Do you practice with deadened strings?

Is there anyone here who practices picking using only the picking hand? In other words dampening the strings with the fretting hand and just practice the picking pattern on the deadened strings. I’ve found that it accentuates the actual picking, especially the rhythmic and dynamic evenness, when you don’t have to pay attention to the sync between both hands.

But it is actually beneficial to the normal playing or is it just a waste of time? What are your thoughts and experiences?


Yeah, I do this occasionally after watching the Teemu interview. He goes into some detail there how he works on both hands individually sometimes, to identify exactly what the problem is when a line is hard to play. I also recall seeing Paul Gilbert showing off some playing where he kept his right hand going like a machine but turned the left hand on for only every other rep of the lick. Sort of took that as an indication that he occasionally uses this practice technique too.


I think that when this type of practice is done with a particular approach and focus, it can be extremely beneficial. I do it regularly. It’s also an important element of my online teaching, and it has helped my students to quickly develop effective picking mechanics and hand synchronisation.

However, I also feel that it can also be done in a manner which is a waste of time (perhaps even detrimental), and that the value of the process generally is contingent on your internal sense of time.


I do it only very occasionally. I feel like it helps me, whatever that’s worth :slight_smile: I agree with ideas already posted. I’ll add that I only do it on passages where my picking feels like it’s the thing that’s off. More often, I find I need to do the opposite and play only fretting hand as that seems to be where I’m lagging these days.

what I never do is set aside time every day to just work on picking alone “because that’s what good guitarists should do” :slight_smile: I try very hard to identify anything that falls into that camp and make sure I don’t do it, since I’ve wasted decades on that type of thinking.


Wow cool! Would you like to share any insights of what to focus on to get the most out of it? It would be very appreciated of course!

I now use it for the TWPS thing am practicing at the moment. It actually started out because of keeping the noise down not to driving my wife crazy from hearing the same licks over and over. But now it seems I can even concentrate more on the actual feeling of crossing strings cleanly because the swipes are more audible.

Ah I see. What would something like that be?

Ha, how much time have you got? :wink:

Just off the top of my head:

  • Play all the scales/modes in all positions
  • Play all the arpeggios in all their inversions
  • Play all the exercises in John Petrucci’s Rock Discipline
  • Work on independence between fret hand ring/pinky
  • Start whatever passage you can’t play at 50% speed and play along with a metronome and increment it [insert your favorite low number here] bpm at a time
  • Play every lick you know starting with an upstroke AND a downstroke

I could probably list more but don’t feel like it lol
I’m not saying some of that stuff doesn’t have its place, but I think the more advanced you get, having a routine like this “just because” is a waste of that precious time we all have a limited amount of.


There is this Anton exercise demo he showed in a vid if you skip to 1:04:50 mark maybe a hair before. Idk why but when I try this without fretting notes I find it harder. Maybe because the string isn’t moving at much without a fretted note? Idk but it’s def harder for me at least the way anton does it with 3nps with deadened strings

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I wish I could understand what he was saying, just for context. Still, that’s a great demo of his string tracking strategy.

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Hahaha!!! That’s beautiful!


Ok, I doubt this will cost me any business, I’ll share.

Much of my early work with students is focused on reducing their “background” of muscular tension. This is the foundation of my teaching, and it is absolutely critical. The goal is to get studetns to habituate positions of minimal tension and to become accustomed to what that baseline level of tension feels like. This is a continual process, and students should have reasonable expectations. You will not be free of decades worth of unnecessary tension in a matter of days.

A consequence of this lower background of muscular tension is an increased sensitivity to tactile and kinaesthetic feedback. Ultimately, training instrument technique is a process of connecting our movements to our internal sense of time. We play guitar through our sense of proprioception and our haptic perception. We need to allow ourselves to become open to that experience, and maintain our haptic sensitivity.

The problem with the traditional advice of “do what feels right” is that most people don’t know what “right” feels like yet. Often, they aren’t sensitive enough to recognise it when it happens.

Usually, the next stage for most students is to get them comfortable with some kind of efficient picking movement. I identify five criteria that I insist upon, they are:

  1. Efficient muscular activation against a low background tension.
  2. Strong connection to internal sense of time.
  3. High dynamic range.
  4. At least one consistent escape direction.
  5. Tracking capability across all six strings (or seven, etc).

There are many forms which meet those criteria, and any one of them is acceptable to me. These criteria are trained by practicing drum-like rudiments which provide a basis of coordinations which are transferrable to real guitar playing.

A key component of ensuring the first three criteria is the inclusion of powerful accents. We cannot generate meaningful force with weak, inefficient movements. As we get faster (that is, as we increase picking frequency), our movements will inevitably get smaller and less powerful until the movement is either too small or too weak to be functional, or we lose our haptic and rhythmic connection to the movement. So, I insist that students hit the peak of their dynamic range at certain points. I literally tell students to try to break the string.

The final two criteria are ensured by the specific designs of the rudiments I teach. I tell students to practice starting on an upstroke (DSX) and a downstroke (USX) until they have a clear preference for one or the other.

The mistakes that are absolutely unnacceptable are losing the accent or losing the time feel. If that ever happens, the student should stop, reset and try again. The student should never think about trying to make movements small; I want large, powerful and easy.

