How to figure out crosspicking

I’d like to try to figure out crosspicking, but I’ve never really been able to get started. Here’s a video of me attempting to do it:

Sorry I don’t have a slow video of this, but the 50% speed setting on youtube actually gives you a fairly good look at what the motion is, I think.

When trying to have the double escaped motion, I quickly get fatigued and max out at like 16th notes at 90bpm. The only times in the video when I surpass that speed limit is when I switch to DWPS, single-escaped motion - it just seems to be the natural result of trying to push myself to play faster that I end up doing a linear non-escaped or single escaped motion, instead of a U-like double escaped motion.

Since I feel such fatigue and strain when trying to get a double escape, I wonder if perhaps I’m really doing string hopping instead of crosspicking. Troy says on some other forum posts that the correct crosspicking form really feels like almost nothing, and is easily sustainable. When I try to smooth out the motion and focus on trying to have wrist deviation for the attack and wrist extension + deviation for the escape, I still get fatigued, but I just swipe more adjacent strings instead, due to the more gradual angle of the escape.

I’m trying to follow the advice of pushing myself to go faster to break boundaries, but I’m not getting anywhere, instead just running up against brick walls and getting fatigued fast. I’m not sure what to try.

How can I get any more speed? Am I doing string hopping or crosspicking? If I am string hopping, I’m very uncertain how I can learn to the use correct motion, but if I’m actually doing a crosspicking motion, then I’m just plain unsure how to get any faster.



To me your slower version of the crosspicking looks like you are using your forearm too. I think the usual answer you’d get here is that if you can’t go fast, your motion is inefficient, i.e. stringhopping.

From this I understand you are going for the wrist DBX and for that you’d need a different anchor as far as I know. Your thumb heel should be anchored on the strings/bridge too!

This thread might be helpful:

Everything you need to know about crosspicking - Playing Technique - The Cracking the Code Forum (

There is also a variant with the forearm and wrist but that is a completely different motion than the pure wrist crosspicking.

I hope that this was helpful evan a little :smiley:

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Thanks! I can definitely try anchoring the thumb heel.

Are there any videos showing the forearm and wrist crosspicking mechanic? I’d like to see it, maybe it’s closer to what I’m already doing?

If you’re a subscriber, this video is exactly what you’re looking for:

You can “try” to do specific motions, but it’s very easy to fall into the trap of trying to think through various joint motions and nobody can really do that. A simpler approach is to just go for it without thinking and try to play a multi-string phrase fast. You’re not trying to “do crosspicking”, you’re just trying to play a phrase fast. Allow mistakes to happen, and go faster than stringhopping could go. Search for a motion that feels easy with no tension, even if it sounds bad to you. If you feel tension, the motion is wrong, try another one.

I wouldn’t do anything else until you have done this experiment. Note that it only works on actual multi-string phrases, not a single note. When you are just starting out, there is no way to tell by feel what picking motion you are making on a single note since you don’t know what the correct motions feel like yet.

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Well, this is what I came up with when I tried to just push to go faster on multi-string phrases:

I think it might be a little better, seems to be able to do like 16th notes at 120bpm, though sloppy. But it does feel like there’s a lot less strain. Seems like I go into more of an upward pickslant as opposed to my previous form which was more downward.

This looks great. It’s not upward pickslanting, but I understand that it may feel that way. This looks like the Andy Wood / Paul Gilbert style mixed escape form. It uses a supinated arm but you can make upstroke and downstroke string changes from this position without altering your arm position. The combination of arm position and pick grip does not produce much or any downward pickslant, which is ok — no pickslant is needed for this style.

This is exactly the type of work you should be doing if you want to be learning new motions. You choose some phrases, try to play them fast, evaluate for smoothness, while allowing some sloppyness to happen. When it feels smooth and relatively fast, that is how you know it’s correct.

This sounds like it might be improv, which is fine, especially for experimenting to see what motions you can discover. But it can help to have some composed things to play so you can evaluate by feel / sound when certain attempts have more correct notes. And you can play around with going faster and slower in no particular order, for experimentation purposes. Personally I don’t like using a click source for that, it feels too rigid. But whatever works for you.

Nice work, keep us posted.

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Thanks! I think I was able to adapt this so quickly because I was previously working towards it without knowing it - about two years ago I was listening to a bunch of Pat Martino, transcribed a solo, and then played through some of the licks in his Linear Expressions book, and this form sort of evolved out of that. Then I kinda forgot about it and started getting more into DWPS.

But I do feel limited in this form in my ability to consistently hit the strings. It’s like hit or miss cause I feel like the swipe toward the string is upward, and sometimes my pick doesn’t get down low enough in time to make clear contact. And then also, it’s just kinda shaky tone wise - I do wonder if a large root of my problems is more to do with the left hand than right hand, synchronization issues causing uncertain and uneven phrasing and tone.

Allow mistakes to happen, and go faster than stringhopping could go.

I understand it doesn’t need to be accurate at first, but what if you’re just unable to go that speed because you don’t have the motion for it? Especially for a complicated motion like crosspicking, I don’t understand how the “play fast immediately” advice is productive, to be honest.

I’ve dabbled with crosspicking a bit as well, but unfortunately couldn’t get faster than about 110bpm with 16ths, even if I tried to move my hand as fast as possible and allow mistakes to occur. I just don’t have the ability to do that; the motion is far too complex for me to approximate with no practice at slower tempos.

I know I’m obviously using an inefficient motion, but whatever the efficient motion actually is, I don’t have the talent to just suddenly do it at high speeds. I like the idea of starting fast immediately, and I know I’ve expressed this opinion before on this forum, but I honestly don’t think this method works for everyone.

