Critique/advice on what feels like fine motor limitations

Hi everyone.

I made this thread a few days ago in which I basically ranted for several paragraphs about how much I suck. Real life of the party, I know :wink:

Anyway, the short version is that now that I’m several years into putting quite a bit of serious effort into trying to become decent at guitar, I keep hitting up against barriers which are making me suspect I have some sort of fine motor or coordination issue/disorder. In particular, I don’t think my picking is what is necessarily holding me back, and I have definitely made good progress with my picking technique. Rather, I constantly feel like my fretting hand is slow, clunky, and uncoordinated. Specifically, it “runs out of gas” easily, has very poor timing precision of when fingers are to be lifted/placed, and even just plays the wrong notes for no reason. So… here goes.

Note: sorry, I am a fool and forgot about the 1-minute video limit! Feel free to skip to 1:23 and just look at that clip, as it’s a good demonstration of the type of coordination issues I’m describing.

0:00 - Tremolo at 180bpm with a DSX motion (I’d love to get USX down but haven’t figured it out). Maybe it’s not perfect but I don’t think it’s too bad, and certainly not the source of my problems.

0:13 - As suggested by @Prlgmnr and @tommo, here’s a clip of something I’m okay at - a little lick with some short bursts of fast-ish notes (groups of 4-6). I think this one is around 90bpm 16th note triplets but I can go faster as long as it’s a short burst.

0:24 - Attempt at 6s legato at 80bpm, 110bpm, and 115bpm. It is… well, just terrible. Even at 80bpm, I struggle to stay in time. Beyond that, my fretting hand simply falls behind - it just won’t move fast enough. My hand gets fatigued quite quickly doing this. A few months ago I did the first legato Rock Discipline exercise (John Petrucci legato lesson 1 - YouTube) for several weeks and made some early quick gains but not much after that.

1:23 - Attempting a lick of 17 notes I pulled from a song by tommo. The picking is mostly straightforward except I use economy followed by secondary escape motion in one spot. But that’s not the problem, it’s the fretting hand. This lick should be easy for me to get as I’ve practiced the LH patterns it uses a ton. However, you can see that I constantly play wrong notes (wtf!!!) and also get muted notes a bunch because my damn fingers aren’t lifting fast enough. I even screw it up playing it slowly. This is how it goes pretty much any time I try to learn almost anything - my left hand just does not want to behave even it’s an easy sequence.

2:41 - A little while back I was trying to go through Frank Gambale’s Chop Builder, hoping it would help fix my fretting hand issues. I got stuck on round 2 of 9 - I simply could not get anything even close to up to speed. This lick in particular gave me a huge amount of trouble. Past around 90bpm, LH just up and dies.

3:09 - Showing off my hand sync issues with Thunderstruck. I’ve been trying to get the sync working on this for several weeks and some days I can get it okay but often it’s like what you see in the video.

3:47 - I’ve been trying to get this lick from Crazy Train up to speed for almost a year. Sometimes I can get it messily at 120bpm but it’s a disaster at full tempo (138bpm).

4:33 - Same lick but right hand view. Admittedly, part of the struggle in this one IS picking technique - this lick has a few spots which alternate between two strings and I haven’t figured out how to do that consistently.

5:20 - Ascending chromatic run from Crazy Train. Totally failing to play it even at 80bpm up through 110bpm. Another case of “my hand just won’t move that fast”.

5:58 - One more lick from Crazy Train. Surprise! It’s a complete utter mess!

If you made it through all that, then congratulations! You’ve suffered through what is probably the most piss-poor humiliating sequence of guitar clips ever posted to this website.

In all seriousness: every lick I posted here is something I’ve at least spent some amount of time working on and many of them I’ve put lots of hours into with little to no improvement. I’ve been playing guitar with quite a bit of dedication for just under 3 years - not a super long time in the big scheme of things, of course, but c’mon man… spending literally months practicing that one Crazy Train lick for hours and hours should lead to better results than it has.

I can already tell I’m just going down a dark mental path and this is devolving into another rant so I’m gonna cut myself off now. If anyone has any suggestions or advice, or sees anything in the video clips that I might be doing wrong, I am all ears, because I am simply out of ideas at this point - I truly do not know how to practice my way out of the problems I’m running into.

(In particular, I’d be interested in hearing @Tom_Gilroy’s thoughts as he seems to have quite an in-depth knowledge of the anatomy of the hand.)

Thanks for reading.

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I have some time tomorrow. I’ll watch then and edit a response here. Happy to help as best I can.


