Developing new DBX motion

Hi everyone. Since I discovered this site, I’ve practiced, following the advice of the courses here.

1- I tested my motions to find the one I felt more comfortable with. It was elbow motion.
2- I practiced this motion, first by getting the tremolo right
3- I practiced lines using this technique.

And this approach is working well, I have a lot to work, but my progress is undeniable.

But now, I really want to play some lines which require DBX motion. Elbow motion of course only gives me DSX motion.
So, from that I thought that the best approach would be trying the 1003 wrist motion, as I’m used playing with the pronated arm and it feels easy to use wrist deviation to play. I just need to get that slight wrist extension correctly.
So, I have three questions:

1- Does my choice of motion make sense? Considering the need for DBX and what I’m already comfortable with?
2- Should I work with this technique the same way I worked with the elbow? Getting the tremolo right and then trying the lines I want to play?

Any help is appreciated.

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Sounds like it! (But more on this later)

I don’t think tremolo will help your dbx (in the beginning). You need to find patterns that require the escape in both directions. Troy recommends a variety of these. Mixed numbers of notes per string including 1nps. I was interested specifically in crosspicking so I prioritized 1nps. If I had it to do over again I would have done a more balanced approach with scalar/melodic lines and not SO much arpeggios.

Still, I think I found the motion pretty quickly. And that is my biggest tip to you - find the motion. You’ll know you have it when you can play above 16ths @ 120 bpm and it does not feel tiring. Though, this motion should ultimately be capable of going above 140bpm. Don’t waste time gradually speeding up something that feels ok slowly only to be disappointed later to find it has a speed limit. The “right” motion will be fast right away. It may be a little sloppy but you can always clean up a fast sloppy motion, while a “clean” (but incorrect) motion will cap out…suspiciously right around 120bpm for most players.

Even though I agreed with your first question, don’t throw out a motion that works “just because” it isn’t the 10 0 3 that you want. Your hands will find the motion for you if you force yourself to play fast. Experiment with multiple setups and grips.

Here are a bunch of setups and Troy’s overall advice on crosspicking with the wrist

Title aside (not sure what your dbx goals are) you can substitute “crosspicking” with “motion that escapes in both directions”. That video will apply in either case whether it is 1nps lush arpeggios (or rock arpeggios) or just melodic lines that frequently require both escapes.

Also, if you are interested I made a thread about my dbx progress

Good luck!


Thanks a lot, joebegly. I will watch this live carefully and then try and find the motion. It makes a lot of sense, with the elbow tremolo, it worked just like that, I found this motion and it simply was already fast, terribly sloppy, but fast.

I hope to soon post about the results of my practice!

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Very cool! What sort of DBX patterns are your ultimate goal? Jazz lines, crosspicking, blue grass tunes, classical pieces etc?

I made the exact same transition, downward escape (though I didn’t realize it at the time,) to all DBX. Some observations,

First, I think some tremolo is always useful. Doesn’t have to be much time spent, but tremolo picking is the foundation. If that doesn’t feel effortless, neither will anything else.

Second, DBX never helps the pick move to the next string so it’s vitally important to focus on tracking with the elbow or shoulder. The escape movement is always upward, not diagonal, so the tracking feels like an unrelated motion; the hand is just doing tremolo while the arm moves the hand from string to string.

Third, one thing I learned from Troy’s playing is that economy-of-motion is a dead end. The pick has to get to the next string, let the arm do the work. My analogy is the Little Savage lick (about 39 seconds into Little Savage by Yngwie, let me know if you’re unfamiliar,) that lick would be much more difficult if not impossible with the hand locked in one place. Of course it’s left hand rather than right, but the principle is the same.

Your response is interesting to me. Particularly because I’m pretty sure I read another post where you mentioned you were able to do DBX at 200 bpm? That is crazy fast, assuming I didn’t misread and also that you meant straight 16ths at that speed. If that’s all correct, well done!!!

When you did your tremolo practice with DBX, how did you go about ensuring that the movement was curved? When I didn’t know what the motion felt like, I figured I’d waste time with the tremolo (plus I don’t recall Troy recommending that for starting DBX) so that was why I started with actual phrases/patters that required the curved motion. I knew if I could play them cleanly, I was nailing DBX.

I know what the motion feels like now, mostly. I’ve been messing with a tremolo DBX a little lately, partially for a science experiment Troy asked me to do. You’re more than welcome to drop some videos in my thread (I’d linked it a few posts up) if you have any footage.

Lastly, I’m curious about your tracking approach of only using elbow for everything. It does make sense to me (on paper), but in practice we see most wrist based DBX players access “a group” of entirely with the wrist’s range of motion. They’ll of course use some elbow to get to strings where the reaching with the wrist would be uncomfortable. But I haven’t seen (or noticed, maybe) anyone whose elbow is constantly moving while doing the bulk of their patterns.

