Feeling a burn down picking hand side forearm


So long story short (ish), I’ve had a couple posts here in the past where I was basically trying to force myself into using a forearm rotation movement, which ultimately I could never get to feel “fast” - basically the fastest motion I could get felt more like walking quickly instead of running in that I could never feel those fast twitch muscles activate that could land me in the 150-160bpm range with relative ease.

So recently, I decided to go back to square one and just stick with some type of motion which DID feel more correct. I’m still working on trying to get it to feel less awkward since it’s still so new but I can say that this time around its more wrist-based and I’m able to play mostly comfortably and without noticeable tension in that faster bpm range when I tremolo on a single string.

However, I’m finding that after a practice session where I mostly play in this faster range without tensing up that I still end up feeling a burn down my forearm at the end of it. Now I know you need to experience SOME amount of tension just to be able to hold a pick and play a note, but I guess im not sure if this is more a symptom of me playing too much too soon (like an overuse injury in sports) or if this is more indicative of poor technique. Like I said before, I’m not tensing up WHILE I’m playing, so I assumed my technique was fine (can try to post some videos later just to make sure). But I guess for now, I was just wondering if it’s normal to have good technique AND still experience something like this simply because you’re not used to the new movements yet?

Took a little while for me to get some videos recorded, but here they are (hopefully someone sees/responds to this thread - will tag @Troy in hopes he has the time to maybe take a look):

Side View - Normal Speed

Side View - Slow Motion

Front View - Normal Speed

Front View - Slow Motion

So the motion still feels awkward to do (even though it is my fastest one and the one that gives me the least amount of tension). It gets a little bit more consistent after practicing for a few minutes, but it seems like I have to do this every single day and I’m not sure if that’s concerning or just a normal thing I need to work through. This is in addition to the concern I brought up in my original post in that, despite not really noticing any tension in the middle of practicing, I still get that lactic acid burn down my forearm at the end of it.

Hi! Thanks for filming these.

My first reaction is to the title of this thread — anything that feels painful, avoid it like the plague. If you keep doing things that cause soreness or pain, this will lead to repetitive strain injury. If you’re having pain now, and it doesn’t go away, definitely check in with a medical professional.

As to the motion, I don’t think this is your fastest joint motion. As per what you wrote, 150-160bpm is also not fast enough to be anyone’s actual maximum joint motion speed. If this were true you’d have all kinds of trouble doing everyday activities. Did you take the table tap tests and what were your numerical results?

@Troy - thanks for the prompt response. Hear you loud and clear on the pain thing, as I’ve been waiting until it’s gone before I even consider picking up my guitar again (although I could probably still do things like work on my left hand). I guess combined with the fact that I work out, have to type on a keyboard for work, and sometimes play videogames, there could likely just be a lot of accumulating repetitive use that I’m not able to clear away unless I temporarily start to cut things out.

Second, of all of the motions I’m able to currently do on the guitar, this one is for sure the fastest (regardless of how slow it is). All of my picking motion tests came back pretty typical - in the 210-220 range for the wrist motions, lower at around 190 for forearm rotation and higher at around 230 for elbow motion. So I can do these motions in both the test settings and in the air at good speeds, but for whatever reason I can’t seem to make my hand do the same thing once it starts getting closer to strings. E.g. I can rotate my forearm pretty damn fast in the air but as I slowly bring my picking hand to the strings and it comes in contact with one, everything just falls apart instantly for some reason. Any thoughts on this?

Yes, definitely all those things can contribute. Be super careful with RSI type strain buildup. Computer stuff especially can be killer. If there’s any way to cut back, that would be great.

Those numbers sound typical, as you suggest. So that’s good. It just means your issues are a matter of figuring it out, not raw capability.

Difficulty figuring out the coordination of forearm motion when placed near the guitar is super common, so that’s another good result. The main solution there is trial and error. It’s not your job, it’s just a hobby, so try different things for a few minutes per day or whenever you feel like it, to see if you can get that one to work on a string. Tremolo is fine at first.

Pure EVH-style forearm is not that common as a general purpose picking motion, but a few users on here have done great things with it. @qwertygitarr has an awesome pure forearm technique. He may be able to offer some insights for translating it to the strings.

