Do players pick everything with DSX?

I couldn’t think of a short one-sentence way to ask this question in the title, but what I mean is: for players that use UWPS/DSX, do you only use these motions for playing fast lead licks, or do you also play rhythm, chord arpeggios, funk skanking, etc., with the same technique? I find it very difficult to do anything involving palm muting (especially chunk metal rhythms) with my forearm supinated to effect the UWPS/DSX motion, because it takes the fleshy side of my palm under my pinky finger farther away from the strings.
Just for background: I got into playing with an UWPS/DSX style from Tom Hess (believe it or not), although I’ve never bought anything of his, it was just an interesting motion that he mentioned in a freebie vid, so I began UWPS/DSX by angling my hand opposite from normal, with my thumb resting against the low E. Felt strange at first, but after doing it for a few years now, it’s become my most dependable way of playing fast lead lines. When I got into CtC a few years back, I was shocked (and overjoyed) to see the motions described and studied by Troy and the gang. However, for playing certain things (i.e., alternate picking strings in a ballad’s chords or playing a fast thrashy muted rhythm) I revert to DWPS/USX, and for doing those things, I’m pretty accurate. Anyone else do this?

I’m more of a USX guy, but…

Even just academically speaking, anytime you see someone (even if they mostly play DSX) play even a power chord with a downstroke, the pick must not be escaping after the first string is struck, otherwise only one string would sound.

You can also play chords with an upstroke, and we often see people strum up and down, but offhand I don’t think I’ve seen many people playing “typical” chord licks with “mostly upstrokes”.

Back to downstroked chords played by a “DSX soloer”, I supposed there could still be an overall DSX trajectory, albeit a shallower one, but I’m guessing downstroked chords are probably being played with something more like a “neutral” slant by “DSX” soloers.

As a USX guy, I’m very often playing downstroked chords with a pretty USX-oriented motion, but of course the pick isn’t burying into the guitar body before I can hit the second string. I suppose the mere presence of the guitar body helps train USX pickers to flatten out a bit when we downstroke chords (and some people may have a shallow trajectory even for single note lines). Also, the interaction between pick and string when doing downstroked chords with a USX motion tends to help “autocorrect” the motion to become flatter.

And idiomatically, when a lick involves a pedal tone kind of thing where you’re switching between single notes and chords, it seems like very often the single notes are in the bass, which lends itself to playing the intermittent chords with downstrokes (rather than reaching across to the treble side of the chord to begin the chord with an upstroke). The main riff from “Bark at the Moon” is an example of this.

There are a handful of common approaches.

USX is very commonly done all-USX. Famous examples are Gypsy guitar, Eric Johnson, George Benson, Yngwie Malmsteen. The entire vocabulary of these players can be played with one alternate picking motion, plus downstroke sweeping. I call it “DWPS economy”:

Among DSX players, John McLaughlin is an example of someone who plays the vast majority of his fast lines with a single alternate picking motion, and makes this possible by using only even numbers of notes per string most of the time.

You can also expand either of these approaches with swiping, or helper motions, to get more phrase variety.

For the longer answer to your question, we outline some of the most common styles in the picking motion section of the Primer. Check out the “picking style” section:

But does McLaughlin (using him as an example instead of Yngwie because he is a fellow DSX player) also use his same motions for something more mundane like chord picking that he does for fast lines? Or does he pronate his arm in that case, and use DWPS? Because that’s what I usually find myself doing in those circumstances. Or someone like Andy James, if he’s playing a heavy main riff in a song, does he still stick to a supinated DSX position and pick upward?

Have you watched any video of John strumming? I haven’t but I would guess he probably uses similar strumming motions to most people. However, I’ve watched a lot of Al Di Meola strumming. There’s not really any connection between Al’s alternate picking motion, which is similar to John’s, and his strumming motion. They are separate techniques, learned separately. He uses a fairly common wrist-forearm approach that almost all fast strummers use, from bluegrass to Gypsy guitar.

I wouldn’t think of strumming as USX or DSX because it’s not doing a diagonal motion that goes into and out of the strings for the purpose of avoiding strings. Instead, it’s a motion designed to hit multiple strings at once. Typically in a slightly curved fashion, which I suppose you could call double escape. But I think that’s trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. It’s really just a different animal.

Similar thing with metal riffing you’re asking about. This type of motion makes a circle in the air to avoid hitting the string you just played. It is neither USX or DSX. It’s its own thing. There are a variety of physical ways to do it. For a great example of this, you can check out our Brendon Small interview where we get a good closeup look at his motions. He has a forearm approach more similar to Hammett, and a wrist approach more similar to Hetfield:

Similar to strumming, these motions can look entirely different from the motions a person uses for single note alternate picking. So I wouldn’t try to put them into a USX or DSX bucket because they’re making little airborne circles.

Not sure if I’ve answered your question!

No I didn’t mean strumming, when I said chord picking, I meant like arpeggiating a chord, as in say, the intro of GnR’s “Don’t Cry” or something like that. The Brendan Small one is interesting though, it looks kind of like he’s supinating his forearm and picking up. I think I get what you mean about just riffing being its own thing; after 3 decades of playing it’s not really even something I ever thought of until lately. Now I’m getting into (maybe too much of) a habit of labelling everything as USX, DSX, etc. I guess sometimes it’s not too helpful to overanalyze if what you’re doing works.

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I’ve gone through the ‘over analyzing phase’ - I think it’s a natural part of the learning process for many musicians.

Arpeggios like your taking about (the GnR tune) are 1 note per string (1nps)…so…every pick stroke needs to escape (so not really USX or DSX exclusively). That song can be done with string hopping given the tempo - but to ‘go fast’ with 1nps your looking at crosspicking and/or sweeping.

Yeah, I was also thinking of this etude I play almost daily as a warm-up: I arpeggiate/pick every note in a Cm barre chord once, then a Ddim, Emaj7, etc., cycling through the key, then I switch to double-picking each note, then triple-picking, then I do string-skipping variations. I do it with my arm more pronated though, it seems, so it “feels” like my arm is in more of a position to utilize USX than my usual DSX. I think that I may just be doing a very shallow picking with the pick more level and less slanted than normal though (similar to how Andy Wood does?), since I’m able to pick it all pretty fast and cleanly (albeit not Steve Morse level).