Everything you need to know about crosspicking


There must be some similarities between our techniques. I don’t think I can do really fast X-picking at all on light strings anymore… it’s become impossible for me. Honestly, my X-picking technique is my technique for everything now, so pretty much everything I play now sounds kinda dirty on light strings. Kinda strange how much things have changed. But hey, I like the sound. :slight_smile:


In that video, you seem to be playing pretty close to the bridge. Did you choose that position to make the strings feel more sturdy or did you feel the vibrations even in that position?

If they felt loose that near to the bridge…I don’t know what to say. I guess you are used to slaying dragons and guitar is just too fragile of an instrument to you :smile: You need strings made of dragon tendons :smile: (by the way, I wouldn’t decline a dragon-tooth pick for the effort I’m putting in this post :blush:)

If you had to move near to the bridge to make strings feel ok, then I guess some heavier strings should help you. I remember trying 8’s when I was into Yngwie. At first, it was…it was bad. But I got used to them rather quickly and couldn’t perceive much of a difference (for the picking hand) after some time. Same happens when I try heavier strings. Perhaps you just need some more time to become accustomed to the tension?

The way things work with my technique, how hard I pluck the strings depend mainly on how hard I hold the pick in my fingers. If I hold it tight, I don’t allow the string to move my pick by much, so the string has to give in and bend out of the way until they “miss each other” and string vibrates. So, perhaps you were too tensed with your fingers? Perhaps you just didn’t feel comfortable on a borrowed guitar?

All in all, I wouldn’t make hard conclusions based on a borrowed guitar. Especially if you didn’t have enough time to get used to it :wink:


lol. I don’t ordinarily play near the bridge like that. I’m normally right in the middle on electric guitars. Believe it or not… I’m playing there because of the location of the soundhole is in the way of where I slide my index/pinky. My technique relies heavily on this sliding, since it keeps me at just the right height above the strings.

But you are right about my fingers being somewhat tense, at least compared to how they used to be. I really like the sound it makes… even when I play slow.


I’m editing that portion of the interview now. We have a whole five minute discussion of what the string tension does to the pick when you hit it. No doubt there are differences.

However, the key here, is the conclusion of this segment of the talk. He uses less pick and/or a lighter touch on lighter strings. End result? Similar crosspicking ability on both acoustic and electric, heavy strings and light. And we know this is true because we can look at any of the many closeup recordings and see that any mechanical and/or sonic differences are not immediately obvious even with slow motion footage.

Is it valid to point to differences in feel as a result of string tension? Totally! Same as with pick choice and lots of other things. But you address these differences via technique. Crosspicking lines are a key ingredient in the kind of music Andy plays, and he says in our most recent talk that he has settled on 9s on his electrics, mainly for tonal reasons. If he couldn’t play those kinds of lines on 9s, or the sound suffered somehow, that would be a problem.


The other general comment I’d make, is that even in a single set of strings, the higher ones are lighter than the middle ones by a much larger degree than the difference between the same string in different packs, with they are only off by a couple thousandths. When you play on the top strings, if you’re like me, you probably automatically modulate your touch lighter to accommodate this, without probably even thinking about it. Otherwise you’ll be plucking them sharp with all that power and it’ll sound bad. Adjusting to string gauge is a fact of life on any guitar no matter what actual gauge you run.


I remember him saying the main challenge for him with 3 string rolls with looser strings is the extra time it takes for the pick to get through the string… But I did get the feeling from the interview that you didn’t believe his first explanation where he said, the stiffer strings pop his pick back upward.

Though as you say it’s quite obvious he is still successful all around regardless of the stiffness of the string.


One thing I’m having trouble discerning from some of these videos is the degree of curvature of the pick strokes. I understand that the pick has to exit the strings before and after. In the close up video in the original post it looks like @Troy is moving in a more linear line than a curved one (Perhaps annotating the path on future videos would help?). I’ve been trying a bunch of different tweaks viz crosspicking and with all of them I’ve been trying to get more of a U stroke to emphasize the curve. Is that too much wasted energy?


Hey @DrLunchbox,

as you said, the important thing is that the pick escapes on both up- and downstrokes. That is what distinguishes crosspicking from pickslanting. Exactly how curved the trajectory of the string is, is probably not so important. Theoretically it could also be a “triangle path”, a mix of two straight lines, one on the way to the string and one after the actual pickstroke, but I don’t think anybody plays that way.

How curved the trajectory is will most likely depend on a number of things, on of them is your motion mechanic.

With one of the wrist-only approaches, like the one Troy demonstartes in the video, where you deviate + extend on downstrokes and flex + deviate on upstrokes, there has to be be some amount of linearity in the trajectory, which happens in the deviation parts of the movement. Deviation means moving your wrist side to side, that’s a linear movement.

With a forearm only type of movement on the other side, you might actually get a real curve, because rotating your forearm is a curved movement.

That aside, I don’t think it’s always a good idea to try and copy a movement in that detail, be it Troy’s or anybody elses. I mean, it’s definitely good to experiment with different approaches. It’s the only way to find out what works for you. But how you have to execute a movement so that it works for you may differ from the way other people do it. So rather than focus on how close you are or on how curved the movement has to be, try to focus on how it feels for you and how changes in your movement affect the feel and the sound.

Anyway, I hope that helps somehow!


