Default forearm rotation downstrokes! can't stop

Hey guys and gals

So I’m trying to master wrist picking however my default picking motion for downstrokes is forearm rotation. Its baked in so much that its just automatic. I’m working really hard to master wrist picking and everything is going well. However i often look down at my picking hand and notice its gone back to forearm rotation whilst i thought in my mind i was wrist picking.

When i play faster alternate picking lines my forearm/right hand rocks back and forward with each stroke and the thumb heel bounces off the low E. It gives me the double escape picking path. I have a slight dwps and the trigger pick grip. I can do this motion with both the double heel anchor points with lightly supernated forearm and also just the thumb heel anchor point with a lesser supinated and slightly more pronated forearm. (clip 1)

I can feel the limitations of this technique for fast alternate picking shred type stuff however it has served me very well for the more bluesy/rock SRV Hendrix type stuff as the forearm rotation enables me to hit the string very hard and create that ‘big’ sound. I use left hand muting when doing this type of stuff which helps keep the other strings quiet and actually allows for a slight less accurate and more rouge right hand. Basically it means i can hit all the strings at once but just hear the one i want (see clip 2)

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Hey Tom,
What exactly is the problem with forearm rotation, if it allows you to achieve escaped pickstrokes in both directions? I wouldn’t be fixated on changing something that works, if it’s just for sorta academic reasons.
I know you did mention the approach has limitations fo shred stuff but I can’t see obvious ones - maybe it’s a thing you feel that’s not obvious from the videos?

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Hey @tommo

I’m not really sure its just speed i guess. I always hit a point where accuracy and speed are stunted. When i watch the faster players such as guthrie, miller, andy wood (and on and on) they all seem to have zero forearm rotation.

I see, but if you watch “Antigravity” @troy, he could do very fast Gilbert-like runs with a lot of forearm rotation. But I will leave it to him to clarify if that’s true, as I know he’s more critical of his early material now.

Following a discussion in another thread about inside picking & pickslanting, I have been recently experimenting with pretty much exactly your “forearm rotation downstrokes” for scalar playing, and it seems to me it can work at high speed for 3nps shreddy scales. The cool thing for me is that having a more vertical path for the pick allows me to decouple picking motion VS string-tracking motion, if that makes sense. Well I was planning to do a related video soon anyway, I hope it will be of interest.

The only thing is of course that I get a very strong accent on the downstroke which I can’t eliminate, because I come down on the string with plenty momentum.

TLDR: I actually got some good results by exxagerating the forearm involvement, instead of trying to reduce it.

Note: Andy wood actually does some pretty aggressive downstroke rotations in the “inside Gilbert” licks, as far as I can remember.

BlockquoteWell I was planning to do a related video soon anyway, I hope it will be of interest.

count me in :slight_smile:

Yes i don’t feel bad about the forearm rotation at all its just the autonomy of it when I’m trying to do other motions that is the main frustration i guess.

Hi Tom! Great playing. As @tommo says, forearm motions can be fast so I wouldn’t worry about the use of that joint being a limitation specifically for speed. Without getting too technical almost nobody uses only forearm rotation as their picking motion, at least not that we’ve seen, because some string changes you just can’t get that way. And in your playing you’re not using pure forearm either — there are little changes here and there involving arm and wrist motion that you’re making, perhaps without realizing it.

Anyway if you’re saying you can’t do this fast enough for what you want to play then fine that’s what matters. I assume you’ve tried to make this technique go faster? What happens when you do that? If you have a moment to film that, that would be helpful. Don’t use a multi-string phrase for that — just hit a single note on a single string for simplicity. Also try to do a camera-facing angle and a “down the strings” angle, so we can get both views of it. Here are some more filming tips:

If you can do this quickly and smoothly then you’re good. If not, and you want to try some other techniques, sure. If you want to try wrist motion specifically, you can do that. But I wouldn’t do that by trying to “stop” forearm motion — that generally doesn’t work. Instead, you’re trying to learn to “do wrist” by learning to recognize what it feels like so you can do it on cue. Follow the instructions we’ve set out in the Primer, and try to swing the hand in a semicircle. Everyone can do this at least once at a slow-ish speed. That’s step 7 (currently) in the checklist:

Can you do step 7? If so, film that the same way as the other test and we’ll take a look too.

