Escape Picking and Pick Planting

I personally feel that pick escape is essential to prevent getting stuck in between strings and allowing for greater fluidity and speed. I was watching a video by Rick Graham and he promotes pick planting instead of escape. The video is below:

I do feel that pick planting is good for sweeping but not alternate picking. What are your thoughts?

It isn’t planting instead of escaping, there’s nothing to plant if you haven’t first escaped (where appropriate).

It’s a practise tool to help get rid of unwanted/unnecessary motion

1 Like

But I thought once you pick a string and it goes above the string and escapes how are you to rest it on the string below? For example if you are playing a downstroke on the A string and it goes above the strings how is it suppose to rest in between the A and on the D String?

And if the pick is “planted” in between two strings isnt that the opposite of escaping?

It’s not planting as in burying it between two strings, it’s planting as in lightly touching the next string you need to play in order to initiate the next stroke. This may come after an escaped stroke or it may not.

It gets you to micro focus on aspects of technique you might not otherwise have thought about by breaking down what you could have been treating as “pick a note, pick another note” to “get pick ready to pick a note, pick note, leave string with pick, get pick ready to pick next next note, pick note” and so on.

It isn’t the same thing as a rest stroke, though when you do use a rest stroke you get your planting for free provided the string you’ve come to rest on is the one you need to play next.


As a long time ‘pick planting’ user I may say that ‘escape picking vs planting picking’ is like ‘red vs warm’. Not much sense.
You may use planting regardless of your escaping habits.

1 Like

Modified the title as “Escape Picking and Pick Planting” - hope this is ok!

Hi @mvwestbroek.

I think you’re confusing two ideas here. “Planted” in Rick’s terminology is not the same as “Trapped” in Troy’s terminology.

Rick is advocating practicing in a manner where after each pick stroke, whether it be an escaped stroke or a trapped stroke, we continue the action to ready the next stroke by touching the pick against the next string in the position it will need to be in. The goal is to train ourselves to make the smallest possible movement which allows us to execute whatever picking movements we’re practicing.

If we are picking on a single string, and our next note will be on that same string, we try to “catch” the ringing string on the other side as quickly as we can. The pick stays planted in this position until we need to execute the next pickstroke. The result is a very staccato sound.

If we are switching strings, we continue the picking movement and ready ourselves for the next stroke by planting the on the next string in the position it will need to be in.

If the pick stroke is a trapped stroke and we’re readying ourselves for a sweeping change, this is just a conventional rest stroke, which you’re already familiar with. If the pick stroke is an escaping stroke, we escape and move the pick to the position it will need to be in to execute the next stroke, trying to minimize the length of the path taken.

The result of this idea is that it changes the “start” and “end” positions of the pick on each pick stroke. When we practice slowly without planting, we tend to begin strokes some distance away from the string and end some distance away from the next string. Since the pick isn’t in contact with the string, there is no fixed distance from the strings at these endpoints. When playing slowly, we can make pick strokes in this manner with a lot of travel, without any real detriment. When playing sufficiently slowly, pick strokes of this type my even be played in a start-stop fashion with pauses, rather than a smooth cycle.

If instead we plant, each stroke starts on the string to be played and ends on the next string to be played. We’ve shifted the endpoints. We now have a fixed distance we have to travel for every single pick stroke, which is the minimal possible distance. Even when playing slowly in a start-stop fashion, we are always trying to ready the pick into it’s next position as quickly as possible.

Without planting, a pick stroke would begin and end away from the string, so each stroke is

move to string => pick string => move away from string

Without fixed endpoints, we have no tactile reference for how large the movements need to be on an individual stroke. On two consecutive strokes, we follow “move away” with a “move to.” Together, these make the transition between pick strokes. We need to minimize the time this transition takes us.

Planting then, changes the sequence. We have

pick string => move to next ready position

The movement required hasn’t changed, but on each individual pickstroke, we have fixed endpoints which give a tactile reference for how far we must travel. The move to the next ready position is the transition time and that transition is being targeted on every single stroke. Thus, even at a slow speed, we’re practicing minimizing the transition time between notes.

There is of course a problem with this method. Whether we practice with planting or not, we need efficient picking mechanics to transition between notes on different strings. Practicing slowly with planting will not help you to discover efficient movements. You can absolutely plant with string-hopping.

