Has anyone here successfully CHANGED their picking technique?


Hi all!

I started playing acoustic at age 7, and electric at age 13.

My teacher who influenced me the most was Michael Lee Firkins (I took lessons from him around 1988-1989 I think).

So, here’s the deal:

I started off learning ONLY alternate picking, teaching myself. I got ridiculously fast, but sloppy!

But when I started to take lessons from Mike, he used economy picking.

I then developed a “problem” —

I could play DESCENDING scales fast as h@ll using alternate OR economy picking, but could NOT play ASCENDING scales cleanly AT ALL using either method.


After watching Marshall Harrison the last few years, I am determined to fully develop economy picking as my “main technique”.

However, I don’t know ANYONE besides Paul Gilbert, who has ever successfully done so!

Have any of you guys completely SWITCHED techniques successfully? I mean like how you hold your pick, your picking motion, etc.

I do NOT meaning learning from ground zero.

I worry that my muscle memory is so developed that I’ll never be able to overcome the switch from alternate to economy picking.

I’ll still keep trying, because I love guitar!!

I’d just like to know your experiences guys!

And for anyone who does NOT already know who Marshall Harrison is, he is the most advanced economy picker in the world right now; he took what Frank Gambale started, and took it to a million levels beyond.



Yes, I completely changed my technique. My current technique has almost nothing in common with my picking from 3-4 years ago. But as you say, it’s not very common.

But something to be aware of, is that I had to ‘set aside’ the time, so that I could try new things, and not constantly go back to my old technique. This is not easy for those of us who perform regularly. Its kinda like Tiger re-learning his golf swing after he lost a lot of his strength, or Axel Rose re-learning to sing after his throat issues. They both had to basically set aside several months, or even longer, where they could re-learn their technique, and not have to perform, compete, etc during this process.

However, this doesn’t work for everyone. It may be that you’ll do better with minor tweaks here and there.

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Troy has an interview with Mr. Harrison on this site.

Paul Gilbert never changed his picking technique; he’s always used strict alternate picking. Well, that’s not really 100% true as he’s demonstrated some partial sweep type things over the years.

I think a lot of people don’t like “economy picking” as a descriptor because it’s really not “economic” per se. It’s more of an approach that allows certain picking movements in certain directions given the player’s predisposition for pick mechanic, i.e, the so-called upward or downward pick slant position.

As for high level players that have completely overhauled their approach, Dweezil Zappa stands out very strongly, having studied with Jean Marc Belkadi, T.J. Helmerich, and Brett Garsed prior to going out on the Zappa Plays Zappa tours.


I’ve gone from a mishmash of forearm-rotation type ideas to pretty straightforward 902 over the last few months. It’s absolutely doable, and doesn’t take as much work as you think, either.

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I think with most people its probably more of a gradual evolution as they learn new things etc


I’m in the process of adopting a DWPS posture+motion similar to Troy and Teemu for metal rhythm playing. It’s been a slow, arduous process but I’m definitely making progress. It’s been about a years worth of work since I made my first breakthrough. It’s difficult because I play in a band that gigs, tours, records and rehearses very regularly so there’s a lot of interference with my old technique.

Crosspicking and double-escape strokes are still out of my wheelhouse but I do try them on a regular basis.

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Thanks very much for your replies guys!

One thing I would say in reply to the idea that economy isn’t “really” economical, is compare Impellitteri’s solo from Stand In Line to anything Marshall Harrison does.

At the time, Impellitteri was the fastest alternate picker (aside from Shawn Lane). But even comparing Shawn Lane to Marshall, the degree of effort that both players put into playing fast (as evident through their arm/hand motions,) is night and day. Skip to 3:15 —

Interesting to mention, Impellitteri dramatically changed his “shaking the whole arm” type picking on subsequent albums, and now his playing is extremely precise. (Even though I much prefer his over-the-top solos better!)

Anyhow, thanks guys!

It’s good to see that some CAN change their picking type and/or hand/arm movements successfully in time!

Also, the one poster is right about Paul Gilbert. What I meant to say was that Paul changed his hand movement and picking angle, NOT that he switched away from alternate picking.


