Crosspicking Wildwood Flower (kind of)


#1

Hi Everyone,

to complete my introduction in this forum here is a video. I’m playing the beginning of the song “Wildwood Flower”, apparently a bluegrass classic that also David Grier and - I believe - Molly Tuttle play in their interviews. I end with a more scalar lick (not original), since the more scalar playing feels very different from the arpeggio stuff to me.

I actually play the snippet with two different picking motions, but they are - I think - both examples for crosspicking. First I use - and please correct me if I’m wrong - a slightly supinated forearm with a picking motion coming from the wrist, similar to what is shown in the “all you need to know about crosspicking” video. I play the snippet two times with this setting.

Then I switch to a setting, where I use my ring and pinky as anchors and don’t rest my hand on the bridge anymore. I would say, the forearm is still supinated a bit. The picking motion then has a bit of forearm rotation and possibly some wrist to it.

I decided to upload this second way of playing, because it comes up when I play and don’t think about it. I’m playing an acoustic guitar here, but the same thing also happens to me on electric guitar. I still don’t quite know what to make of it. The first setting with the hand resting on the bridge is something, that I have been trying for a couple of weeks now. It starting to feel good now. I still feel a bit of tension in my upper arm, when I play for a while. Also, as I mentioned, It feels and works a lot better when playing more scalar things, and it also feels easier on electric guitar. Then there are times when, after practicing for a while, all of a sudden I get to a point where things work really well. For example, the speed in the examples is “safe” for me, I can do that pretty much everytime I pick up the guitar. But in one of those rare situations, I manage to play significantly faster. Has someone experienced similar things?

I’m curious to get some feedback!

P.S. I wish the video quality was a bit better, but that was the best I could do for now, even though I set the framerate on my phone to 120fps. When I try to watch that in slow motion, the hand movements get blurred. If anlybody has some hints on how to improve that…


#2

First of all hi and welcome! :grinning:

I’m pretty sure we all know the feeling of getting superpowers for a while when playing, my interpretation of that is that from time to time your body does something incredibly right, while you don’t know what has changed, usually thats removing stringhops.
For the video (the quality is just fine imo), at least for me it’s hard to tell what’s happening, you play at a speed where problems still can be fixed by stringhopping, and probably that’s reason why you feel safe at that speed.
What it makes hard to tell is that the stringhopping motion is fine when you crosspick as long as you just use it on every second stroke, and this can still be fine if you turn that around.
As far as i can tell you mix proper crosspicking with stringhopping, which is basically good news as it means the needed mechanics are there.
To spot the weak points I’d play at a speed where you don’t feel safe anymore and then have a closer look on the reasons for the problems.

… on the other hand I’m pretty sure some of the cracks can tell you on the fly what’s going on :grin:

Another thing I noticed is that you have breaks in your motion, that’s fine as long as you keep timing accurate (which you do), but it makes it hard to tell if it’s efficient. The best thing to tell if there’s a problem is always to see if there are 2 motions, one to hit the string and another to get to the next, with a break in the repetition there’s always 2 motions for the eye.


#3

Thanks for posting! Will leave technique comments to others but quick note on the video quality question — shooting video at high framerate e.g. 120fps requires a lot of light to make up for the faster shutter speed. For a simple way to improve this I’d suggest either a) sitting near a window when it’s bright out or b) putting a lamp close by to get lots of illumination on your picking hand.


#4

Also @tomatitito looks like this clip actually may not be shot in 120fps mode? Troy just pointed out from looking at it in slow-mo on Youtube — the blur and rolling shutter “jiggle” usually indicate non high framerate video. Could be you selected 120fps as the slow-mo setting (as opposed to 240) but didn’t switch the actual video mode to slow-mo when shooting?


#5

Hmm, I did not change to slow-mo mode, that’s correct. I’m not sure where I can do that. I use a Fairphone with the open camera app, I’ll have a look, maybe I can find something.


#6

Great playing. Short answer, I like the floating approach better. It’s a supinated wrist crosspick with a small forearm assist on the upstroke, as you have pointed out. There might be a finger component in there as well, can’t really tell. Either way, doesn’t really matter. It seems to work, you can do it smoothly, it’s technically ‘correct’ in the sense of not repetitive / inefficient mechanically. I’d work on that, among whatever other things you’re working on.

The first one, not really sure what’s going on there. You’re slamming down on those downstrokes, and not coming out the other side with an escape. We can fuss over whether this is technically stringhopping or not but whatever it is, it’s not smooth because only half the movement is being made. What you want is a movement that follows through smoothly all the way, and exits the other side with an escape comparable to the way the pickstroke started. The first three “demo” notes you play around three second mark - that’s more what it’s supposed to look like.

In both of these cases, think about the side to side aspect of the movement and try and make it wide and symmetrical. Then film it and see what it looks like. Definitely get your phone sorted and run some tests so you know for sure you are shooting in 120fps.


#7

This is the first time that I regret not having an iPhone! What I found out is that my phone can record video at 60fps. However, for some reason all the videos that I make are actually recorded with 30fps. I tried a bunch of things, without success. Good thing that I married, because my wife’s phone can also shoot at 60fps and actually does so.

