Difficulty with 2nps patterns

Hi there,
I apologise if similar topics to this have been posted before.

I am trying to speed up my 2nps alternate picking patterns (using the pentatonic scale currently), however I am having some trouble with the string switching. For context, I currently feel my 6nps and 4nps usx playing is significantly better than 2nps usx albeit not perfect. When I play try to 2nps patterns fast, I feel that the pick will fall out of my hand easily, even if I use the same amount pressure on the pick I would for playing other licks (like 6nps and 4nps, where I don’t feel like this). I also feel like I sometimes want to start the next string on an upstroke instead of a downstroke.
I don’t know if some of these things are due to the fact that I’m not really used to playing so few notes on each string or If there is another problem. Has anoyone experienced anything similar?

I have no videos at the moment, but I will try to capture some soon.

Any help and/or ideas is really appreciated :slight_smile:

Thank you!

Here is the 6nps playing:

Not perfect, but I think its much better than my 2nps playing (which I’ll try to upload soon)

Thanks again :slight_smile:

Hi @User-001 ,

I don’t have much time to analyse or write up comments at the moment, but this looks like DSX to me.

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Thats interesting, as I feel I prefer dsx to usx, although the string changes felt mostly smooth when playing this, so I’m not sure… Maybe I’m doing something I don’t realise i’m doing.

Thanks for the feedback!

Here is the 2nps playing:

My technique for this one already feels somewhat unstable even at the slower speed, and you can see it gets pretty sloppy when I try to speed it up

Thanks again :slight_smile:

The ascending side of this you are starting each string on an upstroke, i.e. DSX. So, yes, @Tom_Gilroy is correct.

As a general tip, players with super flat techniques where the pickslant is zero degrees and you struggle visually to tell which escape it even is — those players are almost never doing USX. True USX techniques almost always have a more vertical escape path and obvious downward pickslant. Flat-appearing players are usually either DSX or DBX.

The 2nps clip looks stringhoppy so that would suggest DSX as well. If you do the 2nps starting on an upstroke is it smooth and fast? If so, DSX.

What about if you play the 6nps line slowly in your most relaxed / comfortable picking motion, while not trying to “do” any particular picking motion, and while not trying to make the motion “small”, what does the joint motion look like?

FYI when you film these clips, try to get some amount of forearm in the frame so we can see which joints are active. You can pull the camera back a few inches if necessary. Closeups of just the pick/string don’t tell the full story.

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Great, Thanks Troy, I’ll try to get multiple camera angles of my playing next time

I have tried this, without much joy - it feels a bit more comfortable, but not like I could really speed it up. I also wanted to learn USX as I really like Eric Johnson’s playing, and want to tackle his descending 5s lick, although I don’t know how I would do that using DSX…

Interestingly, It looks more like some kind of DBX.

Thanks again for all the help! :slight_smile:

You don’t need multiple angles. You can do one — but just capture the forearm and hand. Here are some tips:

Film that one and post it if you can, i.e. the slow-speed one with relaxed motions.

In theory dbx can alternate pick any pattern, but in actual practice players with true USX or DSX techniques usually have an easier time with 2nps lines. They have a more vertical motion path, and starting on the correct pickstroke for that escape capitalizes on that. Starting on the “wrong” pickstroke for their escape type usually feels more obviously wrong and they learn to avoid it.

If you want to play EJ lines the way EJ does, with the sweeping component, a super flat technique is not really going to work without some type of alteration anyway. So it may be simpler to just try a different joint motion for that. Some of these, like forearm, forearm-wrist, and different finger motions, are USX automatically. You may already be able to do some of these, in which case, you’re off and running.

Ok so I just tried playing 4nps starting on an upstroke, and that felt a bit better/consistent than starting on a downstroke. If I’m more of a DSX player, what would be the best approach to play licks that really require USX like the Eric Johnson descending 5s? Or does either escape work for all licks, providing that the lick is played in a particular way?

EJ lines use downstroke sweeping, which really only works with a downward pickslant. I’m generalizing, but that’s mostly true.

By comparison, techniques that look like yours, with a zero-degree pickslant, minimal escape or trapped motion, some DBX tendencies — those players always have trouble with 2nps lines and USX lines in particular.

