Fast Downstrokes for Thrash Rhythms

Haven’t watched this clip before, but it’s clear he’s talking about the whole motion mechanic pickslanting connection. As we’ve discussed here quite a bit, there is a definitely a relationship between the pickslant, the way you contact the guitar, and the type of motion mechanic you use. The choices you make are all part of a system and we’ve seen how they correlate: uwps players like wrist, dwps players use rotation, and so forth.

For whatever reason Ben finds the pronated setup more comfortable, maybe because he hasn’t hit upon the same motion mechanic that @mcm is using, and they’re just different movements. Doesn’t mean supinated can’t also work, just means that he hasn’t figured out the movement for it yet. And those movements are indeed different.

Edit: Or at least can feel pretty different, based on lots of factors.

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Troy, I am guessing that you might have started this post from our conversation in my introduction? I have no problem playing the main riff all downstrokes, pretty sure I can play it faster than than album. But alternate pick…ughh…

I’ve been waiting forever for Troy and the rest of the CtC community to talk about downpicked thrash and metalcore type rhythms.

Whenever I try to do these machine-gun type riffs, I always feel my forearm tightening up and losing a fair bit of control, especially in that three-note burst. I’ll try to post some videos in the Critique section, and hopefully get to the bottom of my technique.

That said, while James Hetfield is the undoubted king of downpicked rhythm guitar and his three-fingered pick-grip is very distinct, players like Dimebag, John Petrucci and a fair bit of newer players like the guys from Lamb of God, Trivium, Protest The Hero seem able to use the same standard pickgrip in both downpicked rhythm parts and alternate picked lead parts. Dimebag, in particular, could do very aggressive rhythm parts and pentatonic shredding lines without looking like he was changing his pick grip.


Me, too. I have even written Troy & co asking to cover this :roll_eyes:

I was very glad when the Teemu Mantysaari interview came out and he played and discussed some metal rhythms. Even if it was for just a few minutes:

He seemed to be very fast with both alternate and downpicking riffs AND to have a very good understanding of the mechanics. So I checked his website to see if he was giving Skype lessons and decided to take one. Next thing I know - Wintersun are coming for a show in my town! Logically I booked a face-to-face lesson. We discussed exclusively rhythm playing for half an hour. He more or less confirmed the conclusions I had come to - use heavy DWPS and forarm rotation. He also said he uses the same technique for alternate and downpicking. That being said there must be some extra/different component in downpicking because the pick has to get out of the way of the string on the way up. Watching the high speed video I made in the lesson confirms that - he uses wrist extension in addition to the forarm rotation in downpicking. So I guess it’s more how he thinks about it. Still it will be very valuable if we can get a proper Magnet angle high speed video of him doing both.


Indeed, Teemu often uses rotation, and wrist extension is probably the way he avoids the string on the upstroke. However in @mcm’s clip above, there doesn’t appear to be any rotation, although extension is still present to get away from the string. And in Hetfield’s clip, it’s unclear how much if any rotation is involved, but extension strokes are still present.

So: if wrist extension is the universal component of downstrokes, and the good players all do it this way pretty much with no special instruction, even when their picking motions and hand positions are different, then why do some players fail to do this? I think we need to see a clip of someone who is failing at this to see what they might be doing differently.

Who sucks at downstrokes? Show us your bad thrash rhythms. For science!


Time for me to shine :smiley: I’ve got a Magnet and an iPhone6 so I’ll make a close-up high-speed video. Any idea where I can upload it at full fps?


Excellent. Try not to get too closeup - somewhere back around the 12th fret is great because a lot of this stuff involves arm movements that won’t be visible if you’re right on the pick.

There is nowhere you can post 120fps on the tubes. In fact, Final Cut won’t even export at that frame rate. Best thing to do is play the take at normal speed and then paste in a slow motion version afterward. We can edit that for you if you like and send it on back if that’s easier. Let us know and we’ll get you a DropBox link.

