Do your forearm wiggle during wrist picking?

I’m working on some TWPS at the moment and that forces me to use wrist motion. I have always had problems with wrist motion feeling like work in comparison to rotation. And I have realized now that at least some that feeling of labor is because of wiggle in my forearm. The forearm is actually wiggling like an antagonistic motion to the wrist motion and almost forces the whole arm to be engaged. (And to be clear, this is NOT elbow motion… the forearm is not locked into the motion of the wrist)

Strange thing is that some people seem to have NO extraneous motion in their forearm while wrist picking. @Troy being one of them. How is that possible? Am I doing something wrong? And have you had any experiences and thoughts about this?’

Here is me trying out all kinds of setups but maintaining wrist motion. (I think it is 2 o’clock DSX motion most of the time.)

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Hey, I actually use forearm and wrist usx so my comment might be pointless… but when I was experimenting with wrist usx and Dsx, I used a very compact trigger style grip.

Doing this put me in a less supinated arm position. I say less supinated in comparison to my very supinated forearm and wrist usx postion. (Try saying that ten times fast!)

If I use the same arm position as my forearm and wrist setup, I can’t get wrist only motions happening. The forearm really wants to kick in.

The carpi muscles have secondary function in rotation. The degree to which activating the carpi muscles results in rotation depends on the initial degree of rotation.

Therefore, there will always be some incidental rotation accompanying wrist movement, though it may not be noticeable. The only way to prevent that incidental rotation would be to counter the secondary rotational actions of the carpi muscles with the primary rotators.

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I had the exact same problem. I think it’s a learning thing. It just comes from being a forearm player, which I was originally. And you’re one of the best forearm players we’ve seen, so that makes sense. As an example, if I try to play lefty I can only do wrist. I can’t do forearm at all — the arm is dead, only the hand moves. I don’t have to try to do this — it’s the only way I know how to move.

You just have to learn what it feels like to only move the hand, and then only choose to move the hand. I’m guessing if you tap on a table rapidly, flexion-extension, you see no forearm? So one thing you can do to get the feel of “only wrist” is try that on a guitar as we discuss in this interview clip:

To use this form you need a supinated arm position, three finger grip, and 90 degrees of edge picking, similar to Shawn Lane. You have to fool around with it. The goal is not to play this way, although you can. It’s just to see if you can get fast “hand only” motion going. When you get it, it feels light and easy and there is no feeling of having to tense muscles to “stop” the forearm from rotating.

Ah same for me when doing USX. It’s simply impossible to not have some rotation for some reason.

Love it! What does it mean? :sweat_smile:

That sounds reasonable. But thing is I was originally a wrist player. I used a pronated DSX wrist motion (like you can see some of in the video) for like 15 years before discovering CtC. And this wiggle has always been a fact and a cause of frustration and slight tension.

Yeah that’s right! No wiggle at all as long as the arm is laying flat on the table. But as soon as I lift the arm up in the air, the wiggle is even more extreme than on the other motions. And on the guitar, the same thing.

Actually, if I keep the hand laying on the table and just move the wrist slowly I can see the wiggle happen naturally no matter how hard I try to disengage that part of the motion. If I feel the forearm with the other hand I can almost feel the tendons moving and forcing the forearm around. So it seems like a natural bodily function and I’m not sure there is a “cure” for it.

I tried this, and sure there might be some need for experimentation before making a judgement, but no matter how I change setup or motion path, there is still no change in tension in the arm. I might be to greedy here since to be honest, I at least do have a workable wrist motion, but I still have always wondered how come some people seem to have almost completely discrete body parts and other don’t. :slight_smile:

This all sounds normal. If I hold my hand in the air I still get a little forearm — but almost none on my left hand, although I can’t do any picking motions super well with my left hand. On my right hand, the closer to flex-extension I get, the less forearm there is. So I still think it’s a learning thing.

Also, anecdotally, when you look at wrist players who “demonstrate” their picking motion in the air fast, they almost always do forearm. I have seen this from players are very “wristy” and don’t even know how to do forearm rotation on a guitar. Then you ask them to do it on a guitar and it goes away. So again, normal.

