How many players are stringhoppers? How many are naturals? What's in between?

Hey Troy (and others). I’m actually new here and haven’t posted so far, but I thought I’d chime in on this thread. I’ve been playing for about 12 years, and have spent the last 10 years trying to unlearn string hopping (or as I used to call it: the bouncy hand syndrome), and it hasn’t gone super well. I’ve been planning on making a post, but I’ve been busy and indecisive.

Anyway, I didn’t realize this single-string stringhopping issue was as common as you hypothesize! I suppose it gives me comfort that I’m not alone. I can do UWPS fairly quickly now (around 180bpm), but I can only do it by essentially pushing my thumb into the lower register strings to “stabilize” my hand. It works, but my hand is still making tiny little invisible bouncy movements.

I think the main thing I want to comment on is how it feels to me. Even with a very shallow pick depth, it feels like I’m fighting the string if I try to make straight back and forth movements. The string pushes back (physics 101), and after 10 years of practicing I still don’t understand how to tame this pushback. If I let the string win, the string pushes my hand into the air and voila: I’m stringhopping again. Surprisingly, it’s not a tension issue, it’s just that I can’t control the precise movements. Every pickstroke feels completely different and unpredictable.

The other thing is that I find wrist deviation (the method I’m trying to learn) very unnatural. I can sort of “vibrate” my hand up and down, but I can’t vibrate it sideways nor move it fast at all, even if I place my hand on a table and swish it back and forth. I wonder if this might be why I originally started string hopping in the first place. Is it possible there’s a pathological explanation?

One bonus is that I can downpick very fast via extension, but I haven’t practiced that in about 10 years so I’m pretty terrible at it now.

Thanks for the thoughts here. If you can do 180bpm that’s not stringhopping. You’d never get that fast. I get that you’re saying something feels unsmooth, but just to be 100% clear, nobody can stringhop at that speed. At least not continuously as I’m alluding to in this thread. Those players are massively speed limited in the low 100s at most and burn out quickly with arm tension.

We have a whole lesson on the pick and string pushing against each other for which @Tommo, who is actually a Physicist in his other job, helped out with the Physics! It’s in the Primer:

Re: smooth picking motion, I don’t think you should really be “trying” to learn any motion in particular at first. You should try them all at first and see which one works the fastest and smoothest. Reason being, getting the first one is the hardest. Because you have no reference point for what smooth and fast feels like. Once you have one, then at least you know what the progression feels like when you “get” one of them.

We go through this process on a weekly basis around here. Here is the most recent thread on this subject if you haven’t seen it:

Again if you’re already playing at 180bpm then you’re already getting somewhere. But you shouldn’t have to force anything. If you haven’t tried the other joints I recommend doing so because something may work better than what you’re already doing.

Otherwise, put up a Technique Critique clip and we’ll take a look at what your current motion looks like.

Ok… First of all, I’m sorry about my poor English.
Even being a experiment guitar player, I would have doubts about how to answer this question, or maybe
would answer it with wrong information.

The fact is that even after reading again the post about Alternate Picking, and carefully watching the video examples… I still can’t recognize if I use stringhopping ir alternate picking.

How can I learn an easy way to identify that, please?

If you can’t play faster than 100bpm to 120bpm sixteenth notes, your hand looks bouncy, and you feel arm tension, it’s stringhopping. There is a more technical definition, but that’s the only practical “definition” that really matters.

We included a clip on the “Alternate Picking” page for demonstration, but we can try and make that example clearer if that wasn’t good enough. Does that video look “bouncy” to you or do we need to explain better what we mean by that?

That was my UWPS form using wrist deviation, not string hopping.

As stated though, my hand is still bouncy, I just rely on pushing my thumb into the strings to keep my hand stable. It’s a neat technique for tremolo picking on the first three strings, but it’s impossible to use on the lower strings unfortunately. And my hand is still bouncing erratically while doing this, although the movements are basically invisible. Ergo, my 180bpm speed is not smooth, even though it is fast.

I’ve also been practicing DWPS using wrist deviation for a few months. Still stuck at around 130bpm on one string. I’m confident my motions are correct (I’ve followed your videos for a couple years now), I just can’t get the consistency down. I’ll definitely keep trying though.

Edit: Actually, I’ve kind of been on-and-off practicing DWPS for 2 years, but specifically with palm muting. I recently decided to give up and just focus on picking clean notes.

Also, I should have been more clear that I wasn’t asking for help right now, I just thought I’d share my own experience. Sorry if I came across the wrong way, I know you’re probably busy.

Also, I thought I’d add one thing:

If I get any sort of adrenaline rush, my hands bounce up and down uncontrollably. This has nothing to do with guitar, it’s just a thing that my weird body does. I’m just adding this detail because it might be interesting, and might be correlated with string hopping.

You might actually be doing UWPS (DSX) and you may be close to doing it well. If you rotate your hand in a way that your thumb side of the wrist rest on the strings (pronation, Molly Tuttle style) wrist deviation will escape on downstrokes.

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Yes that’s right, that’s exactly what I’m doing. It’s the only technique I actively use and have for about 3 or 4 years now. My hand is still erratically bouncy though, even if the motion is not string hopping. I never really got rid of the problem, I just found a way to situationally absorb it.

Yeah! I think I can understand now. Thank you for your quick answer on that.

Ok… Another question: If I feel that my movement is bouncy, how to correct that?
Do we have any post with more details about that?

So… Let me know if I could understand it correctly… To avoid the bouncy movement
I should focus on the deviation movement and avoid the extension / flexion of the wrist?