@tomatitito - thanks for the response. Yes, this helps. I’m not trying to be dogmatic about these things, rather looking for this type of feedback. I may be getting to a point where I need to record some more clips and get some feedback here.

Thanks again!


Sorry, I didn’t want to accuse you of being dogmatic. Recording yourself and looking at it will help. It’s an unusual thing to do, and it also takes a it of practise, but I discovered interesting things about my own playing that way. And yes, uploading it here and getting feedback from this community is invaluable, you shouldn’t miss it!


Generally speaking, the flattest curve that still clears the string will be the most efficient. There are certain movements that I see players doing which I’m beginning to think might technically not be stringhopping, but might still be inefficient and cause tension because the change in direction is too severe, i.e. the U movment is too pronounced. Examples like:

…this! I think this is actually not effective and a lot of people probably do this, trying to make crosspicking work, and feel tension and can’t do it fast. Instead, if we’re talking about wrist movements, again, the flatter ones are the efficient ones.

In this particular instance I think it’s worth trying to copy what I am doing exactly. I mean, exactly, as in same grip, same anchor points, same movement. In fact it is specifically as a result of looking at your technique critique clips that makes me think this might actually work. What you’re doing looks a hell of a lot like what I’m doing, because all the ingredients are similar. Eliminating most of the variables gets you in the ballpark almost right off the bat (pun intended!).

If someone already has a way that is working for them I have not interest in trying to change that. But if someone is at ground zero, and doesn’t have any method for this that works, and they want to at least experience what one approach might be like, I think following a simple formula like this can work.


In my attempt at cross picking, which is all I do now 100% of the time.

To get started. I began with Pure rotation ( door knob movement ) with absolutely no other wrist movement, and string tracked with my elbow. I stuck to this for a while, knowing it was a bit ridiculous, but to really get that rotation feel, but then it morphed.

I slowly stopped string tracking with my elbow, and my wrist starting doing the tracking, with the consistent rotation feel going at the same time. My elbow no longer moved for the roll once my wrist took over. Thus I think it became the multiple memorized roll movements that Troy talks about. Complex compound movements, yet what’s interesting is that the rotation aspect seems separate in my mind from the wrist tracking, like they are two independent things, even though they are happening at the same time.


I don’t know how you guys can be that specific on what you are doing motion-wise (wrist motions, pick angle etc …). Actually the more I’m practicing this stuff and the less I’m able to figure out the motion I’m doing, even if I record a video clip.

The thing about the pick curve/trajectory, I wondered too. I even created a thread on it! … But on the end of the day I think it’s a case of overthinking the whole thing. With 1nps rolls you have everything kind of fusioned together : the string change/tracking, the pickstroke itself, the direction change. You have to find a movement that fulfills consistently every aspects of it, and that is efficient also. I know for myself that I had to play the whole thing again and again until I feel ‘this is right’ (as opposed to ‘this is wrong’) to have a clue whether I’m on the right track or not. Basic trial and errors process. I really improved on that since I started working on it, but I 'm unable to describe what makes it right vs what is wrong.


Ah! Found your thread and it was interesting. Thanks for pointing it out.


I think this is mainly about just having clear instructions. There are a ton of variables in picking technique in general, but some approaches, like this one specifically, just have a lot fewer of them.

Martin Miller stopped by the studio yesterday with his girlfriend Martina who is also an excellent player. They both watched the tutorial video and wanted to try it, just for fun. We made sure they used the identical grip and anchor points, and I initially stabilized their forearms to stop them from moving and also manually moved their wrists in a rough approximation of the movement. Once I did that, they were able to do this particular movement on their own essentially immediately.

Martin of course already has his own super effective picking motion, and there’s no real need for him to play this way. He’s also an angle-pad grip player, not a pad-side player, so I’m sure this felt pretty foreign. After a few seconds of doing this movement, he’d start introducing bits of forearm and finger again - his own technique was trying to break back out! But that’s how these things work.

Point being, much of the mystery stems from lack of understanding. I think we’re headed down the right path of being able to demonstrate all these things in relatively simple terms for the average learner without forcing them to become mechanics experts in the process.


Troy, I understand your point. Actually it’s not your tutorial that I don’t understand (I mean : motion-wise), but my own way to play the same pattern (fwd roll), which I believe (?) is different.


Yes you’ve got some forearm in there. I don’t know if it’s “wrong”, and if it is, I doubt it’s the forearm per se, since I do plenty of fast movements that involve forearm. In your case, if the movement never feels tense and it smoothly degrades into sloppyness when pushed to maximum speed then I wouldn’t worry about it - keep on doing what you’re doing!

But if you want to replicate what I’m doing here you can do that too, if you like. Options!


Hey @DrLunchbox,

so I guess just forget about what I said :wink:

That makes me want to come to your studio, too :wink: But seriously: no forearm movement at all, that’s something to look out for? Hmm, interesting. Is that about forerarm rotation, or about an up and down movement? Or both? I think I use my forearm for stringtracking quite a bit…


Of course I’d like to, it’s a cool motion to do. But right now I want to push the envelop with what I’m doing, to get it fluid. Like @tomatitito mentioned it above, no forearm movement, it’s not something very natural for me, oddly. But one day i’ll give it a try.


Like a máster Jedi showing the path to the force, I hope we don’t end up on the dark side of it :scream: