High Speed Picking Attempts and Questions On Speed Potential

Here are some more slow motion attempts of mine at pushing speed. This is just my standard technique going as fast as I can trying to keep up with the metronome. I think I see 270 as being possible, but I am not sure. This sort of flows into some thoughts I have been having the past month or so. I have been wondering about individual speed potential. I know some people are just faster than others for whatever reason, but how is one to know when they are at the end, if there even is a way to know? Maybe based on how it feels or how are motion looks while we are going as fast as we can? Additionally I have been wondering about the potential we all have with different motions. Obviously the elbow jiggle hyper picking motion is probably the fastest motion anyone can ever do based on what John Taylor can do with it. The dart thrower motion is another very fast motion that people like Shawn Lane used to achieve 18 notes per second and supposedly even beyond that. I guess what I am wondering is will someone have different speed caps with different motions or is there a hard cap at some point regardless of the picking motion? Will dart thrower always be the fastest motion outside of the elbow hyperpicking motion? Or if someone can go 17-18 notes per second with any motion at all will changing to another potentially increase speed? Interested what other people think.

Could you post regular speed? Slo mo (that isn’t ultra high quality) doesn’t help to see if you’re keeping correct time. I tried making out the playback speed (2x) on the 280 vid and sounds like 3 notes per click.

Ah my bad. I forgot about uploading the regular speed clips. I already deleted the ones from today since I record almost everyday to see how I am doing. I will record clips again early in the week. You’re right about 280. It is just too fast for me. I will record at 255 and 270 and see how they look. Thanks.

1 Like

Some more clips. I didn’t feel like these were as good today.

1 Like

That’s awesome! What’s the joint motion here, forearm? Your framing is placing the picking hand and arm out of view of the camera, so there’s not much to comment on.

The only thing I’ll mention generally is that once you can do these tapping-style motions at these speeds, then a really constructive thing to do is drop down to a “slow” speed like 220 and see if you can play actual smooth, synchronized basic phrases. Because that’s where the real usefulness lies. Once you can get the hands working together in synchrony, the sky is the limit.

The easiest “fast” fingerings for me are 1234 or 4321. They have the least finger reusage. Just 1234 in one spot, or across two strings — something simple like that. Your motion looks like USX so just DUDU on each string would be fine.

Nice work.


Thanks for checking them out Troy. Yes my motion is the standard forearm rotation motion mixed with some wrist. I am trying to lock in at around 18 notes per second as an ultimate goal. Any faster doesn’t really feel physically possible for me personally. I have been working on the slower speeds like 200-220 as well. My issue is still with a weird buildup of tension I get when doing repeated string changes, but I am working on it. I do the 1234 and 4321 thing as my main exercise. I have also incorporated a lot of string skips ever since I watched your forearm rotation lessons. The two note per string pentatonic stuff is another challenge as I get the most tense when trying to do those fast especially when skipping strings but I know I will be able to get it down if I keep at it. Now that I am thinking about it, I actually had a question about the table top/pickguard tapping thing. I have tapped as fast as 290-300 bpm at least for 3-4 beats, but that is far too fast to translate to the guitar because the motion is so small when I do that. For the 270ish range I can tap pretty comfortable and I think the motion is big enough, but I definitely feel that its more difficult on the strings. Is this normal due to string resistance as I am thinking or is it that I am not quite doing the exact same motion? Or maybe something else? Thanks again.

I don’t know what “normal” means, considering very few players reach these speeds in real-world playing.

As part of this experimentation, I’ve been able to do wrist motions in the 250-260 range, and the motions aren’t super tiny. So we know it’s possible to hit some of these speeds with motions that are usable. Beyond that I can’t comment. Experimentation is the key!

Re: the 1234 type fingerings, I personally don’t think of those as exercises, per se. Those lines can sound cool (to me) and I would use them in a shreddy context. You can always find some chord that they fit over. I really only ever try to play stuff I would actually use.

1 Like

Got it. Yeah I’m not sure what normal would be either I guess. Making bigger motions is something I have worked on since I seem to naturally want to make really small ones even at way lower speeds for whatever reason. I also agree with the 1234 lines sounding cool. I guess I think of everything I practice as “exercises” but you are right. I also mainly only play stuff I would want to actually play. I think practicing 4 note per string and 2 note per string stuff has been helpful as the less notes played before having to change strings again ups the difficulty (at least for me.)

God, I wish I had that problem!

@RG707 great job at the core motion - super speed!, I look forward to seeing you progress.

1 Like

‘Mirrors’ by Jason Richardson has a cool part using 1234 and 4321 fingerings. It might be a bit slow for the motion OP is trying to work out though (170BPM).

1 Like

4321 could be used for a “line cliche”, assuming we’re chromatically descending.

