Descending problems. How are YOU picking descending scales?

My comment was going to be:
I suck at USX so I can’t help you…but that is one beautiful looking rotational mechanic you’ve got!


It looks similar to the gypsy style to my eyes. Upward escapes for days at warp speed!

Your speed and articulation here sounds really good. I wouldn’t change anything about the picking mechanics. Unless you just want to add different techniques to your vocab.

This similar to the picking Uli Jon Roth uses in Sails of Charon (D-U-Po). You use a downstroke to start each string pair with an upstroke sweep in between, assisted by a pulloff. It’s rhythmically efficient because you’re chunking 3 groups of pairs. The downstroke helps emphasize this and generates momentum.

Since you asked,

I’m doing mostly upstroke sweeping economy picking for descending scales. I usually start with a downstroke to begin the phrase, then a quick slant change to upstroke slanting for the rest of the scale. I angle the pick like Gambale basically - 2-way economy sweeping. Pick momentum goes in the same direction as string changes. It feels really smooth and fluid, almost like legato with the pick.

Pure Alternate picking gets a different sound: more articulate and aggressive. For some types of rhythmic phrasing and melodic patterns, alternate makes a lot of sense too. I just don’t practice it at much because it feels less natural to me.

Another technical and tonal approach is to combine picking and legato, or full legato phrasing. The combined approach gives many options for variety in articulation and phrasing. Pure speed - I get the most with economy or full legato.

Thanks, man! I need to say that this was a “good” day where it worked better than usual.

Yes, you might be just right about the left hand. It’s easy to only focus on one of the hands and take the other for granted. I need to observe this further.

Thanks! I think Troy’s teachings is to blame here. Without his work I would never think about using rotation as a picking technique for single string playing.

Yeah! I guess this is close, but with the BIG exception that this playing style is using upstrokes as the first stroke on every other string change. The fact that gypsy style never does this, is one of the big reasons for me doubting that this is a legit way of playing.

Thanks for taking the time! Yes the Uli style with (D-U-Po) is the way that is “correct” for one way USX playing. But in my example I try to use the momentum of alternating picking motion to do what almost looks like pure alternate picking but with assisting pulloffs. There is no sweeping here.

Cool! I could never get the descending version of economy to feel as smooth as ascending. But there is certainly great stuff you can do in the Gambale style.

Yes, I agree! I think this is really something that makes Yngwie’s and GIlbert’s style sound musical and dynamic. Pure picking can sometimes sound a bit robotic to me.

First of all, this is a neat idea for 3nps descending, it sounds much better articualtion-wise compared to D-U-P.O. on every string. Your USX is the smoothest I’ve ever seen.
I’m trying this right now and the first thing that comes to my mind is that the upstroke before the pulloff may be causing problems. If it’s in the air you will need some extra movement to put it below the string again to play UDU on the next string. Maybe adding some flexion to rest stroke it instead of escaping it would help?

Thanks, Adam, for your thoughts! Yes I think you might be absolutely right. The hardest part seems to be to get the pick in under the next string for the upstroke. Sometimes when I look at my hand I see that it does something with the wrist to get in under just like you say. A while back I actually had decided to be able to play on any string without moving my arm, ie only using wrist for tracking, so it might be what my body is trying to do.

Problem is that it sometimes feels like that wrist movement kind of messes with the purity of the rotational alternating movement, so now it almost seems better to use the arm to track the pick. But the again I’m not sure what I’m doing at this point. Probably a combination of stuff. Anyway it’s not consistent and that might just be the problem.

try D-U-PO on all 2 string combos instead of trying to go back for the upstroke when your in the air. It is kind of like double dowstokes but only reverse. Or another way is to play say 3 notes then 2 so that the picking stays D-U-PO or just D-U.

Thakns for your suggestion. Thing is D-U-Po doesn’t give the same aggression. And yes my way of playing creates kind of a double upstroke but with a pull off in between. Normal way of playing 3 string sweep arpeggios in the Yngwie style is also played with U-Po-U in the descending part of the arpeggio. Actually the exact same movements picking wise. And there seem to be almost no speed limit to those arpeggios. So this shouldn’t be a problem per se.

No sure I understand this. Can you elaborate?