Anyway, thanks in advance for the perspective, and congratulations on your great progress!

I don’t think there is any way to know. When playing a single note on a single string, even players who very consistently produce DBX motion at all other speeds, like James Seliga, switch to single escape above a certain speed. Most of the time this is a motion that is close to the RDT or DT axis. The escape this generates is just based on whichever way the arm happens to be positioned.

As far as we know, this is mostly an academic question which doesn’t have any real bearing on what you as a learner would do to become better at picking technique. So I wouldn’t spend any significant time worrying about it. On a related note, I also wouldn’t worry too much about whether there are speed limits involved to playing phrases that actually require making both escapes. There may be. And if there are, I suspect it depends on the phrase and the type of string changes (i.e. motions) involved, joints being used, and so on.

But as of yet, there is no practical application for knowing this that would influence what you do as a learner beyond what you already do. If we figure out some practical uses for this information, then we’ll incorporate that into our tests and teaching for sure.


Hi Joe, I’m a little camera shy but I’ll take the opportunity to fight back against perfectionism and post a (very short) audio clip; this is sextuplets at 140 bpm so a tad faster than regular 16ths at 200.

I may be leaning on my upward-escape days but there are things I can play almost that fast that use outside and inside picking, that’s how I figured out that my playing now has to be DBX; I swipe now and then but not often.

I’d never done tremolo but ran across Michaelangelo Battio’s material a few months ago and I guess it took him saying a million times, “you CAN’T play faster than hammering on one note!” for it to sink in; after that my DBX improved quickly.

The rotation doesn’t feel rotation at all, it looks and feels like the hand is going back and forth as the rotation is quite shallow. Again I only know it’s DBX rotation as I play scales with strict alternation. Truthfully I may just go back to economy picking for descending scales, I’m too idealistic and get hung up on being able to use the same technique for everything.

As for tracking, I think when I accidentally swipe it’s because an old habit has me reaching for the next string with my hand, which now is not in position to allow the pick to escape. With such a shallow escape path I don’t see any other way to change strings . . . it may seem that moving the whole arm would slow things down, but that’s exactly what economy players do. Arpeggios are easy for the right hand to play fast, it’s just the coordination that makes them difficult.

Also re. tracking I actually track with the shoulder and elbow: the hand goes directly up and down with respect to the floor so the elbow moves slightly back, and the upper arm raises a bit. Angle toward the strings is forward tilted and doesn’t change much when switching strings.

While typing this I was reading Troy’s reply that he hasn’t seen anyone do this type of tracking, I’m very surprised by that. I suppose it’s time to sign up and send some videos but the perfectionist in me recoils at the thought, lol.

I’m curious about the science experiment you speak of . . .

Thanks for the reply, this has been interesting.

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I don’t recall saying anything about tracking, just double escape motion. I think that was Joe who mentioned tracking.

Nice playing! Generally, without video, there is no way to know whether your picking motion is double escape or something else. Have you filmed yourself with a camera close up in slow motion, and that’s why you know your playing is double escape? Or are you just assuming it is because the phrase you’re playing contains a mix of upstroke and downstroke string changes?

The structure of the phrase, even when that phrase is played cleanly, doesn’t really tell us much about the type of picking motion that’s being used. There are lots of ways to play a phrase that contains a mix of upstroke and downstroke string changes in it. These methods include: alternating between two different single escape motions, using a primary motion plus an occasional helper motion for individual notes, displacement, swiping, you name it. The more we film, the more interesting things we see.

Also, double escape motion doesn’t require “rotation”, in the sense of “forearm rotation”, i.e. the rotation of the forearm joint. That depends entirely on the joint that’s being used to generate the picking motion itself. A forearm player might use forearm rotation. And a wrist player with a “forearm helper motion” might also do that, occasionally. But pure wrist players like Molly Tuttle don’t use the forearm joint at all. The mixing of escapes is done via the wrist itself, which does not really rotate like the forearm — at least not in the sense of “spinning on its axis”. So when you film wrist players, the pick does not appear to change its orientation in space. It just follows a path that goes up and down in a semicircle to get over the strings.

If you film yourself from a Magnet-type perspective, you’ll know for sure what you’re doing. If you already have, and you know the answer, then ignore what I’ve typed here!

Sorry for any confusion here guys. Troy, I was referencing stuff we’d talked about in other threads and you mentioned the wrist has quite a bit of tracking capability in it before we lose range of motion and need to bring in the elbow/shoulder. You linked Morse’s Hollow Arps from your interview as an example. I think this was in the thread where we were looking at those crazy string skipped arpeggios that Anton was playing and you mentioned he also did track from the wrist, mainly, only bringing the elbow in when he ran out range of motion on the low strings. So I was interested that Moje indicated he was tracking at all times from the shoulder.

