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There are others on here much better equipped to critique, so my usefulness is limited. A few things I see:

  1. That motion (as tiny as it is), appears to have no escape component in either direction. The pick is perpendicular to the strings. Any string change is going to require you to lift the pick out.

  2. The motion itself is tiny. Nearly out of control (not necessarily a bad thing) What happens when you slow down? How does it change?

This doesn’t look relaxed. If you’re going for all your worth, that makes sense.

How fasst can you go and still accent the first beat of each 4 note group? 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4…etc.

Hopefully others will chime in to add or correct my limited assessment.

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@6StringSlinger I’m pretty new but recently finished the primer and this to me looks like elbow motion with a very slight DSX. I see your hand kind of locked with your forearm and no wiggle which to me, would represent elbow.

@Ruefus I’m sorry I’m confused on something. Throughout the Primer, Troy talks about finding a fast efficient motion. That is step one as far as I’m aware. Then you start to work on control as in, slowing the motion down and working on timing and hand synchronization. I saw nowhere speaking about accents.

Again mean no disrespect here just confused on this.

That’s a better question for @Tom_Gilroy . He’s the one that turned me on to the concept of accents and its worked wonders. Just ripping along at a velocity with no semblance of ‘where’ you are isn’t really control IMO.

Happy to help. I want to say that this is the approach I take with my students, it’s not “official” CTC methodology.

I insist that my students meet five criteria with their picking techniques. Those criteria are:

  1. Efficient muscular activation against low background tension.
  2. Strong connection to internal clock.
  3. High dynamic range.
  4. The facility to escape in at least one direction.
  5. Tracking capability across all strings.

Whatever pick grip, joint motion & setup you use is absolutely fine by me provided you meet those five criteria. I have other criteria that I personally value, for example damping capabilities and the facility to incorporate hybrid picking, but I believe those five criteria to be the critical elements which are necessary.

Establishing a low background tension increases your sensitivity to tactile and kinaesthetic stimuli. Everything I teach is designed to heighten the students haptic sensitivity and to learn to identify what “right” feels like. Telling somebody to “do what feels right” is the best possible advice when they know what right feels like. Until they experience that, it’s totally worthless. Focusing on visual information distracts from the haptic experience, so I tell my students not to look at their hands.

After some work establishing low background tension through a “reset” process, we need to find an efficient muscular activation and meet the remaining criteria.

Starting with speed can be an effective way to find an efficient movement, but many people have never moved quickly before and find it difficult to even begin moving quickly in the first place. Also, many people can trigger a very fast (often very tense) tremolo which has no connection to their internal clock and which they can’t slow down; when they try, they lose the movement entirely.

However, we cannot generate power with weak, inefficient movements. I tell my students to focus on making large, powerful movements which feel effortless. We train this using rhythmic rudiments incorporating powerful accents. Obnoxious, totally non-musical power. I literally tell students to try to “break the f***ing string” on accents.

The accent ensures that the movement is efficient and has plenty of dynamic range. With low background tension, the accent provides a huge spike in haptic perception, which strongly connects the movement to the students internal clock. The remaining criteria are tested through the specific design of the rudiments I teach.

By focusing on rhythm, students don’t try to audiate a melody, which can slow them down to the speed they can audiate. By working percussively, I tell students to think “drummer” and not “guitarist” (and definitely not “picking technique”). Fast guitarists are unusual, and students often see them as being somehow different from them. Fast drumming is normal, you’ve heard it all your life.

If you don’t believe that you can move fast, you probably won’t succeed. Thinking “drummer” helps get people to believe. I also get students to take spacebar speed tests to convince them of their neurological speed. The idea is similar to the table tap tests, but without the challenge of synchronising to an external clock.

Fast picking or fretting patterns are like a jump shot or a golfswing. You have to let go of any idea of “control” and take the damn shot. When your movements are strongly connected to your internal clock, you just set your internal tempo higher and shoot. It really is that simple.

I tell my students to stop and reset if they lose their sense of time, they lose their accent, they lose their haptic “connection” to their movement or they feel excessive tension or fatigue building. I tell them not to stop for accuracy errors, like missing a string or hitting multiple strings. You can recover from accuracy errors and if you should take the opportunity to train your recovery.

I recommend students practice the rudiments for five minutes, three times a day (morning, afternoon, nightime). Most students discover a picking movement which meets my five criteria in two weeks (usually one lesson), and everybody has discovered such a movement within one month.

From there, we work on optimisation, synchronisation, etc, etc.

This process is how I trained the Shawn Lane style dart-thrower USX movement over the pandemic. It has also had very significant success with my students. It works.


How large are we talking? Main reason I’m asking is, assuming we’re using a single escape motion (let’s just say DSX for the sake of the argument), the furthest I can go on an upstroke is until I hit the lower (thicker) string that will cause the trapped motion. On the down stroke, I’m of course not blocked by anything since I’ve broken through the plane of the string. I can go as far as I want. BUT…If on this down stroke, I go a further distance than I did on my upstroke…that seems like it would create a “swing” feel since it would take me just slightly longer to get back to where I need to be. I’d think for creating a nice even time/feel that my pick strokes would need to be the same size in both directions, and that could be at max the distance between 2 strings.

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It depends on context, but I’ll try my best to give some kind of overview of what I’d be looking for. Generally, as much range of motion as possible without compromising your tactile reference points.

Supposing DSX and a rate where it’s feasible, I’d be encouraging you to generate the most powerful rest stroke you can on the upstroke. I’m not crazy about the term “rest stroke,” I want the hand to still have momentum when the pick hits the lower string. Displacement of the lower string can to help decelerate the pick. I’m not overly concerned with accuracy at this stage; even if you plough right through the lower string, that’s fine by me.

The point at this stage is to develop the mind/muscle connection and to develop the most powerful, ballistic contraction you can. In DSX, I don’t want you starting with your pick on the string and gradually building pressure until your upstroke breaks through. I want you to start out towards the end of your downstroke range of motion, contract explosively and slam the pick through the string. I want you to develop as much kinetic energy as you possibly can and transfer that energy into the string on collision. Think follow through.

Your picking hand is a physical pendulum (and a forced oscillator) transferring energy into an external body. There’s a lot of physical similarity to a bat or racket hitting a ball. There’s a “sweet spot” (center of percussion) where maximal energy transfer occurs and the stroke feels effortless with no reactive shock. You can also catch a “stinger” and feel the energy transfer into your hand when your background tension is low and your sensitivity is high.

I want you to develop the most powerful, ballistic contraction of your muscles that you can and to hit the sweet spot every time.

In my experience the “swing” due to difference in stroke size is negligible. You time feel is primarily the result of when your antagonistic muscles activate and relax. Stroke sizes naturally decrease and become more even.

For DBX, I would want you to make the largest movement you possibly can which doesn’t alter the joint motion you’re using or compromise your tactile references.


Thanks, Tom. Great response :+1:

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Hello Tom! I’ve been someone struggling with slowing down a tremolo and keeping the same motion. It completely falls apart trying to slow it down. This is the first time I’ve seen someone on this forum mentioning that and I’ve never seen any lessons about that. Do you have any other tips on that? I’ve been struggling with that for years. Thanks!