Cecil Alexander Picking Technique

From the close up views it looks like primarily forearm rotation (probably with some wrist too) similar to gypsy picking not only in number of notes per string but in the actual movement mechanic. What do you guys think?

I’ve also tried to dissect Benson and Dan Wilson but Cecil Alexander seems to doing less compound movements and is easier to see. Benson is particularly confusing with his picking from the elbow but still being a primary USX player.

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I’ve been doing some Cecil Alexander transcribing lately - he’s obviously doing the Benson style picking/USX motion with the trailing edge pick grip but once in a while he will do what looks like crosspicking/double escape motion. This kind of blows my mind and I’m not sure how he pulls of the cross picking with the Benson motion/hand position - he must be reorienting his motions for these kinds of lines. It’s possible he could be swiping but sounds too clean for that -

at 1:34 here is the G7 lick you can see him crossing strings…


Even not considering mechanics, that’s an awesome video. I love how he’s showing every single note’s function. It’s an incredible insight to the “what are you thinking, over the changes?” type of question. Thanks for sharing!


I think he cross picks and does consecutive downstrokes at slower tempos. I suspect there’s some 1/2 o’clock motion in there for the DSX that he doesn’t do at faster speeds. So I guess you could say TWPS at slower speeds. I may have missed something but I think in the up to speed version he keeps his USX hand position and inserts cheeky slurs when there’s odd numbers of notes per string. Also, I think I saw a slur on the lower string to facilitate an upstroke on a higher string for the triplet at the end of the line.

Had a closer look! He slurs into beat 2 to put downstroke on B. Sweeps from A to B on the Bmin7b5. Slur from B to D (unnecessary for the picking). Slur from Gb to F to put downstroke on G on the a of beat 2 before the E7. Slur from D# to E to make upstroke on G in the middle of the triplet over Amin7.

He does something very clever here. After a slur, he’s using an accented upstroke on the adjacent higher string by sort of jumping over it first. Then, as he’s usx, he can get straight on to the next string. Sounds great.

And since no one else has mentioned it, I’ll add he has an incredible sounding speaking voice. If I had a voice like that I would first get side gigs in voice over work, then I would probably record myself reading Harry Potter and just listen to my own voice all the time. Seriously though, what a remarkably gifted person. I only casually follow jazz so this forum is the first time I’d even heard of Cecil.

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I’d really like to see Cecil play with a magnet - can you really do a double escape emotion with trailing edge pick grip? I’d like to see other examples of this - still wondering if he is swiping…

Is there a reason you believe that you can’t do DBX with trailing edge? I’ve posted videos of that with bass, not guitar though.

No - I just hadn’t seen it yet and I appreciate the clarification. Do you have any tips for working on the double escape motion with this grip or another? thanks

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I just forced myself to alternate pick everything, regardless of the “optimal” escape mechanic (this was before I found out about CTC).

He recently posted on instagram detailing his picking approach in terms of # of notes per string (always even) and stated bluntly that he’ll do a slur when it doesn’t work out that way. I’d have to go back to find the post, but it was very succinct yet informative. Great teacher and player. Had the pleasure of taking a lesson with him a couple years ago too.

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Yes, I saw that too. I’ve listened to a few interviews and he said that he was sticking with this system religiously through Berklee and was largely more of a licks player but has adopted a more free form approach more recently. He really grooves on the those double time phrases and makes it look effortless. Found this Soundslice where someone had transcribed his picking over a minor blues, pretty fun stuff. I think this kind of thing is fairly accessible for former string hoppers where things get dicey around 250pbm 8th notes plus – finding an efficient USX wrist/forearm blend that doesn’t need to be supersonic (200 16th plus). I think one of the fast benson lines I’ve heard was around 160/165 16ths. https://www.soundslice.com/slices/cjZDc/?from=channel

It’s great stuff. I think he has several courses and etude packages available for sale now too.

Also Matt Sears has more transcriptions of his:

You can also search soundslice and see a dozen or so:

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