EJ pentatonic chunks insanely difficult for me

Hello everyone here…I’m excited to improve my guitar playing. I’ve been playing electric guitar somewhat seriously for the last 6 months or so; prior I played acoustic guitar a bit, and before that was focused on playing bass. I am unable to play in the style of Eric Johnson…yet those pentatonic patterns sound incredible to me…so I decided to join here (thanks Troy and team). I’ve been watching the seminar on Eric Johnson and within the first instructional portion I’m like…yup, so I just cannot play this pattern haha! Seems simple enough and Troy teaches it well, but there is just a certain speed point I cannot climb. This isn’t because I tried for 10 mins and failed…I’ve been attempting to play those pentatonic licks that fast for the last 3+ months…some days legitimately 5 hours per day until my fingers become so sore I can’t continue and no matter what I cannot get passed a certain speed hump. I’m starting to think I’m legitimately genetically unable.

When I play 3 notes per string runs…it’s lightyears easier for me. It’s smoother, it’s faster…it feels relatively effortless. When I try to play those two note per string pentatonic licks…they are awful, slow, sloppy. Even when I think I’m up to speed, I go and listen to someone elses cover or even Troy here and I realize I’m wayyyyy below speed. Please check out the video below…the first 20 seconds are me struggling…the remainder of the video is me playing the 3 notes per string much easier. I think the quality could be better, but I’m hoping you may gleam something from my video and give me some advice.


Short answer: your fast motion appears to be DSX. This is not compatible with two note per string patterns of you start on a downstroke!

Look at the video – the slow (2nps) motion is much more “wiggly” and “curved”, possibly to get around the string on the changes. Your fast motion goes back and forth, single escape. The only problem is – it’s downstroke escape!

If you want to use Eric Johnson vocabulary your best bet is to use a USX motion. Or, you could try starting your phrases on an upstroke and use your already fast DSX motion.


Johannes, Thanks for helping me out here!

It seems there is more to USX than just slanting the pick. Do you mean for Troy’s vids on the 2nps it is more wiggly? I think I get what you’re saying and maybe this is what some are referring to when they say it is more of a “bouncy” technique?

I need to keep practicing!!!

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No, I mean in your video!

The reason you can’t play the 2nps lines fast is that your fast motion is downstroke escape. It seems your hand understands this and tries to play them anyway, the result is the wiggle. To be able to play it fast, the way Eric does it, you will need a different motion. As it is now, you’re working against the “rules” for the motion you’re using.

We have a winner! Slanting the pick is not what you’re trying to do. Performing a picking motion is what you’re trying to do. Whatever the pick looks like is only relevant for pick attack, not motion. As usual, @Johannes is completely on point here.

Sorry for the confusion on this. We’ve taken great pains in the Pickslanting Primer to place the emphasis on doing the motions correctly, not what the pick looks like. Again, that is relevant, but only for pick attack, not for the speed and smoothness of the motions.

The Cascade seminar doesn’t teach the motions really at all. You should think of that as the 200-level course for once you have the motions established. I recommend starting with the Primer, especially the recent “Testing Your Motions” section for more clarity on this.


Thanks very much, Troy. I think you’re right and I have gotten a little ahead of myself in going to the Cascade seminar. I’m working through the pickslanting primer more thoroughly now.

Have you come across anyone that is simply incapable of doing those runs with the same speed and crispness or cleanness as you demonstrate and how Eric does? Or would you say, 99% of the time it’s a matter of small changes to how a motion is performed with practice/effort…most everyone can do it?

Anyway, thanks again for your help and for the resources here.

Johannes, thanks again for your clarification and help. With your advice and Troy’s, I’ve decided to more deeply focus on the pickslanting primer before moving on and before I claim I’m physically incapable lol.

Hopefully I can post some updates and progress along the way to show that the advice here and my practice can pay off.


Given the faster runs in the video clip, I don’t think you’ll have any problem with the EJ stuff once you revisit the mechanics. That isn’t always the case, and thus seems like great news. Good luck! Cheers, D

Hi there,it looks like you’re having similar issues to me,I think I favour a natural dsx and upwards slant,which is not great if you want to do ej two note per string stuff,finding those super hard to get anything near fast and fluent.