EDIT: Hi @Gumgo, I’ve had some time to review your footage. I don’t see anything that suggests to me that you have some deficiency in your hands or an issue with motor learning.

Just a short note on your picking. In the tremolo example, you’re using an elbow driven movement, however, in all other examples you are using wrist or forearm movement. The elbow tremolo picking looks pretty good to me, but I’m less convinced about the wrist/forearm movements. There are some spots in the the video where slop and desynchronisation is coming from your picking hand.

There are bigger issues with your fretting hand. Your fretting posture is forcing extension (even hyperextension) of the fingers at the MCP joints (large knuckes), while there is constant flexion at the DIP joints (smallest knuckles, near the finger nails. Extension at MCP, especially for the middle and ring fingers, requires constant engagement of Extensor Digitorum Communis, while flexion at DIP requires constant engagement of Flexor Digitorum Profundus.

These are essentially mass action muscles, they do not have independent muscle slips (heads) for each individual finger. Meaning, if they’re engaged for a finger, they are engaged for others also. Also, these muscles are in opposition, so you are perpetually in a state of co-contraction.

Your fretting hand feels slow, clunky and uncoordinated because of this co-contraction. The lack of synchronisation and the rapid onset of fatigue are not at all mysterious; this would happen to anybody whose fretting posture involved this co-contraction.

You have habituated this state of tension, and you will need to re-train your fretting mechanics to make the progress you want to make. This can absolutely be done; there is nothing wrong with your hand, you’re just using it poorly.

There are also issues with your thumb position, to me it looks like you have unnecessary activation of the opponens pollicis, which is contributing to the feeling of fatigue. The angle of your wrist could be improved significantly.

Much of what I teach about picking and fretting hand mechanics is based on a principle I call The Hand At Rest.

Interestingly, you seem to return to a state of relataxtion in your fretting hand after you stop playing quite quickly. You’re “setting up” into this position of tension and in doing so, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

You could keep hammering away at the Petrucci style legato exercises and maybe over time your postures will gradually improve. However, I’d suggest leaving all of that aside and re-training the foundation of your mechanics.

Also, I’d have to mention that you seem very anxious about the guitar. It almost seems like you’re telling yourself that what you’re about to do is difficult, and that you won’t be able to do it. So you’re tensing up and “trying harder.” I think this is contributing to the tension you’ve habituated.

I think much of this is probably rooted in your mindset and what you think “practice” is. I think it’s very possible that the way you’re practicing is creating negative reinforcement and adding to your anxiety. You can’t practice your way out of a problem if the way you’re practicing is the problem.

I’m available for lessons/consultations, and I’m sure I could help you. If that’s not something you’d be interested in, then I’d strongly suggest you turn off the metronome for now, and focus on what your playing feels like.


Hi @Gumgo. First of all, making a post like this takes tons of guts. I think if you put in hard and smart work, in a few years you’ll look back on this as a big event on your overall progress.

Secondly, I don’t think you’re nearly as bad as you think you are and if I had to give you just one piece of advice, it would be to lower expectations and not worry that you’ve seen X guitar player making Y amounts of progress over Z years. Everyone develops at different rates.

This is important! I used to teach full time so I’ve seen hundreds of players at varying levels. While a very small percentage of players are amazing after just a couple years, most are not. It just takes time. The good news is, I don’t think there’s anything “wrong” with your hands. Yes, there are coordination issues but I think they are more mental than of the hands. In a way you remind me of myself. I think I have some coordination issues and take a little longer to learn things than others do, but I eventually get to the goal. More importantly, I really enjoy the journey :slight_smile:

As cheesy as it sounds, sometimes the best way to give yourself a little boost is to have some confidence and stop thinking you suck so much :slight_smile:

For specific pieces of advice, I’d suggest:

  • Put the metronome away. Your rhythm and sense of timing are fine. Since synchronization is the biggest issue, you need to learn how to sync with yourself before worrying about syncing to a click. Check the metronome here and there to ballpark your speed

  • For the challenging licks, you need to think of chunks. I feel like one of your biggest problems may be that you’re thinking of each individual note and you need to train the hands/brain to be thinking in groups.

    • The reason I think this is because it seems you have the dexterity to play the licks you’re attempting, but they ‘fall apart’ at various places
    • The chunks will be contextual to the lick in question. For example in your Crazy Train ascending chromatic lick (first one, not the bendy one) I’d make sure you can play one position of it first, at various speeds. You should also try it at the target speed and gradually slow it down until you feel you are gaining more control.
  • For the legato 6’s, I’d experiment with different fretting postures. Also, make sure it’s in a place where the stretch feels comfortable. I can’t tell if you’re lifting it or not, but make sure the middle finger stays down from when it’s hammered until it does its pulloff to the index. In general, finding an easy way to do a lick goes a long way. Then you have a ‘core’ than you can work outwards from.