The process is about connecting movement to internal time based on haptic feedback. The student should not use a metronome or look at their hands.

Throughout the process, I will give cues on form, helping guide the process of experimentation until the student experiences what “right” actually feels like. Usually, students find an efficient picking mechanic within 2-4 weeks.

From there, the teaching is tailored around the movement they have discovered. Then, the rudiments are supplemented with fretted notes, developing hand synchronisation.

EDIT: This comment summarises my thoughts on the typical understanding of economy of motion, which I believe is overly reductive and naive in its usual form.

In the language of that comment, my process is to get students to buy copper instead of gold.


Yes most of the time when I say this kind of thinking it is when I am learning a brand new song all the way through at 50% speed, not just one phrase. That way I work on every phrase at 50% speed while learning an entire song. And I make mistakes on picking as well as fingerings, but as time progresses I correct it all, and normally things don’t start speeding up until the entire song is memorized. Because as I do this process I am also aurally comprehending and learning rhythmical flow of the song and phrases, and my hands are also learning this as well. Doing it by ear also wouldn’t really add much to this process either, it would likely be the same for my musical ability. Audiation I can do slower, but some of the phrases are so fast I have to at least slow them to 50-75% speed to clearly be able to sound it out with my mind’s ear.

And that’s fine, in my book. Learning a piece, the whole way through, is “a problem we need to solve”. Often, even being able to nail entire passages in isolation doesn’t mean we can glue them together successfully. I had a master class (then a single private lesson) back at college with touring conservatory trained classical and flamenco guitarist and she told me she does something similar when trying to memorize the piece. She mentioned it was quite different from how she’d practice once she had learned it and was applying phrasing/dynamics etc. She was a phenomenal performer.

Drifting slightly off topic, she also bragged to me that she had the ability to play scales at (picado, i-m alternation) at 16ths, 160 bpm. The look on her face when she told me this indicated I should be highly impressed. Surely being a flamenco musician she’d heard Paco De Lucia, no??? Yeah that’s probably ‘fast’ for classical guitarists since their repertoire doesn’t have very fast scalar passages. It’s not ‘fast’ though, relative to what’s capable. Paco and Grisha are both north of 16ths 200bpm. They could probably have a conversation while playing at 160.

She ALSO spent almost our entire hour-long lesson, on a single measure of the piece I was playing for her. It was in 4/4 time, nothing above 8th notes. So, not a lot of notes lol! When you gas light someone and ask them to do a bunch of stuff they’ve never tried before, you can get an awful lot of mileage out of one lesson :slight_smile:

I guess my point is, there’s a place for almost everything, but it’s usually contextual too. Which thankfully ties me back to on topic haha. Deadened string playing, sure :slight_smile: Just not for its own sake. Find a specific problem to solve, and use the correct tool. Don’t just do something to check off an item on a list. Unless of course, that’s fun for you (the collective “you”, not you specifically @bradejensen, buddy :wink: ). That’s really all that matters at the end of the day.

That’s an extremely important point. Real time feedback is key there. The second best thing would be the way critiques happen on here, where we can reference a time stamp and say “that was it! Those 3 seconds were perfect! Can you do that again? Can you feel how that was different than the other stuff that didn’t work?”

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Wow that was great information! Thanks a bunch!

Cool! I think this is a great advise. Having a powerful though relaxed attack actually seem quite rare. I myself have struggled with my rotational mechanic being week at certain tempos, especially on the lowest strings. And this has forced me to use more wrist which for some reason has more power. And that has been a turn for the better, although a bit more tension. My TWPS practice has turned out to be more of a wrist thing as well and I feel it has som real power and not too much tension. And after reading this I’m even more convinced that that motion is on the right track.

Cool! The same for me here, the rotational motion is a bit harder to keep time with, probably because of the loosness. And it doesn’t work so well for everything. But it clearly has it’s use in the highest tempo. Do you think it’s wrong to have a motion that is purely for the highest tempos only?

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I know this is addressed to Tom, but Rusty Cooley has 2 very different motions. One for his mid-tempo (which is fast for us regular players lol) and one for his super-speed.

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This is also my experience.

Not necessarily, I have multiple picking forms and some facilitate greater speed than others. However, I am very wary of any movement which I cannot synchronise to my internal clock.

For example, I can get the elbow hyper-picking thing started sometimes, but I cannot synchronise it to my internal clock at all. It just goes the speed it goes, and if I try to influence it at all it stops. Personally, I have no use for an unmetered tremolo picking movement on a single string.

Can you sync your left hand to it?

No, I can’t synchronise it to anything at all.

This is just my anecdotal experience, don’t let it put you off experimenting with hyper-picking!

Not sure how much of his stuff you’ve seen. He gets his rotational mechanic pretty fast. @qwertygitarr correct me if I’m wrong but I know you posted something where you were doing 6’s in the 150 - 160 bpm range. I don’t know exactly if there’s a definition of where hyper picking begins but these are Rusty Cooley speeds and Troy’s said something about “maybe this is hyper picking” when showing clips of Rusty in these ranges. I hope I’m not conflating or misinterpreting Troy. I’ve been known to ha…