DWPS/Alternate Picking Critique Please


Hey Everyone,

As Troy said a video is worth a thousand words so here goes… First video is just a simple A Minor Box #1 position in 6’s. Not going for speed, just hand and pick movement. Second video is a little part from ZW’s Sold My Soul solo. The part that is driving me nuts is classic pentatonic Zakk- It’s 5-7 twice on the low E then moves it down to the A and D strings. I’ve been tripping over strings working this little part out so hopefully I can get some advice on that part from the awesome members here!

Finally, once it’s agreed on where I need to work on my positioning etc., has anyone created a warm up and practice routine? BEST to all and Happy Holidays- Alex


First clip looks to me like you have significant “stringhopping” movement going on. I think a lot of folks here have had luck by emphasizing a rest-stroke on the adjacent string to help them lock their dwps movement into more of a single plane. Another thing that might be interesting to see is how fast and fluid you are with 6 note patterns on a single string, which gives a baseline for what’s happening with your picking movement without the added complexity of string switching.

And welcome to the forum!


Thank you Frylock for the kind reply! Can you give an example of the rest stroke in my case of the A minor box so I can practice it and put a video up? If I understand correctly, let’s say we start the box on the low E, I play 5-8 and when I do, use the A string as my rest stroke/point? Then 5-7 on A string, use the D string as a rest stroke? Etc etc.? When I watch MAB for instance who has machine gun accuracy, he barely moves the pick across the string to play the note. Is the ultimate goal to play that tight? Meaning not even to need the rest stroke as a guide? Just curious… Have a nice weekend- Alex.


The rest stroke is useful for not allowing your hand to bounce away from the strings, preventing stringhopping. It works exactly like you think, always rest on the next string after a downstroke. When you start doing the right motion and speed it up, the rest strokes will probably go away on their own.


Short answer to the MAB question is that the rest stroke isn’t necessary to play fast, but some folks on the forum have found it to be a useful pedagogical device for getting comfortable with downward pickslanting. One you develop movements that work for you, I think whether or not to employ a rest stroke, and the amount of pick movement and depth of pickstroke become largely aesthetic choices rather than technique-enabling necessities (except perhaps when you get to the far extremes of speed as in the “hyper picking” that @Troy first observed from Rusty Cooley and is being discussed in some other threads here, where “big movements” may start to become limiting.)

To the rest stroke: If I understand you correctly, your rest stroke description sounds right: While playing on the low E string, downstrokes wouldn’t reverse into upstrokes until they touch the A string. While playing on the A string, downstrokes wouldn’t reverse into upstrokes until they touch the D string. You could think of it a little like bouncing a ball against a wall. The point is to encourage you to keep the picking moving in more-or-less a straight line throughout the downstroke, and then reciprocating the upstroke back along the same more-or-less straight line. In reality the strokes may be slightly curved, but the key is that you have an overall path “into” the plane of the strings on downstrokes, and “out of” the plane of the strings on upstrokes.

But as your comment about MAB touches on, DWPS isn’t the only way to pick. The rest-stroke advice is for helping you get a handle on DWPS, which you mentioned in your subject line, and which seems to be a sensible starting point for someone who hasn’t yet enjoyed a lot of success with some other approach.

MAB uses UWPS and 2WPS. There is also what CTC calls “crosspicking” which helps with phrases that include single-note-per-string components. You may want to learn any or all of these, but DWPS and UWPS are arguably the simplest and probably provide the best opportunity to make a lot of progress in a short period of time. 2WPS is sort of a natural progression from DWPS or UWPS, so it might make sense to tackle one or both of them before attacking 2WPS. “Crosspicking” is a bit of a different animal, and doesn’t really follow as directly from one-way pickslanting techniques, but anecotally it seems like crosspicking is more difficult to learn to do well, and the self-awareness and confidence you gain from experimenting with motions to enable one-way pickslanting might help prepare you mentally for the experimentation you’ll need to engage in to find a “crosspicking” solution that works for you.


Thank you Sorc! Have you found any practice routines useful for getting the rest stroke concept down?


Awesome reply! I will post another video for you guys as soon as I get a chance to focusing on the rest stroke concept. Also, re: the one string pattern, should I post playing Troy’s Pickslanting Primer lick for reference? For right now b/c I am a big ZW and alternate picking fan, I want to zero in on my DWPS technique and build speed there. Of course the UWPS and 2WPS would be next on the list. Are you a fan of the metronome in your practice? Best


That should be fine. Anything where you’re alternate picking on a single string will do. Six note patterns get a lot of attention because they’re a convenient module for assembling into longer licks.

Re: Metronome: I think there’s a place for it, especially for building coordination between the two hands, for developing consistency, and for measuring your limits and trying to push past them. But in the early stages, I think it’s useful to experiment with different motions without the pressure of the metronome. Once you find something that seems to work, you can take the next step of disciplining it with a metronome.


@Frylock and @Troy

Please see my updated video for critique using 6’s in A minor box position #1. I hope my DWPS angle is better along with using the rest strokes as a helper, at least for now.

And here is me playing (not well lol) the 6’s Volcano pattern on one string. Again as mentioned in the video I feel more control using an UWPS even though Troy is using a downward slant. Side question- the total notes of that lick is 24 which is an even number. Is this why we use the DWPS here? Because the groupings are in 3 which would lend to an odd number of notes/UWPS. Just curious… Thanks all! Alex


Thanks for posting these.

One thing off the top, is that if upward pickslanting feels more natural for you, there’s nothing wrong with focusing on developing what you already have there rather than going back to square one with downward pickslanting. While the favored direction for “economy picked” string changes or “2 string sweeps” will be opposite with UWPS versus DWPS, you can just think of UWPS as “upside down” DWPS and work licks out accordingly.

One thing if you want to use the “rest stroke” as a guide to help you keep a reciprocating “into the plane, out of the plane” motion, it might be useful to work your single string pattern and string 2 or above, so that you actually have an adjacent string for your downstroke to rest against. :smiley: I lost sight of the fact that Troy’s example you mentioned was played on the high E string.

Since you seem interested in conquering Zakk’s speedy pentatonic stuff, the Eric Johnson “Cascade” seminar will be of particular interest. The 6NPS single string stuff from the Yngwie seminar that we tend to talk about a lot doesn’t map so directly to trademark Zakk licks, but it’s still useful for refining your basic motions and building speed and coordination.

When you eliminate the left hand entirely and just pick one note on one string as fast as you can, is it significantly faster that your 6NPS example, or is that example about as fast as you can pick? If the latter, you’ll probably want to put in some time on what I think Troy has been referring to as the “athletic” side of picking technique: just developing the ability to get the pick to move faster back and forth across a single string, before even addressing the added complexity of coordinating with the fretting hand. That’s an area that I believe is on Troy’s “to-do” list to provide additional “how” instruction in the Pickslanting Primer. Experimenting with small variations of your picking movement and attempting to “pick as fast as you can” with each one to find a movement that seems to have the best potential for you is one suggestion as a first step in the “developing athletic speed” challenge. The “Guitar Anatomy” video is useful as a guide for understanding what the different common types of motions are, and helping you be aware of what you are doing now, and what other options you could consider trying.

I think your question about difference in distance between downstrokes and upstrokes is something that might sort itself out as part of that “experimenting” process I just described, especially if you put in some time working the “rest stroke” with single string practice on a string other than the high E.

Even while you’re working this stuff, it doesn’t hurt to start watching the Eric Johnson “Cascade” material and start digesting it, because there’s a lot of information there that will apply when you work on Zakk licks.


Thanks Frylock! I actually have the EJ section of the Primer pulled up before reading this :slight_smile: I love YM stuff but again his style of playing is not for me. I appreciate his work but I don’t want to play “in the style of” YM. Same with Vai although his acoustic stuff grabs my attention big time…

To answer your questions- UWPS feels natural to me for tremolo style picking. Even if I am using tremolo picking on the B string and have the high E for a rest stroke, I still feel like I am fighting the string for speed. But with UWPS or even a more natural parallel movement I can pick faster…

My picking speed is faster when I eliminate the left hand yes. It’s not lightning faster but faster. This was the first time I ever tried Troy’s lick and the little skip in notes was a twister. Do you know where I can find more of the athletic training or as you said it’s being worked on?

I’ll try and post a video later today of the Sold my Soul section I’m losing my mind on. Strange problem with the DWPS.

Thanks again and peace to all- Alex


Thanks for putting these up, and thanks to @Frylock’s detailed commentary here - everything he mentions is on point. Short answer: you need more work burning in the linear single-string speed movement in order for things to feel more fluid and natural. I would avoid the multiple-string pentatonic type stuff for now, or at least prioritize the picking motion practice.