I can only tell you what I did / do. If you can at least do the more flextensiony tapping motions on a guitar, like the upstroke motion, that’s a good hint as to what “only hand” feels like. It’s light and doesn’t have any feeling of mass wiggling around. You may see some elbow motion, but you won’t see forearm. Once you get that, you are much more likely to be able to figure it out using a form that is closer to your current playing form. But right now there’s too much interference and it will take longer if you have to trial and error this from nothing without doing something like the tapping experiment.

But as you say, your technique is already functional, so this is just a fun experiment / hobby you can tool around with on the side.


Just a thought, but do you have a different guitar you could experiment on? I know from your other recent thread that you altered that one specifically to get your wrist in a flexed state while close to the bridge, and that may make “pure” wrist picking more difficult to attain.

Sorry, I had little time available to write that comment. Reading it now, it is very heavy on jargon.

Basically, we don’t have muscles that only do wrist movement. The muscles which are mostly responsible for wrist also cause some amount of forearm rotation when they are activated. How much rotation activating them results in depends on your starting position.

It might not be noticeable on a camera, and it may not be perceptible while performing the movement, but if you’re not constantly engaging your main rotators to prevent it (which is definitely not what I would recommend), there may always be some small amount of forearm rotation when performing wrist movements.

Basically, what I’m trying to communicate is that you can’t entirely isolate wrist movement, and that you should not try to. You can absolutely experiment with movement, minimise any rotation caused by the activation of the primary rotators, like @Troy suggests, but don’t stress about trying to eliminate all rotation, because that’s just not really feasible anatomically.

I don’t think Qwerty is really trying to “minimize rotation”, per se. Though to be fair he did phrase it that way! I think he’s just asking how you do the easy/fast Shawn Lane-style wrist motions that don’t have the wiggly and laborious feeling he’s describing, and which we can see in his clip. And this is a totally valid question because those motions are their own thing. They feel and move totally differently, and do need to be “figured out”, particularly if you come at them as forearm player.

Anecdotally I think you are correct that you don’t get there by trying to “minimize forearm”. You get there by learning to “do” those motions. For me, fast tapping was a good gateway. Practically speaking we need a way to teach these motions because even players who are nominally wrist players — and this may be the single most populous category of picking motion — rarely seem to be doing their best version of it.

I haven’t been teaching guitar very long, so my sample sizes are still quite small. Take everything I’m saying here as “the story so far,” rather some definitive conclusions.

I’ve been getting very positive results with students by getting them to focus on making movements which are large, powerful and which feel easy at moderate tempos.

Starting with speed is solid, but some students who can do a fast, efficient picking movement can’t maintain the same form when they slow down. Others seem to have mental blocks preventing them from going faster in the first place. Some seem to try to follow melody, audiating every individual note, and so they limit themselves to whatever speed they can clearly audiate pitches. Others just don’t really believe they will actually be able to do it.

I think the table tapping to a click is great for convincing students that they can actually move fast enough, but it depends on the student being able to synchronise to the click, and not all students can do that. I’ve had more success getting students just to take this spacebar test and getting them to mash the button as fast as they can for 10 seconds.

I’ve identified five basic criteria for picking techique that I insist students meet.

  1. Efficient muscular activation against a low background of 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 strings

Whatever technique students develop is acceptable to me if it meets these criteria. I’ve devised a simple set of drum-like, picking hand rudiments designed to target these criteria. The first three criteria are tested by demanding that the students perform powerful accents at specific points during rudiments. We can’t generate power with weak, inefficient muscular activations. So, if the student doesn’t know how to move fast yet, the movement has to be large, powerful and easy. I literally tell my students to try to break the string when they play an accent. I even offer to pay for any strings they might break (I haven’t had to pay up yet).

The second two criteria are tested by the specific designs of the rudiments.

Also, because there is no melody, students are forced to rely on their internal sense of time to drive their movements. It also stops them thinking “picking technique” and gets them thinking “drumming.” Fast drumming is normal, we’ve all heard it all our lives. After a few demonstrations and an explanation that they should be able to pick as fast as they can play a single stroke roll on a table top, and they start to believe that it’s possible for them.

