Hi all. I recorded myself playing this piece called “Peaceful 1” by Mauricio Maruo I found on Instagram and would appreciate your critique. I have only been playing electric guitar for about two months so I’ve got nothing on all you supreme shredders here . I have a background playing acoustic guitar since 20 years ago when I was in high school. Over the years I’ve played less and less, and the past almost 10 years between jobs, kids, and everything else I barely touch my guitar. During this pandemic I’ve been home a lot and just so happens there is a family member’s Strat just collecting dust. So I thought I would make good use of it, and my time. In this piece there is a short descending C#m pentatonic lick that I had a lot of trouble with. It felt really absurd, as the structure is so simple, but I just couldn’t play it fast enough. Since I watched Cracking the Code and discovered DWPS I must admit I have improved quite a bit, but still not satisfied. Nevertheless I felt OK enough to make a video and share it. I’m sure there’s a thousand mistakes here so again I would appreciate your comments. Thank you!
Nice playing and tone @rabbid! Is the pentatonic stuff at 6 seconds the part that is giving you trouble?
My guess would be that you may not be doing upstroke escape (USX) in the way think you are doing! Though it’s of course difficult to tell from this angle.
Out of curiosity, have you ever tried to do that run starting on an upstroke? Give it a shot and let us know how that feels. I’m also attaching our filming advice to get a better view of your picking. When you have a chance, film a few repetitions of the pentatonic lick with a “down the strings” view of the pick, and we’ll take a look
Thank you @tommo for your reply. Yes, there is a 7-note ascending, C#m G-shape pentatonic that is rather troublesome for me, though I feel I have improved ever since trying DWPS and USX. Referring to your advice, well I specifically started that run on a upstroke because the high e string only has one note, then I would switch to the next string, and then Down Up on the B string, USX And move to G string, D U USX and move to D string, and so on. If I start that run on a downstroke, then do you mean I should try DSX instead? And I will make another video when I get the chance. Thanks
Yes, sorry I didn’t notice the upstroke start! Give a shot to the downstroke + DSX and let us know
Hi @tommo. I did what you asked and made another recording this time with “Code angle”, hope I got it right. I also tried to use downstroke + DSX on that lick and amazingly I immediately felt very comfortable with it! It was somehow easier to do, but I have no idea why! Could you explain a bit maybe? Thank you so much!
Thanks for posting @rabbid and for following the instructions! You got the code angle pretty good here! This is surely good enough for our current discussion.
For the future I think you can afford to turn the guitar headstock a few degrees more towards the camera, so that we’ll get a view that is even more straight down the strings. Another suggestion for critique clips is to only play the phrase we are analysing (the pentatonic lick in this case), perhaps repeating it 3 or 4 times. This way we can find the phrase immediately and don’t have to search through the video. If your phone can do slow motion (like 60FPS or even 120), that’s also a nice bonus
Now back to business
Indeed it looks nice and smooth! My best guess at the moment is that your default fast picking motion is DSX. Even though you have been focusing on “DWPS + USX” in your slower, more “controlled” playing, your hand does what it wants to do when it speeds up, and it goes into the opposite escape path than the one you were thinking!
And that’s totally cool! DSX is the default motion of picking legends like John Mc Laughlin and Mike Batio. Of course, to make use of it you have to make sure that the last pickstroke on each string is a downstroke (i.e. the escaped stroke). This is exactly what happens with that pentatonic phrase when you start with a downstroke.
You can test this hypothesis straight away: find some more phrases that only change strings after downstrokes (and that use fingerings you are comfortable with), and try to play them fast-ish without worrying too much if they sound clean. Let us know how that feels!