Longer answer:

The good news is that the boat you are in is the boat a lot of players are in - ditching your stringhopping movement for a more linear pickslanting movement. The reason we don’t have more material about this in the Primer is because years ago when we started doing this stuff, I assumed that everyone was like me, and already had that part down. Turns out, no, simply moving the pick on a single string is a big challenge and worth addressing. So we’re really going backwards here, adding in all the fundamentals after solving some of the intermediate / advanced challenges.

I started with the Yngwie-style patterns on a single string, single position. Then went to single-string, multiple positions. Then discovered pickslanting and realized I was already doing it. So I was able to move them across the strings pretty much instantly. Then discovered that all the EJ / Zakk licks worked the same way and started working on pentatonics, which came together very quickly.

So that’s the sequence. It’s a little robotic. But if you like metal, playing these fast six-note patterns, even on a single string, can still sound pretty cool. This is the positions version:


And if you get bored, you can always make up cool patterns. The old Yngwie favorite is this one:


For the time being if you’re using the rest stroke technique, I would do these on the B string so you have something to rest against. Once that becomes second nature, you can do them on other strings.

I would also recommend using some edge picking:


Your edge looks pretty flat and that can make sliding over the strings a little less smooth. Even a small amount will make a difference, and the tonal effects once you crank up the gain are generally desirable - most high gain players use some amount of edge picking to take some of the ice pick off the treble.


@Troy and @Frylock thank you both again! @Troy do you have a strategy regarding the PRACTICING portion of the single string stuff over the next several weeks until I have it down? I say several weeks but it could be sooner or later of course. Any metronome recommendations, time needed, etc. I know your way is not the only way but I am confident in your teachings and will give it a solid go. Not holding anyone’s hand to the fire or taking it as gospel but practicality is crucial here.

It’s funny I’ve been playing on and off since I was a kid and when I’ve wanted to learn a Metallica song I’d drill down for a few days on the hard parts and just kind of get it. It’s now where I realize my fundamentals are off. Like most, we kind of tweak or adjust to make stuff work without putting thought into the physics, the mechanics, etc. Similar to asking a pro golfer HOW we swings, or holds the club, and I’ve actually asked pros before–their answer versus the breakdown from their coach is night and day. Just because you are good at your craft doesn’t make you a good teacher. So hence I am taking the time to put ego and BS aside and get my scales down/theory, get my picking solid, and be cognizant of how I am playing not just what I am playing. It ain’t easy folks but it is worth it!


I think we’ve already given you most of the “how”. How to move the pick, what phrases to play, what string to play them on, what to look for to determine you’re doing it correctly, what it should feel and sound like, etc. Just do those things and gauge the results. I’m a lot less concerned about whether you use a metronome, or how long you do this for. Just don’t do things for hours and hours on end, or into any kind of pain, at all.


Understood! I will work on the outline you gave above in conjunction with the Primer lessons… Is the goal to eventually play up to tempo like you do in the videos I presume? Aside from proper picking technique of course. Thx


@BullseyeBrewtality Good evening!

I have been following the thread and I think I can offer a couple of things that truly helped me over the past couple of years.
I have been a student of the Troy Grady school since 2015, I have learned more and improved more in the past two years than in the previous 10 in terms of technique and approach. Every lick, pattern, phrase, and line is a puzzle. I love sitting down with the trusty Charvel and figuring out how to solve the puzzle using the different tech that Troy has shared.
Zakk’s is a chicken picker, but when it comes to slant, it most certainly downward. He holds his pick in kind of a ‘fist’ like grip. I have attempted to copy the grip, but it feels really reckless and uncontrollable for me.
In playing the Am 6’s that you shared in your first video, I noted that my usual struggle with downward pick slanting in descending two note per string runs was easily solved by rotating top upward pick slanting. Then for the ascending run back up, rotating to downward pick slanting is the only way I can accomplish it to speed.
When I was studying the ‘cascade’ videos, I worked at the descending Eric Johnson runs using DWPS and I could never quite get control of the string changes. Switching made all of the difference and I am able to play them quite easily using that geometry. It took me years to recognize that sticking to the mythical ‘rules’ stagnates your approach and keeps you practicing in ways that do not help you. I got very very good at practicing mistakes until I was the leader in cutting edge sloppy guitar playing.

