Fretting hand "can't keep up"

Common problem, but almost never as simple as “pick is faster than fingers”.

Complete lack of connection between picking and fretting, where they both drift, is just a sign of lack of chunking. This doesn’t necessarily indicate that the fretting hand is “slower”, and in fact it’s a problem that happens even with really fast players.

The more common problem among people who say their fretting is “slow” is when you have repeating patterns which are externally synchronized, where they initial pickstroke and fretting motion lines up, and so the phrase doesn’t drift, but somewhere internal to the phrase, a note is wrong.

Here’s a great recent example where we worked with a player on this issue. Anyone with a membership can watch all the clips and read the diagnosis and feedback:

We methodically tested all possible fretting combinations to find the problematic ones. Eventually we were able to find lots of examples where we could get the fingers and picking locked up, one fretting motion per pickstroke, and these resulted nearly instant improvement. Over time, these “successes” become the teachers, and the player will eventually figure out the more problematic sequences. I think we were both pretty pleased with how this turned out.

Our next Primer update on chunking will include more of this methodology, plus tips for chunking very fast lines even when no left hand is involved. Check out the awesome Emil Werstler and how precise his 250bpm (approx) alternate picking is subdivided:

Synchronization for the picking hand is much more about knowing exactly how many motions you’re making, by feel, even when it’s too fast to hear. It can be done, confidently, even at stupid speeds, with the right approach.


Really looking forward to this update, since it’s one of my problem areas. I’ve even taken lines on a single string that I can play legato at the desired tempo, I can pick just my right hand at that tempo, but then as soon as I try to line them up, tension creeps in and it goes out the window.

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Picking hand/arm tension? Because that sounds like it’s still a picking issue to some extent. If you film the technique, does it appear to change?

Amazing stuff! Looking forward to it.

I remember seeing some clips from Emil Werstler several years ago, he’s such a killer player!

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It doesn’t feel like my picking is changing, its more like I apply the left hand and since the phrase slows down I feel like I try to “muscle” through to speed it back up.

I feel like I’m experiencing the same thing aphasein was experiencing, with the “internal” notes of the chunk not lining up. But the 3rd video you posted on fretting technique seemed to help.

This one:

I feel like the other two classical guitar left hand videos are ok, but a lot of that doesn’t really seem to apply to a lot of left hand postures rock/metal players need to use, such as angled fingers to facilitate going into and out of bends etc. You kinda need the thumb to be up on the edge of the neck ready to go for that. I can’t think of many rock/metal players that assume the classical posture, and I’ve usually referenced “violin” left hand technique as being more similar to what your average rock/metal player does.

My .02 anyway! I’m sure what you’re working on will address these things, as well.

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We probably won’t get into fretting postural stuff in this lesson, but we do plan to address that under separate cover in lessons more specific to overall ergonomics and positoining.

It’s important not change the technique to something more laborious when you add fretting. And I get that trying to add fretting at a fast speed can feel a little alien at first, especially if the motion is unfamiliar or going at an unfamiliar speed.

I experienced that with the death metal wrist techniques, where I couldn’t fret anything at first. It felt like trying to learn rollerskates or something. But after making a certain number of attempts — and very casual ones at that, with months in between where I didn’t think about it because we were busy, I was eventually able to do simple fast patterns like chromatic fours:

I really had to jump in with both hands at a fast speed, and try to feel the pulsed of the chunks — twos or fours. I wasn’t able to “work up” to this at all, because the slow techniques just feel different to me.


i am really looking forward to this stage of the Primer. I had a degree of success synching up the 6n patern on a SS… but can’t sustain it.

I have decent facility in my LH… and I can get a smooth feeling fast tremelo with the RH… but its like trying to board a speeding train when attempting to fuse the hands together on single string runs… maybe I’ve not been diligent enough with the chunking/metronome as much as i need to?

The foundation of this is learning to fire motions in groups, even if there is no fretting hand at all. You want to be able to fire off exactly 5, exactly 9, exactly 13, exactly 17 notes, etc. at a fast speed. This only works if you think like a drummer and only focus on the target note in each chunk.

Even on a tremolo where all the notes sound the same, and it’s easy for the listener to get lost, the player should know how many notes are being played.