Here are some more clips at mostly lower speeds. The playing isn’t too great, but gives an idea of the problem maybe. I tried to include my arm more in these. In them you can occasionally see an excessive buildup of tension in my picking hand that causes it to lock up and just kind of flail around. This is an on and off issue I have had forever. String changes remain weirdly tensiony and awkward sometimes even at pretty low speeds like 170/180 on certain days due to this. Especially two notes per string and especially doing the descending 6 note string skip thing Eric Johnson and others do. I think what may be happening is a few things. First I think I may hold too much tension in my unused fingers and pick holding fingers at times. When things feel good everything (grip, resting points for arm and hand on bridge) feels loose and relaxed and able to easily move around. Which is how forearm rotation should feel. Everything like tracking and muting sort of should take care of itself when doing this motion and all you have to do is sort of place the side of your hand on your bridge which is why it is confusing to me that sometimes it just won’t feel comfortable. Tracking is the second thing I think I screw up on sometimes. I can’t be positive, but I think instead of just flowing up and down with the same sort of motion as my picking motion itself (flextension I think @Troy has called it?) I will sometimes do a more deviation sort of thing and that will screw up the picking motion. The last thing is that sometimes my forearm wants to sort of take over and do an EVH style thing which doesn’t really work for me and will obviously mess things up. When I do this right everything feels like it’s coming more from my wrist rather than my forearm rotating. Anyway I’m not sure what I am really looking for help wise. Maybe just trying to articulate my frustrations. I have made strides in my picking since the fact I can go as fast as I can at all tells me I am doing something right. Even on “bad” days the single string speed is mostly there which is better than a couple years ago. It is just frustrating that I still cannot fully play anything I want to that great yet. It’s just this nagging tension creep and refusal of things to want to work and be comfortable sometimes that discourages me. Anyway thanks to anyone that reads this. I need to write less in the future.

I hear your frustrations. I remember seeing your picking a few years ago here on the forum and being blown away by the sheer speed and economy of motion. To me your hand looks good and there are not much visual indication of tension more than the fact that you only do shorter bursts and then seem to need to adjust your arm after each burst. If you really build up that much tension in that short amount of time, there is definetally something that needs to be adjusted.

I’m not really clear on what motion you’re actually going for since you say that it is both flextension and and rotational. To be honest I dont see much indication of rotation in your forearm in these clips so I guess it’s more of a wrist motion. But the fact that you name rotation tells me that there at least is a sense of that motion being a part of your picking motion. So maybe it is. You say that you don’t like it when your forearm takes over EVH style. And maybe that motion isn’t for you but it could also be the fact you don’t have as good control over that motion yet. If the current motion holds tension it might be a good thing to adjust towards something that feels less tensiony even if it is less controlable at the moment.

One thing that i find interesting is that you seem to always play at top speed. Is that a concious thing? You say that the last videos are at ”mostly slower speeds” yet your picking speed is just as high as the other videos. Only thing slower is the meteronome setting. I ask because i have the same tendecy. Anything below max speed is actually harder.

One more thing I thought about is that tension might actually come from the left hand not syncing up. Two note penta licks can be quite simple to pick fast if you have a fast picking motion with good escape angle. The hard thing is keeping up with the left hand, at least for me. So these licks can give me tension in the picking arm although the actual problem lies in the fretting hand.


Having read your last post and @qwertygitarr 's reply the obvious question is… why not let the EVH motion take over and see where it takes you?

If you are not satisfied with your current motion, little tweaks will usually not generate radically different results.

1 Like

@RG707 about what % of your play time do you spend near your max? What % do you stay in that 170/180 bpm range you mentioned having tension at?

1 Like

Thanks for the reply. I think part of my issue is always playing at top speed as I have the past couple years. It has definitely helped as I can go faster now than I could then, but the fact that playing slower is sometimes actually harder is an issue. The point about hand sync is something I hadn’t thought of, but probably part of the problem as well. I played some more last night and this morning and everything felt fine again. What I notice is that when everything is working I can just rest on the guitar comfortably and not really move anything to play across all the strings. The days this past week where things weren’t working, I felt like I had to move more to play on more than a single string which is telling me that I was holding tension somewhere in my hand or arm or something that caused issues doing even a single string change. I think I need to balance how often I am playing at my fastest because overdoing it might be part of it as well. I just got this bizarre notion that I “need” to play at 18 notes per second before I can say I am done working on raw speed.

Thank you for the reply Tommo. I think the reason I don’t is because when things are working, they work pretty well. The pure forearm thing has always felt awkward to me. I think what I need to do is give myself some breaks from just trying to go as fast as I can because I overdo it.

Thanks for replying. I would say that most of my time is spent working on the really fast stuff. I usually do 15 minutes of warmup where I try to play fast, but not maximum speed and without the metronome. Then I will usually do 30-40 minutes of the really fast stuff. Making clips as I go to see if I am actually doing it or not. Then ideally I will decrease the speed to 170/180 and work up from there all the way back to 260-270. maybe another 20 minutes of that. I say ideally because sometimes I go longer on the crazy fast stuff and don’t end up doing the slower speeds. So that is something I should try to fix. Also, 30-40 minutes of trying to play 18 notes per second is probably not necessarily the best way to try and achieve that. I probably overdo it. I think I have seen you play stuff at that speed before. Is it something you actively worked on doing or was it just pushing yourself to see if you could?

1 Like

@RG707 Is this also mostly trem picking single notes? Or are you playing patterns? If so, are they patterns on a single string, or multiple?

From your response, I’m guessing you’d do better to shift focus from the very high speed stuff if your goal is to play more in the sub 200 range. I find that raw trem picking speed does not translate well when string changes come into play. Also, if you aren’t developing synchronization between your hands, then your speed is definitely never going to transfer to “actual” lines, in my experience.

If you follow that paraddidle thread, I was mostly looking for a way to warm up / develop / benchmark a picking style that could translate to DBX lines. I don’t ever “work” on pure trem picking, I more or less just let out a measure or two to see if I’m warm, but that’s it. I mostly use the paraddidle (D U U) to warm up and push speeds, then I attempt a scale at that speed to see if it transfers. I did that mostly when updating that thread, and I still do it once in a while now.

1 Like