Fare - Having some trouble with wrist USX motion

Hello CTC community!

I’ve been trying to switch my picking technique to a deviation based wrist motion one, as I noticed that I was clearly string hopping and hit a speed plateu trying to go faster than 100 BPM doing the classic 1234 chromatic exercise. After joning CTC and trying to absorb the Wrist Motion section of the Primer as much as I could (and later on watching the Bulletproof Wrist Picking with USX motion video on YouTube countless times) I thought I had something going on as I felt like I was able to perform a somewhat speedy tremolo, but following my teacher’s advice I started practicing the first 3 rounds of Gambale’s chop builder to try to improve my picking accuracy… And I’ve found out that I’m still having trouble picking every note even below 100BPM 16ths! I thought I should have at least cleared that hurdle already!

So, long story short, I tried to record just my picking hand holding my phone down the strings like if I had a Magnet (can’t wait to receive the real thing later this year!), and I saw some things that I wasn’t really expecting. Those videos were pretty bad to share here so I asked someone else to record my playing. Unfortunately my phone only goes up to 60FPS, but I think you should be able to watch the pick trajectory if you watch them in fullscreen :slight_smile: (EDIT: Damn, I swear these looked better on my phone… Please try watching them at 720p 60FPS, you can barely see the string I’m attacking sometimes but at least you can see the pick trajectory, sorry :frowning:)

First, some single string tremolo picking (normal speed, then slow):

And here’s me trying to perform the Chop Builder’s Round 2 Ex. 4, which plays 4nps across 4 strings consecutively (once again first normal speed, then slow). I know this isn’t too fast and that there are some fretting hand/sync mistakes here, but I’ve noticed that some of my upstrokes seem to be failing to cross the string from time to time:

These are some things I’ve noticed myself, although I’m obviously not an expert so I’ve got no clue if they’re actually wrong or just red herrings:

  • As many other wrist players, I feel a strong elbow component to my movement when I try to play at higher speeds. I kind of clearly feel the switch at around 140BPM. While I know this is normal, I think I feel like my pick trajectory changes when this happens, as well as my range of movement. In fact, I sometimes feel like I’m somehow switching to a DSX kind of moton and the pick trajectory reverses in the Y axis, but I’m still trapped in the next higher string so I’m not sure if I’m just overthinking it.

  • The biggest takeaway from watching my picking up close was that after the initial pick, my pick doesn’t ever fully go back to being above the string below the one I’m playing, but I pretty much always do a rest stroke in the next high string. I’ve trained myself to always do this in order to avoid stringhopping, but I’m honestly a bit concerned about this – the trajectory itself seems fine, and it looks like if I managed to make bigger movements the string would escape, but could this be causing any issues in my playing? Should the pick movement be fully simmetrical when picking up vs picking down (note that I’m aware that in the case of the Wrist + Forearm movement, a slightly more curved upstroke should be fine, but that’s not what I’m going for at the moment).

  • Following up on the previous point, I feel like moving my wrist in the radial direction is significantly harder to do for me than in the ulnar one. I try to center my wrist using a sligthly ulnarized deviaton, as Troy suggests in the Primer, but I’m second guessing myself here and I’m not entirely sure if I’m doing it correctly. Thoughts?

  • Finally, I’ve always had a harder time picking upstrokes than downstrokes. I thought this was to be expected as I play with a downward pickslant most of the time, but looking at the slow motion video and then focusing on feeling how the pick attacks the strings in each direction, it feels like I significantly have to do more work on my upstrokes to cross the string (in fact, as mentioned earlier, in the second video there are a couple of times where the string remains trapped while trying to do an upstroke).

Damn, I need an editor! Sorry for the huge wall of text :sweat_smile: I’ve been pulling my hair out for a whle now trying to figure out what’s missing in order to start feeling some sense of smoothness and I’ve tried to figure out on my own but I have been unable to do so. Thanks to anybody that bothers reading all of that, and please stay safe everyone!

1 Like

I think it’s likely you’re actually using a DSX motion but compensating somehow to get the rest stroke on the dowstrokes.

Look at the second video. I think I see the knuckles of your hand move “outward” on the downstrokes. To clear the strings when switching after an upstroke you do a little jump (wrist extension). This tells me your motion is not actually escaping on the upstrokes.

Another clue:

This seems likely to happen if you slant the pick downward but use a DSX (or no escape) motion, i.e. the pick is not perpendicular to the motion trajectory. On the downstrokes everything goes well but on the upstrokes the pick is now getting severely stuck on the string.

Out of curiosity, what kind of motion did you use before? Was it always a DSX motion?

Hey! Thanks for your input, Johannes, it’s really appreciated.

