"Glass Prison"-arpeggios at 125-130bpm...and my 2cts on what to do when crosspicking is a nightmare

Hello guys,

I made these videos because I got a couple of requests from forum members to play some alternately picked/crosspicked arpeggio forms and to offer some tips on crosspicking.

I have always been a “neutral-slanter”/“crosspicker” myself and before I discovered CTC I thought everybody more or less played the same way I did. When I started out I viewed the guitar-string-plane as a symmetric plane, and I thought that the pick should always be at a 90 degree angle in relation to the plane of the strings and also with virtually no edge-picking. I was aware of other techniques, but I didn’t know how to execute them correctly. For example, I’ve been playing guitar for 25 years and I never had sweep-picked anything until I saw it on YT a couple of years ago. Go figure :stuck_out_tongue:

I came to CTC to improve on my speed, because I wondered how it was possible that I couldn’t play certain things with alternate picking, although it appeared that these pieces were alternately picked and that I SHOULD be able to do them if I practiced enough.

Then I found out that many players here were DWPS and UWPS or economy/hybrid pickers and that crosspicking/alternate picking was relatively rare.

I also came across many posts where players were banging their heads against the wall about not being able to either understand the mechanics of crosspicking or perform crosspicking. Troy has devoted different posts and videos on the subject, but I still feel that for many people the movement or how to practice it is not completely clear.

I decided therefor to explain the things that have helped me in improving my alternate picking so that it potentially can help other players (especially players that have never crosspicked before).

First a few clarifications:

My alternate-picking technique is NOT exactly the same as Troy’s. The closest sibling to my way of doing it is Martin Miller’s technique, where you constantly draw curved lines in the air like a pendulum, before hitting the string and after having hit the string. I have a lot of work to do before I can come close to the consistency, speed and accuracy of Miller, but what he plays and how he plays it feels very natural to me.

Tip 1:
To get used to this technique, what helped me is to not so much think consciously about slants and stuff while doing it, but just to make sure you lift the pick just enough to keep on playing. For example, say you hit the open B string with a downstroke. You make sure you miss the high-E just enough so that you don’t hit it and then continue with an upstroke on the hi-E. This way you are not string-hopping, but just avoiding the next string in one fluid motion.

Tip 2:
Don’t underestimate the left hand. With many licks the limiting factor with me is the left hand, not the right hand, especially Yngwie-type single string lines, but also the Glass Prison arpeggios. My left hand isn’t fast enough or synced enough or fit enough sometimes to keep up with the right one.

Tip3:
Not all crosspicking-licks are created equal. Just because you can make a string change, doesn’t mean that you can suddenly blaze all over the neck with any pattern.
As you can see in the videos, I play an Am7 arpeggio (16ths at 150) which feels relatively easy to me. It is pretty similar to the Glass Prison arpeggios, but the latter are infinitely more difficult.

Why?
The left hand fingering is more intricate.
The accents slow you down, because you have to think about them.
You play different shapes of arpeggios (2 minor shapes and one diminished shape)
This is tiring for the left hand.

All this slows you down.

So don’t despair if you can play the Master of Puppets solo lick at the start of the solo with alternate picking but Glass Prison gives you trouble.

For example, I can play the “Lepper Messiah” arpeggios at 180-200bpm (converted to 16ths it would be 135-150), but (at this moment) I can only dream of playing the Glass Prison arpeggios at that tempo.




Tip 4:
In order to get faster and more accurate I noticed that the technique I use in video 4 has by far the best results. It is a practice technique Miller talks about in his Skype lesson. You pick the tempo that is too fast for you to play at. In my case it’s 135 bpm for Glass Prison.
Then you try to play ONE note at that tempo. Then you try TWO in a row. Then three. And so on.

You will find that what gives you trouble is not if you can actually play it (because you can), but being able to combine all these movements in a row, hand synchronization and also stamina.

I hope this helped a bit.

Any comments/questions are more than welcome!