Within about two to four weeks (1-2 lessons), every student has discovered an efficient picking mechanic. This process works.

The basic skeleton of this process is based on how I trained the Shawn Lane dart-thrower USX form over the COVID period. My students can use any form they discover, but the approach seems to help in training any movement pattern.


Awesome posts here everyone - Tom/Troy especially!

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Awesome! Excellent work with this.

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This set of guidelines has changed how I play radically. I have to give a huge shout out to Tom - he’s been coaching me through the CTC stuff, and I am finally starting to understand it. Duhhhr yes, I am dense. Anyways, it’s important in my opinion and can’t be overstated so I thought I would… overstate it… :grinning:


Out of curiosity have you been through the Pickslanting Primer and/or have you in the past had a CtC membership? Just trying to tease out if you went through that program and stuff went over your head, or if you’d just never had that paid access and have been sort of ‘going it alone’ through bits and pieces you pick up on the forum (and of course all the awesome stuff Troy puts out on YouTube and free vids on his site).

“Mind your own business, Joe!!!” is of course a perfectly acceptable answer :slight_smile: I’d just like to see as many people find their success story as possible. I’m still writing my own success story, but at least I know I’ll one day get there lol! It was hopeless before haha! I’m a huge fanboy of both Troy and Tom. I’ve learned tons from both of them.


No reason to assume every great idea on the forum is present in our instructional material! Tom’s ideas here are awesome and probably present in some aspects in our recorded lessons and not at all in others.

More generally lots of our recorded lessons are out of date or simply silent about things that we regularly teach in Technique Critque. This is one of the main reasons we made TC. It takes a lot of work to make a recorded lesson, and it always lags our knowledge, in some cases significantly, until we can get the time to update them. The gap between TC and lessons will lessen over time as the incremental knowledge gets smaller. But right now it’s pretty significant in some areas. If someone is not actually using Technique Critique, and only watching the recorded lessons, they are not getting our best teaching.

Tom I think your checklist is great! The only item I would suggest could possibly be amended is (ironically) the escape requirement. Tremolo is the simplest diagnostic just because it eliminates other sources of complexity that can confound the analysis. And beginners are of course not always capable of much more. However it can be ambiguous on escape.

If someone is doing a single escape motion, they should see an escape even when playing a tremolo. If they don’t, that’s potentially a problem. In the simplest case, USX players should look “USX-y” even when banging on a single note, even at maximum speed. That’s the whole benefit of USX playing styles.

However if someone is using mixed escape form, particularly wrist motion, you won’t always see an escape in Magnet footage when playing on a single string, especially at medium fast speeds or higher, even if the player is capable of clean escape when playing mult-string phrases. There is variation here, where some mixed escape players will revert to single escape motion when on the string, while others will appear trapped. I think it has to do with whether or not the primary joint motion is double escape versus single. Regardless, for mixed escape, it’s really about the form. If that checks out, then you mostly care about motion and effortfulness attributes, as per your [excellent] checklist.


Yep, I’ve been through the pickslanting primer, have been a MIM member and have been thoroughly interested in Troy’s stuff since he started doing the CTC stuff. Paid the bill, bought all kinds of stuff ctc series, volcano, antigravity, etc. But sadly, I am a terrible guitarist and haven’t been able to really get any better despite trying to use my wrist, forearm, elbow, sweep, slant and swipe, use every pickgrip imaginable, and logging more practice hours than anyone I know. It’s laughable really! I am ashamed to say I have a formal music education and quite often am paid to play.

Troy I love your stuff, all of the information is great but I am one of those people who needs things to be explained as if I were a confused and distracted 3 year old! I have watched all of your videos and tried to fathom what the hell I was missing but I couldn’t see it. I’m happy to pay for a membership, but if I don’t understand any of it what’s the point? lol So yeah, most of what you guys talk about (98%) goes WAY over my head.