    • To that end, those legato 6’s are a tricky pattern in general. It comes naturally to some, but I’ve seen plenty of people on here complain about it. Maybe try just straight ascending or descending triplets???

Anyway, sorry for the lengthy reply. Hang in there dude! I’d have been happy to have a student that progressed as much as you did in less than 3 years. No, you’re not the next Rick Graham but almost no one else is either :slight_smile: You’re at the right place to learn how to make sure your technique is solid so that you don’t waste time like many of us (definitely myself included) did for years. Just stay patient and keep at it.

Last thing I’ll throw your way is a hand sync drill I made that really helped me a lot


Absolutely this. A little confidence changes the way you think, generally for the better!

Also, all the rest of the advice in this post seems very sound to me. But attitude is a big one.

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Hey there! I just watched this, really cool man - you’re doing great, just keep at it! For a great play-along tool; have you tried Guitar Pro’s “progressive speed mode”? It’s pretty cool, I use it all the time!

It’s really easy to freak out about “where you are” vs “where you should be” when we have all these youtube examples of 5 year olds playing squeaky clean and at ridiculous tempos. Take that out of the equation if you can!

I’d say that those things that come naturally might be worth taking a closer look at as to why they come easily and see if you can’t get the stuff that’s a bit of a struggle to fit within that framework.

Here’s the good news; you are already technically pretty proficient, so keep on going - I hope this post helps! You definitely don’t suck, that’s my territory! hahahah


Echoing everyone else, but kudos for posting the vid and trying to get better! I don’t think you’re nearly as bad off as you think you are, and unless you are experiencing difficulty with other things (like typing), I doubt you have some sort of physiological limitation on your left hand.

My primary piece of advice, which doesn’t 100% go with the main line of thought here, is to slow waaaaay down for a while. While I do think the picking hand needs to be trained at fast speeds just to learn what a fast motion is, I don’t think the fretting hand follows the same rules. Right now you are training your left hand to make mistakes, playing at speeds it isn’t ready for, and putting yourself in a poor emotional state in the process. This is bad. lol

What I would try instead is taking some relatively short (perhaps 16 notes long) lick or run you like, something that fits your DSX tremolo form and making sure it is ENTIRELY DSX, and playing it perfectly as, let’s say 8th notes at 90bpm. Don’t cycle it endlessly, play it right and then take a measure or two of rest. Do this 8 times, and if it all went well, then try it at double speed once or twice. If double speed went well, try it at quadruple speed once or twice. End with another go or two as 8th notes. So, let’s say you started at 90BPM: 8 attempts at 8th notes (easy), 1-2 attempts as 16th notes (still shouldn’t be overly tough), maybe 1-2 as 32nd notes if you’re feeling it (the picking speed you were at in your tremolo example, might be a disaster but whatever, go for it!), and finally a relaxing return to 8th notes for 1-2 times.

If practical, do this spaced out, throughout the day - I’ve no idea what your schedule is like, but maybe once in the morning, once after work, once before bed. Spend the rest of your guitar time on stuff that isn’t technique heavy (learn songs, theory, melodically improvise, whatever you like).

Anyway, that’s my two cents. Good luck with whatever route you take!

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Just a notice that my original reply has been edited.


Well, I see you got a lot of great advice already :slight_smile:

I’d double (triple, quadruple?) down on the suggestion to allocate some time to work on DSX-only phrases, trying to use the exact motion you use in the tremolo at the very start of the clip.

@Tom_Gilroy do you think it could also make sense to work on licks that can be fretted easily using the “blues grip” for the fretting hand? By blues grip, I mean (very broadly) this kind of thing:

In my experience, the bluesy grip makes it quite easy to keep the fretting hand relaxed, because it makes it pretty much impossible to do the “pinch” thing between thumb and fingers.

PS: no worries about the 1 minute limit :). But for the future, I recommend making a few separate videos (say 10-30 secs each), where each video focuses on one and only one example and has a super clear title, like so:

link to tremomol vid

Yngwie 6s ascending
link to 6s ascending.


This will make it easier for us to study the different examples, and will save you quite a bit of video editing time :slight_smile:

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Thank you everyone for your responses, I really appreciate the time all of you took to look over my stuff and try to help me out.

