DWPS USX vs whatever the heck

So I think I may have finally stumbled on to this DWPS/USX thing although it is a possibility that I may just not be capable of doing it. So much “Aha I’ve got it” and then “Nope” lol Tons of second guessing, and a lot of failure. I am confused as to why it is some folks seem to just pick this up easily, but me - it’s decades of playing and practicing with not a lot of evolution. Maddening. And yes, I’ve paid the bill, bought subscriptions, watched closely and as far as I thought, I followed the instructions. I think… It shouldn’t be so difficult to learn this though… (That’s on me I guess)

Anyways, I decided to change the pick’s “direction” if that makes sense. From my perspective as a player, it feels like I normally pick from string to string, and for the most part it’s pretty successful but it can be a bit messy from time to time. I recently started experimenting with flattening the pick, and picking ummm “up” and “down” parallel to the pick guard/body. It’s the only thing left to change before I say screw it, admit defeat and just “do what I do” and hammer/pulloff more.

No virtuosity here, just a comparison of one method of picking that works for me, vs what I “think” might be DWPS/USX.
It’s new to me, and it’s a bit spazzy and uncontrolled. I can do repeating 16ths at MAYBE 100bpm at this point. Everything feels inefficient and everything about it is alien. I don’t post here very often, but I always read what’s going on. I thought I’d do my best to share a video and post a discussion about it while it’s in the early stages.

So my question is this; Is it close? Should I burn my guitars? Is there a robot I should build to pick for me?

lol Lemme know guys. Thanks in advance for any feedback.

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Increase your practice pace to at least 140-150 bpm. If you’re doing it right that tempo will be effortless, but it’s also impossible with an inefficient motion. Even the pros ‘stringhop’ at lower tempos because it just doesn’t matter / there’s no feedback mechanism pushing them toward something efficient.

I’ll make two educated guesses about your pick grip that I think might be holding you back as you experiment with different motions:

  1. You’re using a deathgrip on the pick. If you have a good match between your pickslant and the motion you’re doing the pick will stay in place with close to zero force.
  2. It looks like you’re giving the pick some extra downward pickslant by pushing the pick down with your thumb.

You can use 1) as an indication that you need to tweak stuff a little instead of powering through with more force. It should be smooth and easy.

Doing 2) will limit the motions that are available to you. Some motions will catch on the string if you have an extreme downward (or upward) pickslant.

None of these systems are necessarily better than each other, but they all come with a particular setup, degree of pick slant etc so it’s helpful to try to imitate one of these motions at a time. E.g the USX wrist movement has very little downward pickslant.


If it feels inefficient, it probably is! Judging by your video, it looks pretty inefficient too… It seems the basis for your motion is a lifting of the entire arm/hand away from the guitar and then back, with a little forarm rotation thrown in. The good news is you’ve got some solid rest strokes going!

A few suggestions: Try exaggerating the turning motion, like using a screwdriver, while keeping your elbow and shoulder still. Try more of an angle or “break” at the wrist. Have you checked out the Joscho Stephans interview?

As an aside, I think your current motion (the one at the beginning of the video) looks pretty good. It appears to be a DSX motion, primarily elbow. I think where you run inte trouble is when you lift your hand to get the upstrokes to escape. If you were to try some single escape phrases tailored to DSX I think you could make it fly!


Those upstrokes and the angle of the picking plane look pretty extreme in the USX example.
The picking plane only has to tilt enough so that the upstroke escapes the plane of the strings.
10° is enough.

All really good points, thanks for the feedback. I’m trying hard to get this thing down - it’s tough. I think that my picking finds a way to kind of do what I always do motion-wise so I attempted to do something RADICALLY different, just to see and feel what it was like. I’ll keep plugging away at it, thanks for the help!

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I would like to second this suggestion from Johannes. It may be that you can already do great things with your current DSX motion. Before going off on a USX quest, give this a shot by trying some licks that only change strings after downstrokes.

Okay, so (for anyone that cares lol) here’s where I’m at so far. Thanks to anyone and everyone who has any feedback to offer, I’ll take it all. I decided, based on the advice given to run with the first motion, and grip from the previous video. Now when I’m normally playing, I am kind of all over the place using whatever the heck I can get to work as far as alternate or sweep or whatever picking goes.