@Troy @tommo

Here is the clip of my forearm rotation on a single string

its ok on a single string when you stay tight to the string, speed is pretty good. changing strings is a bit more tricks as in this clip

here is my clip of wrist motion with USX on a single string (forearm still creeps in a bit at times)

here is my clip of wrist motion with DSX on a single string

it feels faster to pronate a bit more on this one and lean on the thumb heel. also feels a bit safer.

here is my clip of wrist motion with double escape strokes on a single string (forearm still creeps in a bit at times again)

this feels more like a side to side motion to me here?
I guess the real challenge is when changing strings.

here is a scale fragment with forearm rotation starting on a downstroke

and here is the same scale fragment starting on an upstroke

not sure if swiping is happening here at all?

These all look great! Technically, what you’re calling “forearm” looks like what my playing looks like when I use a mixture of wrist and forearm. Here’s what that looks like compared to just wrist motion:

Like almost all types of wrist/forearm blend motions I’ve seen, yours appears to be a USX motion. In fact, in the two string scale clip where you’re starting on a downstroke, I think you’re actually picking four notes on the lower string and six on the top string. This is something I call “displacement”.

What’s happening is that your hands have figured out that they need to play an even number of notes per string, to end on an upstroke. So they’ve shifted, or “displaced”, one of the pickstrokes to the upper string. Technically this is incorrect, because you’re not fretting that string. But… you are muting it with your fretting hand. So what happens is that you get the noise of pick attack hitting the muted note. When you put this together with the hammered-on note from the lower string (the note you were supposed to pick), it actually sounds like a complete picked note — just that the two parts, the pick attack and the pitch, are actually coming from two different strings.

Again, technically, this is a mistake, i.e. picking a different string than the one you are fretting. But because it feels like a picked note, and sounds (sort of) like a picked note, you don’t notice. You can even do the Paul Gilbert lick this way if you transfer one of the picked notes to the upper string. It’s totally wacky but you can do this intentionally and it’s a trip. I think a lot of players do this without realizing it.

The clip where you start on an upstroke is played somewhat more traditionally, with the usual number of pickstrokes per string. The last note on the top string would be the trouble note because that would be trapped in a USX motion. And it does look like you’re making a slightly different wrist motion on that note, again, because your hands have figured out that you have to get over the string somehow. It’s not clear that you’re actually getting over it — in some cases you might be. In other instances I think you’re picking it and then hitting it (swiping) on the way back, which is the little pick sizzle you can sometimes hear. In still other cases I think you might not actually be picking all the way through the string, and instead staying on the top side of it and pushing against it, causing the sound to drop out. I call this kind of picking error a “push” and it’s also very common. In a way though, this still an informed kind of error, if you think about it. This is your hands figuring out, amazingly, that this particular note needs special attention.

Anyway, the bottom line is this all still sounds pretty good to me. You have eliminated all but the two notes that don’t entirely fit with the motion you’re using and they have done a pretty good job of camouflaging what’s going on so that the lines still sound like the lines you’re intending to play. With more awareness you can try to do something to bring these notes back in a more traditional way. Or you could just forget about it and work on smoothness and building out more musical vocabulary, and only worry about it if doesn’t sound good on certain phrases.

For the wrist-only attempts, they look good too. Even though there may be some forearm in there still, it’s not particularly material. If you look at the way the hand is moving, it’s mostly moving along a wrist motion path, not a forearm path. If you try to incorporate these motions into casual playing, you may find that over time you’re better able to distinguish them by feel — to turn them on and off without thinking about it, and to be faster and smoother with them. Up to you.

As far as the double escape attempt, that doesn’t look particularly double escape to me, but I wouldn’t worry about that. I almost never try to do that motion on a single note on a single string. The only way I really know of to make sure I’m doing that motion is when I try to play lines where I would need it — either arpeggio stuff, or jazz / country / bluegrass lines with mixed notes per string. Otherwise, a cleanly picked “note” just sounds like a note and I really can’t tell by feel whether it’s really escaping. Even great double players like Martin Miller don’t actually appear to make a double escape motion when they’re playing single notes.

So, you have options. Nice work on all this!


wow thats a great response thank troy for taking the time to write that.

