Does the bouncy one feel more tense and the flat one feel easier / smoother? If so, then this test is a success.

I’m not saying this automatically teaches you how to do the wrist motion correctly. It doesn’t. But it gives you a reliable way to know whether you’re doing it correclty or not. Specifically, if you feel the bounce, or if you look down and see the bounce, then it’s not correct and you can stop. No hours of repetition, no metronomes, just stop. Huge, giant, enormous time saver. Instead, try making a slightly different motion and see if it looks or feels any better.

So yes there will be trial and error here in learning the correct version of the wrist motion. That’s the thing we weren’t taught back in the day. To reduce the trial and error component, you need instructions. Have you watched the “Crosspicking With The Wrist” lesson yet? Because that lesson contains the instructions for actually doing this particular motion. I give you some tips in there for doing the two basic forms of this, supinated and pronated. And this will give you more experience looking at the motion to recognize what the smooth version of it looks like.

So that’s the wrist technique. You don’t have to use it, it’s just a thing you’re working on. If you can figure out how to do it, then great. The more the merrier.

As to the technique that you’re calling “elbow”, I think this looks good too. It’s further along because you can actually play stuff with it, and the accuracy and tone is improving. I’m not sure it’s purely elbow, but that’s kind of academic. However if you have a moment to film another clip of this, can you try putting the camera a little closer so we can see what the picking motion is actually doing?

The angle you have is perfect. Don’t change it. Just get the camera closer. If you can get something that looks like this, that would be great:

Here I’m just cropping in on the image from your video. This doesn’t reveal any more detail because the camera is too far away. If you place it closer, you can get the full resolution of your camera on the closer up image, and we should be able to see what type of motion the pick is actually making.

Also, do you have a slow motion mode on the phone that does 120fps? If so, the image will be shaper, with much less motion blur. If you have that, try using that for these posts, which should help.

Thanks again for filming these, and nice work so far.

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Thanks for responding, Troy! I totally understand that you’re swamped… crazy days for sure! I guess I’m a little impatient, sorry! Your explanation makes a lot of sense and I see what the wrist test is supposed to prove. I will post a better video to help you see my picking motion. Thanks, again! :wink:

Hopefully, you can see my picking motion a little better in this video:

Let me say that although this motion feels the most comfortable, I’m not really happy with it. I’m very inaccurate and the tone isn’t very good. Which is why I think I need to develop the wrist motion. Ugh…why is this so hard? :dizzy_face::crazy_face::cry:

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