Easiest thing to do is learn a USX technique. You may already be able to do some of these motions if you try a bunch, then you’d already be off and running. Many great players have different techniques they use for different lines – Eddie Van Halen’s tremolo technique comes to mind. It would just be like speaking multiple languages which you switch in and out of.

The simplest route to USX is using grazing fingers and extended index finger grip, since this positions the arm in the slouchy position that can activate the forearm and fingers. It’s also one of the most relaxed / comfortable guitar playing forms you can use. Here’s what Yngwie looks like:

From this position, you can do wrist, wrist-forearm, finger motions, wrist-forearm-fingers, you name it. All can do USX.

I’d try some experimentation with that and see what you come up with.

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Here you go!

I think youtube automatically set this video to their ‘short’ format. Hopefully that is not an issue.

Thanks again :slight_smile:

Is there a section in the pickslanting primer I could look at to help with this?

Thanks again :slight_smile:

P.S sorry for all the questions!

Excellent, thanks. Yes this is a semicircular picking motion, so we can think of it as a reverse dart thrower wrist motion DBX technique, except that some of the time, it’s tilted so that only the upstrokes are really escaping.

The instructions for reverse dart, including making sure the motion is centered and the pickslant is zero degrees, are here:


But as a test you could try switching to a dart-thrower form just to see if that feels or looks any better to you. That’s the thumb-anchored form which we talk about in these two lessons:


The second lesson is a little more detailed and doesn’t (I don’t think) use the “dart thrower” terminology but that’s what it’s teaching. We’ll get some actual dart-thrower tutorials up in the coming months in the “wrist motion” section of the Primer, to complement the reverse dart tutorials that are currently there.

For learning a more typical USX technique, the forearm section of the Primer is technically the destination for that, but honestly, I’d just adopt the Yngwie style form above, try going fast, and see what you get. It could be that simple.

Great, Thanks @Troy this has been really really helpful. I’ll try a new USX form over the next few days and see how I get on. I may be back to discuss it more after I have attempted it, but I’ll see what happens :rofl:

Thanks again :slight_smile:

Sure no problem. The form you have now, did you learn that from the Primer or is this how you’ve always played?

We have a sort of outstanding technical question about players with your hand/finger type, where you use an index finger grip and you position the arm so that the pick has a roughtly zero-degree pickslant, but the arm position you get looks more supinated than what you might otherwise expect. We wonder if this might allow you to activate slightly more efficient / faster wrist motions where another player might need to use a different grip — like a three-finger grip, for example — to get a similar result.

This is a reverse dart consideration, specifically. So what I’m suggesting is, it’s still worth experimenting with your reverse dart form, since it looks generally correct for doing double escape. In addition to whatever other forms / techniques you experiment with.

I learnt some of the pickslanting/escape motion basics from a video i found from someone called ‘Bernth’ on youtube. That was my first encounter with the concept. I then recently became interested in Cracking the Code and subsequently purchased the primer, which has really opened my eyes to the world of guitar picking. When I was going through the reverse dart thrower section, I found it really interesting, and I felt like it was similar to what technique I already had, and so tried to implement that a bit more, and I felt that the idea of a 0 degree pickslant made sense, especially as I seem to prefer DSX to USX and (as far as i’m aware) you need a bit less of a pickslant for DSX playing. I also try a play with some mixed escape things like ascending scales.

I don’t know if that answers your question, but hopefully it helps :slight_smile:

Thanks again

Is Yngwie’s grip like the ‘pad side’ grip shown in the pick grip section of the pickslanting primer?

Probably something like that. There are all kinds of small differences in hand/finger geometry from person to person that can make grips slightly different, so I wouldn’t try to overthink that. The main thing is that in many USX styles the index is relatively extended, with the pick held near the finger tip. This includes the trailing edge players like George Benson. This general form positions the arm in the “comfortable slouch” that these players tend to use.

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Is the forearm generally more supinated with USX techniques?

Depends on the type of joint motion. Forearm, wrist-forearm, and finger motion USX techniques (almost?) always use a supinated forearm position.

Some wrist players do USX from a dart-thrower orientation, either flat or pronated. Bill Hall in our interview with him is an example of this, as are Shawn Lane and Phil X.

The supinated approach covers more types of joint motion so there are more examples of players that do it.

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