Good work here, I think this is a good starting point
Thank you again @tommo! As you requested, I made another video just for the pentatonic run. Would appreciate your comments again. I made a normal speed UPX, a slow mo UPX and a slow mo DPX. If you are wondering why there is no normal speed DPX, that is because after I watched the video I stupidly did UWPS with UPX instead of DPX oh well, I still have the slow mo version. My problem is I still can’t do this 100% reliably. I would love to be able to close my eyes and just play that run like I breathe in oxygen, but not sure what I am doing wrong. What do you think of my placing my pinky on the body? I swear it’s not heavily anchored, just touching there and still moving if needed. I tried floating right hand, which was just OK, and I also tried to put my right hand on the bridge or lightly touching the strings, which was super awkward and made unnecessary muting.
Another note: when I play fast even if I hit all the notes, it does not sound smooth, too staccato-ish. What do you suggest to fix this? Thanks.
Thank you always for your comments!
Edit: I just realized I did this run in a different key than the original post, sorry, but same idea…
Hey @rabbid, I’ll write more later but long story short I find your DSX motion much more promising! Try to develop that a bit more with a larger variety of licks that only change strings after a downstroke!
Thank you @tommo, would love to hear more on why you see my DSX is better, and how to practice both USX and DSX so they’re both on par with each other. Thank you!
Hey Rabbid! From these videos you shared, my impression is that your DSX motion is more smooth and “linear”, so I’d be willing to bet that you can speed it up significantly, compared with what you are showing here.
Instead, your USX motion is not really USX, it’s a curved motion that escapes on both upstrokes and downstrokes (at least sometimes). Now, this is not necessarily bad, but may you want to check if the movement is efficient or not. If it’s efficient, you should be able to speed this up to something like 16th notes @140bpm or so. It may be sloppy, but should feel relatively smooth. If you feel that you struggle at much lower tempos, say 110-120bpm, and if you feel significant fatigue building up, chances are this is not an efficient movement (i.e. stringhopping).
More generally, it would be useful to have a look at what happens when you pick on a single string as fast as you can. If you have a minute, shoot a video with a few seconds of that (e.g. just tremoloing on the G string) and we’ll take a look!
I’ll also attach a useful video called “Start with speed!”, feel free to ask any questions after you had a look
Hi @tommo! Thanks again for the reply. I made another video as you requested and I also tried to imitate from Troy’s “Bulletproof USX Motion” video and experimented with different positions. Not sure if it’s visible in this video, but in it I am tightening up the muscles around my thumb and index finger to hold the pick more rigidly. Let me know what you think. Thank you!
Cool thank you for doing this! I still have the impression that DSX is your go-to fast motion. I wouldn’t recommend squeezing the pick, we don’t want you to get all cramped up! Medium force should be sufficient, and the key really is to make sure the strings are pushing the pick in a way that it can be easily kept in place by your fingers.
Nothing wrong with DSX by the way! You are in the same boat as John Mc Laughlin, for example - not bad he?
The best thing you can do now is try a variety of DSX licks, you can try them immediately at 140-150bpm as soon as you have them memorised.
I know you want to work on USX as well but at the moment the priority is to get good at one type of “fast playing”. Once you know what fast & synchronised playing feels like, you can try to reproduce that feeling with other mechanics as well (like USX).
Thank you @tommo. By the way what do you suggest about “anchor” position? Usually I have my pinky touching the body, but after watching CtC I’ve been trying to put my palm lightly on/around the bridge. This is still awkward for me because I don’t know exactly where to place my right hand palm to avoid too much muting. Thank you.
I suggest to start with whatever feels comfortable! The only “rule” I’d try to have is to avoid painful things. If it feels good and it sounds good, it’s good
Hi @tommo. I was playing today and paying attention to my right, when I realized that when I am trying to do USX, my hand would ever so slightly pull the pick away after a downstroke, which I think is what causes the curved motion you mentioned. I am not sure why that is and how to fix it. It feels pretty cool to notice that tho… perhaps you have some tips on this matter? Thank you.
You could try rest strokes! Allow the pick to rest on the next higher string after a downstroke (don’t play it like a sweep! just let the pick stop on it), and see if that helps making the motion more “linear”.
To me this feels very nice when I do USX, because I feel that the next string stops the pick for me and I just have to bring it back up