Disclaimer: I know some of the playing isn’t a 100% clean at all times, but I want this to be a realistic display, not do a 100 takes and cherry-pick the best ones :stuck_out_tongue:

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I’m not the best at analysing clips, but I just got home and saw this, so here goes:
The first few clips look a bit more like 2WPS as there is a couple of rotational blips and it is quite hard to see the curved motion of the pick - the hand stays quite flat - it could be a bit string hoppy (slo-mo could help). However, the final clip to me looks like there is more Martin Miller MP joint movement when the smoother bits are happening and it looks a but more curved.

I’m really not any sort of authoriylty on this so I hope other members with more experience with crosspicking chime in!
Good luck!

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And keep us posted with your progress! The glass prison arps are savage! Well done matey!

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@nitro1976, Have you had much success with this method for non-crosspicking licks?

Yes, it works for every type of lick in my experience, because it uncovers your weak spots.

I have tried it also a lot with sweep picking.

Awesome, I’ll give it a try now!

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:+1:t3: Please tell me how it worked out for you, pros and cons.

Very interesting… Its hard to give a definitive appraisal of the method as I have made a change in my motion mechanic yesterday (which is in itself helping) and I have only spent a small amount of time with it, but I definitely want to stick with it. I do something similar already - splitting licks/chunks in half, but I haven’t done it note by note before. I did the method on ascending 6s on the b and e strings I can usually do 1 or 2 max repeats before it breaks down, so I definitely have sone sort of tension/ lack of fluidity some where. After a good bit of practice with this method I have shown signs of inprovement.

Pros :
-makes you analyse the lick in more detail and go through the mechanics needed.
-Gives you more awareness of how the last (added) pickstroke feels when executing it and where you end up, giving you feedback on the success.

  • I think it could be good for learning things at low speed as well as just beyond the confort zone.

Cons- When playing to a click, it can be hard to tell whether you are executing the lick timing correctly when stopping part way through a lick. For example stopping on the 5th note of 16th note triplet line. It is easier to do it without the click, but the idea is to ensure is to keep you just beyond your comfort zone- the metronome enforces this

All in all, I think I need to bed my motion mechanic in and try this method again when I have reached a plateau, to test whether it helps me break through it. Also, I might try it on a new lick (maybe crosspicking like yourself).

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Ever since I saw the Miller interview, I’ve been obsessed with wanting to learn the glass prison arpeggios. Both alternate picked and sweeped, but mainly alternate picked. Those arpeggios ended up being my main go to practice exercise for over a year.

It took a ton of experimentation doing different things, but ultimately, I settled for a sort of reverse Andy Lee crosspicking. I keep an upward pick slant 100% of time. I use ulnar wrist deviation directly after a downstroke to lift my pick. And then I use extension directly after the upstroke to lift my pick.

This got me pretty far, but still not up to speed. I noticed that at higher speeds, I unconsciously used tiny finger movements even though I fought really hard not to. Eventually I caved in and decided to embrace it. The reverse Andy Lee crosspicking is still there, but combined with the finger movement, you could barely notice it. The movements are now so small . The pick barely gets any lift over the strings. Because of this, my crosspicking stamina has really increased.

And yeah, you’re right about the left hand. At a certain speeds, it got to the point where my left hand was the bottleneck. And it took me a while to realize and accept it was my left hand, not my right. Also, the barre arpeggios are fucking hard to crosspick. Something about about not having feedback on my finger tips on every note made it really hard to synchronize my right hand.

ATM, I’m at the point where I can crosspick each individual arpeggio repeatedly up to speed if you force me to. But putting all the various arpeggios together is a whole nother thing.

I’m gonna see if I could put up my own video sometime soon so I could get feedback.

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Would love to see your progress. I would love to tackle the GP arps and tumeni notes, but I am quite obsessed with pushing my 2WPS, which is coming along nicely (but still a away to go to reach that magic 200bpm 16th goal! :joy:). I havent tried it much to be fair, but the crosspicking mechanic is really alien to me, so mucho respecto to you guys going for it!