Few things

Blockquoten fact, in the two string scale clip where you’re starting on a downstroke, I think you’re actually picking four notes on the lower string and six on the top string. This is something I call “displacement”

i thought i was just playing a straight 10 note pattern

I’m pretty sure in my hands i feel every pick stroke?

Same for the reverse (starting on the up) although a little less polished?

Yes totally, ten notes. It’s supposed to be five on the lower string and five and five on the higher string. At first glance the tab doesn’t look that way but when you loop it by connecting the end back to the beginning, that’s what you would get.

But what I think you’re doing in the downstroke version is picking four and six. You feel every pickstroke because you’re making ten of them. But the last one on the low string is moved to the high string.

I could be wrong but that’s what I think you’re doing in that example specifically.

@Troy I’m going to do an upclose slow mo vid to see what’s happening. Very intrigued indeed :face_with_monocle:


So obviously you we’re 100% correct! You sir melted my brain!

So forgetting i could just slow stuff down on youtube i took to final cut pro and filmed the 10 note scale run again and slowed it down in there. Here is the vid clearly showing how i was displacing the 3rd pick stroke to the thin E string.

I was flabbergasted by this!!!

I decided i would try to play the same sequence but as two group of 5 notes per string to see if it helped with the synchronisation

like this.

Here is the video of that

As you can see i got the same results.

So i decided to go back to the original order of the sequence and try to accent the note i was missing on the B string. The third note of this tab

Here is the video of that

So i know its no way near as smooth but at least I’m hitting the note now!

What i have noticed between the first 2 videos and the last video is that in order to hit that note i appear to have a much more obvious DSX coming from that note now.
Strange thing for me was that i couldn’t even feel the error/mistake at first but now its soooooo obvious both on the video and in feel.
It only kicks in at higher speeds tho as when i play the run slower i 100% hit everything.

I think i’m going to keep at it and fix this ‘displacement’ problem as it must be all over my playing.
Coming from a forearm rotation DWPS playing style it seems the DSX is the kryptonite to my picking and perhaps where a lot of my troubles arise from? It has to play its part anyway.

So my question is this

If we as players just correctly accent the last note we play on each string and attach the correct picking technique and motion path to it will it be the end to all our problems? Easier said than done i know but i guess there must be a limited number of possibilities/combinations to the number of notes we pick on a string and the combinations of string changes?

i.e. down stroke - string change to thinner string

upstroke - string change to thinner string

down stroke - string change to thicker string

upstroke - string change to thicker string

basically inside or outside picking

anyway thanks for spotting the displacement error in my playing. I can already feel the difference and am looking forward to smoothing it out further.

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That’s awesome! Thanks for looking into this. Honestly, this is a textbook example of how displacement works, and how good it can sound on certain phrases. If you weren’t in the habit of watching yourself in slow motion, you’d be hard pressed to even notice this happening. And honestly, because the line sounds fine the way you’re doing it, you could make a good argument for just playing it this way because the smoothness is so easy to achieve.

What frame rate are you filming in? Do you have a 120fps mode on your phone? If so, try using that for technique filming. Typical 30 frames per second video is actually very blurry, intentionally, to make motion look smooth when played at normal speed. But when you slow that down in the YouTube player or FCPX, the blurryness makes it hard to really see what the hand is doing. Plus, of course, it’s not high frame rate video, so in slow motion you’re also missing a lot of frames and the motion looks choppy. Instead, if you film at 120fps you’ll get a much sharper image with less motion blur because the camera is freezing the hand with a 1/120 sec shutter. And there will be more of those images in one second, so you’ll see much more detail in the motion. In the second clip, where you’re hitting every note, it’s going to be harder to see things like swiping in that clip without the higher frame rate.

In generally, what you’re doing in the second clip is mixing escape types, which is correct. In other words, the last note on the B string is a different picking motion than the others. If you watch this in slow motion, you’ll see that this is a true double escape motion, where once you hit the string, the wrist moves sideways with more of a 1 or 2 o’clock wrist motion to do the downstroke portion of the escape. If the accent is tricking you into doing that, then that could be something. However ultimately you should be able to make a more streamlined version of this motion which doesn’t feel like an accent, doesn’t slow you down, and which you maybe can’t even feel. I think that’s the big question here is how do we teach this sort of thing. Now that you know what you’re trying to achieve, try doing it without an accent and see if you can reproduce this in a smoother way. It could be that a little awareness from filming yourself is all that was necessary.

