DSX and Ulnar Offset progress?

I think in my DSX motion that I initially developed, I missed out the ulnar offset part of this, and have been seeing that this is actually quite important. One thing I could not do, was any sort of rotational movement to change after an upstroke with a DSX motion as my primary. However I think I may have cracked this by adding an ulnar offset:

so the first part of the clip is just DSX changes between 2 strings, but then I can add a quick rotation movement (last 2 seconds) to do some changes after upstrokes.

It feels smooth and easy to do, and I didn’t work this up, it just happened when I added the ulnar offset (which is hard to see but I can feel more of it)

Am I on the right track here - please do comment and let me know if this is not quite there yet and I need to keep trying stuff…


If that works for you that’s totally fine. Strictly speaking one of the nice things about the sort of “centralized” arm position is that you don’t really need to make any kind of change in your arm position to do the opposite escape. You can get both escapes just by changing the direction your wrist is moving.

However I think that’s all sort of in the weeds. You got over the biggest picking motion hurdle months ago when you realized, seemingly overnight, that you can do this basic DSX wrist motion really well at pro-level speeds. Now that you have that, it’s all about phrases and smoothness. To my mind the single best thing you can do right now is get your hands on some bluegrass lines that are DSX only and get them happing at realistic speeds, and sounding good.

The next video update I want to see from you is a clip of playing some awesome grass-appropriate line that moves across the strings using the core motion you have right now, at the pro-level speeds you can already do. I know it’s partially our fault for not having enough stuff like that ready to roll on the site, and for this I apologize. So, when I have a moment later today I’ll transcribe some of David Grier’s blazing Wheel Hoss lines, and make whatever changes I need to make to get the lines to be DSX-only. I get back when I have that.

Stay tuned!

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Thanks @Troy! That would be awesome if you could do that and it ties in with what you are doing currently - please don’t go off track with your current work for this!

Actually finding bluegrass lines that I can play which are DSX only is the really hard thing, because all the standards I have and can find (Steve Kauffman Material, Banjo Ben etc) all really just have a mix of DSX and USX changes, which needs crosspicking. And that’s before we get to 3 string rolls :face_with_head_bandage:

If there was something that people who have the DSX thing down for us to try and get under our fingers did exist that would be awesome. I did try transcribing that jake workman video you posted of him blazing through at 150bpm, but even that, after 2/3 beats started to have some difficult string changes!

I feel like the rock and metal guys have the advantage with licks - as you can seemingly make a small change to a lick to suit your escape motion, but I feel like with bluegrass standards, it’s a lot harder to do that, as they are a mix of licks, some of which are USX, some DSX in the same song, and I don’t quite have the musicality to change them to suit DSX…

Thanks again!

You have to look at the faster stuff, which is where they start to simplify and become more rock-like in their strategic use of phrases which fit the bill most of the time. David even talks about this in our interview. He doesn’t go into detail but he talks about writing simpler lines so you can play them more quickly. But because we know what we know about the mechanics side of it, we can see what that translates to in actual practice.

One thing I also recommend is taking a tune like Wheel Hoss or the Workman thing and just playing it through as smoothly as possible regardless of whether every note is clean. If you were to muff up a couple notes once every bar or two, and everything else was perfect, how bad would that even sound? I’d bet a good portion of the time you wouldn’t even hear it. Have you tried this and do you have video of this?

Ok that is interesting, that would make sense about re-writing things!

I don’t have a video of me doing what you suggest here, unfortunately in the last few months in my stubbornness I have been working on getting upstroke changes working, which has meant that I have been stuck, although the fast DSX motion is there, I would love to use this to play some longer pieces, but everything I try bluegrass-wise doesn’t accomodate for that.

I did read in another thread you suggest to someone to just ignore the upstroke changes as if they weren’t there, which is what you also suggested to me initially, but the perfectionist in me ignored that somewhat and I tried to build the full range of mechanics :confounded:

Just on the ulnar offset thing - I feel like this is an important piece of the puzzle, and something I have missed to date, so I should continue trying to build that in right?

Don’t ignore this. Please do this!

The ulnar offset is important for one specific type of wrist picking motion for establishing the centralized arm position so that you don’t need any arm turning to achieve the other escape. That’s really it. It’s not a thing all picking motions need to follow. If you check out the “Pronated Option” chapter in the Primer, that’s where we discuss David’s technique. He doesn’t even use the ulnar offset, he uses a radial offset, because of the type of picking motion he’s using.

All of which is, again, not the the kind of thing I think you should be worrying about right now. Because I’ve seen your DSX motion. It’s great. You can already do the motion correctly. Think about it precisely zero more minutes.

Tell the inner perfectionist that the “perfect” approach to learning is to allow your motor system to perform a realistic musical phrase, up to speed, with mistakes if necessary, so that it can feel what “realistic smoothness” feels like. Any other approach is not “perfect”!

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Ok thank you - I will get on this - if you do have the capacity to put up wheel hoss in DSX then I think a lot of people (me included) would love that and benefit a lot from getting our teeth into it…

Actually I do have another question, and that is what kind of motion is Jake Workman doing here? this is a good side on video I have been studying:

It looks obviously primary DSX, but with a forearm rotation to escape on the up once in a while (which is what I am trying to get with help from him via some lessons, but it’s hard) - but is it the lightly supinated version, or the pronated one? It looks mostly supinated. Is there anything different he is doing here from the instruction videos on the site here?

Nice clip. This looks pretty much like what David Grier does, but I think again that your concern about this is very much in the weeds since your next step doesn’t involve these details.

You have the core motion, regardless of which technical sub-flavor of that motion it might be. I’m not really concerned about that. Please try to do some playthroughs of the stuff you have transcribed of his. Ignore mistakes, make the notes you do hit sound good. Give that a shot and report back.

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I don’t know how this video popped up, YT must have been on auto-play behind my browser window. But as soon as I heard the first two seconds, I knew you’d be happy. Tab out the first two seconds and start it on an upstroke!

Film it and see what it looks like.

Oh, that’s cool! I’ve not seen that video before. I can definitely try that out and post back in the next few days.


Ok cool - so it took me a couple of days to get this under my fingers - and it’s at around 140bpm, not at 160bpm, what do you think?

This is a good start. Some of these notes aren’t coming out as clearly - is that a picking issue or a flubbed fretted note? Can you tell?

Making a loud clear sound on every note with minimal effort on these heavy string guitars is one of the primary challenges of this style. To some extent this problem exists on electric and great players all have clear confident attack, it’s just magnified here because the strings are so heavy. When you get the form just right, it works without having to muscle it.

That’s what I would tool around with. For example the first and second notes you play here have the best projection. You’re fretting them just right and hitting them just right. If you just do a single fretted note continuously on each string as a test can you get that same sound or close? And can you do it at 150-160 sixteenths without feeling like a ton of effort?

If you can, then you know what this phrase should sound and feel like when done right. Do whatever you need to do to get that projection at the higher speed. Use a rest stroke, tweak the edge picking, fret closer to the fretwire to prevent fretting out, etc.

Experiment relentlessly until it sounds loud and clear. You’ve got the basic ingredients you just have to put them together at the fast speed a few times successfully.

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Ok thanks, I really appreciate this feedback. I’ll work on my attack, but I’m glad this is getting there.


Get those single notes going and put up a clip of what that sounds like. Fast is the best way. Or, let’s call it, “bluegrass fast”, which to me is like 150-160. If the clear attack isn’t happening at those tempos right away, then something is wrong and experimenting at or near those speeds is really the best way to figure out the sweet spot.

ok great - you mean like this?
I have a bit of edge picking here, and also I have a slightly bigger degree of thumb overlap, that seems to get a better sound and gets the pick through the string easier…

Let me know - I really appreciated your comments yesterday - I have had lots of guitarists in the past say that their teachers really wanted them to hone in on clear attack of every single note so I feel like that’s important

Thanks for giving this a shot. The top four strings sound good. The bottom two strings some of the notes sound like they might be dropping out. You might try those again and see if you can get every note to ring out.