I think you may be right, as I also suspected that the movement at least feels somewhat like DSX at some points. However, I wasn’t completely sure as I’m forcing myself to perform a rest stroke after every downstroke, I hadn’t considered that I could have simply learned to compensate for it… I’m going to need to sleep on this and experiment with DSX more, maybe if I try to do it conciously while watching the USX videos I may find out at which point I’m not following Troy’s steps.

I did use a DSX motion to pick the lowest two strings, as I used to pronate my arm and kind of touch the body of the guitar with the radius (and I still do unless I’m focused on my picking), but for the rest I used to rotate my forearm to be more parallel to the strings and I relied more on a string hoppy double escape motion, as I wasn’t really aware of the concept of single escape motions.

Hello fellow DSX-NSX player ) That’s exactly how I played before CtC. DSX on lowest strings (lowest in pitch), no escape on other strings

Elbow means DSX or NSX. So if you want to achieve USX you have to turn elbow off. Like totally. I’ve been experimenting with elbow USX motion that I called ‘pecking’ ) but it’s very awkward and I haven’t got any good results.

From a pratical poin of view - no, it shouldn’t. If you watch Troy’s videos you’ll see that he is not always doing them symmetrical. But I advice to use large movements nevertheless. At least it helped me to grasp the conception of USX.

‘Radial’… means down? Try to use different motions, adding other components like rotational.

Seems like as @Johannes said you use DSX mechanics with USX slanting.

You know, after sleeping on it I picked up my guitar this morning and I think I’m starting to get a better feel for wrist USX motion :slight_smile:

I’m not sure if this is the right approach, as I think that Troy mentions in the wrist USX videos that we’re going for ulnar deviation (which I guess is the “dart throwing” movement), but today I’ve tried to focus on the opposite, on feeling the bulk of my force on the radial direction (and then ease the force to return to the original position)… And I think I’ve noticed an improvement?

I seem to be able to keep an USX trajectory now, and not only that, but picking actually felt smoother than it ever has to me as I guess the movement finally matched my pickslant! Also, thanks to @Johannes’ comment about my knuckles (nice shout, I would have never thought of using their trajectory for reference!), I’m trying to be more aware of whether I introduce some additional wrist extension when I go over the strings. In order to check this, I’m focusing on keeping both my pinky and thumb heel in contact with the strings/bridge at all times, and I’m trying to just let the upstroke itself carry me over the string. I think I’ve noticed a certain extra smoothness while performing some exercises, but I need to learn how to do this consistently.

I still need to practice this a lot more, I don’t want to get my hopes up too much, but I hope to be able to come back in a couple of weeks with some good news :slight_smile: Confirming that I wasn’t really doing it right really helps, who would have thought?

In this case, “radial” means moving my hand towards the radius, which is the bone closer to the bone, as described in this CTC article:

I’m curious, could you explain or show that movement? I haven’t heard about that one yet!

And yes, I’m aware that conceptually elbow doesn’t allow USX… But I guess I thought that if I supinated my forearm I could achieve a tilt to my picking plane that would effectively become an USX motion. Particularly as I rest stroke on every downstroke I guess I just thought this is what USX may feel like, but I guess I was wrong!

1 Like

I have problems recording video right now.
Basically it’s a combination of horizontal movement (in the string plane) and vertical movement (which reminds pecking if you consider a pick as a beak). Arm is supinated, forearm is planted on the deck edge. That allows you to use USX with pure forearm motion… but while it works fine with tremolo, changing strings is close to impossible, so the very idea of having escape motion becomes useless. That’s why I stopped to experiment with this stuff.


Yes, please keep us updated. Perhaps upload a new video when you feel ready.

Since you have your basic picking technique close to mine may be it would be useful to share how I did this stuff.

‘Play fast’ approach didn’t work. Though it took some time to realize that fact. Basically fast playing helps you to improve your basic movement, so if you tend to do USX from the beginnig - it works. In case of learning new techinque - it doesn’t, because once you start to speed up your old habits turn over. So I made pickstrokes slowly. By slowly I mean couple of pickstrokes per second. It was just to give my hand an idea what I what to do.

I did exaggerated (though relaxed) motions, so that pick made a reststroke after a downstroke, and was flying above next string after an upstroke. Since I’m not a big fan of hardcore practice I did it while watchin youtube or reading some articles.

The I decided to try it fast. I ended up playing 2nps stuff. Basically for the same reasons: if I had to play fast 4 or 6 notes on one string I switched to my old technique unconsiously. So 2nps was an obvious choise because in that case you just can’t use wrong technique (well, you can, but you can’t switch string efficiently)

as for tremolo picking… I may pick some passages up to 160-180 bpm using USX, but I still can’t USX tremolo beyond 100-120bpm. So I wouldn’t care much about tremolo. It’s not much relevant to playing speed.