As sit here messing with the 6’s, I note something else. When I complete the first group of six notes, rather than using the D-U-D-U-D-U - then repeating the pattern starting on the G (B string 8th fret) I naturally change the last note to another UP stroke, Volcano style. This requires a TWO Way pick slant, and makes the entire run just BLAZE by! But the rotation is very slight at speed. It is rotate, then rotate back between two notes. I am thinking of the Marshall Harrison video from last year, but I think he kind of naturally ended up in these kinds of patterns as well. So the pattern is this:

I will make a video of it this weekend. I have a few ideas for helping with the Zakk lick as well.

Merry Christmas!


Hi Sava! Thanks for the great input :slight_smile:

I am glad you are getting a lot out from Troy’s teaching. While I recently started I feel the same way. You don’t even realize the mechanics until someone points it out sometimes…

Zakk’s grip and hand position is truly unique which means for me, like you, it is NOT something to copy lol. Interesting you are able to switch slants for ascending & descending. My descending thus far (high to low strings), has improved some with DWPS. My ascending just stinks in general trying it with the DWPS.

So with that being said I need to go back to the drawing board and start with Troy’s above recommendation for me. In the meantime, I look forward very much to you posting any DWPS and UWPS you feel is useful and any help on the Sold my Soul section would be great too.

Conceptually, mechanically, I totally get the genius in DWPS, but my execution of it isn’t there just yet… Ugh.

Merry Christmas to you too- Alex


Hi @Troy and @Frylock here is the video of me finally playing the single string lick to gauge my DWPS. Apologies for not doing this much sooner! Ugh, I hate that time passes so fast (as I commented in the 2nd video of me talking about the Sold My Soul lick, I find that I’m fighting me keeping my hand in a DWPS position when incorporating edge picking but using some edge with DWPS definitely makes a big difference):

Sold My Soul update- Found that I have been anticipating crossing from the low E to the A string using an upstroke at higher speeds which screws up the string transition being such an outside pick guy and that it helps when I in a way push the downstrokes with my thumb and upstrokes with my index finger. It’s super slight but the accents help me play AP stuff much tighter. Looking forward to comments and especially criticisms. Every failure is a step closer to success!


A few thoughts:

Re; Volcano pattern. The overall setup looks good, though you don’t seem very comfortable with it. I would back off from the left hand complexity even further while you get the feel for the picking hand. Step one is just getting comfortable picking one note as fast as you can, and getting to a place where you have a level of comfort there with fluidity/speed/consistency of the picking motion. From there, you can step up to a simple six note pattern in one position, and build up your comfort level there. Until you can lock into fast sixes in one position, the position shifts are just going to distract you from getting into a “zone” with the fundamental picking movement and coordination with the left hand.

Re: Edge picking: With the arm setup you’re using, I definitely find that adding that bend to the thumb helps for getting a nice amount of edge picking. If you find that doing that is causing you to shift into a more pronated position, one way to maintain a more supinated DWPS setup is to adopt a posture that has a more exaggerated flex in the wrist. You don’t necessary need to keep that in the long run, but it might help you train your arm to maintain a more supinated position even when you use that thumb bend to increase your edge picking.

Regarding mental tracking of downstrokes and upstrokes, I think the “chunking” advice Troy talks about makes lots of sense. I think of 6 notes chunks as discrete blocks that have the pick “escaped” at both the beginning and the end. To me, six notes are “whiddily whiddily” that starts on a downstroke and ends in the “escape zone”. For two-note-per string, I similarly just think of each upstroke as an automated followup to the preceding downstroke, rather than existing as a discrete picking movement in my head. I’m not sure if this is related to the “bounce” idea Eric Johnson talked about or not, may someone who’s a bigger EJ expert has thoughts. But especially at high tempos with sixes, I don’t think it’s realistic to think in terms of discrete upstrokes and downstroke, you need to think in larger chunks and work on connecting/switching between various “chunks”.


Thanks @Frylock as always! As we’ve discussed before, the physics behind the motion and the concepts of DWPS I have down. What I’m trying to discover is HOW MUCH DWPS to use, how far do I go into and out of the plane for instance? TBH I’m not sure at this time. I’m guessing this is part of the learning process? What I initially started to do was to watch @Troy DWPS movement and others on here including Ben Eller who has done some nice YT vids on DWPS and embraces CTC very much. I took their slower/exaggerated movements which highlight the mechanics of DWPS and then try to tighten it up and make it more fluid. Will work on as you said just playing it on one string, open. Recommendations on performing in triplets? 16th notes? Chunks?

Best and love the 2 note per string analogy, the upstroke is “automatic” to that preceding downstroke. Little things in guitar go a very very long way.