DWPS/USX Poptarts lick, am I on the right track?


First time posting to the forum, really grateful that an outlet like this exists.

Hoping to get some feedback on my DWPS/USX practice progress. I chose to play the Poptarts lick just a bit above the speed that is comfortable for me to see if it would highlight any problem areas in my technique. The end of the Poptarts lick runs away from me at higher tempos. What are some ways to feel more comfortable with USX when playing on lower strings? Also, I noticed that I sometimes rotate to UWPS when getting to the bottom of a run if I am not paying attention. Hope that I am on the right track!

Thanks guys!

Close up

Slo-mo close up

The first clip is mostly a DSX motion with some double escapes. You can see the little jump that you need to do to get over the string when switching.

The second clip is interesting! It looks like a textbook DBX motion, ie, you’re escaping on both the up- and downstrokes, and smoothly. This is a very useful motion. However, if your goal is to play the poptarts lick at speed, I would try to find a pure single escape UPX motion.

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These clips are great. As @Johannes is pointing out, you can’t look at the “slant” of the pick to know what kind of motion you’re making. Instead, you have to look at the path the pick is travelling.

In the first clip, the key insight here, again via Johannes, is the the direction the pick is moving is different when you are picking on the string than it is during the string change. On the string it looks like a DSX motion. During the string change you switch to USX. Then you go back to DSX again. There is nothing wrong with this approach. It’s what players like Andy Wood do during “outside picking” type phrases. Like you, Andy uses the “lightly supinated” arm setup, and he has a default preference for DSX wrist motion. He will switch to USX motion briefly when he needs to, and then he will switch back to DSX.

So the arm position you’re using here is not a “DWPS” arm setup. It’s just an arm position. From that arm position, you can get either kind of escape, downstroke or upstroke, just by changing the direction your wrist is moving. You can also get double escape, where the picking motion is semicircular. That’s the motion we’re seeing in your second clip. Was the second clip played more slowly? What does the normal speed of that clip look like? If you can post that, that would be great. But generally, this motion looks perfect. Can you tell by feel when you’re using the motion in this clip versus the mixed approach in the first clip?

The key about both of these clips is that there is a way to do it wrong, aka stringhopping, and a way to do it right. You’re doing it the right way. Specifically, the motion you make when you go over the string on the upstroke isn’t really a “jump”. You are simply moving your wrist sideways. But because your arm is tilted a small amount, the pick goes up in the air. When you play a downstroke string change, you’re actually moving your wrist along a different path of motion. This is the real secret to “alternate” picking - the muscles used for each type of string change can’t overlap, they have to alternate.

Since your DSX motion appears to be a default, what I would do is try phrases where the entire phrase only switches strings using downstrokes. You can play the Pop Tarts lick starting on an upstroke, or you could create some other phrase. Whatever you like. Longer musical phrases like this are great because you can really feel the smoothness and hand synchronization.

For the double escape motion, I would try some phrases that do not conform to any particular number of notes per string. Something like this for example:

In this example, there are no consistent picking patterns you can work out for even numbers of notes per string. If you can tell by feel how to activate the motion you’re using in clip 2, then that’s the motion you want to activate for this. If you can’t tell yet, then just try to play this without thinking too much about it, and try to make it feel smooth at a medium speed or better. Don’t worry too much about wrong notes at first. If you give this a shot, put up a clip and we’ll take a look.

Nice work!

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Ah, super interesting! Yes, the second clip was played more slowly but it was with the intention of having USX…maybe I will go back and spend some time again with the wrist/forearm motion tutorials in the Primer. Are there any specific clips I should be looking at to get the proper arm position for USX? When I work on EJ style licks I feel like I am able to achieve the trapped downstroke and escaped upstroke bounce feeling but find it difficult with licks like this.

I’m not sure that I can tell by feel yet between the two clips, I will post the second at the original speed. I’ll give the Pop Tarts lick starting on an upstroke a go and see how that feels vs. the double escape motion that I am using. Thanks for posting the arpeggio lick, I’ll get on that as well!

I love how we give you feedback on two things that are working really well, that lots of people struggle with, and the first thing you ask is “but what about the other thing?” :wink:

Kidding aside, I don’t think you should be watching any more motion tutorials right now. You’re able to get over the string when you need to by switching to USX motion. And you can also do double escape. Those two motions are all Andy Wood uses, for example. Lots of possibilities there.

I would just try to become more aware of the tools you have and how to make them sound good, and how to switch between them. Your straight DSX motion wants downstroke-switching phrases. So find or write a bunch of those and get them sounding good. Then you can also try phrases that mix downstrokes and upstroke string changes, especially during outside picking. That’s what you’re already basically doing this in the Pop Tarts lick. And then finally you have your double escape motion which can work with all sorts of things but especially mixed combinations like the country/jazz thing where you have random mixtures of 1, 2, and 3 notes per string. Any musical style, doesn’t matter.

I would work on these things before trying to get some new thing that’s not even on the table yet.

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Sorry! I really appreciate the help and insight from both you and @Johannes, I have a better understanding of what I should work towards now and thank your for your guidance.
I was focused on the other note, only because of wanting to get it all right…thanks again and will keep working on your notes!

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