Difference between 3NPS ascending and descending runs

So I’m playing guitar for about 20 years and never considered myself fast on guitar. Also I’ve been a Master Of Mechanics member for quite some time now but never really got going with all the stuff. That being said I want to change that and to start with it, the first thing I need to figure out are a few things:
Why are ascending runs so much harder to do for me than descending runs with 3 notes per string?

In my opinion I’m using USX with a DSX helper motion for both directions.

Why are 2 note per strings pentatonic runs so hard for me?

I’m using USX for those.

Am I doing any excess or “wrong” movements I should get rid of? Or am I just lacking practice to get this kinda stuff really fast?

Any help is appreciated! :slight_smile:

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I think overall you sound great!

If you’re struggling with that pentatonic run it doesn’t show at all.

Have you tried starting that ascending C major run with an upstroke? I find I can play it
far more fluidly (as a long time primary USX player) if I do.


@MikisGtr Sounds good across the board, but I’ll try to help anyways:

From what I’m seeing (35 second timestamp in your vid), it looks like your wrist is much more radially deviated when you’re on the lower strings. A fix for this would be to either develop speed and comfort with that much deviation, or use your forearm to cross the strings as you ascend, keeping your wrist in the optimal picking position. Similar thread with more about that:

I think there is a familiarity / comfort level that has to be developed with 2nps vs 3nps+. I am noticeably more comfortable and faster on 3nps+ lines (which I play more frequently). Apart from that, there is a technical hurdle with 2nps, being that you need to change strings more frequently. More on that here:


Thanks for your feedback :slight_smile:

Yeah, that doesn’t really make a difference in speed for me.

Now that you’re saying it I notice it too. I tried to move my forearm down the same way I move it up on descending runs but for some weird reason it seems to stick much more to the guitar on ascending runs. Even though the forearm touches the guitar with the same amount of pressure. When I lift the forearm off the guitar just a little to keep it from sticking my shoulder tenses up. :thinking:

I guess you’re right… I’ll try to get more 2nps stuff into my practice routine

Thanks :slight_smile:

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Do you notice a difference in feel regarding how your picking feels ascending vs descending? I noticed back in April or May that my descending 3nps scalar runs felt pretty effortless, and my descending runs were “clunky” and less accurate.

I knew I needed to somehow mimic that smooth feeling from descending to ascending. After a ton of time alternating back and forth ascending to descending to ingraine the smooth feeling vs the clunky feeling, and making slight changes to little details (such as wrist or pick orientation), it finally came together and felt the same.

The key for me was identifying the difference in feeling, then making minute changes until I was able to mimic it…then drill the heck out of it until it became muscle memory. Apologies for not being able to give more explicit advice, but I can relate to your situation and the above is how I was able to overcome it. Cheers to you and all your guitar pursuits!!

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I find ascending runs hard because the right hand needs to mute the string your left fingers just let go of.
The descending runs are muted with the left so you can be a lot looser.

Idk if this is an issue for you too?

Hey @MikisGtr great filming, and agree with the others that this sounds good already!

Two quick things:

  1. I had a similar thread in the past, maybe you’ll find some ideas in it:

Tommo's ascending troubles, feedback welcome!

  1. Can you show us a video of you playing a fast tremolo on a single string? Just to get an idea of what your primary motion looks like

Keep us posted!

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Hey @Dave-O

yeah, they feel kinda different.

Trying to not deviate the wrist more while playing the the ascending run like Pepepicks66 suggested already helped me alot and also changed the feeling. Currently I’m working on smoothing everything out. I’ll try to incorporate your advice and try to mimic the feel of the descending run. Thanks :slight_smile:

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Hey @WhammyStarScream

I did’t really notice a muting issue in ascending runs but for some weird reason my arm sticks more to the guitar at ascending runs and I tend to deviate the wrist more. The amount of tension in my arm feels the same for ascending and descending runs.