It’s hard to evaluate this with typical phone / camera mics because they use auto-gain and that amps up even the quiet stuff. But in general you want to find the sweet spot where you get the most loudness with the least physical push. You’re not going for “loud” all the time, you just using level as a test for when you’ve found the point of minimal effort.

Also, tone-wise, hard to tell here but to get the right treble/bass balance, you want a heavier gauge pick with lower-degree edge-picking. I don’t know what you’re using here but using more than just a touch of edge picking may make you quieter and more bass-leaning than you want to be for the given amount that you’re pushing.

Reason being that if you’re using a pick that’s heavy, 1.2-1.3mm or more, and has a rounded-over edge profile, you’re basically already getting an edge picking effect even when you play flatter against the string. If you try that with a thin celluloid or nylon pick, it’s all treble and no bass. If you do it with something thicker like a Bluechip in the 40 to 55 range, or a Dunlop Primetone 1.4-1.5mm, you’re getting the edge picking effect.

When David showed up he had some kind of custom one-off pick, he didn’t say who made it. But it was basically identical in size and material to the Bluechip and Primetones that we have here. David plays low-degree edge and a little back from the sound hole. That’s the Grier sound: treble sparkle but still enough bass to sound balanced. And again, you get it with a heavy gauge pick, slightly rounded edge profile (with or without speed bevel - his had one), low-degree edge picking, back off the sound hole a bit. Judge by ear until you have the mix of treble and bass you want. This is why David sounds the same on pretty much every guitar he plays — that, and the note / phrase choice, obviously.

Edit: What I’m getting at is that your approach angle is higher and that’s giving you more edge picking. Long story short, try a little lower approach angle and you’ll have less edge picking. Look at these Jake / Bryan clips for reference. If you’re using a thin pick, then a lower approach angle might be too bright, so try a heavier pick with the geometry above. Then you’ll have brightness and loudness these players get.

OK great, that makes sense. I use a bluechip tad 50, so that means I already get the edge picking effect with the little speed bevel it has.

I just tried lowering my approach angle, your right it does sound better and is easier, and it also cleared up the bottom 2 strings which did sound and feel clubby in the clip. I’ll post something up when I get home.

It feels like you need to connect up all the moving parts of the system to get all this working and sounding professional: Grip, approach angle, anchor points, motion path, hand sync… So actually you have to think about how you pick up and ‘hold’ the guitar, where you put your hand, etc. I think a lot of my practice involves me just trying to play without thinking about all these things apart from the picking motion, which is really the last link in the chain, so each session I have to search for the motions for a bit before I stumble upon the right setup, which sometimes happens, and sometimes doesn’t…

Its all there and crystal clear in the new pickslanting videos, so I should have picked up on that, that’s me being a sloppy learner, now I understand what goes through the heads of the boys in my maths classes at school!

This helps though, massive thank you…

Yes, it’s a system and all the parts need to fit together. We plan to do a “holding the guitar” section of the Primer to address this, just so it’s crystal clear. We’ll talk about how this influences your edge picking, and for acoustic players, how you need to size the guitar body or you won’t even be able to reach correctly, as is the case if I, with shorter arms, try to do David Grier’s technique on a dreadnought. Strap length is also an issue if you’re standing, for example.

It’s really not, because we don’t have that chapter yet. Sorry for the confusion here.

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This is great! You can move the guitar up/down, to the left and the right, as well as point the neck toward the sky or have it more or less parallel to the ground. I’ve moved mine around quite a bit as I’ve tried the various picking motions, but I’ve never seen anyone talk in depth about this (other than ergonomics).

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