Fast Bluegrass picking for the USX folks - Blackberry Blossom with tabs

Hey again guys - this week I’ve got a bluegrass standard for ya! It seems like many of the bluegrass monsters or at least the ones I’ve seen frequently on CtC forum and YouTube videos out there really favour DSX or DBX picking ( Bryan Sutton, Jake Workman, Andy Wood, Billy Strings, Doc Watson, Carl Miner, and Molly Tuttle to name a few). I learned this song a day ago and quickly rearranged the pickstrokes to allow for some USX sweeping on some of the more awkward string changes and I’m honestly shocked how easy it is to play this song this fast :poop:

Still working on cleaning it up :sweat_smile: but here’s an example around 150bpm:

Probably faster than anyone would ever want to play it at a jam and I can’t improvise very creative or melodic lines at this speed, but it’s a great addition to your practice repertoire for the picking chops alone!


I always love your playing, dude! I was messing around with some open string key of G bluegrass licks myself a couple months ago. Super fun to play! That was when USX started clicking for me (at least I think…I’ve definitely been wrong before and should probably post another technique critique lol)

Anyway, thanks again for sharing your videos (all of them!) :+1: :+1: :+1:

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Super impressive! I have a question, I’m not naturally a usx, I have to bend my wrist almost like Marty Friedman to even get my pick to play that motion. The question though, when playing bluegrass, my natural tendency is to pick every note. Are you consciously thinking, pull off, hammer on, on those parts, or is it an aside of usx? Does Yngwie think, three notes per string descending, better pull off, or is it accidental?

I just feel like I’m using a lot of brain power trying to remember where the hammer on and pull offs are in the riff, verses, letting it flow.

@joebegly thank you sir! Bluegrass has definitely been a gamechanger for the chops. Picking everything on an acoustic and going back to electric feels like jumping after taking a weighted vest off or something :joy:

@shredhead7 I normally pick everything straight alternate and I like the typical DSX or DBX approach for bluegrass, but after watching Brad Davis in the CtC bluegrass video and a TON of Tony Rice videos he actually does a pretty noticeable amount of downwards sweeping so I figured I’d try it for this song.

I’m picking nearly everything here with the exception of a few pull-offs and they’re kind of just instinctual at this point - I don’t really have to think about micro managing the pickstrokes if I’m trying to playing in a certain way, the right hand just kind of takes the path of least resistance.

I’ve been working on the USX technique for a good 3-ish years though since it is the exact opposite of what my regular technique is (strong preference for DSX and lots of elbow movement) :sweat_smile: and I had to think about it quite a bit starting out. Now that I’ve found something that works for me though lots of things are just downright easier to play with USX and I can combine it with my other techniques pretty seamlessly!

Same here in terms of the default of elbow/DSX. I’ve only been working on the USX stuff for a few months though. Well, in a more “correct” way. I’d started it a year ago but I was still driving from my elbow, so it was in fact still DSX, even though I was always getting a rest stroke on the down pick lol! I should do another technique critique to make sure I’m on the right track. Pretty sure I’m doing a forearm rotation/wrist blend and I can see the upwards escapes now. Still, I should get the experts to weigh in to make sure I’m not still wrong.

Anyway, I’ll see where I am in 3 years :slight_smile: You’ve given me something nice to shoot for! However, I will not be cleaning 315…ever :joy:

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Yes, that is the path that I’m on as well. I know that when I’m playing my fastest, Vinnie Moore styled elbow picking, I’m actually hammering notes when ascending 3nps. D U D sweep D hammer D sweep (that hammer I don’t feel, I think that I’m playing U, but someone on here pointed out when you slow it down on video, I miss the string completely with that stroke).

That is why I was wondering, when you get to the level that you are, is it conscious to pull off or hammer, or does it just happen accidentally, as it’s going with the flow.

Thanks for posting these, they are really helpful and inspiring!

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@joebegly I’ve tried like every motion dude hahah I feel you … I made basically pure elbow work for USX for a while but it was just very inefficient and my string muting sucked; especially when I was playing sitting down since it put my elbow in a totally different spot I had to hike my shoulder up and it started to tire me out after a while. I seem to be in the minority of people who find it easier to play standing up with my guitar strapped pretty low lol, it just works better for the right arm motions to me.

Then I tried more of a wrist deviation style, which I actually still use a bit when I switch quickly between USX/hybrid picking stuff but it still didn’t feel very natural. So then I settled on a sort of gypsy wrist position with mostly forearm rotation and that’s what feels like it takes the least effort. Glad I experimented with them all since I still kind of switch between them but it just takes that kind of long and frustrating trial and error process.

@shredhead7 watching the video again I actually think that I played the same phrase two different ways; on the first chromatic ascending run I started on an upstroke (UDUD) and the second time through I did a slide as a sort of pickup, probably so I could flip the picking around to make it start on a downstroke … if that makes sense, lol. I didn’t even realize that till I took a closer look so I guess it’s definitely unconscious.

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