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I gotta run to work guys! So I will pop back in later. I just got a brand new line 6 helix, and I am trying to program that (when not at work). I am excited to post some clips of my playing, so that maybe I can get some help and feedback! Thanks for reading guys!


Looking forward to seeing your playing.

FWIW I get the impression Marshall Harrison’s technique is different to what it was when Troy interviewed him. He seems to be incredibly economical with his movements. It would be cool to get him under the camera again.


Yeah, the video I linked was 20 years old!

Marshall’s technique has evolved for sure.

I’d LOVE to see Troy work with Marshall again too!


Back when I was living in a dark (metaphorical) cave, I believed that whatever picking technique we had was ‘our’ technique, and whatever it was we were stuck with it.

Then I watched CtC and realised this was nonsense. Since then I’ve been slowly learning a new technique for fast lines. I would say it shares most in common with MAB. I started by wanting to play better tremolo picking and have worked that up to the Pop Tarts lick sort of standard (though only about 160 so far).

I had no idea this was possible and have gone back to basics, thoroughly practising the Yngwie 6 note lick to really get it up to speed.

Thinking back, I did progress to economy picking from pure alternate in the past, but I see that more as an advancement of my main picking style, not a completely different style as I’m working on now.

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At one point in my playing i really completely changed my technique.

About 8 years ago i became a student of Tom Hess. The advertisement just clicked with the frustration i felt at the time. I know how controversial he is and for good reason. I quitted after some months, mostly because of the political ideology on the forums, because he wrote to us european subscribers to shower and use deodorants before the workshops and most of all because he wanted the metal people to stop the “666-shit”. Sorry sir, If i cant worship satan on your website, i am out.

Back to the point:
The picking technique taught by hess consists of two blocks

  • The ‘thumb muting’ hand position, where the thumb is placed on the string below the one you are picking on.
  • economy picking at almost all times. (i dont know if there would have been solutions to the problems which this can produce presented in later lessons).

Thumb muting had nothing in common with the hand position i used before, so i guess this counts as completely changing my technique.

I had some real progress while practicing with his approach. I remember it helped me to break the 120 BPM plateau. In hindsight i think my old technique was very flawed, so “restarting” in a new position helped me to instinctively correct some mistakes which heldme back.

My gratitude is limited, though, because the whole narrative in the hess community about thumb muting and directional being the best thing ever where my excuse for never even trying to alternate anything before i saw the ctc videos. So now i am super married to the technique.

So we might be in a similar position because all which my experience tells me is that for a player with a bad and undeveloped technique, changes are very possible. Not sure whether i can do the same almost a decade later.
On the other hand, troy has mastered all these different techniques… there seem to be limits (like adopting MAB hand position) but such a big change doesnt even seem to be necessary for most techniques to be successful.

Btw, it would be interesting to talk to somebody who has a hess style picking position. I d love to hear how he/she uses the pickslanting insights.


Has anyone here successfully CHANGED their picking technique?

Absolutely. And welcome.

Different musical performance challenges require different techniques. So much here with @Troy and the gang’s work to explore… It gets weird to talk about it like gear shifting, one fundamental approach or technique to another, but I’m sure many of us here have. Ultimately for me, it comes down to augmentation and refinement of existing picking skills. The best part of those changes for me is that advancement of technique lets me get back to thinking about musical expression, and not having to think about picking limitations that hindered my playing for decades. Cheers, D


I think my experience with Cracking the Code has been more “slowly incorporate as much of this stuff as I can into what I was already doing without radical changes”.

Before Code I did spend 6 months using a totally different pick grip because Ben Eller said so, and gained a fairly significant perceived boost when I finally decided to pack it in and go back to what I was doing before.


Yes! I have changed my fundamental right hand techniques a few times actually. I have some old videos to show the differences.

