Help a serial stringhopper and swiper figure out his technique

Hey all,

I need some help with my technique. For the life of me I can’t seem to get over the strings. I’ve found myself defaulting to stringhopping at slower tempos, and I can’t seem to play clean at faster tempos. I’m not sure if I’m swiping or what, because getting over the strings seems to be extremely difficult and really noisy. It’s a good deal frustrating, hence the annoyed grunt. Anybody able to help me diagnose this?

Guitar playing feels weird

There is a lot of great playing in there! Based on your description, I was expecting playing that sounded much less experienced and I was pleasantly surprised.

I think you just need to step back and figure out if you are more comfortable with upstroke or downstroke string changes. I think you’re playing a lot of phrases that would require both escapes at various times. That can cause problems if you haven’t fully embraced single escape playing to begin with.

If you do fast tremolo on one string and make the pick strokes sort of large, does your pick run into one of the adjacent strings? If it’s hitting the adjacent string closer to the floor, you’re a natural USX player, so work on phrases that just change string after upstrokes. If the opposite, you’re a DSX player and you should work on phrases that change strings after downstrokes. I don’t think this will happen, but if for some reason you’re hitting both of the adjacent strings, that does mean you have a trapped motion and we’ll need to do some tweaks to get it escaping in one direction. So for now, we’ll (hopefully) be able to ignore that 3rd option since I don’t think you’re really trapped.

Whichever of those first 2 scenarios you end up with, you should get this new sense of freedom. You can then return to the licks you’re doing that would require more ‘mixed’ escape and make tweaks via a helper motion.

Great playing though! You’ve got speed and it seems like pretty good hand sync so you’re well on your way. I think all you need to do is understand what your strength is and capitalize on that. From there you’ll have a reference point and can do plenty of other cool things.

I think that’s the tricky bit. For the music I like (power metal), that seems to be the common thing people do. Definitely I notice downward pickslanting for 16th note rhythms in a lot of the music, both tonally and just trying to play it.

Weeellll… you be the judge:

Thanks. That’s good to hear.

Yeah I do see some trapped movements going on. This is very close to the ‘diagnosis’ I got when I was trying to get USX, using a downward slant, but really having DSX tendencies. It makes sense if you think about it because if the motion is inherently wanting to escape on the down stroke and we are fighting that by trying to make it escape on the upstroke…nobody wins and it doesn’t escape in either direction. It’s common when we are driving the movement with our elbow.

The very fastest stuff you did in the beginning (which was crazy fast) is driven from the elbow. That will escape on the downstroke for sure. When playing gets that fast, the movements naturally get smaller, but I can see a trajectory that goes away from the body, slightly, on the downstrokes.

When you went a little slower, around 0:10 - 0:13 it looked like USX to me, then it did become trapped. Same with the super slow mo section around 0:56 to 1:00. There is some USX, but then it becomes trapped. To me it looks like when it’s more USX-ish, the wrist is slightly flexing a little to help out with that escape.

Since you’re a pretty experienced player I think the remedy is to concentrate on phrases that only escape one way, and see which are easier to do consistently. It doesn’t have to be ‘forever’ but it will give you that reference point of when it feels like smooth and effortless playing. I honestly had no idea what that felt like pre CtC. I could play 16ths in the 170 - 180 bpm range, but my stamina wasn’t great and it always felt difficult. Turns out I was just fighting nature and working way too hard.

For all this, I’ll just add the disclaimer that I am very much a ‘wanna-be’ technique critique guy. @tommo will take a look at this at some point and tell you what’s really going on. I may be off on some of my points.

But yeah you’ve got nothing to worry about. Once you get the proper guidance and put in a little more work doing stuff the ‘right way’, you’ll be off and running. I mean, you sort of are already, but I know what you’re after. Getting it to all feel ‘easy’ like it does for the players we look up to :slight_smile:

One thing I notice is that it’s not consistently one thing. There are times you look trapped, and there are times you rotate your wrist and it is almost a USX, or almost a DSX, but never quite any of them. I honestly think if you are trying to force a wide pick stroke, it’s not really going to be representative of what you actually are doing. I know @joebegly want to se it so he could see if you were trapped by knocking into the strings, but doing that may change the way you actually play a bit if you aren’t playing strokes that large.

I think for you, you just need a slight hand reposition to either make one of the single escapes work, because it looks like you could do either and you actually do both (your first vid switches from an almost DSX position to a USX one on the last two higher strings). Or if you like what you do already and that feels good, you just need to train a helper motion for the times you need to cross strings. Your pick depth also looks like it could be deeper than it needs to be too, but that’s not likely the biggest thing.

