Help please with Cascade exercise

Please would you look at my current attempt at playing the Cascade exercise. I seem to have hit a brick wall in gaining any fluidity or speed. I’m seriously doubting my natural ability at doing this at all, as I have put in hours of practice for very little progress. I cant seem to play 6’s at all after 75bpm without it completely falling apart.

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Hey @DjangoUntrained! In my own experience trying to learn the cascade stuff, the full pentantonic scale across 6 strings has been one of the most challenging things!

Have you already tried working on smaller units, such as only 2 strings at a time (for example, 2 notes on the G and 2 on the D string)? And have you already tried focusing on doing rest-strokes on the downstroke, to facilitate the “upstroke escape” trajectory?

Or we could even try to go down to the most fundamental unit: are you comfortable with picking fast on a single string (say the G string), while making sure that the upstrokes are going above the string plane?

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Hi. tommo
I have worked on all of your suggestions for some time. Despite seeing improvements in each area, e.g. the rest strokes helped with keeping even spacing between picking, the single string practice helped finger synchronisation. When I then go to put it all together I still get very little fluidly or rhythm.
It is also frustrating when any progress or milestones that I fell I have made, the next morning it’s like I am starting from square one!
Not sure whether to keep pushing forward with endless repetitions or admit defeat.

Was it like this for you, then it suddenly clicked? Or did it always feel right and you just had to polish your technique?

Advice from anyone is welcome :slightly_smiling_face:

If I remember correctly, learning dwps in my early days of CTC was also feeling like “two steps forward, one back”. And I definitely have better/worse days now as well. But I was lucky enough to start with the single string speed worked out already.

We could also approach the problem from another angle: if I asked you to play the most “fast & comfortable” lick that you can do, what would that be?
We may discover something useful about the skills you already have but maybe don’t fully appreciate yet :slight_smile:

By the way, are you familiar with the “tapping fast on a table” test?

No. What is it?

I couldn’t say I feel fast and comfortable with any speed technique yet. I mainly play slow bluesy stuff, so speed is not something I am totally comfortable with, that’s why I am drawn to the EJ stuff as it is speed with a feeling as opposed to the harder shredding style.

I think it’s a synchronisation problem more than anything. My hands dont seem to line up when playing at faster tempos.

Hi! Thanks for posting. In general, your clip looks pretty good. So much so that I would like to officially ban the phrase “completely falls apart” from our collective vocabularies, because every time someone says that, I look at their clip and see… good stuff!

I’m kidding but only partly so. Sure you’re not getting all the notes right. But that’s not as important as getting the motion happening with smoothness. Around fifteen seconds or so when you speed up, that looks pretty smooth to me. If this section feels smooth to you then I don’t think you have a speed problem, per se. for example, if you could play bebop or bluegrass at that speed, most people would probably find that pretty impressive.

More generally, what picking motion are you trying to do? Because it looks like the pick is tracing a somewhat semicircular or curved pathway. This implies there is maybe some forearm happening in your technique, in addition to wrist motion, which moves the pick more in a straight line. Here’s a comparison of what I mean:

In addition to this it also looks that as you speed up, you introduce some finger motion. That’s the bit around fifteen seconds or so.

None of this is bad or wrong. If it feels smooth and you can play the speeds you want, then I’d let it be what it is. Eric Johnson’s technique is famously a mish-mash of wrist and fingers, perhaps more at some times than others. Yngwie is similar. But it can help to know that this is happening, because the constant change in feel can be disorienting. Just knowing that this is the case can help you standardize on different motions for different phrases, or different speeds, and so on. Take a look at your clip again and see if you can see what I’m pointing out. Then see if you can feel it when you’re playing.

Two-note-per-string phrases are probably “harder” than three-note-per-string shred stuff because you have to change strings more often. And for the pattern you’re playing here, you have to skip a string to start over, and if you aim wrong, you hit the middle string which I can see is happening here.

Also, pentatonic stuff is super repetitive, with low mechanical variety. Always two notes, always down up, and so on. They’re almost like exercises in that regard. Once you’ve played them a handful of times, and they’re not working, it’s like, what else can you do to make them work?

For me, music with more variety offers a way out. This can include songs with rhythm parts and lead parts, so you have more stuff to “do”, and more chances to get things right. @tommo has a great piece for this, specifically written with a dwps / upstroke escape playing style in mind:

Again, your motion looks fluid to me, and that’s a big win. It’s just a little random, which is normal for the early part of the process when you haven’t learned to identify by feel what is going on. The hand sync is an issue and the accuracy of avoiding some of those string skips. But that’s “long tail” type of stuff that takes time to iron out. Playing some longer-form musical stuff like Tommo’s piece with an ear toward making sure the motion is the one you want, and the hands are locked is a great, and much more enjoyable (to me) way of slowly bringing those pieces together over time.

Thanks for the feedback. That’s a very informative and nspiring critique :slightly_smiling_face:
I was attempting DWPS, but as you say I might be adjusting it into more of an upward motion to clear strings. I am pleased I am not doing anything drastically wrong though.
Also thanks for the Magent Blues link. I am going to learn that piece to try and incorporate faster lines into something musical rather than endlessly repeating exercises (or maybe a bit of both).

Its amazing how a bit of positive support can renew and refresh your efforts. It’s easy to focus on the negative struggles we have and not build on the positives.

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Glad you like it :slight_smile:

Free tabs here:

Note also that the fast riffs can be converted into “downstroke escape” by playing the second note as a pulloff. May be worth trying both options!