Crosspicking/Tracking technique (video)


#1

Hi there
I am new to this community - I have been working on my crosspicking/general speed for about a year, and decided to try here for some advice and have recorded myself for the first time.

Anyway - here is a clip of me playing a passage at 16th notes at 105bpm (fast and slowed down), I have just realised I am ahead of the click, but anyway…

Normal Speed:

Slowed Down:

Basically I can’t get much faster than this after bashing away for this tune for 3 months. I have been practicing my curved motion crosspicking technique. I can really nail this tune at 16th notes at 85/bpm, but this seems to be my “wall” for it feeling clean, comfortable and smooth - you can tell from the clip that I am really struggling at 105bpm, and there are youtubers who can nail this at 140/150bpm :frowning:

Anyway my questions are:

  1. Is my grip on the pick ok? at this tempo I feel like I am really fighting the strings. I am using a jazz III XL ultex pick (1.38mm)

  2. Is my pick depth too much? Do I need even less pick hitting the strings?

  3. Are my curved motions ok on the up and the down? does it need to be more curved? less curved?

  4. Are my motions too large? Do they need to be smaller for those faster speeds? (120bpm +)?

  5. When I play the ascending and descending licks from the 4th string to the 1st string and back again - I feel like my hand should track down the strings, yet my hand stays planted - do I need to work on this?

  6. Just how do I practice this kind of stuff and build a whole song up to speed? At this point in my playing, I can play small passages fast - for example Troy’s Malmsteen 6-note descending pattern across 3 strings at (16th note triplets) at 105bpm - which is not slow, but for crosspicking, I just can’t get past baby speeds :frowning:. So how can I work this up, I get the feeling that slow metronome practice with crosspicking bluegrass songs (which is what I want to learn) never gets me past being able to play a song at more than 16th notes at 90bpm tops…

Many thanks - I hope this was the right kind of post to do for this kind of feedback, please be gentle, I am still learning and very discouraged by the seemingly gargantuan task of playign guitar fast and well…

Cheers
Rohit


#2

I’d say that on the contrary, your motion is too small and too controlled. It was mentioned in the Steve Morse excerpt on YouTube: the faster the tempo, the bigger the motion Steve uses. Why? Because you need an arch to escape the string both ways, and the shallower/flatter the swing, the faster it is. And if you don’t get your motion big and smooth enough, either you have Rusty’s power to compensate or you can encounter string hopping issues.

IMO, forget about accuracy… well sorta, not completely of course but don’t let it be your focus. Experiment more with the picking motion to get a better feel for it. It’s a bit more like strumming than precise picking…


#3

Thanks man, that’s helpful. So you’re saying i need a bigger swing to escape the strings, but flatter so that it takes less time?


#4

Yes, I agree with Lukhas, larger strokes help a lot for doing 1NPS licks reliably at moderate-high speeds. That really jumped out at me with your form

However, doing small/efficient strokes at slower speeds is a nice warmup. I think it’s also a good idea to do ‘over-exaggerated’ strokes as well. I like to do tremolo-picking where I go ‘way’ out above the strings, and extend way beyond the adjacent strings as a warmup. I think your final form might be something in-between.

Without getting too technical (that’s Troy’s job), one thing that can help build-up speed as trying to burst to your maximum speed… just for a second or even less. That can kinda ‘trick’ your muscles into learning better efficiency.

I think you need to try both… I think a lot of this preference has to do with your past experience with elbow vs wrist tracking. Troy likes to stay planted… I like to track for everything. You may find you prefer one over the other, or something in the middle.


#5

Awesome, very cool, thank you. I have re watched the cross picking videos, including troy with his own technique, and i see what you both mean. Large, free flowing but fairly flat pick motions that escape the plane of the strings but don’t hop.

My motions look very jumpy, maybe that’s why I’m hitting quite a low speed barrier?

I’m so glad i swallowed my pride and posted my clip. Getting feedback like this is really exciting!

Is there anything else that jumps at you from the clip?


#6

The only other thing I would mention is that it appears as though you have a good foundation. It looks like you are using forearm rotation, in combination with wrist movement, which is great. I think you can definitely build on that… just start with doing some exaggerated picking motions to get a bit more side to side movement.


