Hello from a Bluegrass/Irish trad/Folk guitar and mandolin player! Am I in the right place?


Hi there!

I’m a young French music-lover, playing guitar (acoustic mostly) and mandolin. Although I like to play the occasional blues or funk, the styles I play most are “folk” musics such as bluegrass or irish trad.

After long hours of searching for the way to heaven (finding a way to have a picking hand that works decently), I got here, watched a few vids and read a lot… And thought there was definitely something of interest going on here.

I am looking to make my picking hand faster (I’m a lefty but I learnt the “normal way” and hold the pick in the right hand): after years of quite dedicated practice, my limit (just the same note over and over, nothing going on on the fretting hand) playing 4 notes per beat, is at:

  • around 108bpm if I make sure I’m relaxed (the movement comes primarily from the wrist)
  • 144-155bpm depending on the day if I allow myself to tense up a lot (the movement comes from the elbow, the wrist being completely locked). This way does not sound good and I have no control at all, so it’s not really usable in a musical context.

When I see here that people feel bad about playing 16th notes a 180-200bpm (nearly four times faster than me!), I feel like they are in another world, so I’d like to join in, and thought subscribing would be the way to do it.

I’m just not quite sure what to expect and if what is covered here is relevant to my goals:

  • My main problem is not accuracy or changing strings (in comparison to the rest of my picking technique, my bluegrass crosspicking is actually a strong point), but just in being able to pick faster, as I cannot keep up in bluegrass/irish jam sessions and I just can’t do a proper tremolo, which is a pity on the mandolin.
    I feel like I need an extra gear (or two) much more than I need to learn to steer my car (at least for now).

  • The style that appeals the most to me is bluegrass, and from the few free videos I’ve seen led me to believe there’s a lot a stuff that seems really interesting when it comes to rock and other amplified musics, but not so relevent to acoustic bluegrass guitar, and maybe even less to mandolin because of the double courses of strings… Am I wrong?

Well, clearly put, I am asking for advice, or an opinion:
Do you think I should subscribe because it’ll probably help my incredibly slow picking hand (and maybe change my life forever…ok I’m going too far), or did I fall in the wrong place, a great teaching platform indeed, but which would just not be suited to my problematics?

As I do not know where I am headed, I believe anybody here will be more knowledgeable than me regarding the content of CtC, and I will trust your advice more than my preconceived ideas.
If you happen to think joining the community is gonna be helpful to my music, then I’ll make the step and will be more than happy to give my impressions and thoughts about the kind of results I get in playing folk musics on gutiar and mandolin.

edit: to put thing in context, here are videos of my technique:

Wishing a great day to anybody reading this !


Hi! We love bluegrass mandolin players and have filmed Andy Wood on his mando quite a bit. In short, I think you should post up a clip so we can take a look at what your hand is doing. If you’re stringhopping, then your picking will be accurate but slow. Switching to a true crosspicking technique, or any of the pickslanting techniques, will solve that. Both work on mandolin.


Hi Mando,

Masters in Mechanics has covered a number of hot Bluegrass and Country players such as Molly Tuttle and David Grier and Carl Miner. Of particular interest to you might be the Andy Wood interview since he talks both guitar and Mandolin.

You can also take a video clip of your current playing style (use a camera sight down the guitar fretboard towards your picking hand) and try a couple clips of things you’re struggling with, such as a fast tremolo-pick on a single note


Cool… a Mandolin player. Is there anyway you could make a video of your form? Would love to see it.

I think you you are in the right place… but i also think that the guitarists playing 4x faster than are using a technique that may not be a good fit for you.

I think its important that you maintain your ‘pick anything’ string changing skills… so I wouln’t recommend trying to learn Yngvie style pick-slanting… but would instead try to sharpen your existing skills by looking to a lot of the country guitarist cross-pickers like Carl Miner… who has really nice efficient form… and could ‘pick anything’ at pretty good speeds.

Anyway… would love to see a video of your current form.


I know you’re referring to playing medium speed lead type lines, so in general I agree. But to add to this, most (all?) mando tremolo techniques I’ve seen are pickslanting techniques, very often uwps. Which you’re going to need if you want to play a string-switching melody while tremolololo-ing, which those mando folk do a lot. How do they time it so the downstroke is always the final note before the string change? I don’t know. But EVH does this when he plays “Little Guitars” and switches strings while tremololololo-ing, so it’s totally possible.


Yes, definitely. I actually wasn’t saying this because he plays the mandolin… but was based upon his comments about his current strengths/abilities/taste in music… specifically that his bluegrass crosspicking was a strength. I just love to encourage people to continue on that route.


Well thanks a lot for answering so fast and for such a warm welcome!

It seems I should not be thinking any more and get to work… I just subscribed and will start with “pickslanting primer” as soon as I get up tomorrow!

Yes I’ll try and film my technique and post it in the right section. I’m sure there must be a lot to change, because really it’s been a while I hit a plateau, and it’s not a really high one! I’ll just have to figure how to hold my phone in the right angle for that…


You might be able to find a cute little tripod intended for small cameras and smartphones at your local electronics store, that’s what I use


Welcome. Part of the fun of CTC for me has been the introduction the interviews have provided to interesting players from styles outside my comfort zone.


Here are some videos of my playing I posted in “technique critique”:

I’m not too sure what is wrong or wright, but hopefully it’ll clear out as I advance with CtC!

@Frylock: That’s true, having hindsights on different sights surely is fun and interesting. I actually have interest in listening and playing pretty much any style of music, but I feel like at first I need to focus and have a solid technique in one style before trying to mix it up with other stuff, although that’s not an easy task, I am always dying to try other instruments and styles, but so far it didn’t help me make much progress.


2 posts were split to a new topic: Basic vs Paid Membership, what’s available