Tricky thing is it doesn’t really feel all that great, and it’s difficult for me to keep a motion across all the strings without repositioning. I think I was doing more pick depth so you could see it in the video, because before you’d just see my hand moving. Man, the Magnet would be nice. Any particular motions you feel would do the job? Cause clearly I have speed, but I’m finding myself in a trapped motion most of the time. Part of that might be trying to force two-way pickslanting for complicated phrases, which is a must in my genre.

Well can you elaborate a little on what about it doesn’t feel great? The motion itself, the contact with the strings? Does it feel like there’s too much snag or impact in either direction? Does it feel like there is too much effort to play etc…

With power metal, it’s not a necessity that you use two way pick slanting. If a single escape technique feels better and works for you, you can arrange licks to work with it, and still sound power metal. So I wouldn’t really worry too much about it or be really narrowly focused on a double escape as the only thing that will work.

1 Like

This is awesome playing! Thanks for posting.

You have two “modes”, which others have pointed out.

  1. The very fast mode where the whole arm moves is elbow. It looks almost exactly like @tommo’s technique when playing at his fastest. It is downstroke escape. It’s clean, there is no swiping. It sounds unsynchronized to you because you are switching strings after downstrokes, even if that doesn’t match what you are fretting. Your hands know they can’t do upstroke string changes so they are trying to find ways to pick only evens or “ghost” certain motions to make downstroke be the last pickstroke on the string. This is a viable strategy, and allows a DSX-only motion or even a trapped motion to play odd numbers of notes per string. Here’s what that looks like in Rusty Cooley’s technique:
  1. The medium-fast speed where the hand moves and the arm is stationary — that is wrist motion. Specifically, it is Andy Wood-style wrist motion where the primary motion is downstroke escape and occasional double escape pickstrokes are used when necessary. This “mode” can pick any number of notes per string with no ghosting. The ascending fours at the end there is a great example of this: it is perfect.

What should you do?

First of all, change nothing. Everything is working as it should. If you would like more accuracy, you can:

  1. Recognize that you have two modes which require different phrase construction.

  2. Elbow mode requires DSX phrases. Assemble a basket of DSX-only phrases and ensure that hand sync and string changes are perfect.

  3. For odds with elbow mode, you will need ghosting or swiping. It is hard to become conscious of when this is happening since it only happens subconsciously at very fast speeds. You can work on those phrases by playing them fast and trying to slow them down a tiny bit, but now that you know what must happen, you can try to become more consistent in recognizing it and allowing the ghosting to happen.

  4. Wrist mode is working as it should. Just assemble a large basket of mixed escape phrases and play them at speeds from fast to slightly slower, while working on accuracy. The motions are already operating correctly. DSX is happening when necessary, and DBX is happening when necessary. Slowing down a small amount will allow you to hear/feel when accuracy is good and repeat those attempts a few times.

Excellent work, keep us posted!

1 Like

Sorry, I think I replied to Joe by mistake. Meant for the OP!

No problem. I’ve already taken a screenshot of Troy Grady responding to ‘me’ and saying the playing is awesome :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:


So is this a new term in the vocab? what exactly is ghosting now? Making a motion but not hitting anything?

A pickstroke that stops short of hitting the string but is still a visible motion. It’s just another way for the picking hand to not have to stop picking, which at some level must be easier than stopping the motion so you can have deliberate legato. This is why when the best high-speed elbow players do the '80s shred-type phrases, you don’t always hear as much or even any swiping. Because at some level they are avoiding that by picking a different number of notes than they are fretting.

We’ve discussed this in one of our earliest videos, also about Rusty, and Marshall Harrison. It’s still a pretty good watch, except I’d refer to the motions themselves and not “two-way pickslanting” these days. In this case, every time I say “Upward pickslanting” and “two-way pickslanting” you could just replace that with “DSX motion” and “forearm helper motion” and it would fit right in:

Okay I gotcha, so for example if you were playing a six note phrase that started with three notes on one string, and two on a higher adjacent string ending with one on that first lower string, you would pick the first three notes, down, up, down, and then ghost pick what would be the next sequential up stroke in the space between the two strings so you could start on a down on the higher adjacent string, up on the second note, a ghost down in the space between the strings again and then hit the last note on the lower string with a up?

More than anything it’s the contact with the strings, feeling a lot of snag. Not to mention when I swipe, I get the audible open strings. That’s probably more a left hand thing, maybe.

Hey Troy, thank you so much for responding! I’ll do this.

One thing: the issue I’m finding with swiping is I get a very audible open string and it doesn’t sound very clean with full distortion. I’ll have to try the ghosting and implement that.