What I have been feeling for quite some time is that some stuff is just literally unplayable beyond a certain tempo, and I want to figure out why. Initially, it was all about the pick slant, eh? But now not so much? Now it’s the motion?

So I can play, but there’s some specific stuff I suck at that I’d like to clean up. Well, I probably suck at everything but meh I will take my victories where I can get them. I think my biggest problem is constant second-guessing… I am kind of a results driven person, so if I don’t see, feel and hear results after a few months of working on something, I know that there’s a flaw in my execution, maybe my “perception of the execution” and what I think it should be. Clear as day to someone who knows what’s up I guess… I will work on a more relaxed grip I think, and try to find a way to get something resembling tone when I hit the notes… lol

In this video, it’s an A Harmonic Minor scale economy picked ascending and descending - I apologize for my grip obscuring the pick - and I Think that I have a USX with a DWPS ascending, and a DSX with a UWPS descending. I Think that I am using my arm as my pick motion. There are 2 things I really want to get nailed;

  1. An ascending or descending 3nps scale. Economy or alternate picking, I don’t care. I am at about the same max tempo for both 16ths crashing and burning around 160 bpm. Economy looks to be the simplest path to that so my focus is on that. A curious thing happens when I economy pick a 3nps scale; triplets/gallop comes as the default sound, it’s a lot of work to get straight 16ths.

  2. Pentatonic 5’s a la Eric Johnson/Troy Grady/ Shawn Lane. I can play them, but it peters out pretty quick, and I am nowhere near the clean and punchy tempos Troy is playing in CTC vids…

Now I know you guys don’t like people posting multiple videos and stuff in a thread, but I will add one more - just so you can see where I am coming from. This is a good representation of what I sound like and what my playing looks like in an “All picking” sort of setting. Just trying my best, and trying to get better.

Thanks, in advance for your help, guys.

Wait… I just read a post by Troy that said “Elbow can’t do USX”…(In regards to picking motions.)

Is that true? And what effect does that have on DSX? Hmmm. Might explain what’s going on a bit…

I might try and work some “wrist” into this for the next couple of weeks and see what happens. I’ll save the Elbow/arm stuff for “other” things (that work).

Looking at the “pickslant nightmare part 2” video, I see stringhopping on the ascending part and solid DSX/UWPS on the way down. In other words, it looks like you’re using the same elbow driven motion (with a bit of wrist?) regardless of what “slant” your pick has, which is why you have to lift your hand to get to the next string on string changes after an upstroke.

I’ll repeat what I said before, try playing something that only requires a single escape motion, using your standard DSX motion, only changing string after a downstroke. I think you’ll find it works quite well!

Of course, if you really want to learn USX, that probably doesn’t help – apart from teaching you what fast, smooth, and synchronized should feel like! And no, elbow does not do USX, you’ll have to try wrist or forearm for that.

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@Johannes is spot on! I would also add that the Mr Big solo you posted sounds pretty great, so once again it seems you have the tools to go a long way with DSX!

Thanks for the feedback, that’s pretty helpful. So I AM string hopping in that example? Interesting. I took great pains to avoid it but it would seem that’s what I do! I wonder how many others suffer from not being able to tell?. Let’s fix it.

And as I asked, is it true that “Elbow can’t do USX” ?

So for phrases that I seem to be string hopping on, would the simplest solution be to change what pick stroke I begin with? Or perhaps a better solution maybe to use a wrist movement instead?

Thanks again, any feedback and input is welcome as I learn this.

This is true as far as we understand! When elbow players like Vinnie Moore do an USX pickstroke, they typically introduce some forearm rotation, wrist motion or a blend thereof.

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This is very good to know, thanks!

Everyone seems to agree that you have a fully functional and good-sounding elbow technique. So the downstroke needs to be the final note on the string most of the time. That’s just the way that technique works. Think of it like a style or language. There’s a certain basic grammar but as long as you stick to that you can play a pretty wide variety of things.