On the other hand, if we try to discover efficient mechanics with the “staring with speed” approach, we will find efficient movement patterns. Trying to make these movements too small too soon isn’t helpful. Instead, exaggerating efficient movements helps us to internalize how those efficient movements feel, so that when we begin trying to make movements smaller at a later point, we’re starting with robust, efficient picking mechanics.

With all due respect to Rick, and while I fully agree that planting is helpful for learning to make our movements smaller, I don’t believe it’s necessary.

Implicit in the logic of planting is the idea that smaller movements are more economical. This is, in my opinion, a very naive idea of economy. We don’t have an economy of movement, where smaller means less expensive. We have an economy of movements, where some movement patterns are inherently less expensive than others, and costs change dynamically and situationally.

Imagine I design a product and I were choosing my materials. Suppose I design one component made of gold. Gold is expensive. Maybe I could optimize my design of that component to minimize the amount of gold I use, to minimize my expense. That might be possible, and it might be necessary.

Maybe instead of gold, the component can be made of copper. Copper is much less expensive than gold. If I can use copper, I can use much more of it before the cost becomes comparable to the cost of using gold. If I can use copper instead of gold, I should use copper.

Focusing on making small movements is like trying to use less of a material. It doesn’t teach you to use different materials. Practicing with larger movements is what teaches us to recognize more efficient movements. It’s what lets us learn what movements are expensive and which are not. It’s what helps us to learn the difference between copper and gold.

Obviously, the most economical solution is to use the least amount of the cheapest material. That would be, the smallest amount of the most efficient movement pattern. However, you have to have the efficient movement pattern first. The problem for most guitarists is that they’re using gold instead of copper.


Hey guys!

At what tempo (or if at all) would you start to abandon rest strokes? I’m practicing USX wrist motion and am making some great progress around the 160-170 tempo range using rest strokes. Maybe I’m to early on but it feels like it will be impossible to keep this up to play some of the phrases/songs that I’m into which are around the 200 - 240 bpm 16th notes (on a single string).

I’m a huge fan of Rick Graham and just stumbled across one of his videos regarding planting and was just wondering if it’s really possible to play at some of these crazy high tempos with a very wide range of motion. I rewatched a lot of the wrist videos in the in the primer around rest strokes but just had the question would they always apply at some of the crazy high tempos you find in the metal genre, death metal specifically. I noticed when I try and play at some of the 200+ tempos my range of motion really shortens, my motion still feels smooth although I haven’t built the stamina yet and I’m wondering if I’m just trying to take it too fast too soon or if this is normal.

While Rick mainly discusses this for economy picking he does make mention of using this method for alternate picking. I posted the video below if anyone had any thoughts on this in general and how/if it applies to a lot of the great stuff here in the primer.


We had another thread about planting recently.

I’ll link to it here:

My understanding is that Rick is advocating planting as a practice method to help you to train movements your movements to make them as small as possible. I don’t think he’s advocating that you should always play this way, though I may be wrong about that.

1 Like

In the context of economy gypsy picking (DDUD) The rest stroke can be understood as a natural byproduct (or side effect, or what have you) of the technique, and something which becomes even more pronounced at higher tempos. In fact, it would most likely slow you down if you were to make the conscious decision to eliminate it altogether. In short, it’s fundamental, and in this context, it’s a little akin to asking, how does one run without feet?

Another analogy would be to think of “shred” passages as broken up chord shapes. If a chord strum is technically the fastest pickstroke across multiple strings*- and that too has minute rest strokes. A simple test of this is to upstrum a chord and then to downstrum a chord. The difference is clearly audible and not only because of the direction, but because that direction is also “broken up.” As such, a shred passage however fast it might be, is still broken up and thus the rest stroke follows whether one likes it or not.

(*The only time in which a chord can be played without any hint of rest-strokes or “direction” would be a particular type of steel-string hybrid picking in which all the notes are plucked at once, much akin to a piano chord- but this is obviously not the point of discussion.)

But enough of the silly analogies. The rest stroke is more of an indicator that the technique is largely correct, and beyond a technical artifact, is an incredibly helpful rhythmic indicator.