In concept, yes. But that phrase would also be playable with DSX and just picking all the notes, so you might say, what’s the point?

But Rusty actually does stuff like this, on phrases which technically do work with DSX, but you still see ghosting. Like Gilbert descending sixes, for example. That should be fine with his motion starting on a downstroke, but it’s more complicated when you actually watch how he plays it. There’s variation in there and it’s not the same every attempt.

I think these hyper motions are tough to grasp from sensory perspective and know consciously what you’re doing with that. But the fact that you do see motions like the two-string sixes example in the clip above, really makes you think. He’s basically doing two pickstrokes, then a ghost, repeatedly, at hyperpicking speeds, without stopping or slowing down. It’s pretty amazing.

This is also another data point for all the “elbow is bad” people that it’s is a big world out there. Most people don’t even have a picking motion that goes 240, 250, 260bpm. It’s great to be super accurate and pick all the notes at 180. It’s also very cool to be able to play actual synchronized phrases at death metal speeds and make them sound good. These hacks are all ingenious.

1 Like

I don’t see or hear any swiping in the first video above. I also see zero evidence of stringhopping. So the title of this thread doesn’t really square with your actual playing.

Also, just because you hear an open string doesn’t mean it’s swiping. It could just be a pickstroke that aims for the wrong string. Which would just be an accuracy error. You really won’t know unless you film it and look.

The key is here is to realize that your motions are working, and to become more conscious of the fact that you have two different picking styles.

If you want to work on the super fast stuff, that is elbow. Learning to slow that down a small amount but still use elbow, without switching to wrist mode, is how you can learn to clean that up. You want to assemble a basket of simple phrases that are DSX-compliant, and make sure they are perfect. Because DSX phrases can be perfect with your elbow motion. You do not want to just blaze on mixed-escape type phrases with your elbow motion and then just think, it sounds bad. That’s not really giving you a chance to be clean.

You can also try mixed escape phrases with the elbow technique, but that should be separate, and conscious. You will need to do trial and error to find some way to become conscious of the fact that that picking and fretting hands are doing different things, so that you can make it consistent. When we film very fast hyperpicking type elbow techniques, there is a lot of random variation because it’s hard for the player to know what is actually going on at those speeds. The players themselves aren’t really aware if they are or are not picking all the notes. Now that you have the knowledge, that is your power.

Finally, the wrist mode requires mixed escape phrases and a wide variety of them. If you just blaze on those and return to elbow mode, that won’t work. You need some way of learning by feel when you are using wrist mode and elbow, so you can ensure you are really using wrist mode when you play these types of lines. For you, wrist is the only one of your two modes where a traditional “one pickstroke for every note” approach will work on phrases with even and odd numbers of notes per string. Any noises you hear when doing this, do not automatically assume those are swiping. Instead, film and see. Then you will know what to do next.

Yes, It was more a conceptual example than a working one to see if I understood what you meant correctly.

Anything like that would be really hard to do on a conscious level, so I’m not sure hack is the word for it because that almost implies it was entirely developed for that purpose. Idiosyncratic for sure. I kind of want to try how this would work. For some one who already has a developed technique, I’m sure hand sync would be all over the place.

Well the audible open strings could be just muting in general be it left or right hand, and if you use a floating trem, that can also be a noise source. So noise certainly is another aspect to this.

Do you feel like you use quite a bit of edge picking or just a slight amount? Sometimes very small things like slightly more edge picking, less pick depth or even a beveled pick shape alleviate the stickiness issue.

Awesome, will do. I think I also just wasn’t going slow enough to show the stringhopping,I think I show that in this video. There’s a few licks I’m getting stuck with, and it looks like a few misfires, hitting the wrong string. You’re right, it’s not swiping, but I’m not sure how to fix stuff like this lick.

I’m honestly not sure, I think it’s a slight amount. I’ve definitely noticed when the pick wears down, it gets harder to play. And I get the same audible strings on my guitars with fixed bridges, so it’s a muting thing.

Stringhopping is a specific type of wrist motion that reuses the same muscle on the upstroke and the downstroke, tiring out really quickly and preventing speeding up. Players that do this usually can’t do any of the things you’re doing in these cliips. In your case it just looks like you use more of a forearm-wrist motion when you play slowly, which gradually becomes wrist-only as you go faster. This type of variation is very common, isn’t stringhopping in the technical sense, and isn’t really a mistake to be fixed in any practical sense either. I’d just forget about it and just focus on being relaxed and smooth.

FYI when posting videos, you don’t need to use the link button — just paste the link on a line by itself. The forum will embed the video and it will playable right in the thread.