With the help of Troy’s professional video editing skills we’ve got a video. First, I’ll use his compliment about the light as an excuse to show off my setup :roll_eyes:

And here’s the video:

I alternate (pun intended!) between alternate and downpicking and gradually increase the tempo. After each alt/down take at normal speed you can see the slow-motion of the same. Towards the end I push myself to downpick faster than I can to see what happens. One obvious problem is that sometimes wrist extension is not enough and I hit the string on the way up. Another one (that is not seen on the video) is that I became so tense I had to stop. Also, the amplitude of the motion gets bigger.

What do you think?

P.S. I should do this more often! Thanks for reminding me what wonderful analysis tools I have!


As I mentioned on DM great job filming this. Do you normally play with this kind of rotational technique, and how long have you been playing this way? Is this something you learned from us, or were you already doing it?

The flexed wrist approach, like what Teemu and the Gypsies use, is certainly one way of doing this but it’s not the only way. I’m looking at Hetfield’s clip in slow motion and he is supinated but the wrist is not flexed. In other words, his wrist is straight. There does not appear to be much in the way of forearm rotation at all for his alternate picking technique. The gallops are supinated dwps, and his escaped downstrokes are of the extension variety. It’s pretty straightforward, powerful, and effective. Such a great player.

Ergo if your flexed rotational thing feels weird or stiff, try straightening that out and see where it gets you. Take a look in a mirror, or film it, and see if you can do it without rotation.

Also, if you were to hit a power chord on the A string repeatedly, while anchored, at a medium speed, and without thinking at all about your form, what would that look like? Would that be rotational, or more Hetfieldy?


Is Teemu’s wrist really bent as much as @BurningAXE in his video??? It sure doesn’t look that way to me in the interview video

I have tried a lot of approaches over the years but for the last 2-3 I’ve been using the forearm rotation. Largely thanks to you :slight_smile:

So you think he’s doing alternate mainly with wrist deviation and downpicking with forearm rotation + wrist extension?

Actually feels very comfortable and has allowed me to reach higher speeds. Of course there are other factors at play like understanding and correct practicing.

see if you can do it without rotation

Do you mean without bending the wrist or is rotation correct here?
If you’re talking about straightening the wrist I can do it by backing up a little bit on the dwps but I’m slower this way.:

Still rotating:

Not that much. But he’s definitely using rotation as his main motion.


Incidentally, I checked out some Chris Brooks videos thanks to another thread, and he’s adamant that his own motion mechanic is primarily forearm rotation, even though it’s not really perceptible when you watch him do really fast stuff.


You’re making some great looking videos @BurningAXE my comment wasn’t to critique you at all, just wanted to make that clear. I don’t get the forearm rotation thing, and what people are calling forearm rotation players. Because I rarely see that bend. But forearm rotation is talked about like it’s commonplace.

And that’s funny you mention rotation not being perceptible on some players @Frylock Because I watch what you guys call a “forearm rotation” mostly picker like Teemu, and I don’t see his damn forearm rolling. He is only rolling that forearm to accent notes. His approach angle and arm rest might suggest rotation, but I don’t see it.

Looks like relaxed wrist deviation to me, with NOT MUCH of a bent wrist at all. He rolls the forearm on accented downstrokes and sometimes when he lifts off of the bridge in a few unmuted passages… But I see wrist mechanic with a little finger motion most of the time.

How is he a rotation gypsy picker when the forearm isn’t moving most of the time? I matched his approach angle in that thriller video. and I’m not rotation mechanic… What up with that?

Is my arm too fat and I was stealth rotating? I tried to match Teemu’s arm. lmao :slightly_smiling_face::upside_down_face::slightly_smiling_face::rofl:

That’s a nice studio setup man. So you are doing forearm rotation? I’ll take notes. Hmm.


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I think you are doing “stealth rotation” or if you look at the bits on the lower strings in your Thriller solo, the flex in your wrist increases as you move toward the bass strings, and it’s not even “stealth” anymore, at least to my eye. I think Troy and I may not see 100% eye to eye about how to categorize some things, especially where there are small movements or compound movements where it may be fuzzy where you draw the line.

