Downward Pickslanting elbow - how does it work?


Well, it’s the “rotate” phase where the “slant” (trajectory!) is being reversed that seems to me requires significant upper arm re-adjustment. It’s true, that even with the UWPS on the E string, there’s a small change of trajectory needed between the escape trajectory of the final downstroke (this is sounding more and more like rocket science :)) to the upstroke to the B string, which entails some relocation of the elbow, but not as much as the “rotate” on the B string which is a complete reversal of slant (trajectory).


No, this is my point. The rotation on the B string aims the pick at the E string again, but that’s not enough. “Slant” isn’t that, it’s the trajectory that matters and that’s still upward until you change something further up because the elbow is only a hinge.


Totally. The forearm just turns, the pick turns with it to play the upstroke, and escapes as it does it. The forearm rotates back to its original position, so does the pick. That’s your ‘trapping’ movement. You can do this on its own, or while elbow flexion/extension is happening. In fact you can do it in the air right now with no guitar. Unless I’m missing a subtlety here, that’s all I think is happening as far as the pickstrokes themselves are concerned.

The tracking motion is a different story. If I’m understanding you correctly, you are asking how do you get from string to string. If the elbow/guitar planes are angled to each other enough to permit uwps in the first place, then it should not technically be possible to do a pure elbow string track and still reach all the strings, because a downstroke movement just pushes away from the guitar. This is true for any elbow picking movement that also tracks across the strings - it really has nothing specific to do with 2wps, as far as I can see.

You can do a simple test with a kitchen cutting board. Hold it up to your midsection, like you would a guitar, and angle its plane different ways to simulate different pickslanting paths. Then place your hand flat on the board and run it from top to bottom. Look in a mirror while you do that. What movement do you see? Forearm is clearly happening when I do this - it is rotating to maintain hand orientation against the board. At more extreme angles, upper arm rotation is also obvious. At angles closer to the elbow’s plane of operation, it’s hard to perceive any upper arm rotation.

It’s tricky!


Ok, let me throw this at you guys.
I’m an uwps but I use wrist deviation and not the elbow. For all intents and purposes the deviation movement is exactly the same as the elbow motion. It moves in one plane.
In order for me to pick something like the Pepsi lick in uwps, I need to add another motion to the mix. For me it’s a forearm rotational movement. I’m not necessarily moving to a dwps, but I need to at least get back to my original uwps starting position.
Without that additional movement the lick can’t be played…the same has to happen with an elbow mechanic, no?
I’m surmising that even though we may not always see the additional movement (Zakk Wylde), it HAS to happen.
Am I missing anything here or are you guys seeing what I’m driving at too?


No hurry.
It’s just kindof funny to
a) see the master himself not knowing how one of his own motions is executed
b) being able to participate solving the riddle

You wrote before that there’s just one direction for the elbow, I totallly agree with that (I think read somewhere it’s the most fixed joint we have), so this one should be relatively easy to spot. If it comes from the shoulder it must be visible, in the shoulder or in a rotation of the upper arm (the shoulder itself can be hard to spot).

On second thought I’m pretty sure you know all that joint stuff way better than me (and probably anybody else here).

So summary: No hurry :grin:


I’m not sure we’re completely understanding each other here. And it is tricky, so I’m going to think more about this.

But regarding the KCB (kitchen cutting board :)) test. I think that on moving the KCB through realistic pickslant planes from UWPS to DWPS it does require visible amounts of upper arm rotation when tracking my palm across it. But the amount depends on the shoulder position. If I hold my should back, then it requires quite a lot of humerus rotation with the downslanted KCB. With the shoulder forward, the way say Al Di Meola hangs it right over the guitar, then a lot less.

Edit: And just to add, my concern is that if a relocation of some part of the upper arm is to happen so as to allow the slant to be reversed and then a period of successive pick strokes at the new slant without an accompanied upper arm rotation on every stroke, that relocation is going to be big and sudden.

My spacial visualisation centre has temporarily overheated…


Not a problem I am frequently dense.

The way Vinnie does the “Pepsi Lick” there really isn’t a period of successive pickstrokes in dwps - there’s just a moment at the sixth note where the upstroke escape happens, and the arm rotates to facilitate that.

Have you been able to make the movement work hands-on or is this just a theoretical concern? Because I can tell you there’s nothing disjointed about the feeling of doing it. Obviously I want to understand these things better, but it’s from the perspective of being able to give someone clear steps for making these movements work for them, without wasted time and guesswork. From that perspective, I think we have a decent practical handle on how the base uwps elbow movement works, as well as the 2wps version of it. There may be some details about what precisely happens at the moment of the string change, and I do think it’s worth knowing. Especially if it is something that a learner might find problematic. But I think getting the base movement happening, and then learning the forearm piece, will get most people in the ballpark for the time being.

If someone flat-out can’t do the uwps elbow movement at all, that’s a problem. And that’s where we need to understand better what is going on. We’ve definitely had people on here say they can’t do dwps elbow. That makes a little more sense if we’re not entirely sure what is going on with the movement itself.


I’m not the master, I’m just the student with the biggest YouTube channel!

Edit: Actually that might be Ben Eller. So I’m not even that!


No, I didn’t meant that specifically. Just, say, with an UPWS setup, and then switching to DWPS for say successive DWPS pentatonics, you might not want to be still operating with an UWPS biased position and having to rotate the upper arm a lot when with a better DWPS setup, it’d be almost all be elbow flexion-extension.

Personally, I find elbow UWPS, comfortable. For elbow DWPS, I feel the need to keep connection with the body of the guitar and that that tends to produce a flexed wrist. A somewhat ‘gypsy’ setup seems to want to happen naturally, albeit that they’re using a lot of forearm rotation. But even there, you often see quite a bit of upper arm rotation. The trouble with a flexed wrist, is that rotating the forearm to change the slant creates a huge arc of the pick. Which is why I think the 2WPS I’ve seen generally have a straight and even slightly extended wrist - when they’re doing it - because it allows the pick to change slant within a small space and not bump into strings.

Maybe I just need to get into a more neutral/midway position and then the switch between UWPS and DWPS would be less traumatic.


Yes definitely. Anything I can do with other downward pickslanting motions I can also do with this one.


Well, you’re clearly and justifiably Project Leader and Director of Picking Research, Planet Earth. I mean, when the aliens arrive and want to speak to someone about this (as they obviously will), you’re going to be our representative.


Cue Close Encounters of the Third Kind Redux, where in the final act the only way to communicate with the aliens is by playing shred guitar back and forth. :rofl:

Or, if we want to be more epic, a spin on Star Trek IV, where rather than wanting to hear back from extinct humpback whales, the destructive alien presence wants to hear back from a shredder.


It’s not the size of the ‘YouTube Channel’, it’s the inner values that are important :joy:

… maybe it’d be of help if we’d call you Uncle Troy?


Hi @Troy! I hope 2019 is treating you and the team very well :slight_smile: Can you let us know if you happen to have a front angle video of this ripping lick you did? Your fingers and wrist look pretty rigid and in place.
How much forearm rotation would you say you are applying to this lick? And finally, I know the term elbow picking is thrown around a lot, but I just don’t get it/see it on this video. Any clarification especially since Zakk is an “elbow” player would be great. CHEERS- BB


SI have not followed the arguments in detail but would assume that the elbow joint provides one degree of freedom and the big bone in the upper arm provides the second (rotation about its long axis), where both operate concurrently.


We don’t know what this motion is. It looks and feels like elbow, but from everything we know technically about anatomy, that should not be possible because the elbow does not create an upstroke-escape motion path. Again, unless we’re missing something.

Here’s more recent footage:

You can see clearly that this is an upstroke escape motion path. And the elbow joint is moving here. There is no doubt about that. Whether other joints are moving in addition is probably the question. We don’t know. I would not describe the wrist as “rigid”. Nothing I do feels rigid. The wrist is simply not moving because this isn’t a wrist picking motion.

This is 150bpm sextuplets, which is equivalent to 225bpm sixteenths. This is as physically fast as I can pick with any motion that I know. Even at this speed, you can see the chunking accents pretty clearly. The first note of each six-note sequence is played with a physically larger picking motion than the others. I cannot feel that I’m doing this, especially not at this speed. This is simply a learned sequence of motions, and like all learned motions, it requires no conscious thought or awareness.

For those that obsess about motion size, again, size is the result of power and speed, not the cause of it. If I could go faster than this, the size might get smaller. But given that I clearly possess Hulk Smash levels of picking power, that’s why you’re seeing the motion sizes you’re seeing, even at this speed.



Dear Hulk Smash-,

You had me dying over here because I was thinking of Will Ferrell’s character of Ashley Schaeffer from Eastbound and Down, where he ripped off Ric Flair. I miss the good ol’ days of Hulk, Flair, Andre the Giant, etc.

Thank you for that video, the arm is much clearer now… If you had to break this down would you say a lot of power is generated from the main forearm muscle? I definitely see that elbow movement and it APPEARS that the hand/wrist/elbow are all moving as one unit similar to performing a hammer curl at the gym. So the wrist is not rigid but because of the speed the wrist as a byproduct just doesnt move much?
Did you have much forearm rotation to DWPS this fast? Sorry if I am a pain asking all these questions, but I feel it would be good to understand what elements of movement, muscle activation and so on are standing out to you when playing this speed…
Finally what was the lick itself? Even slowed down I can’t tell :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Thank you! Bullseye