Your elbow results are good so that’s worth experimenting with. And your wrist tapping results are good too, so that’s also worth experimenting with. No matter which motion or motions you eventually settle on, it can be useful to get any of them working just so you can feel what really fast motion feels like.

Give this a shot, see if you can do it. It’s very similar to the table tap tests:

I usually use my computer mouse, phone and/or tablet while practicing guitar and i find the computer mouse and the way i hold phone/iPad contribute heavily to picking hand/arm tension or fatigue. Sometimes if i get tired during my guitar playing I actually think its more of the computer/tablet and phones fault. The ps5 controller also doesnt feel “optimal” in my hands. I totally agree with @Troy that if something hurts, cease it immediately. Im just saying to look outside the box as well. Ive been trying new mouses and the wya i hold/use my phone and tablet but hard habits to break

@Troy yeah this is another thing that feels fast up until my pick approaches anywhere near the strings in which it switches over to something totally different/all over the place. It’s really quite strange and frustrating how the body is like that, but I’ll take your advice and keep trying to get one air motion to successfully translate over to a single string, even if it’s just for a second. Hopefully it won’t take too long before something clicks.

@carranoj25 yeah an ergonomic mouse may be something to look into. For the time being, I may just try and deload/take out some of the accessory exercises I do at the gym which target my forearms a lot more, as well as cut down on the gaming. Maybe it’s a good time to pick up a new book finally.

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Wow, it’s very honoring for me to be mentioned by Troy! I’m not sure it’s of any help but my story with the rotation goes like this. I had tried that motion on the guitar long before CtC came and revolutionized my playing insights. But at those times it was impossible to translate the motion to the guitar. There was stickiness, no stability and no consistency so I gave it up right away and thought of it as a “joke motion” not to be taken seriously for real playing.

But along came Troy and when he showed how to actually use the motion for Yngwie stuff I got encouraged to really try it. But there was a lot of experimenting and it had a lot to do with finding anchor points for stability and the right angle of attack. I worked both on fast flickering of the arm and slower and more pronounced attack but always making sure the motion was rotational. Over time, a setup formed and now there is stability enough that it’s almost no change in resistance when playing the strings and when just doing the motion mid air.

So my 2 cents are just keep going at it but always be sure that it’s the same motion that you can do fast in the air. If you can do it fast and without tension, then there always is a way to translate it to the guitar.

Here is a video I did for another CtC member a few years ago.


That is actually a super helpful perspective to hear about so thanks for sharing! If I may ask (and I realize this is probably gonna be different for everyone) - what was your routine like for getting the motion down? How often were you practicing it and about how long did it take until something finally clicked enough to a point where you could confirm that what you were doing was actually helping and that you just need to practice it more? The biggest thing I’m worried about is spending a lot of time spinning my wheels on an inefficient motion that may never improve, but I also realize this probably won’t be something I’ll just be able to do overnight.

Awesome — thanks for the details here. How long did it take you to go from being able to do it in the air to doing it on the strings confidently without getting confused / losing the coordination? And how much time did you spend doing this when you would try to do it?

If you can move quickly in the air as @qwertygitarr demontstrates in the video, and as you’ve seen in the Primer motion test videos, then there is no worry about motion efficiency — the motion is already efficient. It’s just a matter of doing that same efficient motion on a guitar.

Back in the day, it was hard to get RSI because you ran out of quarters. Modern gaming, where you spend hours and hours trying to finish these mega long stories, that’s a lot of seat time. What are you playing on the PS5 and how repetitive is the motion?

That’s good to know then. Since my technique falls apart immediately going from in air to touching a string for the first time, I guess I would just need to keep practicing the act of going from one to the other seamlessly and not worry about maintaining a tremolo until i can actually get both movements to be the same?

And I’m playing Elden Ring, so there’s definitely a lot going on as far as hitting buttons on the controller goes. Not as crazy as e.g. a fighting game but it’s still a lot of repetitive motions.

What do you mean by “falls apart”? This is a phrase we hear a lot on the forum and the problem is that people hear it and go, aha, yes, I have that problem too! And then we end up with really long threads with lots of “advice” but no video, so nobody actually knows what the player is really trying to communicate. Not a knock on you, you’ve been very thorough here — just explaining for others reading.

Just from what you’re describing, I assume “falls apart” means you can’t do the motion on the string, and you freeze / stop. This is generally what I experienced. If you mean something else, explain and/or post a clip.