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Very insightful post. Another problem that throws me off in this case is this:

You see these movements from Albert Lee and Miller, and it’s difficult to execute them, because they don’t consciously think about them, while you are approaching it consciously. Somehow there, there is a problem. It’s feels like thinking consciously about how to run or something, counter-intuitive.

For example, I do this thing where I bend my thumb downward at downstrokes. I just can’t play for the life of me by holding my thumb rigid, like Steve Morse does; it feels impossible for me to do that.

Also, I noticed that my hands play tricks on me. If I play the guitar ten minutes here, ten minutes there, my hands behave completely differently than when I play daily for 1-2hrs.

When I play sporadically, the hands simply won’t do what I want them to do, accuracy, stamina and speed all suffer. It feels very hard to execute something “hard” and it feels that I have to work for every note. This even applies to things like tight funk strumming things; it just doesn’t sound right.

But, I noticed that when I play 1-2hrs per day, suddenly, I get in this space where my playing seems to just flow, without effort. The hands just seem to know automatically how to behave.

This can be quite frustrating if you are stuck in phase 1 and you are wondering what you are doing wrong. Maybe you are doing everything right, but your hands just aren’t strong enough or “drilled” enough.

I’ve seen versions of Glass Prison being played at 170-180 bpm sweeped and Miller plays it at 160bpm alternate picked. This feels like a lightyear away, but now I know that it is possible I will keep on trying and use it to improve on my current technique.

In this case I started the arpeggios with an upstroke, but I noticed that starting with a downstroke has a few more advantages in this case. Having an upward pickslant helps me during the first arpeggio, but then sort of throws me off with the diminished one. I’m curious to see how you cope with all these things.

I would love to see your execution of it :+1:t3:

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How have you been getting on? Any progress?

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Hello! I have increased the speed 5-10bpm, now I’m struggling to hit 140-145bpm. I noticed that my left hand got smarter and that my right hand slants automatically. As soon as I can I will upload a video.

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Doing well my friend, keep it up!
I have just started on a bit of crosspicking, I also have the Glass Prison in my crosshairs! I think it will take me a while though, but I’m not in a rush - trying to keep the pressure up on 2WPS.

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Did anyone get further on the glass prison?

Does Petrucci use this picking pattern anywhere else in his playing, and if not, why not?

I have seens several live clips where he actually sweeps through these arpeggios. The studio version may have been alternate - picked, but this is probably too hard even for him in a live setting.

EDIT: for example, this looks mostly like sweeping to me (or a mix of sweeping and a bit of alternate):

I practiced it for quite a while. I managed to play it at around 130-140 alternate picked, although Miller can play it at 150-160. What I found is that you can only play it with Miller-picking or two way slanting.

I found that at the high tempos I can play it much easier with economy/sweeping and it sounds basically the same.

I think the pattern is a good one to have (the 2-1-2 pattern) because it occurs often, but for me economy picking feels much more natural for this pattern.

I might give it ago again, it’s been a while.

That’s really cool. I think that a lot of people struggle (me included) to be satisfied if they are playing something in a different way to the original - even if it sounds (basically) the same!

I remember Rick Graham doing a video of the GP arps both alternate and economy picked - both sounded excellent.

I think its impossible to do with two way escape picking, it is too fast. I tried this pattern on the b minor arpeggio which starts the run with cross picking, but then changed my approach which I think is working.

First, you anchor the hand on the strings for balance through all the movements.

Second, I used forearm rotation but it may work with wrist, to play the first two notes startingon the high E string.

Third, rather than thinking of the next three notes as cross picking which is done with a curve on top of the string, I found if I thought above them as inside turns of the sort you would make with economy picking played with finger movement and a bit of elbow movement, with the third note taking the plectrum up towards the high E string again for the forearm rotation to play three notes starting on an upstroke.

Now, I asked this question about Petrucci using it elsewhere because this technique might be used to play an inside lick of one note on the first string and two notes on the second string, the single note played with the finger movement. I wondered if anyone has seen him do this?

Do you mean 2 Way Pickslanting?