His description of rotation is also interesting. @Tom_Gilroy has demonstrated this a few times and reported really high speeds in his younger years. 6’s @ 140 bpm sticks out in my mind and that’s what Moje is reporting too. Here’s a queued up place where Tom discusses his rotational + rdt DBX

Maybe in this form, it makes sense to track from the elbow exclusively? I’ve never tried this form of DBX, but I can see how the motion itself may be at odds with using the wrist for tracking. Indeed, in Tom’s video it looks to me like he’s tracking all from the shoulder and elbow. During early discussions on this thread, I was sort of (selfishly) thinking of the way I do DBX, which is either the Morse, Wood or Tuttle variety. All of those allow a good deal of tracking from the wrist itself.

I should add that this is all sort of academic (i.e. fun for me) discussion. For the original purpose of the thread and learning a new DBX motion, I think that Cross Picking with the Wrist video on the platform that I’d linked in my initial response is a great place to start. Also @IlFesteiro, you also have the opportunity to use the Technique Critique feature on the platform

I’d say it’s quite probable that there was some swiping happening in that form when I was younger. I didn’t know swiping could “pass” until I joined CTC, before then I always thought I would have noticed a swipe.

Speed was never the issue with that form. The difficult part was developing and maintaining accuracy, so it seems likely that there was some swiping happening.

I don’t really play like that anymore, I’m not the biggest fan of the tone and dynamic.

I think if I were to put the time into it again I could get it back to that standard, but I’d only be doing it to prove to myself that I could, and there are other things I want to pursue instead.

I think the best place to start is the new Primer update, since that older lesson was (1) very technical, and more about teaching the technical concepts of how the wrist works, and (2) wasn’t as easy or clear to understand about how to actually get in the right body position. The tips in the new material are much more concise about how to do it, and get to the point right away, with almost zero need to understand technical or anatomical concepts beyond what people already do in their everyday activities.

Yes, there is no mention of the “dart thrower” forms like the Molly Tuttle style. But we’ll be updating this material regularly so we’ll get that material in there in an equally simple / hands-on kind of way.

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Right you are, I was reading from Joe’s post! Which is good, I was very confused by that.

That’s exactly right, the latter, and I’m still unsure about the particulars. It’s been many years since I spent any time doing technical playing, I happened on CtC via your article on Yngie for guitar world. Even then I was only curious; I’d just bought an off-white Strat and thought “gosh, this whole Interweb thing happened since I was into Yngwie, I’ll bet people know a lot more about his approach now.” Boy, was I in for a shock.

Turned out I was using primarily USX so I was pretty much doomed. No kidding, I used to play the Bigfoot intro UDU UDU, had no idea why it was impossible for me to start on a downstroke. Suddenly, just the other week, I could.

Truthfully I don’t understand what you mean by all-wrist motion but from that twinge of tennis elbow I occasionally get, I assume I’m using forearm rotation.

Thanks so much for the reply, I’ll take your advice and MacGyver something over the weekend to dig deeper into this mystery with video.

I’d say, for the time, two things: some blue grass tunes and also some string skipping rock licks, that I cannot play comfortably up to speed, I feel a lot of bouncing in my playing.

Those new lessons are sure fitting like a glove, I was able to use my wrist to tremolo up to some good speed. I am just a little puzzled about the next steps to develop DBX motion. Should I try to play licks which require DBX trying to use this motion, until it clicks? I thought about trying some rolls and some three note per string on two strings licks.

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Sorry for the confusion! These lessons right now are just a new start for this section. We’ll be updating the section over time with more practical details on how to do the motions and also some tips for learning the “playing styles” we already talked about. So right now it’s a bit open-ended and doesn’t explain what to do next.

Yes, exactly. If your goal is to learn how to play mixed escape type lines, the style where it’s mostly alternate picking and you have a random pattern of string changes (upstrokes and downstrokes), then yes, you want to assemble a wide variety of phrases you can use for testing out the new form.

Don’t think of this as a way for playing just a couple of “hard” phrases that have troubled you in the past, think of it as a way of playing all phrases from a standardized ergonomic position. You want to assemble a variety of different phrases and songs that contain all the possible picking patterns you might want to become good at, because they all assist each other. It’s not just for string skips and arpeggios.

Troy, thanks a lot for the advice. I’m following it and having a lot of progress with quite a few licks which require DBX (for the record I am using reverse dart thrower motion).

However, I’m having more difficulty with licks which require constant string changing, like the forward roll and one note per string arpeggios. Either the pick strokes become strums, or I can hardly control them and the strokes become random. Is this the expected result for now? Should I simply keep going? Or are there other tips for making those lines work?

We’ll eventually update this section with some general tips for playing “classic” phrases like three note per string scales and other common patterns that people get stuck on. But as far as what the issue is in your case, and what to do next, the best option is to make a critique and we’ll take a look. Otherwise it’s just guessing and the hit rate on that is nil. If you go that route, please include footage of just the basic motion on a single string as well.

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