If you can do this more smoothly, and it’s not swiping, or at least not swiping to any degree that you care about, then maybe this form works. Again, what you’re doing here is a mix of wrist and forearm, and I usually think of this as a USX form. But it could be that this is how you mix downstroke escape into that form, and if it can be done smoothly with no feeling of disruption to the motion, then why not? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Otherwise, the other way to try this would be to use the less flexed, “wrist only” form like you’re doing in the other attempts. The same basic thing would be happening in that case, where the downstroke needs to get over the string with an escape path just like the other notes. And maybe the accent trick will work there. Or maybe you won’t need it now that you know what you’re aiming for.

I’d experiment with both approaches since you have a handle on both of them. Again, options! Rejoice, you may end up with even more ways to play than you set out to achieve.

If you do try the 120fps version of any of these, I’d be interested in taking a look, as things should be much clearer.

Great work!

Hey @Troy the main reason i didn’t film in 120fps is because i have strip lights in my office and they flicker like mad when slowed down (might explain my diminishing eyesight) and it made the video look horrible.
I may need to invest in some better lights for out here.

i am going to keep practising both of these approaches for the next day or two and i’ll throw up some 120fps videos afterwards. I gather you only do the slowing down portion in FCP and not from the actual iPhone itself.

As for the less flexed wrist only method i do feel a little slower/stiff in this movement. Not in a tense way but just in a less ‘oiled’ was i guess as its totally new to me to play with wrist only. I imagine over time i should be able to free things up in that area of my hand.

also is 1080p at 120fps better than 720 at 240fps? my phone does both

If I’m not near a computer and I want to take a look at something I’ll totally just use the phone for that. It’s great. If I do that, I’ll typically only try to play the example once or twice, this way I don’t have to scroll around two minutes of slowed down video on a tiny screen to find what I’m looking for.

1080 120fps is a much better quality image, with less jaggies and noise, and is still fast enough to see most things so we use that almost exclusively. 240 skips lines and is noisier, and also requires twice as much light. You’ll still need a lot of light for 120 so you’ll have to find the best location. Indirect light from a window in the daytime is the best readily available source.

Probably. If you tool around with this in a casual way I would imagine you’ll mke subconscious tweaks to this that will end up feeling more natural. Just make a mental note to try out these motions whenever you have time and see if you notice any improvement.

@Troy so I’ve been messing for the last hour with pure wrist motion.
Quick question

do we plant the right hand and keep it in one place or do we track across the strings?
i know you mentioned the semi circle of the right hand so I gather its always planted in the one spot?
When doing this I’m finding the lower strings cause me to pronate a little bit more. Just slightly.

Thanks for the tips on filming. I’ll shoot some more stuff tomorrow by the window in daylight. Its 10pm here.

If I have to reach a three-string distance I stay in one spot. A roll pattern is a good example of that. If I have to reach more, I move. It’s not something I think too much about, and there are probably all kinds of little idiosyncrasies where you will see me doing some repositioning that I’m not aware of. That’s realistic. In general, among players we’ve interviewed, most people some version of this. Most people don’t reposition all the time, or stay in one spot all the time.

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Thanks Troy :metal:t3: Starting to get the wrist motion smoothed out a little more now. Think my brain is finally listing to the commands :crazy_face:

There are two very different schools of thought here, and I think you should try both to see which works better for you.

I’m on the opposite extreme from troy on this. My picking and tracking are very isolated… I never plant, and I my elbow is pretty much always in motion, for rolls, for alternations, everything.

The disadvantage of this, is that it feels akward at first, and requires learning a different arm-position/posture that took me a while to ‘convert’ to.

The advantage is that once you get it down, its rock-solid, and really lends itself to picking absolutely anything, by doing minor tweaks. For example, if you can do 3 string rolls, 5 string rolls feel roughly the same. Even wacky things like string hop rolls ie. 1rst string to 3rd string to 5th string and repeat are just a minor tweak. I don’t have accuracy problems that I though I might have when I ditched the palm anchoring/planting.