#7

Hi Rohit! Thanks for posting. Rather than sift through why this is or isn’t working, I recommend watching our tutorial on bluegrass roll playing with the wrist. This is where we look at slow motion footage of Andy Wood, David Grier, and Molly Tuttle, and figure out how these movements are supposed to work. The lesson is in the getting started guide, but here’s the direct link:

https://troygrady.com/channels/talking-the-code/crosspicking-with-the-wrist/

The talk is pretty comprehensive, and goes into to detail on everything from grip to anchor position to movement. I recommend trying to replicate all of it, step by step, as closely as you can. This way you have a clear reference point for how things are supposed to work, and what they are supposed to look like when done correctly.

As a point of interest, the motion you’re using here is more like the one we cover in our second lesson on crosspicking, which covers wrist / forearm blends:

https://troygrady.com/channels/talking-the-code/crosspicking-with-the-wrist-and-forearm/

But honestly I recommend starting with the first lesson on wrist technique. The motion is simpler and more common in bluegrass. And you’ll learn some fundamentals about wrist motion which will pay dividends in any other techniques you want to learn.

I also recommend taking a look at the “getting started” guide, since it contains some checklists for working through lessons like this. Here’s the main link:

https://troygrady.com/start


#8

Thanks Troy!
Actually I found the crosspicking with the wrist seminar this morning, and watched very closely Andy Wood’s motion. Now I see exactly what is happening. I’ve been trying this today. It already seems to be easier and doesn’t fatigue my hand after about 10 seconds, which is what my picking action currently does.

I’m going to try and replicate this. I’m assuming as you said in the seminar that i should focus on getting the mechanics right first at a moderate speed, and the accuracy will improve gradually (obviously I won’t ignore accuracy totally)??

Thanks again!
Rohit


#9

Smooth and natural is the name of the game. The movement is very simple to do - almost too simple. Probably nobody who can do it even realizes it’s a “thing”. I feel like most people can probably do this in a few minutes, in their first sitting, with the proper guidance or visual reference.

In other words, this is not a thing you are going to labor over for a long time, working up to it slowly, in order to do. It’s a thing that you’re going to be able to do pretty much immediately by adjusting the hand or arm position, and comparing to the video, until it looks the same.

Others have pointed out that for the Andy Wood “902” version of this, you don’t need lots of supination. In fact the center of the wrist can be resting what feels like flat on the strings and yet the arm can still be supinated enough for this to work. As long as the ulna is a little lower than the radius, the movement will work.

Right. You may not be able to hit all the notes correctly all the time, across every pattern imaginable. But you should be able to make the movement correctly in your first sitting by comparing to the video and trying again.

I recommend trying to do the entire roll pattern, all six notes, at a moderate speed with all the movements equally sized. You shouldn’t really be able to tell from audience perspective which string is being played. It should just look like a deviation movement covering three strings in width. I would do this and film it with your phone to verify that it does look three strings in width, and smooth.


#10

Ok that makes sense, thank you! It’s encouraging that this feels within reach now.

Also i had another question if i may?

These roll patterns may fall within the context of a song which contains more scalar lines, for example if I’m learning a song like black mountain Rag, Big Mon or similar. Does Andy (or most bluegrass players) use the same technique for more linear lines too? I know that for blistering shred speed you need just deviation with pickslanting, but would i be able to use this 902 movement to get through non rolling pattern songs at a good click, like 130 or 140bpm? Im guessing that the answer is yes, as that is what the Doc Watson to Carl Miner video suggests? I hope that makes sense…

Thank you again, i am genuinely excited about all this… Signing up and watching through these analyses is like loads of light bulbs and dollar signs going off…


#11

I was having a speed problem for a log time with using my wrist to pick and found after going over all the material again…and again I noticed after watching myself my thumb was putting a lot more pressure on the pick than my index finger and one time through I run I hit it perfectly and then stopped moving and saw my middle finger had drifted on top to even the pressure of the pick. I try to pick all fast paced pieces like that now it seems to help especially with keeping my other fingers out of the way so I can rotate my wrist without any drag and gain speed. I personally make smaller movements but try to attack the strings without as much force and relax my hand a little. Also by just using muscle memory and not trying to think about every note especially when there are many seems to help too. Just throwing in my two cents I thought your video sounded good.


#12

Thanks dude, that’s an encouraging post, i appreciate it. I think you’re describing the claw grip, a lot of bluegrass players use it. I’m trying to be more relaxed in my playing, but i get quite tense when playing, is that more a psychological thing to get over?

This is a great forum…


#13

I used to tense up because that was the only way I knew how to get the notes in quickly but I had to learn to keep my arm relaxed. My speed went down for a little while but once it picked back up it was a lot more accurate and much faster but relaxing my wrist and not basically flexing my forearm.


#14

Hi there
ok so I have been working on this for a day now - I think (although I may be totally wrong) I have something like the motion that Andy Wood has and Troy describes (Supination, 902 motion)

Would anybody be able to give me some feedback on this video of me doing a 3 string forward roll?

Normal Speed:


Slowed Down:

I think that whilst my down stroke looks ok (it’s going to 2 'o clock), my upstroke feels like I am taking my arm back to a parallel position rather than keeping it supinated, and hence that would start to look like string hopping again. Although I don’t think my brain is still tuned to know exactly what to look for as the mechanics side is still new to me.

also, it looks like the width of my swing is 3 strings - but sometimes it looks a bit shorter than 3 strings. Does it look like that to others?

When I filmed myself side on playing this and then on 1 string it looked the same to me also…

Anyway any feedback and potential corrections to make at this early stage would be really appreciated…

Many Thanks,
Rohit


#15

When Andy does scalar things more quickly he becomes more of a two-way pickslanter, where 2 o’clock is his main motion, and he uses intermittent brief changes in arm orientation for a single note or two, before returning to that form. You can see this on Fisher’s Hornpipe for example, the open strings in the first couple measures:

https://troygrady.com/interviews/andy-wood-workshop/mandolin-clips/fishers-hornpipe-pickslant/

However I think you should mostly not worry about that. Bluegrass players almost all appear to start by learning the crosspicking motion, and this type of thing you’re seeing in Andy’s playing is just what happens when he speeds up. So it may turn out that focusing on the curved motion is the best path, and that by the time it is fully habituated, the pickslanting stuff takes care of itself later on because those motions are in some sense just parts of the crosspicking motion. I really wouldn’t worry about speed at all - so much is accomplished by learning the coordination of the base movement and making it habitual and natural for you.


#16

Hi @Troy / anyone interested in this particular thread:

This is definitely working. I have been working on ‘Wildwood Flower’ for months, and struggled to get past triplets at 90bpm. After 2 days trying out the 902 motion - I have the A-part pretty good at 140bpm (triplets). This really is is way beyond the progress I would have expected to make, but it’s amazing what a change of technique can do. The Cracking the code work on crosspicking is excellent!

Here it is at normal speed:

And slowed down:

For me what it seems to be is to get the upstroke coming back along the same path as the downstroke travelled at. The downstroke was fine, but I am so scared of hitting the wrong string on the way back up, I would arc my upstroke so that it was a reflection of the downstroke, which basically equates to string hopping I think??

Anyway, I’m really pleased with my progress in so little time! Thank you guys so much, I am delighted that this place exists and that I am finally progressing after a year of stagnation and minimal gains despite literally hundreds of hours of practice


#17

Nice! Looks much better. And sounds good too.

Only comment is that you’re still, to some extent attempting to turn the arm, particularly on the upstroke. You don’t have to do that. The wrist can make this movement with little to no turning, and it’s more relaxed that way. Don’t think about the pick going “up” or needing to get out of the strings on the upstroke, and don’t feel like you have to “pluck” the string or pull it upward with the pick in order to be clean. Just think “left”. The hand is moving left, albeit in its slightly tilted orientation. When done correctly it won’t feel like anything.

What happens if you do this movement on a single string, is there still turning? If so, then you’ve simply learned this feeling as correct, and you need to learn the new feeling of “nothing”.


#18

Thanks for this, I see what you mean.
Actually on one string there is no turning - and it feels natural and smooth, and I can do it at a good moderate speed.

Ok right - I will try and learn this feeling when actually doing cross picking - just pulling left of the laser pointer as you say…

Thanks again,
Rohit


#19

That’s right - and I would say “pulling” is even too strong a word. Often when I think “pull”, and feel something that feels like pulling, it’s forearm and wrist motion together that are actually happening. Maybe simply “moving leftward”? Let us know what works, we’re still figuring out how to communicate these ideas in ways that translate to feel.


#20

Another way you can think about this is that when you introduce arm motion, you’re actually altering the path of the pick. A motion that is all or almost all deviation is going to trace a semicircle from the wrist joint - like a windshield wiper. The more arm and wrist flexion / extension you introduce, the more that picking motion starts to go perpendicular to the strings or even vertical into the air.

In your case here, you’re not using much arm, so the picking motion is still semicircular. But it could be more so if the arm component were removed. In other words, in addition to thinking about feel, you can also think about what path you want the pick to travel. In your case, you want “more semicircle”, and less perpendicular, and less vertical / air.