Help to improve TWPS

Hi all,

I have been practicing this part of Erotomania’s solo for many years and I have been stuck at this speed for a while now.

This is the normal speed version:


While I can do upward escape motion licks it has always been easier to play them with downward escape motions. I would like to play each 10 notes group like 4 DWPS+rotate pick motion+4 UWPS+rotate pick motion. But it feels more like 9 UWPS + double rotate pick motion, I say here double rotate cause I rotate the wrist to escape on an upstroke but rotate again to start back in an UWPS position (the first stroke is more neutral but I still feel like a loose time here).

Any help and/or advise to get here is greatly appreciated:

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Thanks for posting, this is one of my all-time favourite solos :slight_smile:

I moved this to the critique section if that’s ok. I’ll come back with some thoughts soon but in the meantime I’ll drop a link to a long discussion of mine on exactly this solo -hope you find it useful

Thanks Tommo. I have to say I spent a good time yesterday watching your transcription in Soundslice at 25% before posting my videos. Thing is I was unable to see when you are switching the escape motion. It is like Petrucci in the old video I linked to as well (the quality is very bad) the only visible thing to me is some sort of thumb movement when switching (I think) after ever 10 notes to start the next 10 notes group.

However at any speed of my playing the rotation movement is so evident that I have been thinking (specially after watching my slow-mo video) that my movements while in essence correct are just gigantic.

Timing for me (as you said in your analysis) is also an issue for me even at lower speeds because my rotation escape movement takes longer and then I need to restart my usual picking motion (see below)

One of the possible reasons why I think this is happening is because I have to very distinct motions for downward escape - wrist deviation and upward escape - forearm rotation and combining both is not working very well.

So when combining this two motions (ideally) for the lick it should be something like this (half and half on each slanting/escape motion).

But when I speed it up it ends being like this (where I revert back to UPS with downward escape motion as soon as possible):

To my eye it looks like there is quite a bit of arm rotation required when you change your escape motion…I have struggled with this as well. I’m going to suggest you try to keep a more centralized position so the arm rotation is minimal…almost un-noticeable. Then try slight supination so you get USX when you pick ‘3-9’ then switch to something like ‘2-8’ for DSX. You may also try experimenting with making you trigger grip more compact…that is curl your index finger in tighter. The struggle is real. Hope something clicks for you!

Thanks Thegent. Yes I was practicing that exactly today but ended in some sort of arm rotation for both escape motions that works great at slow speed but I seem unable to keep at higher speeds.

As Troy said in the Floyd Rose guitar review I got use to have references for both escape motions and that seems to be ingrained too deep.

For the USX I got use to the higher string as a reference point so it is very difficult for example to play using USX in the high E. And for the DSX I have my thumb in contact with the next lower string so again playing in the lower E is very difficult using DSX.

When I have no reference points in an attempt to reduce the movement and play in a more neutral position to transition easily between USX and DSX, my pciking motion seems lost and has no speed.

What have you tried to counteract your old mechanics? Other than play slow of course.

One more quick weekend note, would you be interested in trying a pure DSX strategy? There’s a couple of options in here:

I wored on burst speed using a more neutral position (i.e. 3 notes in a triplet…then 4 notes…then 5…etc). Someone here called it ‘forward chaining’. I’m still most comfortable with my thumb touching the next thicker string (like you), however the centralized approach feels more natural now (been trying that for about two months now). I can get 2-3 loops (sometimes more) on the Paul Gilbert lick so I know it’s working OK. I will say I’ve sacrificed a bit of speed, but can still get 16ths at 150 bpm…I know the speed will come. Working on 2 nps pentatonic using USX has helped centralize my arm too. I definitely try to keep both motions in check (i.e. not looking to loose any of them).

I have been tempted many times honestly. I asked Andy years ago about this and that was his suggestion but I am more focus on an efficient two way escape motion not only for this lick but may others where the pull off does not work. Like the man riffs of these songs by Angra.

By the way I have not been able to properly understand what motions Kiko use for the two way escape.