Ah yes I see now. All your upstrokes are escape strokes - that’s interesting! I think you could actually sweep this on the descending string cross (U-Po-U), using the exact same picking pattern - if you were so inclined to tilt the pick up as a rest stroke at this part.

You mean using DSX to do economy sweeps descending? That would be lovely to be able to do. Problem for me is that changing to a DSX movement will probably make the rotational picking movement impossible. I’ve tried before but all I get is a wonky wrist motion that is neither fast nor relaxed. Or is there any examples of anyone doing rotational DSX picking?

I agree, but with the specific Yngwie sounds using the neck pickup it resembles legato to my ears.

I’ve been struggling with this too, and I never found a proper way to do descending scalar lines full USX back then, so I started developing other motions.

One thing I’ve tried, though : left-hand tapping/hammer-on from nowhere to replace the DBX stroke. So in your “descending 6” 3 NPS fragment, the 4th note (first on the adjacent string) will always be played by the fretting hand solely : DUD tDU | (repeat).

In the context of this picking pattern, you could tilt the pick in a “DSX” orientation for the sweep, and then immediately rotate back into USX for D-U on the lower string. This would keep all your forearm rotation mechanics in tact, as you don’t have to alternate pick or escape in the DSX slant.

I don’t know if this would help you play this any faster than you’re already doing (I suspect not), but it would be an alternative that makes it partially sweepable.

Wow! That’s a great idea that I never even thought of. Trying it just now, I can feel a completely different feel in the left hand from focusing more on the “tapped” note than the feeling of focusing on the pull off in my version. I need to try this more and examine what gives the best feel and most consistent sound. Thanks!

Now I see what you mean. Maybe this could work. I’ll try it out but I guess this needs a bit of work to get flowing. Thanks!

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I was just meaning always start your new string on a Down. So three notes would go
Down up pull off then the second string could be just Down Up or another Down Up Pull Off
then rinse and repeat its a way of odd string groupings such as 3 mixed with 2 with only DSX type picking used.

Thats some gorgeous mechanic you got there!!

I have a totally different motion then you and I naturally use swiping or whatever it’s called (It’s discussed in the MAB interviews)

I start every string with an upstroke and use economy to swipe through.

That said, I find descending to be the easier of the two and struggled immensely figuring out how the heck to ascend cleanly with any level of speed without going full legato lol.

Once again, gorgeous technique and to be honest, I didn’t hear anything out of sorts. Keep shooting for the moon though!!

I was going to post about descending issues as well, so piggybacking on this thread with the same question :slight_smile: . Descending even on one string is not as easy or natural as ascending.

I’m still building my technique, and can currently play the following easily: “—5-7-8-5-7-8-5-7-8…” etc., say on the B string, sixteenth notes at 190 bpm. It’s not 100%, but it’s very close, and feels natural.

Interestingly, turning the notes around “—8-7-5-8-7-5-…” results in a far less clear sound. The notes just aren’t as sharp.

When descending, I’m not doing any pull off motion, it’s more like hammer-on descending. I guess that the descending is more complicated, because in order to sound a note, you have to lift off the higher note at a precise time, along with fretting the lower note. With the ascending, one just has to hammer on, and nobody cares what’s happening to the earlier fingers. I actually notice issues at lower tempi, eg 160 bpm. I’ll keep exploring the tempi.

This is my first foray into picking even simple lines at high speeds, so this could be a natural stumbling block. Part of me wonders, though, if there is a more efficient or revealing method for practicing. Everything below is just for quick experiments and noticing, not to be overthought. It’s easy to go waaaay down the rabbit hole when looking at stuff like this. So, some extremely random thoughts:

  • since I have to raise the higher-fret finger (I’ll call this the “upstream finger”), then note only do I need to stop fretting (relax the finger pressure), I also need to really actively lift that finger out of the way, and get the next downstream finger fretting. Maybe a good drill would be to silently fret with upstream, and then hammer on downstream and see how clearly I can make that note sound, just messing around and seeing how it feels.
  • when fretting ascending lines, I happen to feel a natural swing of the wrist/hand … though I could be imagining this! What I mean is, eg, when sitting at the guitar fretting the index, if I try to hammer on with the pinky, my hand and wrist naturally get involved to increase the amplitude of the swing that is the hammer-on. That could be a bad habit, I’m not sure. Actually, at high speed, this will likely be detrimental.
  • perhaps to work on faster lift of the upstream finger, I need to think of “active lifting”, e.g. fast and effortless twitches of the fingers to lift them off the fretboard, so they get out of the way. This shouldn’t be a mechanical thing, it’s easy for drills like this to become mindless stupidity. But maybe it would wake up some nerve paths that have been lying latent.
  • Drawing on piano pedagogy (my fave source for ideas), I believe that a few sources recommend soft staccato playing for situations like this, and slow staccato as well. Soft, because the player needs to train the nervous system, and soft playing lets one reduce excess noise in the brain and all muscles. Staccato, because it tightens up or focuses the impulses to the associated muscles. Slow, because if it’s too fast, the brain gets confused. With all that said, perhaps a good drill is to simply lightly and crisply hammer on the notes in the left hand (—8----7-----5----8-----7----5—), and immediately raise after the hammer (i.e. a staccato tap).

I’ll try the descending staccato tapping first and see how that works out.

End of TED talk blah blah blah, thanks for reading, z

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Playing sounds great! Really nice efficient looking right hand.

I have trouble ripping strict alternate 3nps stuff downwards as well - I find the downstroke escape to be harder to pull off in descending fashion for some reason. Usually I just avoid playing these types of lines LOL it’s not really a solution but I’ll just rearrange the fretting to make same phrase fit the picking using something like D-U-pull off and then D-U-D-U on the next string. Something I do a lot as well that I’ve just noticed recently is to start with a D-U-Pull off followed by U-D-U on the next string - I didn’t even realize I was doing that and it doesn’t seem terribly efficient but it works pretty repeatably for me. I don’t really sweep with the upstroke either, it’s more of string hoppy looking thing but for some reason it works; I’ll see if I can grab a video later. If you know the fretboard reasonably well it’s not as much work as it might seem to micromanage these things on the fly.

For a long time after discovering CtC I felt like I had to pick every single note on every line I played and while I’m sure it’s really improved my picking technique it just isn’t as feasible for some phrases as it is for others. I don’t think any of the players out there many of us idolize worried too much about the mechanics of their playing so much as following the path of least resistance and getting the sound they want - so take that opinion with a grain of salt.

“For a long time after discovering CtC I felt like I had to pick every single note on every line I played and while I’m sure it’s really improved my picking technique it just isn’t as feasible for some phrases as it is for others. I don’t think any of the players out there many of us idolize worried too much about the mechanics of their playing so much as following the path of least resistance and getting the sound they want - so take that opinion with a grain of salt.”

DUDE SAME. For so long, I got so stuck on the idea that every note needs to be picked, but it’s just dumb ego thought. So few of the people guitar players often idolize pick every note. It’s cool to work on here and there or a few minutes each day. But the real gold is finding your strengths of motion/no body pressure and setting up licks to match that. And slowly develop weaknesses as well. And if Player X picks every note of whatever random lick you’re learning, it’s okay to not play it exactly like them, as long as it sounds good and notes are distinct.

Old thread that I’ll jump into as well:

I think a “helper motion” goes a long way in my playing. When I only focus on wrist picking, I feel like some things are pretty impossible. I always felt I had some degree of finger movement that I’m now trying to highlight, and it feels like it does when I play harder stuff and I don’t take note of what I’m doing.

Long story short, I strict alternate pick scales and use finger motion to move around escape issues (I think).

Yeah dude I was borderline obsessed with Andy Wood for a while and was determined to pick everything no matter what :joy: but I’ve still never really been able to get a grasp on picking from the wrist; I’m more of a forearm rotation/elbow guy. While (in all modesty) CtC has helped me get to the point where I can alternate pick pretty much whatever I want at a reasonable speed for a lot of phrases it feels like I’m trying to jump through more hoops unnecessarily just because I can - I’m not trying to go out of my way to play licks in the most difficult way possible anymore. In a live situation I personally am never going to go for shredding down a 3nps scale … despite spending dozens of hours mindlessly practicing it so it was a big step ego wise to let that go and focus on what works and feels good.

All that said, if you just wanna be able to play something a certain way just because - there’s nothing wrong with that either. I just think some of us create more problems than solutions by trying to be too strict technique wise and turning making music into more of a circus act skill for the sake of it lol.