Not your fault, guys - it’s mine - I think that for some reason when the untalented and physically inept decide they love something and pursue it with relentless fury we tend to do it with an innate stubbornness. Sometimes some small things are overlooked that are tremendously important while things that are not important at all are scrutinized to death lol funny, yes?

(Yes I can play a single string - roughly as fast as a 2 year old hamster whacked out on blueberries on a souped up wheel)


(PS My forearm does NOT wiggle when wrist picking)

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I had felt that I had made some really tremendous insights regarding ideas we’ve discussed before, posture and positioning, fretting hand mechanics, optimal fretting sequences, etc. However, I didn’t feel that I was quite sure how to organise those ideas into a coherent framework for presentation and teaching. One of the main reasons I started teaching was to get more experience with that aspect.

We’ve discovered key ideas independently of eachother, but I’ve also learned a lot from your work. I think we have a lot of similarities in our approaches, and your work has definitely inspired me to get my ideas and insights out into the world.

This seems like it will continue to be a problem for some time into the future. I think the shift in approach and terms from your early work, while it was necessary, is a source of confusion. Particularly for new subscribers and people who have returned after a long-ish absence.

I haven’t always been posting regularly, but I’ve been reading and staying up to day with your work since I first joined CTC (in 2016, I think).

I think it’s pretty good too. I have personal preferences for forms which are compatible with hybrid picking and which allow for damping, but I don’t consider those essential.

I realise now that I’ve expressed that criteria poorly. The student needs to demonstrate the capability to consistently escape in at least one direction while performing basic picking rudiments I have designed, which can act as diagnostics. I have a few students who have discovered mixed escape mechanics and can comfortable escape in both directions with one form, and I have other students who have discovered essentially pure USX and DSX mechanics which are not compatible with eachother.

I don’t require that the form consistently escapes on a single string tremolo. I have some issues with tremolo picking on a single string as a starting point. I’ve seen many players who can tremolo pick quickly on a single string but who do so with a form that has a very high background tension, weak connection to their time feel, or poor tracking facility.

The picking rudiments I teach are designed to begin developing all five criteria from the beginning. Whatever form students use to mee those criteria is fine by me, but if they discover multiple forms I would encourage them to stick with whatever approach is giving themthe best results for some time.

Much of the early work I do with students is to get them to lower their background tension. I strongly believe that this lower background tension results in greater sensitivity to haptic perception, based on my reading, my own experience and my work with my students so far.

The problem I have with telling students to do what feels right is that most people just don’t know what “right” feels like. They may not even be sensitive enough recognise “right” when it happens. My first goal is to increase a student’s sensitivity to their haptic experience, and to trust that these tactile and kinaesthetic stimuli will provide much more valuable information than focusing their visual attention intensely on their picking or fretting hand ever can.

It’s not enough to bring the “noise” down, I also want to bring the “signal” up. A large, powerful accent provides a huge spike in haptic perception. It’s like a bright light flashing in a dark room. It helps connect the student’s movement to their internal sense of time. It tests power and dynamic range. It provides a clearly perceptible landmark for chunking. I also believe that it provides a “refresh” for form, preventing form from drifting over time.

Essentially, my process aims to connect our sensitivities of movement and moment. To link our haptic perception with our internal clocks and then to let these senses lead our development.

Again, I’m still working with a relatively small sample size, and I haven’t been doing this for very long. However, the process is working.


@Tom_Gilroy out of curiosity - have you found it useful for you or your students to incorporate playing with eyes closed to increase focus/improve signal to noise ratio?

It’s felt at least subjectively useful to me for noticing inconsistencies in my technique along with some basic Pranayama/breathing exercises to reduce tension and - for me - reduce some anxiety, especially when recording.

It’s hugely helpful. I don’t insist in it, but I do insist that students don’t focus their visual attention on their playing. They shouldn’t be looking intently at their hands.

But then, what do I know. I’ve just received messages on YouTube telling me I “can’t play fast” and that I’m “clogging up the CTC forums” with “pseudo-intellectual” spam.


Bloody hell… Ok ignore that nonsense. Your consultations have been incredibly helpful to me! Very practical and very effective so far!