Critique Troy's crosspicking!


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!

Critique my cross picking?
Cross Picking String Hopping
3 notes per string and DWPS

I think we can close the internet now :slight_smile:


Missing notes or not (I can’t hear them!) this sounds fantastic to me, and if it was me I’d be totally happy with this level of playing. Some of the lines were pretty cool to listen to as well. I haven’t practiced cross picking that much, so am certainly no expert, maybe i’ll record a magnet example though to see what you think.
I notice you’re holding the pick almost totally side-ways, is this something you do all the time or mainly for cross picking? (I should know by know, Ive watched so many videos!)


I have a few questions if you wouldn’t mind…

Does changing strings after an upstroke or downstroke matter at all?

Are you saying the forearm kind of turns to bring the pick to strike the string on the downstroke and the wrist brings it back for the upstroke?


At the risk of damping your always-infectious enthusiasm, I think developing the critical mistake-hunting side of your listening skills the next step for you, more so than actual mechanical skills. Between your 300bpm elbow madness, and the tasty sweeps in the Christmas video, you already have some prodigious mechanical and compositional powers on tap. But we’ve already seen clips here where players clearly don’t know that something is off in their own playing. It’s turning out that this is more common than I thought, and being solid on the listening front is key to developing some of the trickier things, like hand sync, or avoiding swiping noise, which I’m realizing a lot of players find hard to hear.


No not really. I mean if you really think about it, if you place the pick on the string, how far would you need to move it to make it clear the string height? Now place it back on the string, and play the opposite pickstroke. How far would you really need to lift it to get it out in the opposite direction? Not much either way. I know we are guilty of dramatizing this process, maybe just for clarity of teaching. But the fact is the movements really don’t need to be that dramatic.

Yes and the wrist also moves the pick away on the downstroke as well. It’s two movements for each pickstroke, a top half and a bottom half. I say that because we like to understand how these movements work, but when it comes to “natural” movements like these, that blend different joints, I don’t think that the best way to learn them is going to turn out to be trying to replicate those movements per se. instead it’s probably more about putting your hand in a particular position, with guidance, and then trying make the pick play a “downstroke” movement that goes in one direction, and an “upstroke” movement that goes in the other direction. Again, with guidance, but letting your body micromanage the movements that need to happen.


That is so true! When my picking speed got much faster after finding CtC, I was so excited that I didn’t even realize I wasn’t able to synchronize both hands. Only after turning off the distortion I noticed the problem. I sometimes wonder just how much of rock and metal soloing is really clean and how much of it could use some improvement, but it’s harder to notice the imperfections because of all the gain.


Word. I mean, honestly, there have been some clips put up here of players we all love, where I’m like, man that was a rough. Usually live clips, of course. And I sometimes can’t tell from reading the subsequent comments in the thread if everyone is hearing that, but just making the (totally reasonable) “live show” allowance. Or if they really can’t hear it at all. The unspoken “live show allowance” I have no problem with. But not being able to hear it at all is a problem, because then you end up chasing technique that not even the player in question may have.


Am I getting over excited again? Haha! You’re totally right, my ear is something of an issue. I’ve only had decent picking abilities for the past 3 or 4 years (i’ve only been playing 8 after all!) so there are still a lot of hurdles to cross, I’m very much a work in progress (as everyone is in some way or another!) I’ll start trying to listen a bit more carefully (and on that note I’m going to record you a new Hyper Picking solo since the previous one I sent you is pretty rough, I think I’d tired my arm out by that point! I’ll try and record that either Friday or tomorrow after work)


I agree in general, but I also think that on something as “noisy” as the guitar we must sometimes lower our expectations in order to keep enjoying life :slight_smile:

E.g. even the best players let the odd open string ring at times (mainly live, but I even noticed some of that in studio recordings).

Personally (as a hobbyist), I only started enjoying making/sharing recordings when I gave up the idea of “getting a perfect take”.

When practicing in the past, I often wasted too much time on basic exercises because I didn’t want to move on until they sounded perfect (and they never did). Oooops, I may have gone off topic, sorry :sweat_smile::sweat_smile::sweat_smile:


Totally. Obviously there’s a line here somewhere, and what constitutes “clean enough” is probably different for everyone. If someone wants to leave something a little rough around the edges, I have no problem with that. That’s a creative choice. But if someone doesn’t know their own playing is rough around the edges, that’s a whole different thing.


Hi Troy. Your form actually kinda looks like mine.

A few cool things that I noticed.

  1. Youre not anchored… which I am happy to see. I used to anchor… and I surprisingly found that I could not clear the strings on the down-stroke when I anchored, because it limited my motion. I now ‘glide’ the fingers (pinky and ring)… and its helped a lot. Your gliding looks identical to mine.

  2. You use the forearm as your main driver. I do the same… I use it to ‘fling’ my wrist in a frisbee throwing motion.

Some things I do differently.

  1. I use my thumb to push up my index finger. (similar to Martin Miller)

  2. My wrist is higher and my thumb and pick are basically parallel to the string. Not sure why… it just kinda helped my stroke become a bit more symmetrical.

I agree with you on the tracking. This has been the hardest part. It really exposed my weakness. I had a horrible time ‘moving’ my forearm back and forth… I still have limitations on outside picking alternation of two strings… but its getting better.


I’m taking time out to watch this and… it’s flip floppy. You are missing notes out of the sequences. Ghost notes. Picking air. If you really just want to experiment with all sorts of little crosspicking tweeks, and you don’t actually want to pursue one thing specifically - that is totally fine with me and something I endorse. But this isn’t something I need granular updates on.

If you ever get to where you can crosspick properly and have something concrete to show me, by all means. But not until.

Great playing @Troy :kiss::kiss:


Oh, you!


You know your stuff!

This is a subject we’ve discussed, and I really don’t know if there is such a thing as a primary component to these movements. For example, in this case, there is no forearm on the upstroke until the pick hits the string, then the forearm appears as the wrist movements fades out. However I don’t know how practical that is to anyone other than mechanics nerds, and it appears you are a mechanics nerd so I salute you.

In terms of learning this, what I can say about what it feels like is more like wrist flexion / extension, i.e. a pump action of the wrist, pressing down against the body in that area. You can’t do that without forearm when the arm is flat against the guitar body so of course forearm will rotate as well. But if I had to describe the feel, I’d say pressing and releasing at the wrist, as opposed to the turning sensation we associate with forearm.

Anyway, excellent insights.


Thanks for sharing Troy, this is very cool to see your own works in progress. The little blips and boo-boos sound very minor to me–I had to really listen for them to hear what you were talking about. Even with them in there they haven’t affected my enjoyment of the clips and I wish I could grasp this level of accuracy. If I heard these licks on an album with a full band mix then I have trouble believing that I’d even be able to tell that there were errors.


Hahahahaha :rofl:

I remember Teemu saying he hasn’t mastered cross picking yet. I’m sure he’s watching to see your way of doing it. If just for curiosity.

Why I oughta :fist: :bear:


Teemu is the best. He’s a teacher and also an expert self-teacher / figure-outer, and does a mean crosspick himself. And an A-plus person, on top of that.


Thanks, I learn from the best. :slight_smile:

I’ll try and show some cool cross-pick demonstrations when I get my giant-ass picks from amazon… hopefully tomorrow. The video will probably look like crap though… maybe I’ll just duct-tape my cell phone to the guitar… make a ghetto-magnet.


Really cool lines, Troy, musical and interesting! I would love to see some slo-mo closeups of the movements and tab too!

Rock on!