If stopping/freezing is the case, then there’s no tremolo to work on. So you have to keep trying until you can get the tremolo on the string. You may be able to get it for short moments and then you lose the coordination and have to stop. Or you get it but the pick attack is wrong somehow, and you experience garage spikes, so you stop.

Over repeated attempts, you can get more correct moments and fewer incorect ones. But it’s definitely a process of figuring it out. I have never had any success trying to make a slow or awkward motion go faster through repetition. I have only had success doing something accidentally correct where things suddenly work at their normal speed, if only briefly.

Maybe a couple videos (normal and slow motion) could help shed some light on what I mean by “falling apart”:

I don’t know if these are helpful at all to see how it looks, so I’ll at the very least try to explain how it feels. Once my pick comes into contact with a string (and perhaps this is due to approaching it at an inefficient angle - this is pretty hard to gauge coming from being in the air), my hand just wants to start doing something else due to the all the string resistance causing it to rebound every which way.

Thanks for filming! More or less what we were discussing, i.e. confusion leading to stopping. This is super typical / normal for this technique.

You can learn this motion this way and it’s great for EVH-style tremolo. If you want muting for a more general purpose picking motion you’ll probably want an anchored form more similar to Qwertygitarr’s. So more experimentation with his form.

More generally, I would try other motions alongside this, because this motion can be tricky to learn as you’re experiencing. And also because any motion that clicks at this point is a victory. The motion you’re making here in the air looks great, and you’re more than capable of doing something with exactly as much confidence, smoothness and speed with all the other motions.

The “learned” motion your hand is trying to do in these clips is reverse dart thrower wrist motion, similar to what Gypsy players like Joscho Stephan do, where the wrist is flexed like EVH forearm technique, but the hand moves more so than the forearm. So it’s clear you have all these possibilities if you can unlock them with some more tooling around.

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Yeah! The hand reaction in your video was exactly the same as mine when first trying out. So getting som contact points on the guitar was crucial for getting anything near a stable feeling attack. I would first try to add the long finger (or any finger you like) sliding on the pick guard. And then trying different angles of attack from there.

Also, a big thing for me was getting the sensation of actually picking INTO the guitar on downstrokes. This felt very foreign at first but was the key for both the correct motion and getting a working USX.

Trying to do the movement slowly and exaggerated with the angle of motion that you want can help you feel what the motions should look and feel like. I think going back and forth between slow and fast and keeping the motions as similar as possible is a good thing. At this point my slow and fast playing looks the same. I actually trapp the pick (rest stroke) even when slow playing.

As I remember the motion came quite fast because I think the reward must have been instant for me to keep going. Like the it was working for small chunks at first tries which gave the “yes this works”-feeling. But I don’t think I was doing much of this “trying the motion in the air and then on the guitar”, I think it was more experimenting with a lot of different licks and trying the motion out with all the licks I already knew and new ones that I hadn’t been able to do. I had the fortune of already knowing what sync felt like so it was quite easy to get the sync going with this motion as well.

I think mimicing the look of your hand and making sure the rotation happened as much as possible was the trick for getting the first tries to work. But looking back at old videos there are a few motions where there are mor wrist motion creeping in and it looks way more stiff (not that there are anything wrong with wrist, it’s just not working as well for me).

One thing that’s good to know is that I started with this motion after the age of 30. So even if there probably is an advantage to starting earlier, motions can be learned at older age, just as Troy have proved as well.


Thats a cool tidbit. Going to experiment with that! When you play on the low E and A strings, does your finger stay under the strings on the body?

Haha watch it buddy!

Just kidding. One thing we have noticed in technique critiques is that some people do certain motions immediately, even older. So I just assume they already learned that, they just never used it before on a guitar. So this is why even if there is an age effect, players should probably just ignore it and keep trying. Because you may already know what you need to know, with some experimentation.

Yes but the anchoring finger gives less stability the lower the string so I would suggest focusing on practising on the higher strings since that gives most stability.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this thread, a lot of very helpful information here. I think my plan of attack moving forward will be to try and practice this rotational motion (not just in the air but with a somewhat anchored form as well) in front of the mirror for 5 minutes at random points of the day. Provided I eventually end up finding something that works for me, I’m gonna try and take some videos along the way just to document my progress, which I hope can be useful to others struggling with the same situation.

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