Within the language there are little tweaks you can do to get some more flexibility, like using swiping for certain string changes. The best way to to this is to not think about it. Just make your motion and make it smooth and fast as usual. If your hand sync is perfect the odds are good nobody will notice a tiny noise here and there. That works very well for Michael Angelo Batio and he’s been thought of as one of the cleanest players around for a very long time.

And of course you can use legato notes here and there, strategically, when you have more notes on the string but you need to end on a downstroke.

In short, if I were you, I’d stop working on and worrying about motions and technique and just focus on working on vocabulary. Whatever type of lines you want to be playing, the more of them you can learn, the better. A simple single-escape technique with tons of vocabulary can stand toe to toe with anyone. It’s a matter of how much homework you put in to come up with cool sounding ideas that makes the difference between average players who can do a motion, and the ones you keep coming back to listening to.

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Hmmm, lots to take in here… Thanks so much for the feedback guys… And pardon me as I wrap my head around this… It’s a lot to take in, I’ve invested a lot of time in playing and it takes a lot to not be sort of attached to that kind of slave labour, even though I am thinking that I may have reinforced certain habits WITHOUT really making any gains. Lots of information to digest.

So knowing this is great, but if I want to play, say quick Eric Johnson 5’s will that be possible? I mean I can kind of play them but it kind of hits a wall tempo-wise. Or are they just simply off the table for a player with my current picking toolkit? I mean if I hear something I like I will try it but it seems like a lot of stuff is impossible with the way that I currently play… I’m sorry, I am just trying to understand.

It kind of reads “Due to how you play you will NOT be able to do _______ by your favourite guitarists because they are a _________ player and you are a ____________ player so it’s a lot better if you just go your own way and make your own stuff up to try to sound interesting. Or, find a new favourite…”

I am hoping it’s more of a “Do what you do, and play whatever you want but be aware you will need to make serious modifications and rearrangements to note-ordering and picking including, but not limited to swiping, hammer/pullofof, sweeps, etc” Even so, it seems like maybe my picking motion is a very limited one? I mean… I am doomed to string hopping on ascending things?

I suppose the first step is to pay attention to what stroke I am starting/ending on (before a string change) and then the next is to arrange the notes of whatever I am playing so that I can actually play it. Kind of disheartening, actually. Ah well.

Anyways, where ARE the rules pertaining to what it is I do? Is there a PDF with a comprehensive that says you CAN do this with this motion or you CAN’T do that with this somewhere? Perhaps the picking primer? I will check. Again, I apologize. Just when I think I kind of understand this stuff in a way that pertains to myself I realize I don’t.

Thanks again so much for the info. lol Drums may yet be my true calling hahaha

Yep! You can go a really long way by being aware of your escape motion and doing some strategic pulloffs and sweeps (descending sweeps in your case).

Here is a solution for the descending EJ fives with downstroke-only escapes (hence, compatible with elbow motion), courtesy of our excellent @7th11th. Each line represents a different string:

Up- Down (escape and move to string below)
Up - pulloff (while positioning the pick on the string below)
Down (escape and move to string above)


I honestly don’t recall coming up with that, but thx for the praise!:sunglasses:

The cool thing is, that this would also work for the ascending 5s, (like EJ plays them), right?
Up-DSX, (higher string) Up-hammer, (higher string) DSX, etc.

Also for the descending 5s you could arrange it as 1nps-2nps-2nps, and start with a sweep, so everything would be picked.

Weird sidenote: As an original DSX-player, I find descending economy picking harder than ascending. Anyone else have that experience?


Messing with this now. Things are becoming much clearer, thanks so much for your guys’ patient analysis. I REALLY appreciate this. Starting to make some sense…


Okay, definitely a lot to be changing around. After playing with this for a few hours it’s almost painful how obvious it is in some spots. Thanks again, guys. Lots of food for thought, pretty practical.

Last of the dumb questions before I retreat to the woodshed for a few weeks;

What, if any, special consideration do I have to give to the examples in Frank Gambale’s “Speed Picking” book? I mean, is economy picking still economy picking? I am technically having to land on a “downstroke” for my last note to “sweep” to my next note when ascending, yes?

You can just play every descending string change without thinking. Ascending string changes after upstrokes might give you trouble.