Critique Troy's crosspicking!


Wait wait, you are Teemu? :open_mouth:


No, I’m Teemu’s hamster.


Yes, @hamsterman is Teemu. I’m not sure if I should be letting the cat out of the bag? Sorry Teemu. :confused:


Hi @Troy,

The method of crosspicking your using here looks like it’s very similar mechanically to the first “picking mode” I discussed in my picking styles thread.

When I first developed this picking mode as a teenager, I definitely noticed that string tracking was the primary problem as I increased the speed, and that missing strings was the most common type of failure.

I focused on several key issues which helped me.

As in all cross-picking movements, less pick depth allows for a larger radius to the arc of the picking movement. I knew this academically, I had a diagram and calculation written in a notebook similar to the “golf club and flamingoes” calculation in the Steve Morse feature (which can be solved using just the Pythagorean Theorem!). I think I had a tendency to try to flatten the movement arc by picking with less and less pick depth until I would eventually start whiffing completely. I had train myself to maintain a constant pick depth that was a compromise between shallowness and sureness.

I also noticed that a small part of the problem was that I had a slight tendency to change the height of the fulcrum for this pendulum-type movement very slightly as I moved across strings. Ideally, the height of the fulcrum would the same for each string you play on, so that as you would move across strings the position of the fulcrum would define an arc matching the radius of the fretboard.

I had this aspect of string tracking slightly skewed, with the neutral position being set by the G and D strings (the highest strings), and the arc of the changing fulcrum point being flatter than the fretboard radius I was using at the time, so I most frequently missed the two E strings.

I corrected this mostly by ensuring that I wasn’t using any wrist movements for string tracking, with the elbow being mostly responsible for tracking.

I first achieved this on a Strat with a 9.5" fretboard radius, and now most of my guitars have 16" or 20" radii. I know you play vintage Fenders with 7.25" fretboard radii, so tracking fretboard curvature might be a more significant problem for you.

Finally, I noticed that when practicing one note per string patterns slowly, I tended to make distinct switches in fulcrum position with my elbow, but when playing faster, the speed required that the tracking movements become smooth, so my elbow was constantly moving, as in a sweep.

After noticing this, I tried to make the tracking movements more gradual when practicing, and I feel that this helped me.

How do you feel this method of cross-picking compares to the method you utilised in the Steve Morse Interview analysis, which (if I remember correctly) had a pad-to-pad pick grip that more closely resembled Steve’s method?


For me, this is a ‘must’ for reliable cross-picking. If the wrist is used in any respect for the string tracking… the whole thing falls apart.

This is where things get harry. Especially when alternating strings. What I found works is relaxing the elbow to its noodley state… then try to use the inertia from the picking motions to help with the tracking movement. This is where outside and inside picking start to feel very different… and you have to sorta ‘strategically’ tense up… at different areas during the swing.

However… I still have issues with outisde/alternate picking between 2 strings. I just can’t get beyond 130-135 bpm. I think this is partially because I neglected outside picking for so many years… I feel like I am a beginner in this area.


This is definitely the “mechanical” way of solving the problem, i.e. eliminate all the variables. If the wrist orientation isn’t changing from string to string, then the movement stands a better chance of being identical on every string, right?

Sort of. It works, as long as you’re moving in a straight line, like with an arpeggio that goes across all six strings without stopping or changing direction. But as soon as you have a phrase that goes back and forth on a group of strings, like two or three of them, it becomes weird and robotic to have that much elbow or shoulder movement. Nobody we have filmed plays this way.

We can look at Andy Wood or Molly Tuttle, and when they play on localized groups of strings, they anchor, and use the wrist for both picking and tracking. Then, if they have to move a larger distance, the whole arm tracks. As with most human movements, it’s a mishmash of things, and I’m sure they don’t think about it.

It may not be as pretty of an answer as we would like, as easy to describe or teach, but learning to play with a mix of tracking types is probably what most people do.

Not sure if I’m answering the rest of your question but I would say this falls into the picture is worth 1000 words category. Post a clip and we’ll take a look!


Ok here’s a cut of some practice footage working out some jazz lines with a more wrist-oriented crosspicking approach:

This is not completely wrist movement to the extent that someone like Molly Tuttle is, but the balance is much more in that direction versus the more 50/50 forearm wrist approach above.

Also, in this case, to the point of some of the discussion above, both the picking movement and the tracking movement are more wrist. Again, not 100% one or the other, and you can see that I do track up the body at a couple points to get the lower strings. But you can also see how appropriate the wide arc of the wrist motion is for tracking. It’s really perfectly suited to the job of getting from one string to another, and for smaller distances across 2-4 strings, it only makes sense that the players we film tend to use it this way. Slow motion at the end.

Subjectively this approach is among the physically least demanding to do. It really is effortless in feel. So far I would say the approaches that lean more heavily on wrist flexion / extension and forearm rotation, like the high gain arpeggios clip, feel more athletic. The ones like this that are more deviation oriented feel less effortful. I’m not trying to use a tiny amount of pick on the string, and I don’t feel like I lack for attack if I want it. I’m just saying the movement itself feels like it requires less effort to perform. Grain of salt, because I’m still learning how to differentiate these, so it could just be user error.


This sounds great to me, very musical. I won’t critique it as far as mechanics go, I’d suggest to stop looking at the neck while playing, I doubt you need it. :wink:

Any chance for transcription, by the way?


I’ve experimented with this, and I find that when I’m not looking at the neck, and just staring off, then I’m actually still imagining a neck in my mind. It feels almost the same as looking. But then if I look and it doesn’t look like what I’m imagining, I mess up! Is that what everyone does?


I think what you said means you really don’t need to look.