Metal rhythm guitar playing technique - Josh Middleton - YouTube

This kind of stuff is so cool to see.

And, on your comment on “successes becoming teachers” - I’m still not where I want to be (who is), but one thing I’ve found interesting here is how as my picking has improved, it’s actually been making my legato playing improve, because it’s helped me diagnose timing inconsistencies there. Turns out I tend to rush pulloffs and if my hammer-ons are pretty rhythmic on an ascending run, when descending I tend to lag on the styring changes and make up for lost time along a single string, so of course that’s causing timing/coordination inconsistencies. That’s something I’m actively smoothing out, because a rhythmic pickstroke doesn’t allow for that the same way a fast legato line will still sound “ok” if you just play the rhythm a little more freely. It’s kind of cool.

EDIT - and this has already given me a few cool practice ideas. :+1:
EDIT #2 - and in the spirity of never taking ANYTHING for granted, I’m now finding that my timing is smoother doing 4-2-1 or 3-2-1 than doing 1-2-4 or 1-2-3 repeatedly along a single string. Go figure, lol. I’m home with covid and my wife is swabbing negative so at a memorial service masked, so I have the house to myself and no one I have to worry about annoying, so I know what I’m doing today. :rofl:

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I have noticed this too in my playing. Credit where it’s due, some of that I attribute to @Tom_Gilroy’s excellent posts, which I only found through the forum. But again, credit where it’s due, is the general “problem solving on technique” that I’ve learned from Troy’s methods in general. Can the way I am fretting notes happen at fast speeds? Does it cause fatigue? Does it HURT? Does it feel loose and controlled? The wrong answer to any of those means the technique is wrong. Rather than “rep it out”, and hope one day things all work out, the focus should be to do something different until things move in the right direction. Maybe that is a different fingering choice, a different fretting posture etc. But one of the biggest takeaways for me on Troy’s platform is to not get stuck. “It’s easy or it’s wrong”.

Pre Troy, I thought great work ethic and massive reps could solve any problems. Now I’m inclined to think quite the opposite. If the best players in the world got their chops within a few years, it should not us mere mortals decades. The best players find ways to make stuff easier.


“Thinking like a drummer” does that mean you are actually counting when picking?

I think it mean counting slow in practice, and putting them into groups, like 1234, 1234, 1234.

Then you can fire off that grouping without thinking about it. You’re just thinking about the group, so 1234 becomes 1. Chunking is the word? putting multiple things into chunks. Ofcourse Troy got a bunch of video on this with a sub.

No, it just means that you feel a rhythm rhythm in your picking hand and follow along with it. It’s similar to tapping along with a song you are listening to. When you tap or air drum along with a song, you don’t have to expliclity count “1, 2, 3, 4” to know where you are in the measure, but you can still play fills at the right spot, end on a downbeat, etc.

It’s the same with picking. You don’t have to verbalize anything or count numbers, you just have to know where you are in time because you’re following along with a beat that represents every 2nd, 4th, 6th, or 8th motion you’re making. This is how you stay synchronized even at very fast (200+) tempos.


Guitar is a tactile instrument; you use your ears, your eyes (not neccesary, you can be blind, but most of us struggle in a total blackout on stage) and the FEEL of your fingertips. I sometimes practice with my left hand not really pressing down, like I’m playing harmonics (on e.g. 4, 5. and 7. fret). Very light touch, which makes my left hand feel the pick strokes. I press down the exact moment I hit the string, and after a while I increase the pressure until I get a decent tone . Not the same tone as if I’m playing long notes, but staccato and distinct. If I’m not feeling any pick strokes in my fretting hand, I’m fretting too hard, too early or too late. I sometimes pretend the fretboard is molten lava and I’m supposed to just touch the strings (doesn’t work with low frets).

I was thinking abou tpracticing blindfolded I wonder if there is a benefit or is it a parolor trick…I would think you could learn a lick or two maybe even a song but not play a whole set like that…:slight_smile:

Blindfolded would be a parlor trick. Practicing and getting comfortable while not looking at your hands is useful. That’s something Tom Gilroy teaches.

This has to be one of the single most useful pieces of advice in regards to hand sync I’ve ever read. Like your left hand playing a rhythm based video game against your right hand.