Definitely true, and I do my best to keep that in mind. Not always successfully :slight_smile: I certainly don’t expect to be an incredible player after just a few years. And realistically, I don’t ever expect to become all that technically amazing. A lot of my frustration stems from feeling like I’m not achieving my own goals. I am absolutely an over-planner in that regard (before falling asleep my last thought is almost always “okay, so my plan for tomorrow is…”). Around three years ago I decided that my goal was to have written some music within five years. I figured it would take around three years to become technically proficient enough to be able to express myself without excessive amounts of trouble. Perhaps that was foolish as I’ve found that my personality tends to turn these sorts of goals into a never-ending treadmill. Hence, me feeling continually disappointed in my own progress. But yes, all my rambling aside, “don’t be so hard on yourself” really is good advice, and going forward I will try to remind myself of that more often.

You are absolutely right about the thinking of individual notes thing. I used to actually be far worse believe it or not. Earlier this year I actually spent a month just playing every 5-note chunk of the major scale, ascending and descending, for about an hour a day, just to get out of this habit. I know, I know, as far as boring repetitive exercises go that’s probably one of the worst! But, it actually worked great for me.

What I struggle with now is actually stitching chunks together. For any of the licks I posted, I can generally break them apart into 4-6 note chunks and play those just fine. The “running out of gas” thing happens when I try to play the chunks consecutively. It’s like my hands haven’t had time to adequately prepare for the next chunk so they fumble. Maybe I need more practice just “jumping into” chunks on a moment’s notice instead of “okay, fingers go here, gonna start with an upstroke on this string, okay, 1, 2, 3, 4…”

And yeah, straight triplets are a bit easier for me than the 6s. So is that 2-3-2-1 sort of “rolling” pattern, whatever that’s called. I probably just need to burn in the 6s some more.

And thanks for the hand sync drill, I’ll give that a try :slight_smile:

I have not actually, but Guitar Pro is currently first in line in my “list of music software to buy”. I’m probably going to pick up a copy next month so I will be sure to check that out!

Good idea. I have the short chunks thing down fairly well, so it sounds like I really need to do some deep analysis on what exactly changes between notes 5 and 10 to cause things to fall apart.

I agree actually. My description (“fine motor limitations”) was probably inaccurate and misleading. I don’t think there’s anything anatomically limiting about my hands or wrists, my issues are almost certainly mental in origin. Of course, that’s still extremely broad, and it can be really hard to pinpoint exactly what conscious or subconscious pattern is holding someone back. Ultimately, the brain is still largely responsible for fine motor coordination.

For me, there are two specific “symptoms” I’ve noticed: (1) I often find it fairly difficult to lift/place fingers with very precise timing, leading to muted notes, and (2) it’s almost as if there’s some micro-lapse in focus which I seemingly have no voluntary control over, and it causes my hands to just do the wrong thing. I have no doubt that these are both mentally rooted.

So maybe that is good evidence that I need to slow down. In general I don’t actually approach practice like
I do in the video (a series of rapid-fire back-to-back failure), that was more for worst-case demonstration
purposes. Usually I start slower and I’m much more analytical when I find myself failing at the same spot repeatedly.

I do really like your idea about starting slow but doubling the speed, rather than 2-5bpm increases. As mentioned above, “thinking of each individual note” rather than thinking of groups of notes is something I’ve struggled with. When slowly increasing the tempo, there’s no good point at which you’re forced to switch from one mode of thought to the other. Maybe your suggestion will help me with this.

Thank you for taking the time to do this!

That’s really interesting, I’m glad you called this out. In the past I’ve never filmed my playing from an angle where the DSX elbow motion was obvious but I definitely can see it now. I always assumed I was using wrist motion.

And yeah, some of these licks just don’t seem particularly compatible with DSX. The first Crazy Train one in particular has a bunch of little chunks which alternate between two strings. I definitely don’t have DBX developed by any means so I’ve been trying to get by with a sort of weird rotation/inside picking thing, but that tends to fall apart much past 120bpm.

I’ve tried a bunch to get wrist/forearm motions working for USX but so far I haven’t found anything that worked for me - but that’s another topic.

Yay! Now that gives me a lot of motivation.

Yep, that definitely does happen when I know that a difficult section is approaching. Also filming myself absolutely does not help.

I would be very interested. I have actually been meaning to contact you about this ever since you posted about offering lessons. At the moment my life is a bit chaotic (in the midst of moving) but later in December I should be in a better spot. In the meantime I will go ahead and watch all of your videos and start to see what I can apply.

I’ll certainly continue working on DSX phrases! I assume that a MiM membership could provide some good resources for finding good licks to work on? I am planning on signing up early next year, once some other life stuff settles down and I have more time to practice consistently.