Hey @tommo

Thanks, I had to upgrade my audio and video equipment during Corona to still be able to make the same good quality lessons for my guitar students that they are used to in person. :slight_smile:

Thanks, I’ll read through it. :slight_smile:

Here it is (forgot to focus on the main cam, but I think one can still see everything important):

For me it looks like USX with mainly forearm rotation with a little bit of elbow involvement.
What do you think?

Great stuff here! I don’t see much wrong here. A lot of people would like to be able to do this kind of 3nps scale playing this well.

This looks like wrist technique. In the tremolo clip, the pick is covering almost the entire distance between two strings. If the forearm were the joint that was doing that, your arm would look like Eddie Van Halen with all the wiggling around. But it doesn’t look like that. We see only tiny movements there, if at all. Instead, it’s mostly just your hand moving back and forth, i.e. motion at the wrist joint.

The way wrist technique works is you have one centralized arm position that doesn’t change. To get over the strings in each direction, you just change the way the hand is going. This happens at a subconscious level where it’s tough to feel that these different directions of motion are happening.

By helper do you mean a different joint, like the forearm? Because again, I’m not really seeing that. This would result in obvious wiggling motion of the forearm, but there is almost none. So again this looks mostly like wrist technique to me. It’s a matter of degree. Is the motion in the pick commensurate with the motion in the joint? If not, then that joint isn’t the one that’s doing the motion. The motion in your hand, moving back and forth, looks much more obvious than whatever tiny intermittent motions in your arm, thus I conclude that the picking motion is being caused by the motion of your hand, i.e. wrist joint.

I think I get what you mean, i.e. that the hand is pointed a little more toward the headstock, while the arm remains pointed more toward the floor. That’s true — but that’s not deviation. The arm position here is quite supinated, so to point the hand toward the headstock, you need to flex the wrist joint, not deviate it. Deviation would pull the hand up in the air, i.e. cause upstrokes to escape. In reality, because the arm isn’t 90 degrees, the picking motion isn’t pure flexion-extension or deviation, it’s one of the many points in between.

That’s all academic — I’m just writing that out in case anyone is reading and wants to know. The bigger picture here is I don’t see anything wrong with what’s happening in this clip. The picking motion looks fine.

Good idea — thanks for requesting this.

In this clip, most of the time, the pick is moving almost straight back and forth between the strings. This is actually fine! When you’re picking on a single string, there’s no string switching so it doesn’t really matter if there’s an escape. “Mixed escape” wrist players can look like this when they’re playing fast on a single string. This is what Olli Soikkeli looks like when he plays fast scales, for example. We think of Olli as a double escape player, but if you watch this clip in slow motion, the “escape” aspect isn’t as obvious on the middle note on each string, probably because it’s not technically necessary so there’s no way for him to know if he’s really even doing it:

What matters is that when you go to switch strings, the wrist makes the correct motion to avoid the strings, and you escape. In your first clip it looks like this is happening, but it’s hard to see with the frame rate. Filming a 120p clip for the hand closeup would show you more clearly what’s going on, which would be interesting to take a look at if you get a moment.

So basically you’re doing this correctly. However, the only comment I’ll make is that your setup and grip looks “USX” even though your motion seems more mixed escape. Meaning, you are using supinated arm position and an index finger grip. This is giving you a downward pickslant even though it is technically not needed here. For the type of trapped motion you are making, which is parallel, there is no need to have a downard pickslant because it can cause garage spikes problems. So the fix for this is to either:

  1. Turn the arm until the pickslant goes away, i.e. use a different arm position. This will require you to use different wrist motions to still play the lines cleanly. So you are keeping the grip, but changing the arm position and the motions.

  2. Keep the arm position and motion, and change the grip to the middle- or three-finger pick grip. This is what most players use who have your arm position. They do it to keep the pick vertical, and allow both escapes with no garage spikes.

Try one of those, or both of those, and see how you like it. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

Great work here and great playing.


