Cascade Pentatonic Chunk Struggle

I have been struggling with the Pentatonic Chunk exercise in Cascade for a few weeks now. Despite becoming obsessed with mastering this short lick and trying to get it to 110bpm, I can only manage 80 (on a good day) without it sounding very messy and disjointed
Am I doing something wrong with my downward picking technique? I have tried every possible combination of movements that I can glean from the course, but still cant get it to sound fluid.
Maybe a fresh pair of eyes will see something.
I’m starting to believe it will never work.

The abrupt ending is when my phone fell off the sofa.

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I’m not an expert but it looks to me like you’re switching to downstroke escape halfway through the lick, it doesn’t seem like you’ve got a clean upstroke escape going on throughout.
Maybe try different pick grips and wrist orientation and see if one gives you a more natural upstroke escape ?

If it’s any encouragement, I’ve also been struggling through EJ licks for weeks - I can do the cascade lick descending but struggle with the same licks ascending, or with the lick that goes up and down the pentatonic at speed.
For a while it was due to my left hand - the thumb has to switch position half way through which is a challenge, and now I notice my right hand has trouble doing fast string switching when ascending.

I think you might benefit by playing it first using just legato. And try to get the pull-offs to sound fluid first. And then add in the picking in.

As far as your picking technique, it’s hard to tell. It kinda looks like you aren’t getting good escape towards the end of each chunk, but I could be wrong.

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Thanks for the feedback.
I suspected that it was a problem with the upstroke, but am finding it almost impossible to keep a consistent action. If I focus on just that, It improves moderately but the next time I pick up the guitar I seem to have lost the feel of the pattern.
When Troy plays it he hits each string with alot of attack and precision. I am not sure if this will come with practice or not.
Lysander- I am pleased that you have managed it but a bit disappointed that there are more problems to follow :slight_smile:

HI! Thanks for posting. I think the practical question to ask here is what motion are you trying to use for this. It looks like double-escape wrist to me. Which isn’t really how I do this. In Cascade I use a forearm-wrist motion, and it’s upstroke esacape, aka “downward pickslanting”.

It just so happens that the new Pickslanting Primer chapters we uploaded yesterday describe in great detail exactly the motion I use for these types of lines. You can find all that new stuff right here:

In particular, I use the “flexed form” for a lot of these examples, which for whatever reason happens to feel particularly comfortable to me. But you can use either the straight / anchored form, or the flexed form.

You can also use plain old wrist motion, as detailed here:

This might be more like what Eric Johnson himself does, although Eric uses bits of finger motion here and there, and I suspect maybe some forearm motion — I can’t really tell because he’s always wearing long sleeves!

Either way, the thing you need for speed is single escape motion. This is the one where the pickstrokes go more more or less straight down into the strings and back out again. The one that goes up in the air at both ends of the pickstroke is double escape, and the trick there is that people frequently get stuck doing slightly off versions of this where it feels slow. So to focus on speed, trying to get a fast, smooth, single escape motion happening is the best way to start.

And one thing you can do to help learn what the feels like is the rest stroke. Specifically, on downstrokes. We talk about this in the wrist motion lessons as well as the new forearm motion lessons. If you haven’t had a chance to try those motions with rest strokes, I would definitely do that before putting any more time into what you’re doing here. If you do get a chance to experiment, put up another clip of what that looks like and we’re happy to take a look.

Also, if you haven’t worked on any simple, single-string repeating type phrases, I would start there as well. This will set aside the complexity of switching strings and just allow you to try and get the motion itself happening smoothly and quickly first, while working in a bit of basic fretting hand synchronization.

Good luck and let us know how you make out!


Try playing it with just the technique you would use to strum a chord at the same tempo/with the same rythmn, and then alternate between strumming a bar/picking a par/strumming a bar/picking a bar (just fret 12 12 12 on the top three strings or something for your strums).

Get it feeling loose and easy and maybe a bit messy before you try to make it fast and super clean.

Thanks for the advice. This has been a real eye opener. I had previously watched the Forearm motion tutorials, but failed to realise and notice the importance of forearm/wrist rotation and flex movement. I will practice this now and hopefully it will allow me to get better results.
I will give it a few days and then post a new video :slightly_smiling_face:

Thanks again

Hi! Just a few observations if I may. You seem to be struggling with this lick because of issues that I have experienced in the past but was able to overcome with good practice habits. This is just my two cents and you should absolutely listen to Troy, as he has already responded to your post, but here is what I see. First off, you seem to have some issues with left/right hand synchronization when playing this lick. This means that either one hand or the other is arriving at the note before the other, instead of at the same time. This alone can make it almost impossible to get a lick up to speed. To overcome this obstacle, I would play this lick MUCH slower, along with a metronome, and concentrate on keeping a perfectly even rhythm while practicing and specifically focusing on getting the pick to strike the string at EXACTLY the same time as the fretting hand frets the note. Try to play slowly, but with “snap”! Once you get accustomed to the feeling of playing this way, go a little faster, while trying to maintain the snappy feeling as you speed up.

Secondly, as you play the lick, you are playing across three strings, IIRC, and as you do, you are not really moving your whole hand as you progress through the string changes. This results in a change in the approach angle or the picking motion, or both, from one string to the next, instead of using the same angle/motion and moving that around. Essentially, your hand is probably well-positioned for one of the strings and then you are “reaching” for the other strings when it’s time to play them, if that makes any sense. I did that for a long time myself until I had the realization that it was happening, and eliminating this issue really helped me, once I found a consistent motion that I could move around and stopped “reaching”.

Anyway, I hope I haven’t strayed too far out of my own lane with these comments and hope you find them helpful in some small way. Happy picking!