Fretting Hand Efficiency - Ascending 3NPS Scale Troubles

I am having some troubles keeping my three not per string straight ascending scale playing clean. I use USX and a wrist + forearm motion. My playing has come a long way and i am very happy with my progress since joining CTC.

My main question and based on my own critique of my playing is that the ascending 3NPS scalar playing is a fretting hand / sync issue. I use scalar sweeping (economy picking) for ascending lines and i think the issue is that when i play the first note of each string with my index finger i leave it there until i play the third note on that string and only then do i move it. I think the fluid movement of the continued downstroke on the right hand is occuring a lot quicker than i can get my left index finger down to the next note on the next string.

For Example, naturally my index finger will remain planted on the 5th fret of the E string until after i play the 8th fret. Would it be more efficient / cleaner to move the index finger above the 5th fret on the A string once the middle finger has played the 7th fret so once the string change occurs it is more fluid / clean.

A -----5------7------8
E -----5------7------8

I have found this isn’t really discussed anywhere on any forums or videos on the internet i have come across (maybe that’s because its incredibly obvious) but i have found it interesting that i have only just noticed this now after playing for 15+ years.

TLDR; When playing scales do you plant your index finger until it is required again and then move it or do you begin to reposition it to the string/position it is required whilst your other fingers are still playing their required notes ?



what about this forum? Lol!

Seriously I agree with you though, I haven’t heard it discussed anywhere other than @Tom_Gilroy’s excellent work. Each finger should release right as the next finger is playing because then you’ll have the duration of 2 more fingers until you need it again. If you drum your fingers on a table as fast as you can (ring finger, middle finger, index finger is very natural and easy to repeat fast), you’ll probably find your fingers want to do this without you even thinking about it.

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Oh wow i haven’t actually come across that post yet.

Looks like there is plenty there for me to sink my teeth into. Thankyou for linking.

Interestingly i find i have never had an issue with descending links because you have to remove your pink and ring fingers first to play the descending notes and they naturally reposition to the next not they are required on.

i think this will be quite quick to embed as it is more of a mindset shift so a couple weeks of drumming it in and it should become natural.

Thanks again for your prompt reply - looking forward tor reading through Tom’s content

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Yep, you’re welcome! It’s thorough, you’re right. The “for dummies” version can be summarized like:

  • Fastest finger combos involve 1 2 3 or 1 2 4.
    • The reverse of these is fine (3 2 1 or 4 2 1)
    • As long as the cycle is preserved, it doesn’t matter which finger you start on (i.e. 1 2 3 === 2 3 1 === 3 1 2 etc etc etc with the reverse cycles). The idea is you’re giving each finger 2 notes’ time to before it’s needed again
  • Each finger releases while the next is playing.
  • Avoid 3-4 combos.

It sounds like you already came to some of these conclusions yourself too. You’ve outlined how you think what you’ve been doing has held you back and you’re instinct to release the fingers instead of hold them down is the right way. Also, your observation about you being faster with the descending licks, based on the way you play them. supports all this.

Good luck with everything!


Thanks Joe,

That is a great summary and definitely a topic i find very interesting considering how focused we all tend to become on the picking hand.

Definitely something that now that i have observed i can’t ignore. I’m looking forward to working on the fretting hand to be able to keep up with the great progress i have made on my right hand thanks to all this great content and the help of the forum.

Appreciate the help and advice !

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Cool thread, I was going to chime in about Tom’s awesome digital cycles stuff. It’s really cool stuff!


A wonderful summary, but I wonder about this part:

Is it fair to say that a finger should be down only if it is necessary, otherwise it should be in the air over the next thing that it will come down on?

And should the fingers be resting on the string and not pressing it down (effectively muting), or just above them?

I asked Tom about that In a different thread. There are times where it makes to leave a finger down but they are sort of exceptions. The general principle is a finger should play, then empty the tension until its next usage in the cycle

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Thanks, are there any exceptions that come to mind? For example, what about reversing a cycle, as represented by the following TAB?


Would there be a point where I have all three down, or is it better to just have one?

one. keep your options open for anything for you next play.

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Just my two cents for what i have found that works for me.

If there is a repeating pattern like the Yngwie 6’s that i am running through on a single string i will leave the index finger planted.

Other than that, particularly if there are any string changes involved or position shifts to another string/fret, releasing the tension immediately after the next note is played and repositioning has been giving me the best success since my initial observations.


Tom mentions in one of his videos the idea of “revealing” a note that has just been played. In that case. I interpret that as in your example, at thr point 9 is fretted all the fingers would be down. Then the pinky and middle finger would release to reveal the already fretted notes.

To be clear if that pattern were to repeat over and over, it isn’t an EDC. Actually it outside the EDC principles in general, so it is an “exception” or “situational” It could be used once to change directions and then the EDCs would resume. Looping it creates a 5’s pattern. Rusty Cooley looks like he leaves his index down for the duration of the 5’s here

Right that is similar to the above. In the point of the Yngwie 6’s where the direction changes, you would also want to leave the middle finger down and 'reveal" by just releasing the pinky (or ring finger)

Edit: here is a video where Tom talks about the “reveal”

And here is the one on changing directions


probably has to do with where he goes next, doesnt he either slide the pattern down the scale, or invert to the yang side of that pattern and do 3,2,1,2,3? alternating back and forth through that 5’s pattern, 1,2,3,2,1 then 3,2,1,2,3 down the scale on a single string?

Yeah I think I follow you and that seems like what Rusty’s doing, if I’m understanding correctly.