Thanks for posting this. I know our teaching has been unclear on this topic, and we’re in the process of simplifying the Primer to address all of this. Apologies from us while we get there!

These two motions you’re demoing here look pretty good — nice work on this. But these are really two different picking styles, and not actually two motions you should be trying to combine in a single phrase. The more gypsy-like of the two is the forearm-wrist approach which we teach in our most recent Primer chapters in the forearm section. Again, your take on it looks sound. But you should think of that approach more like a separate mechanical language which comes with its own vocabulary of upstroke escape lines, downstroke sweeping, downward pickslant, and so on. When you speak that language, you draw only from that vocabulary: George Benson licks, EJ licks, Django licks, Doug Aldrich licks, and so on.

For Petrucci type scalar stuff where you need both escapes, you can do that with wrist motion and one arm position, and you won’t be flip-flopping around. That’s what John himself does. In terms of form, you have several options. You can use the two-anchor approach (pinky and thumb), which is the supinated approach used by Andy Wood, Petrucci, McLaughlin, Di Meola, and many others. You can use pinky anchor only, with a more supinated arm position, and a middle- or three-finger pick grip. That’s the approach used by EVH, Albert Lee, and Steve Morse. Or you can do the single thumb anchor. That’s the pronated approach used by Molly Tuttle, David Grier, and Oz Noy. You can get both escapes with any of these three ways with only the motion of your wrist.

If you’re unsure, try them all. Especially the three-finger / middle finger. Seriously. I’m a broken record about this but you never know what’s going to work until you do it. For reference, @Tommo is an ace at the pronated / thumb anchor approach and can pretty much play any line that way, including 1nps arpeggio playing. I watched him do this the other day. He’s a killer.

Whichever approach you choose, just get that motion happening in a way that feels “side to side” and flat, and don’t overthink it. Place the emphasis on smoothness, speed, consistent timing, and hand synchronization. If you find that you have weird pauses as you try to get from one string to another, that’s because you’re “doing” something. Don’t do anything. Allow any mistakes to happen if need be. Paul Gilbert hit the string on the famous lick on Intense Rock for several decades and nobody noticed because it sounded great. Just keep that in mind. Make the timing consistent regardless of the fretting. Synchronized fluid playing with good attack and constant time is the first step.

Do that first and see what you get. Don’t worry about this escape stuff until you get that much happening. And once again, sorry for the confusion on this topic!


Thanks Troy. No need to apologize, working on all these different positions and mechanics has allow me to play things that at some point in time seemed impossible.

Regarding the possible different anchor/hand positions for licks where both escapes are needed I filmed myself yesterday doing it.

Regular speed


While it feels confortable I am not sure it they are in fact side to side and flat.


Tried this today not focusing on changing the slant but the aspects you mentioned.

And slow version where some swipe are clear.

The outside picking feels way easier.

Also to notice I am using really pointy picks, I think I get used to them cause the moment they start wearing out I start missing some transition notes.

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These look great! It looks like you’re doing the Andy Wood style of wrist motion, where the default picking motion is the “8 o’clock to 2 o’clock” variety of DSX wrist motion:

The way this works is that you use the DSX motion for the first five notes of the phrase, so the pick goes over the string automatically on the third note. Then, when you do the upstroke on the sixth note, you switch briefly to the Mike Stern “USX” motion. This lifts the pick over the string and you can start the pattern over with the DSX motion again. In your case you appear to be doing this right, correctly switching to the Stern motion when necessary. You may not be able to feel that this is happening, but you can see in slow motion that the pick does indeed get over the string in both directions.

For reference, this is also exactly what Brendon Small does and we have some really great closeup shots of this in the part of the recent interview where we talk about scale playing:

That whole scale playing discussion was really great, because of how easy it is to see what he’s doing.

Now, the reason you occasionally see swiping is because you’re also rolling your arm around while you do this. You don’t need to do that, but you can see both in regular speed and slow motion that it’s happening. When you roll too far toward the thumb, which you do on the sixth note, this prevents the upstroke / Stern motion from getting over the string. So even though the wrist motion is correct, you hit the string.