I mess up horribly if I am looking when have the tune/line going in my head, because I switch to thinking in finger patterns. When I am learning
something, I may look a lot initially, then less and less.

The deal (for me) is that I tend to sound better and memorize lines faster if I get them in my head as notes/sounds rather than patterns on the neck. Except for something totally out of my comfort zone (musically or technically) when there is no muscle memory/musical familiarity at all.

Having said that we all heard great guitarists live who played a phrase or two half tone too high :slight_smile:


Love this nerdy talk. The weird and robotic feeling your talking about is the ‘tensing’ of the elbow that we use to alternate back and forth interfering with the movements in the wrist. I think its impossible to ‘only’ use the elbow for back and forth tracking and also doing the complex movements in the wrist for cross-picking.

This completely stumped me at first. The solution for me was to relax the elbow… and use the ‘intertia’ of a strong cross-pick to help ‘reverse’ the direction. This wouldnt work for other types of ‘light’ picking… but it works great for x-picking. There is still some elbow work here… but not nearly as much… and its a much more relaxed method. The problem… as I said before… then tends to lie in figuring out how to use the inertia for both outside and inside picking… but its mostly solvable.

The good thing about the ‘inertia’ tracking… is that it has helped me with ‘straight line’ picking as well… my arpegios ‘stop and start’ based upon my wrist inertia… and its allowed me to be much more accurate.

By the way Troy… I am curious how fast you can do continued alternating string cross-picking for both outside and inside picking? I’ve hit a plateu for the last 6 months with ‘outside’… Im wondering if you have as well.


Hi @Troy,

I was referring to string tracking issues when crosspicking one note per string patterns, usually arpeggio shapes. This was where my difficulties with string tracking manifested most severely.

I think you’re right that when alternating between strings, the constant elbow movement would be unnatural, and that some amount of wrist movement for tracking is necessary.

For me, this type of crosspicking blends seamlessly with a Gilbert-like 2-way pickslanting technique. It’s quite possible that I’ve created an artificial division between the two in my mind, where none really exists.

I’m aware that I haven’t posted any clips on this forum, and that posting some clips would aid discussion. Unfortunately, the webcam on my laptop can’t capture anything worth posting. The guitar I play is very unusual (see my avatar), and I haven’t found a suitable way to secure my phone to it, as an improvised magnet. I’m aware that this hurts my credibility.

As an aside, has anybody tried using an inexpensive camera phone tripod for this purpose?

I’ll try making an impromptu mount with whatever I have lying around.


@Tom_Gilroy, one of these might work
As long as you don’t move about too much you could get a decent shot of down the strings I’d imagine (apologies if this is too off topic!)


I’m referring to the strangeness of trying to play, let’s say, a line that goes back and forth quickly across three strings, by tracking your entire arm back and forth across just those three strings. It’s looks like you’re doing the robot. It’s not particularly tense, it’s just a lot of movement for no reason.

I don’t know. I’m sure I have played these lines north of 180bpm sixteenths here and there, but then I’ll maybe miss notes because typically these types of lines are accuracy limited, not really speed limited. For scalar type lines, I don’t see any reason why the forearm blended versions of this technique would have any different speed limit than any kind of forearm driven motion you would use in pickslanting, since they’re almost identical movements.


Don’t worry about it! Nobody is worried about your credibility, you make thoughtful comments and that’s what matters.

No problem using a tripod. Just point it down the strings. Your fretting hand might get in the way but no big deal. We used a tripod for the live broadcast, it makes certain things easier especially if you’re getting up and moving around a bunch.


Well, here’s what I can manage to produce by resting my phone against Winnie The Pooh’s face:

You can tell he’s not pleased. It’s getting late and my girlfriend and her sister are watching a film, so it’s unplugged. The clips are short, I wasn’t sure how they’d turn out. My hands are pretty cold, so I didn’t push the tempi. Consider this a test of a mug based magnet if nothing else.

Anyway, this is a take of me crosspicking a 3 string minor 7th arpeggio shape.

I perceive my elbow to be in constant movement throughout.

This is an alternating outside picking pattern. I don’t think there is much elbow movement here, but there is no conscious change in “picking mode” and this feels as natural as breathing.

Also, to demonstrate how this mode doubles as a 2WPS method, here are some outside Gilberts.

I notice a greater degree of slant when playing this faster, but it still feels like the picking mode hasn’t changed to me.

If these videos are of good enough quality to help discussion, I’ll get more involved!

EDIT: Thanks @Troy . I try to be a thorough as possible in discussion, but I agree that video would have much greater potential for demonstration.


I suppose it looks a bit weird… but I was more saying that it is feasable and actually comfortable… as long as the arm stays loose… and its not at all fatigue-causing.

‘Most Impressive’ That’s way beyond my pathetic 135. I think its because I have neglected outside alternating picking until now… and I’m now making up for lost time.

And yes… I do think 200 bpm speeds are obtainable… and I’m glad to hear you say that. I think its all a matter of just re-learning things. I’ve hit about 175 on one-note-per-string arpegios… any faster… and I the errors start to skyrocket.


Hi @hamsterman.

I have, in the past, been able to play the outside picking pattern I play in the YouTube video I posted as 16th note triplet at 120-140bpm, depending on the day, so that would be 180-210 bpm as 16th notes. I haven’t tried to clock myself on that pattern in about 10 years, so I’m not sure what I could manage now.

I’m sure a player of your caliber would be able to replicate or exceed those numbers.


Nice playing and tone Troy! Is that an archtop? flatwounds?


For alternating strings outside picking… no, I don’t think I can do 210 bpm… not for continued alteration… its just too fast for me… and its my absolute weakness. Do you have a link to that video?