Can someone explain this insane alternate picking?

pure insanity


No, I can’t

We talked about Roy Marchbank’s incredible speed in the past, but I don’t recall having reached solid conclusions.

I think a person who might have some insight is @Tom_Gilroy. He studied Shawn Lane’s technique in minute detail and is an expert in different pick grips/hand positions.

wait wait…is this video real?I mean…unprocessed? It’s hard for me to believe it lol…

Who knows?! I understand how you feel about it!

There is this video for anyone who’s curious, though I suspect more may be going on:

I’m still new enough to CtC that I don’t have a great eye for this yet, but I suspect that this example of hyperpicking is based on some degree of elbow motion. It’s hard to tell given the Steve Morse-style “flamingo hand” grip, but this sort of speed seems difficult to achieve without recruiting the elbow. If I had to make an educated guess, I’d say he’s using his elbow as the primary driver of pick speed, with his wrist motion allowing him to accommodate any necessary pick slanting changes.

I have thought about Roy’s picking technique and I have some ideas about what he’s doing. It’s not a technique that I can imitate and I don’t want to claim to have any kind of expert opinion on the matter.

First, notice that Roy’s playing posture is very idiosyncratic. In particular, notice the position of the forearm of his picking arm.

Most players position the forearm of their picking arm in position where their flexor muscles on the underside of their forearm (near the elbow) are near the low E side of the lower bout and the bones of the forearm point diagonally along the body of the guitar toward the high E side of the upper bout, running mostly parallel to the top.

Look t Eric’s forearm position in this picture for reference.

And Shawn Lane

Roy’s posture is markedly different. Roy’s elbow is behind the guitar body, with his wrist near the strap pin. The bones of his forearm point outward from the body of his guitar and his wrist is distinctly flexed.

Notice here:

My take is that the primary driving movement of Roy’s picking technique is forearm rotation, with little bit of wrist extension on the downstroke and a little bit of wrist flexion on the upstroke, exactly as he says in the video above.

I remember having the discussion with @Troy and he was doubtful of the movement being forearm rotation based on the arc drawn by the pick. With the standard forearm position as used by Eric and Shawn, rotation simply cannot produce the arc that we see in Roy’s picking. With Roy’s forearm position with the wrist flexed, forearm rotation produces precisely that arc.

The flexed wrist and pad to pad grip increases the radius of the picking arc so that a rotation through a very small angle at the forearm can produce a sufficiently large picking arc at the pick. This is essentially, the principle of a class 3 lever (speed multiplier lever).

Incidentally, I can engage a very rapid forearm rotation based vibration or “jiggle” in my picking arm. I had never been able to channel this type of movement into an effective picking movement. With my setup on the guitar body, my wrist is relatively neutral and there simply isn’t enough distance between the pick and the fulcrum to create a picking arc that is sufficiently large. If I adopt Roy’s position, that same movement create a sufficiently large arc. Unlike in Roy’s picking, when I attempt this the pick typically bounces off one side of the string at half speed (still 10-12 nps) with brief, random jumps to a full speed tremolo movement.

My suspicion is that Roy has managed to harness this type of vibration/jiggle into an effective movement. Personally, I don’t like the shrill sound of the technique and I’m not really interested in developing this method of picking for that reason.


Amazing reply. Thank you for the insight.

Check out some of his acoustic picking on instagram.

I’d like to hear what it sounds like in the room, for sure.