The subject of crosspicking comes up a bunch around here, and it’s kind of in a weird limbo zone. It’s something we pursue in interviews, and work on, but because of that, it’s also something where we haven’t filmed formal tutorial type material beyond the “documentary” style data gathering features we’ve made about Steve Morse, Carl Miner, Martin Miller, and so on. So every time it comes up in discussion, I feel like we’re talking about unicorns or Leprechauns or something. Now that we have the forum and live broadcasts, we have a fine place to put some tangible examples of “work in progress” type material.
So with that in mind, here’s the state of the state at Cracking the Code HQ with respect to what we might call “rotational-blend” crosspicking technique, for lack of a better term:
This is a movement that on the surface may appear entirely forearm-driven, but in actuality is two halves of a movement glued together. As per the Albert Lee analysis videos which you can find attached to his interview, we have: the “above the string” phase and the “below the string” phase. In this case, we have forearm rotation as the “above the string” phase. This is the apex of the upstroke, or the start of the downstroke, however you like. Once the pick hits the string on the downstroke, the forearm movement gives way to wrist movement, a blend of wrist extension and deviation, as most wrist movements tend to be. We have reached out to Jimmy Herring, and I have a feeling this is similar to what he’s doing. Hopefully we’ll get to sit down with him at some point for a better look.
Anyway, it works, it’s physically not demanding to do. Speed is not a problem. I have no reason to believe this movement is any faster or slower than any other wrist or forearm picking technique, since it uses the same muscles and joints.
The main issue is tracking. It’s not a big movement, so the pick needs to be physically placed right on top of the string you want to play, or you’ll pick air. You can hear that happen a bunch of times in this little montage - missing notes in sequence patterns. I’ll put up some slow motion so you can get a better look at when that happens.
This “airball” issue is less of problem in more deviation-oriented crosspicking motions, since those movements operate in the same plane as the tracking movement. I’ll also put up some clips of those movements when I get a moment as well, so you can see the difference.
Re: the accuracy of this movement, it’s getting cleaner over time, and it is a process that I’m not consciously controlling. But every couple of months the accuracy is improves simply as a result of doing it. That’s the part of motor learning that happens when you’re not playing, or not aware of it, and how that works that is still a little mysterious.
A related point worth noting: nobody we have interviewed really plays this way. This is a movement that originated just by tooling around, completely via trial and error, at normal or fast playing speeds, not slow speeds. Once it began to take shape, and it seemed like it might work, that’s when I was able to slow it down. The whole “start slow, speed up” thing just does not work for me if I have no idea what movement I’m supposed to be making. Discovery happens at normal or fast speeds, and refinement happens at progressively slower speeds. The better I get at this, the slower I can do it and have it look graceful. The “moderate” speeds in the clip I was probably not even capable of doing a year ago, even though I had sloppy fast versions of it in place already. Go figure.
Thoughts / critiques welcome!