Look at the Teemu interview at 14:42. He demonstrates his forearm-rotation dwps with less flex and with more flex (more being the textbook “gypsy” style). My dwps is very similar to Teemu’s, and even when I pronate into a uwps movement where the forearm is almost flat against the guitar and there’s a wrist flexion/extension component, it still feels like it’s primarily a forearm rotation movement, even though someone looking at me from straight ahead would probably describe it as a wrist-only movement.

But note also that Teemu has a very full toolbox, so some of your confusion may arise from him doing things other than his regular dwps. I haven’t really sat through the full Teemu interview beginning to end yet to soak it all in, so others might be able to speak with more authority on that. But that segment at 14:42 of the Teemu interview gives a good look at the aspect of his technique that gets described as having a forearm-rotation mechanic.


Your observations are always great, no issues with them at all. The practical problem we’re trying to address here is that you’ve got people like Hank doing what we tell him, and then getting super confused when the result doesn’t look or feel the way we say it should. That’s on us. Clarity is what we’re trying to deliver.

In this case I think that not everything we might call ‘forearm’ really is exclusively forearm. Look through the clips in the Joscho interview, this becomes very clear. Sometimes you’ll see aggressive arm movement, other times you may not. And yet the pick moves similar amounts in both cases. This doesn’t square.

If you freeze up the hand and forearm until they are rigid and move as a unit, you get EVH style forearm rotation and it’s easy to spot. This is what @BurningAXE is doing.

If you introduce wrist movement simultaneously, I think you get what we’re seeing in Teemu and Joscho’s case. That’s my guess anyway.

The reason this matters, again, it’s because it’s super confusing to learners when they can’t tell why things look and feel different from day to day. Simply verifying that this is what’s happening, and teaching students to recognize the look and feel of it, will make the process way less confusing for them.


Mark my words, one of these days I’ll get you to publicly remind me who this website is named after. :wink: :wink: :wink:

I kinda want a seminar focusing entirely on metal rhythm playing now :smiley: Essential exercises, how to get the motion down, how it differs from lead playing (which is the main focus of CtC).

90% of guitar playing is rhythm work anyway and chugging machine gun riffs are great fun to play (when I get them sounding right).


May the (CTC) gods hear you :roll_eyes: :stuck_out_tongue:

After Troy’s comments about Hetfield’s technique I kinda got on a quest to reevaluate what I thought I knew about it. So I watched a bunch of videos in search of good angles. What I found confirmed Troy’s observations: Hetfield (as does Hammett) has a supinated position from which he uses wrist flexion/extension + deviation to do fast downpicking. Here you can see him do it for a brief moment and then watch Hammett do the same for a little longer:

And this video is packed with good angles:

(Tip: when watching at 0.25x mute the sound as it goes a little ahead which is confusing)

I will experiment with this a little but currently don’t want to abandon my gypsy approach. First, because I’ve been getting pretty decent results lately - 4 bars @220. And second, because Teemu confirmed this is what he uses and he definitely has his rhythm chops up to speed!
However, the wrist approach may still be useful for fast downpicked chords (i.e. Harvester Of Sorrow’s first riff).
Next - I’ll search for some videos of alternate picking to check whether they use the same technique there. Anyone interested - hop on board :wink:


Teemu’s forearm certainly moves a little, but he is not using EVH-style forearm rotation, where the hand / arm are fused and move together. If you watch clips like the Tritone clip:

…you can see that his wrist moves independently from his forearm. In other words, this is a blend motion. You have bits of both happening. I absolutely do not mean to discourage you from doing a thing which is working. By all means continue, the name of the game is results.

However I think we also need to be clear about what we’re seeing in these “rotation” clips. If you do ultimately decide to experiment with other ways of doing things, like Teemu’s, there is probably some mental process Teemu is using to produce this movement that is different from “turn the arm”, whether or not he is aware of it.