So, 60fp is the best I can do. I filmed some clips and tried to have good lighting, as @Brendan suggested and the results seem fine to me. If anyone knows of some voodoo, possibly related to the fairphone and it’s camera, I’m interested!


#8

Thanks @Troy, @Brendan and @theGuyFromGermany, I really appreciate you taking the time and giving me feedback!

Oh wow, that’s good to know… I definitely will pay attention to that. I was a bit surprised to hear such a relatively clear opinion in favor of the floating approach. I’m not yet willing to give the other one up, though. Instead, I would like to share a clip of me playing with supposedly the same setup as in the first version: supinated forearm, motion mechanic coming from the wrist. This time, though, it’s on electric, and I play scalar stuff, no string skipping involved. It feels a lot better on electric, I guess that’s why I was surprised. Does this seem different to you guys?

I thought I’m using the approach outlined in “all you need to know about crosspicking” with wrist extension on the downstroke. But looking at the video I’m not sure if that’s the case. I also noticed that my arm moves quite a bit. I do feel my arm after playing for a while. It’s not too bad, but still, it’s there. Not sure if that’s a bad sign…


#9

Sorry, I didn’t mean that you should give up on it. I just meant, if you’re asking me which one of those two movements looks better to me, I would say the floating one looks better.

In the bridge anchor approach, the downstrokes have an accented sound because the attack lifts higher. The “below the string” phase of the movement, i.e. after the pick plays the string, the pick doesn’t exit very far, so the upstrokes sound softer. The electric clip looks and sounds more balanced but the downstrokes still have a tendency to bury themselves and even rest stroke on occasion. Watch all these again in slow motion and see if you can spot what I’m talking about.

Again, the notes you play around the 3 second mark are more balanced in sound and appearance. What that and see if you can see the difference. Not sure how to translate this into a feel, but perhaps thinking about making a “softer” downstroke, but one that keeps pushing after the string has been played, would produce a more balanced result. Give that a shot and see what it sounds and looks like.

And try the same thing on the floating approach, because it is already more balanced. If you can learn to identify the difference in feel, perhaps you can apply that to the other method. Whenever possible, I try to focus on whatever method is working better at that moment. It ensures I spend the least amount of time repeating things that aren’t working. Then I periodically go back to the movements that aren’t working as well to see if I can modify them to work better, using things I learned - consciously or subconsciously - from the better movements. So if you don’t work on the better ones, you will have a lot fewer ideas for improving the weaker ones. If that makes any sense!


#10

No worries, I didn’t want to sound offended or offending in any way.

Yeah, of course I would like to know what you think, so it’s all good. Again, I very much appreciate you taking the time and giving me (and everybody else) feedback. And I would probably not have come to the conclusion myself, that an issue that I have is the “unsymmetrical above and below the string movement” thing. That’s something I can’t remember hearing you talk about. so it’s a whole new aspect for me. Thanks for pointing that out.

I’m beginning to see it. It’s amazing what you can see, when you know what to look for. Actually, what I have noticed is, that the movements sometimes are pretty small, that’s the way I would have put it. But now I see, that the “upper portion” of the downstroke is a bigger movement that the “lower portion”.

Well, it seems that I can do the movement correctly when I do it slowly. But when I speed up, things change. I had the feeling, that thinking about the movement being wide and symmetrical, as you mentioned earlier, helps. But I’ll also try thinking about a softer downstroke.


#11

I don’t know if I’ve talked about the asymmetry aspect specifically, but the way these movements work, in terms of being compound movements with one half above the string and another half below, is something we originally talked about here:

https://troygrady.com/interviews/albert-lee/analysis-chapter-4-the-compound-curve/

Try filming a take at a more moderate speed and see what it looks like. Something simple, just a scale straight up and down. Doesn’t have to be super slow, just try and “make it smooth”, whatever that means to you. You may find that it just works. Either way I’d be interested in seeing what you come up with.

Anyway these are great attempts, I’m being fussy here, I think a lot of people would be pleased to have gotten this far with this approach.


#12

Oh yes, I’m familiar with the compund curve. I think I was being unclear, what I meant was that the movement above the string is bigger than that below the string. Or maybe you got me right and that was what you meant… Anyway, I’ll film it at moderate speed and see what it looks like.

That’s of course nice to hear! But more importantly: even if it’s not yet where I want it to be, I am quite pleased to have gotten this far. Not too long ago I would not have imagined that this is in reach for me.


#13

Hi Everyone,

I’ve been practising and filming myself a lot since my last post and it’s an interesting experience. It’s a totally different kind of practise than I have ever engaged in, and I notice all kinds of things when I watch the clips. It also takes a while to look at all the clips and analyse them, that’s why it took me so long to post a follow-up.

So, I was able to capture something that felt and sounded pretty good at the time I played it, even though it is certainly not perfectly accurate. This is a clip where I practise the roll and some other 1nps arpeggio stuff. In general, I sometimes see stringhopping when I play 1nps stuff. I also turn the motion pattern around and deviate only on the downstroke, while I deviate and extend on the upstroke. But that’s not the case in this clip. I apologize that this clip is filmed with 30fps, but I didn’t have a better camera available. The second clip is filmed with 120fps, though.

I also tried bringing my right hand back quite a bit over the last couple of days. This has also been touched upon in the everything you need to know about crosspicking thread. It does seem to make a difference to me, it makes it a bit easier. Also, trying not to hit the strings too hard sometimes helps.

I did this in this short clip with scalar playing. I think that the “unbalanced motion issue” I had, where the part below the string of my downstroke wasn’t really fully executed, is not present in this clip. When I start playing faster, the movements become very small, but they are getting smaller on both sides of the string, so it’s not unbalanced. And small movements at higher speed are not problematic (to some extend even neccessary), or are they? I still have the unbalanced thing, but at least not all the time. To get rid of it, I’m trying to alternate between slower and faster playing, where in the slower playing I focus on executing the full movement. It’s hard to tell, if that’s the right recipe, but I don’t know what else I could do.

I can’t wait for your feedback!


#14

That would be the pronated approach, a la Molly Tuttle / David Grier. It requires a slightly more pronated arm position than the other one you’ve been experiementing with. By all means film that one as well, and we’ll take a look.

Clips aren’t loading btw, could be an upload issue…


#15

Ups, accidentally marked them private. Should load now.


#16

Sounds great. Yes, the pickstroke is more balanced and I think it sounds smoother as a result - the downstrokes don’t hit so hard compared to the upstrokes any more. Nice work!

I’m not so sure about that. This looks a lot like David Grier’s form, and he’s a pronated approach player, with “dart thrower” (deviation + extension) above the string and deviation below.

And when I say I’m not so sure I really do mean “not so sure”! In order to do David’s approach, you’d need a slightly pronated forearm - enough so the phrase of the movement below the string can be done only with deviation and still escape. It’s not clear that you have enough pronation here to account for that. An alternative explanation is that this a very flat form of stringhopping with extension both above and below the string. Which would be… interesting! But I rule out nothing until I know what I know.

If you have examples of the attempts you think are more explicitly Grier-style, we can take a look for comparison. Ultimately, a way to measure this categorically to eliminate this sort of guesswork is really in order for this type of practice.

This take is more obviously of the supinated variety, and the above the string phase of the movement still appears a little more exaggerated than the [edit:] below the string phase. But I can’t really tell because…

…because the frame rate is severely lacking. This doesn’t look like 120fps video and the motion is not smooth. If you’re on a Mac, Quicktime Player 7 will tell you what the frame rate of any video file is if you hit “Command-I” when a file is open in the player. So will Final Cut Pro X if you look in the inspector. If you’re on Windows it depends what application you are using for video editing. But I guarantee they will all have some way of displaying this value if you hunt around in the menus. Just do a quick test, point your phone at the wall and record some video. Then import it to your computer and verify what the frame rate is before you do any editing on the file. That will tell you what you’re working with.

This take could very well be a little more balanced pickstroke-wise than it appears, but again too hard to tell.

Great work here overall.


#17

Alternative explanation: You did film in 120fps but exported at 25fps PAL / European frame rate, and then made the “slow motion” portion of the clip by slowing down the 25fps export, not the original 120fps file. Any slow motion needs to be done on the original 120fps frames so that you actually see more detail. Otherwise it’s like zooming in on a low-res JPG, all you’ll see are pixels.

Alternative alternative explanation: You’re using a video editor that doesn’t recognize 120fps and just ignores all the in-between frames.

Or something!


#18

Haha we’ve been discussing the vagaries of high framerate video editing / uploading here! Surprisingly tricky and inconsistent across devices / platforms, is what we’re realizing. Hard to say without knowing exactly what camera settings, editing application etc. but @tomatitito you mentioned the 120fps clip was shot with GoPro, is it possible it wasn’t explicitly set to 120fps mode? (It’s an option but not necessarily set that way by default). Otherwise as Troy said it’s probably getting lost in the editing process somewhere.


#19

Ok, I’m really sorry… I have to do some more research to find out what’s going on.

I did film the second clip with 120fps, I know that for sure. I just checked the media information on the original clip, and it does say 120fps there.

I am on a mac (pretty old machine), and I used iMovie to edit and export the clip. So maybe iMovie did something, I don’t know. I’ll look into it, I promise.

Again, I’m sorry. I did spend a lot of time to prepare the video, for one so that you guys can see what’s going on, but also out of respect. You spend all this time looking at the clips and writing detailed answers, so that’s in order. I hope I can sort it out…


#20

Ok, I see what you mean. I did not actually want to say that I switch from a supinated to a pronated way of playing from time to time. Rather, looking at some of my clips, a couple of times there was a downstroke that was missing the extension part, often in the 5th note of the roll pattern. And then some time later I thought I spot a little bit of extension on the upstroke. When that happened things were not going well, so it’s not a feature, but a bug. But maybe I overinterpreted. I will look for it in my clips, and when I see it, I’ll post it.