Instead, what you want to do is maintain the Brendon Small / Andy Wood “lightly supinated” arm position all the time. This positions you in the center of the two available wrist motions, allowing the downstroke to go over the string when you use DSX (McLaughlin), and the upstroke to go over the string when you use USX (Stern).

Keep in mind that this arm position is not “neutral”, it’s supinated. In other words, it’s slightly tilted. But it’s supinated the exact amount it needs to be, to allow these two motions you’re trying to make to have the same amount of diagonal escape. For reference, if you watch the slow motion clip, the arm position you want is the one you have for the fifth note, i.e. the middle note on the top string. That’s the “lightly supinated” arm position.

See if you can position yourself at that spot, and once you do, simply think about the hand moving, not the arm. In general, I don’t usually have success telling certain motions “not” to happen. Instead, I try to zero in on the feel of the motion I do want to happen, until I can recognize that feel and trigger it deliberately. It’s a bit like learning to raise one eyebrow because you don’t know what it feels like until you do it right.

Also, even though “pickslanting” is not really what we’re doing here, you can look at the pickslant as a reference to know if you have the correct arm position. If you see what looks like UWPS, then you’re rolling over too far to the thumb. Again, what we’re really trying to do here is use a particular arm position, and two basic wrist motions. So looking at the pickslant is not totally reliable since it is affected by variables independent of your arm position and picking motion, including your grip and any finger motion you use. And I do see finger motion in the slow motion clip as well. So take this as only a general guideline.

Nice work here.


Thanks Troy for the great feedback!

This has proven to be very difficult because I get used to have positive contact with my thumb with the upper string to do the DSX motion more like Al Di Meola (I am sure you mentioned this when you did the review about the FR guitar, when you learn a motor skill with a reference then doing that without the reference feels like something completely different even impossible).

This is my most comfortable picking mechanics. I can do this without any real warm up - DSX. While still slightly supinated is closer to be almost neutral and I think I default very easy to this position.

For comparison I filmed the same examples above using a more supinated position but I need to consciously focus on it and I use it for USX. I am still working on it to be able to separate it from the gypsy mechanic I get used to when learning USX, so I am not sure if this is more wrist than forearm rotation.

Also the DSX with the thumb in contact with the upper string works great for noise control. In the USX version I yet need to work on controlling noise with the index finger of the fretting hand with also seems very difficult because I get used to fret with the very tip of the finger and now it has to stay more flatten even when not playing.

I am going to focus on re-learning sort of speak the DSX mechanic limiting the thumb contact so my hand position is in a more favorable position for the TWX mechanics.

As of now this is how it usually came out where the forarm rotation is clear. This from a different angle (yet far from the speed thou).

Again thanks a lot for your feedback. It is really encouraging knowing things seems to be working and I am on the right track.

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Hey @DGG, do I understand correctly that you find the “pronated” (e/g/ like David Grier) configuration more comfortable? It is totally possible to get double escapes from that setup as well, so I don’t think there is an urgent need to use the supinated form - you could just focus on getting the two escapes from the position that you already have and find comfortable.

But I admit I haven’t had time to read all the back and forth between you and @Troy, so please ignore if I’m off the mark* here :slight_smile:

*=is that the correct expression? :sweat_smile:

@tommo, your appreciation is right. I have been playing with a more neutral/pronated position for many years however I have to admit I have not found a good USX motion that does not involve rotating the forearm (meaning only wrist) in this position. Also another main reason I am focusing in a more supinated position is palm muting and rhythm playing since in a pronated position my main and only point of contact is the thumb with off course no contact with the palm.

Lately I have been working in a two way escape motion with the arm in a fixed slightly supinated position. It is working good but I am only able to play about 16th notes at 100 bpm. My current target is to able to play comfortably rhythm at 150 bpm 16th notes where the stokes sequence is as follow:


And even more difficult same with an string skipping


While doing palm muting for the lower notes.