No, deviation is not better than flexion-extension. These are just wrist motions, they are all effective. For example, Eddie Van Halen’s wrist motion uses flexion-extension and is fast. It’s not stringhopping.

There are also lots of different ways to do stringhopping, so there is not one version of that either. This particular version of it uses flexion-extension for the bounce and deviation for the pickstroke, and it is repetitive and causes tension. But other types of stringhopping might work differently. The only thing that connects them is that they appear bouncy, are slow, and cause arm tension. If you have that, then it doesn’t really matter what motions are involved, it clearly doesn’t work.

There is no rule that you have to use wrist motion. You can use elbow, forearm, fingers, etc. All these motions are great and can work!

The only solution is to go fast. It doesn’t matter which joint motion you use for that. Whichever motion you find that can go fast and smooth is a motion that works. You can’t convert the bouncy motion into the fast one. You have to start with a fast one. So just do that first by trying out different joint motions, until you find one that is fast.

If you don’t know which joints to use, and you need a hint, try the different instructions in the Primer for joint motions: elbow, wrist, and forearm.

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One more thing: we see a lot of posts in “Technique Critique” where someone says they have a particular problem, but when we look at the video, they don’t seem to have the problem they say they have. Sometimes they don’t actually have any problem at all, they just think they do. Why? We don’t know! I think sometimes people overthink things.

So before you waste too much time trying out different motions, just make sure you really have the problem you think you have. If you want to post a clip we are always happy to take a look.

Thank you, my friend!
Just posted it in the feedback area.

I don`t know (or think) I have a problem, but I’m sure that I can improve my pulling technique so I am
trying to figure out how to do it.

OMG ! Me too. I am a stringhopper , but my picking motion with my left hand is actually way stronger and faster. In retrospect, I probably should have been playing let handed all these years, but feel it’s a bit late for me now, just have to improve the right hand with your excellent site ! What happened to the lefty you mentioned ?

The player I was referring to was not a left-handed player. He just noticed as a test that he was able to perform a particular motion with his left hand and not with his right.

I have no evidence that handedness matters at all in guitar playing. The two activities you do in guitar are both complicated and they each use different hands. If handedness mattered significantly, then everyone would be “weak” at something, either fretting or picking. Left-handed players playing righty would be weak at picking and right-handed players playing righty would be weat at fretting. And so on. But if such a effect exists, I’m not aware of any evidence of it.

Among players we’ve interviewed, Steve Morse and Michael Angelo Batio are both left-handed players who pick with their right hands. They’re great at picking and fretting so I can’t really draw any conclusion from them one way or another.

My best guess is that if there is any effect of handedness, it’s probably not as simple as one hand good, other hand bad. And it’s also probably not a strong effect compared to simply not knowing what correct technique is, and inadvertently learning the wrong one.

Think about it this way. Stringhopping is a technique too. It may not be the one you want, but if you’ve done it for years and years and can’t stop doing it, it’s only becuase you were really good at learning it quickly and making it permanent.

What’s interesting, I actually acknowledged the fact that I was string hopping quite early in my playing, long before I attempted to play lead stuff. I just didn’t know the terminology at the time. However, I never really used it as a technique, I always viewed it as a hindrance and tried to avoid it.

Personally, I found that my hand “hops” because I can’t control the string pushing my hand into the air when using wrist deviation. It’s not my hand muscles that cause hand extension, it’s the string. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I’m not entirely convinced that my issue is the same as other string hoppers.

I can control it at slow tempos, but it requires a very strange locking of my hand that I can’t quite describe. I’m sure most players are able to lock the extension/flexion axis while allowing the deviation axis to move freely, but I have always struggled with this. If I allow my deviation axis free movement, I can’t figure out how to lock the other axis in place consistently, so my hand bounces erratically. I’ve gotten better at it for sure, but it’s still a struggle.

Another poster made a funny analogy that I found quite relatable: Learning wrist deviation is like learning how to raise one eyebrow. For me, the two aforementioned axes are like my two eyebrows.

A post was split to a new topic: Learning Carl Miner’s Technique

There is a potentially better way to look at this: There is a curve that has “max picking frequency” on the x-axis, and the “percentage of people that can match or exceed” said frequency on the y-axis. I suspect that everyone can do (say) five notes per second, and then it must fall off exponentially or something terrifying, where I bet 0.1% or less can do 13.3/s. And because of @tommo, I better put in a sqrt(2) somewhere in the answer.

I think this curve would be pretty easy to measure with enough subjects.

Thanks for that totally invaluable insight Troy.I am actually partially dominent. I write, eat, wash, brush my teeth with my left, but throw, kick, play racquet sports with the right. I only became aware of being a stringhopper about 2 1/2 years ago, and having found I could move the left hand much better, I did seriously wonder whether I should switch. I’ve been having flamenco lessons for about 6 years and my teacher did point out that I’d be losing all that fretboard skill if I switched. After reading your reply above, I realised that my right hand, although weaker than my left, is not necessarily inherently worse than the left for picking, it may just be that it’s had decades of stringhopping bad habits learned into it. I’m sure that the left could have been just as bad had I spent years accidentally teaching it ! The fact that MAB and SM are left handers is all I need to know to drop my lefty ideas and concentrate on coaxing my naughty right hand back to Smoothpicksville. Thanks again for your thoughts, this is an awesome community, well done for what you’ve put together !

I string hopped for …decades and have been able to iron it out. It took time before I didn’t need to pay attention to it anymore…I’ll estimate about 6 months in my case. You can do this.

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Thanks for the support ! It feels like I’ve joined Stringhoppers Anonymous ! My names Mike and I’m a recovering stringhopper… I am defintely making progress though.