Agree with this: I didn’t take into consideration that his supination means less deviation (am I rapping?) and more a combination of that and flexion. My point is the same regardless though, in that he might not have the same degree of coordination / comfort / strength in one position that he does in another.

Hey @Troy, thanks for your extensive answer. :slight_smile:

Thanks, but we all know there is always room for improvement. :grin:

You’re right. When I look at it again it is mainly wrist motion. But it feels like the main movement is coming from rotating my forearm. :thinking:
For some reason when I play I don’t really notice the wrist movement. When I think about the movements I’m doing while playing it always feels like I’m rotating my forearm.

It’s again the forearm thing… it feels like every time I switch after a downstroke I’m pronating the forearm a little more to switch the pick angle to DSX. In the video I shot today (this time even with 240 fps) it doesn’t really look like that for me, but I still manage to switch the strings cleaner with that feeling… What the heck am I doing? :smiley:

Again it doesn’t feel like that… :sweat_smile: Today I recorded the Tremolo again but with a white pick at 240fps so I could see better what’s going on. For me it looks like sometimes the downstrokes are even reststrokes on the next string and most of the time the upstrokes are higher than the next lower string. The angle is pretty shallow and maybe not fitting for the amount of pickslant!? I also recorded a 6nps run this time which looks like USX to me. Am I wrong? :sweat_smile:

Here is the new clip:

I’ll try to experiment with those for some time but both felt really weird the last few days. :smile:

Thanks again for your encouraging words. :slight_smile:

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Can’t add much to the great advice already given. Just want to add what I like about your playing is that it sounds good slowed down as well as fast! Great accuracy/ sync. I love it when players get that stuff happening. Keep at it!


Hey @MikisGtr, great filming and playing!

Would it be possible for you to divide the longer video into several smaller videos, one short video per example? This way it’s much easier to review and reference different examples.

Thank you!

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Hey @tommo,

sure thing here are the clips:

Six Note 3nps run:

3nps descending run:

3nps ascending run:

Tremolo Picking:

6nps descending run:

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Thanks @MikisGtr! Really great filming and playing, and the segmented videos really help :slight_smile: :+1:

I agree with Troy (surprise!) that it looks like mostly wrist motion, and that there may be a little contribution from forearm rotation but really tiny.

All the clips sound pretty great. But because you mention that 3nps ascending “feels” harder, I should point out that you are swiping with the downstrokes when you are ascending. This is not super obvious sound-wise, but perhaps it may cause the feeling of extra resistance as you go through the muted string?

Note that in the descending case you do manage to avoid the string after the downstroke, so you hand “knows” how to do the correct motion that you could potentially use on the ascending side as well.

Can you hear / feel the swipes as you ascend? If so you could simply try to… not do them :slight_smile: and see if your hand finds its way!

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That’s my reaction too. In your clip titled “Six Note 3nps” there is a well executed little helper motion where the forearm rotates and pulls the pick away from the body (right after the last note of the pattern) so that you can begin it again, cleanly.

EDIT: check out this snip I took right when you’re about to start the pattern over:

That’s the position you’re in right before you begin again on the high E string and I think it’s created by a gentle forearm supination.
(End EDIT)

I sympathize with your perception of a motion being different than what it ‘feels’ like too. I think your exercise of recording videos like you’re doing and self reflecting will help internalize all that.

But yeah, like everyone else says, great playing! Nice tone, too :slight_smile:


Hey @tommo

Oh sh** I didn’t notice that till now. :sweat_smile:

Now that you mention that I’m swiping it seems like my aforementioned feeling of pronating the forearm more for a string-switch after a downstroke is basically nonexistent during ascending runs. Probably because for ascending 3nps runs it has to be in the middle of the 6 note chunk and not at the end of it. :thinking:
EDIT: Nevermind the last sentence… that can’t be the reason since the helper motion both ascending and descending has to happen after the 3rd note of the chunk… Still:

I’ll try to incorporate the same feeling in my ascending runs and will post a new video in a few days to see if that helped. :slight_smile:

Thanks a ton for all your help!

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