I was actually grabbing some phrases the other day from a song you wrote (which I now unfortunately can’t seem to find the link for), like that one in the video, and transforming them to be as DSX as possible (with varying degrees of success).

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@Gumgo all the answers are in this thread. My views:

  • there’s no motor skill limitation
  • break the lick down and get small parts correct - then link
  • practice, practice, practice!

Just remember - playing these licks clean and fast can take a LOT of practice for some people - I’m an example of that

You’re halfway there - you can do it!

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Excellent choice of repretoire :rofl:

If you go to and search for “Tommo” you should be able to find most of my YT video transcribed.

More “official” CTC stuff featuring songs/licks/lessons from me is also coming soon :slight_smile:

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Happy to help.

It’s important, no amount of practice with the elbow mechanic is going to train a wrist/forearm movement. You will need to either work with the movement that’s working for you and start incorporating the elbow into your playing, or work on the movement you’re working with and develop the wrist/forearm movement.

I’m glad. It’s not that you can’t do it, you just haven’t learned how to do it yet.

I absolutely understand the frustration and I’ve also struggled with red light syndrome, but it’s steadily getting better.

I understand completely, and there’s no pressure. I’ll do what I can to help on this forum when I can, but I’m busy too.

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I don’t know how much of an advice this is, but I suck at low action. I need some string height to get my hands synchronized. You press down a piano key close to an inch and it doesn’t seem to slow piano players down. I grew up playing strats with a small radius, so if you wanted to bend notes you had to raise the strings a lot.

For some people (this might be genetic) it’s hard to use the combination of the 3rd and 4th finger. They are fine playing 1-2-4, but instead of playing 1-3-4 they stretch a bit and play 1-2-3. Yngwie falls into this category. If I lost my fourth finger it would limit my chord playing, but I could do most of what I’m doing now with a bit of jumping around on the fretboard.

Yngwie is also a fan of high action. Better tone, easier to mute neighbor strings (especially when bending).

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Interesting. I haven’t experimented a whole lot with different action setups but that does make a lot of sense, as there is certainly more physical motion involved with a higher action setup. A good guitarist I know often refers to really precise low action setups as having “great action” so I guess I’ve always implicitly assumed that low action was generally desirable, but it certainly makes sense that it would come down to personal preference.

I got a new guitar a few months back (a Line 6 JTV-89F) and its setup was such that the action was quite a bit lower than my other main electric. I’ve definitely found that the precision and muting aspects are trickier to get right. In particular, I have quite a rough time bending the high e string without the adjacent B string ringing out, since the B string is already so close to the fret that it gets pinned under the fingertip of my 3rd finger along with the e string.

I am also one of those people who struggles with 1-3-4. I tell to fall back to 1-2-3 when possible.

Most basic scales and arpeggios are fine with either 1-2-3 or 1-2-4. Yngwie doesn’t often (if ever) use that ring/pinky combo.

I’m no good with 1-3-4 either, not for lack of trying. I’ve been able to avoid it until pretty recently. I bought some Rick Graham lessons and he’s got a few licks that just can’t be done without that combo. If you mess with all the fretting postures Tom outlines, you’ll probably find one that makes it possible. That’s what I had to do. Still, for your fastest stuff, avoiding that pair is the way to go.

Based on the advice from this thread about focusing more on DSX phrases, I went back and managed to find a way to re-work that first Crazy Train lick to be compatible with DSX-only motion. The solution I came up with uses some economy picking:

  D   D U U       D U U     D U U   D U U
e ------2---------------------------------------------------------
B ----2---5p2h3p2---2---------------------------------------------
G 4b6-------------5---5p4p2---2-----------------------------------
D --------------------------4---4p2---2---------------------------
A ----------------------------------4---4p3p2p0h2h3p2h3p2h3p2p0---
E ----------------------------------------------------------------
  1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4 . . . 1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4 . . .

Interestingly, it just boiled down to that same D U U picking pattern on alternating strings repeating several times.

Here’s a short clip of the phrase played with that picking approach:

It’s far from perfect: the timing of my fretting hand and of the economy picking is still pretty sloppy, and I still have to fight the muscle memory from the old approach. But at least it’s at a better starting point than before.

Ha, well I had to listen to it twice and really listen to find the slop. It’s rock 'n roll :slight_smile: Randy wasn’t always squeaky clean (at lest I couldn’t tell since he always double tracked EVERYTHING)

I think it sounds pretty good. And if it feels pretty good, you’re on the right track. Keep it up!