My earliest style was a deviation based pronated downward escape (UWPS for us that have a hard time converting to new lingo) setup. I sounded good and got great muting capabilities but it always felt a bit uptight so I tried to mimic Yngwies hand setup and came up with this around 2007. This is on the contrary a very supinated setup but still downward escape so the motion must have been some kind of wrist flexion and extension. I didn’t think about this at all at the time and I can’t recreate this way of playing today. Of course it didn’t have many similarities with Yngwie either. Sorry the vid is so dark.

At some point I came to the conclusion that that style didn’t sound good with anything other that distorted guitar playing so I changed back to my old style. I also wanted to learn to use hybrid picking so the pronated setup worked better for this. This is from 2009.

So this is my “normal” style and I can still go back to this setup at all times and make it work. But this is exclusively downward escape so it doesn’t really work with riffing and anything that requires upward escape (DWPS). Also the deviation movement doesn’t feel so good to me and you can see that there are tension in my arm when speeding up.

So i worked a lot at lessening the tension and after a few years it got better although I never really liked the feel of picking fast with this setup. It felt like work. This is from 2014.

But then I found CTC and found out about DWPS and forearm rotation so for the last few years I been working hard on burning a movement in that’s based around that. And although it might look like a lot more work, flinging the whole arm around, this is so much more relaxed style for me. This is from 2018.

I still need to evaluate when to use this and when you use the pronated deviation setup. It might be that this new setup is mostly good for speed.

I tried a lot but I just can’t do it. I have years of ingrained picking habits that I can’t break. CtC has made me more aware of using legato escapes but, aside from that, I can’t change unfortunately.

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Yes!! I’ve changed picking styles a few times over a 34 years of playing

  1. I used to hold the pick with two fingers and thumb for thrash muting (common thing I think because of the picking strength), and wrist deviation for picking. Holding pick like this also helped with starting runs on the low strings. I used to pick inside-inside, meaning a 3 note per string run I used to start on a down-stroke on every string - seems bonkers I know!, but I could still play wickedly fast. My thrash Muting was done with palm.

  2. I had a brief “Skirmish” with economy picking after discovering it at a drunken jam! Totally loved it - superb tone, speed and clarity - sat well with sweep chords, super tight rhythm and lead mixing. But after a few weeks I found I just couldn’t get rid of the triplet timing sound it has - maybe it’s possible but I couldn’t do it - so I ditched it.

  3. About 10 years ago I switched to holding the pick normally, when I saw Paul Gilbert switched (from the same two fingers hold technique as mine) and had a better tone, still stuck with wrist deviation at low speed and forearm rotation at high speed. Tho I wasn’t aware of this until a few month ago, and used to mentally call the forearm rotation - “The Shake”!. I also switched to outside picking after reading the Paul Gilbert string skipping stuff. Was still muting with palm.

  4. Quite recently I switched to pure forearm rotation and thrash muting with pinky finger. Muting with pinky finger was the big break-thru for me - I found it so damn hard to mute using palm with forearm rotation - and still have flexible freedom. Also outside/inside picking is no longer a thing with rotation, It used to be a major thing with wrist deviation - because of the picking imbalance inherent in that technique (for me anyhow). This current combination I’m using is just plain awesome, I can switch between rhythm, lead, arps - whatever without any setup time, it’s all the same picking technique.

I found wrist deviation great - but the pick imbalance became more and more tricky as I learnt more and more stuff, so it became a huge maintenance thing - quite draining, to point of not learning stuff because I knew it would mess up all the stuff in the bank.

  • Pick Imbalance Explained - I found there’s a slight difference in how hard you have to hit the strings with up and down-strokes and the pick angle changes also. It’s very subtle, but I found after a while I ended up with a down-stroke bias because of it.
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I had no consistent picking technique until I scrapped and started again in June 2017. From what I remember I was an UWPS and held the pick on the pad of my index finger or something. It was really fucked up and sounded terrible.

Actually now that I’m thinking about it I remember flip-flopping so much between styles before 2017 that I practically gave up using a pick for years. I basically got really good at playing the guitar like a piano with tapping only and thought I had no “genetics” for picking. Lmao.

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That’s where I am at the minute - using tapping and legato. My picking has fallen apart completely as a result :pensive:

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start back little by little. Its physiology, it HAS to work

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