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I feel your pain, I’m at that point where I can get the motion more often than not (I think!), but tracking the strings becomes really hard to do at speed and I’m also swiping some notes really badly on patterns more complicated than a 3 string roll.

It feels x10 worse with crosspicking in my opinion as the margin for error feels tiny. I am currently flip-flopping between slow and fast on a roll that gives me trouble. The slow is concentrating on training my hand to string track and memorise the notes and fretting, but fast to get the motion. I’m not sure that the slow will help beyond lick memorisation, but I’m definitely still on the side of starting fast - its got me further than the alternative.

I’m no dbx king, but what has helped me to make progress was not going full swing into banjo roll type stuff - instead try to incorporate the odd 1 note on a string in licks that you can currently play.

Unless I’m misunderstanding, it sounds like you’re capable of crosspicking quickly, just not accurately enough. Specifically you have issues with string tracking and accidental swiping. But you practice it at high speeds to get better at the motion. Am I right?

I think that’s where we differ. Because I can’t do it fast at all, regardless of how sloppy is it. So for me, it’s not just that “starting fast” is a strategy that isn’t working, it’s a strategy that I can’t even try.

Have you tried doing pure USX and pure DSX tremolo from one arm position and just gluing them together? In my case the USX part was a problem and after my recent USX breakthrough I’ve started to progress in DBX really nicely.

Yes, I’m starting to get the motion into an efficient one - I can’t always do it (or at least not straight away) but when I do, I know that its on the right track- no tension and I can do things I never could do before.

Whether or not you try at a fast speed, you have to at least test it at a fast speed, to see if it can cope with the higher speeds and is not stringhopping - but there lies the rub - slow and fast motion can be very different yet feel and look similar so even if you think you are doing the same thing fast as you do slow, chances are it isn’t.

As for being a strategy you can’t try, I can’t really agree and I don’t think you have much of a choice - without a usable motion you won’t be able to do it anyhow. You have to try through experimentation - chances are you won’t get it straight away, but how many people do?

Also, you don’t have to go extreme speeds straight away. Start comfortable for a bar or two and then ‘rev’ up a bit faster and back down again. This way you can get your bearings and the test it into the medium and faster speeds in a short period of time. If you start to feel that it is working in any fashion, try and go straight in at medium or faster tempo to try it on for size. Personally I don’t see this as the same thing as “start slowly and perfect, increasing speed in small increments” - its more experimental and doesn’t focus on slow speeds.

Also, don’t spend hours at a time on it, just inject it amongst other things you practice.

Always worth a shot! Thats how I started, by putting the odd 1nps into the usual way I play.

Motor learning is a subconscious process, involving the coordination of dozens or hundreds of muscles and joints at various points in time. Any sense you have of consciously controlling this process or thinking your way through all these tiny interactions it is mostly an illusion.

So if you’re trying to “do” a semicircular picking motion, by thinking about making a motion that is semicircular, to try and get over the strings, that’s not how this works. You try to move your hand (or forearm, or elbow, or whichever joint you like…) back and forth to play the notes of the song or phrase you want. You do this at a normal speed for that song or phrase, and let your motor system figure it out. You’re mainly paying attention to big-picture things that are easier to be aware of, like whether something was easy or physically strenuous, whether notes sounded good, whether notes were hit correctly, etc. You can guide but you can’t control.

People who are really good at self-teaching like this, like the players we have interviewed, are really good at noticing when something feels easy, and doing more of it, and rapidly avoiding things that feel inefficient or effortful. The “noticing” is a thing they can verbalize but even then you can tell it’s after the fact. How they’re actually doing the motions they do is mostly opaque to them.

I like to call self-teaching of picking motions the “search for easy”, because if I had to summarize that’s how I think of it. You keep trying all sorts of things until something almost magically feels easy. Then you do more of that. It’s hard to know exactly what that is, but your body will know and eventually make the easy habits permanent.

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Well again this is where I feel like I differ. All of my faster motions are motions that I definitely would not have been able to do if it wasn’t for slowly building them up. If I wanted to test them fast immediately, I wouldn’t be able to. And if I followed this advice, I would’ve incorrectly labeled them as inefficient long before I had a chance to thoroughly test them. I had to build them up to have the ability to test them fast in the first place.

It seems like most people on this forum already have the ability to play these motions quickly, and they simply haven’t discovered them yet, but that’s not true for me and never has been. I’ve read numerous posts from people who’ve struggled with string hopping for years and within mere days of reading Cracking the Code they could already approximate a USX or DSX motion. That’s insane to me! It took me years to do the same.

No I mean like I literally cannot try. Like, impossible, not a lack of effort or choice. I don’t have the natural talent to immediately test a new motion at high speeds.

I guess I just find this advice discouraging because it doesn’t really help for those of us who can’t do this. I’m not a magician, I’m human. Maybe an analytically-minded human, but without any direction, I’m not sure what I could possibly do to improve other than stick with the old-school route of slow practice, as slow as it is.

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Thats cool, all that really matters is results and if you find that the method works then stick with it.

There are many here that have had the same experience so you are not alone, thats for sure. It took me quite a while.

I get that you’re saying you’re not having success. And of course we want to help with that any way we can. But as to the subconscious nature of motor learning, that’s the science of it, I didn’t make that up. Neither you nor I consciously flex dozens of unknown muscles when we walk, yet that’s what happens. I know you think you may learn by consciously thinking through all the steps of something, but it’s just not technically possible, even if it feels like that’s what you’re doing.

More practically speaking, do you have a basic picking motion that’s function yet, and is it fast and fluid? That’s really the first step. Have you taken any of our table-top speed tests and are you getting numbers fast enough to do what you want to do with a guitar?

Here’s one which we put up for free on YouTube. Try taking this test if you haven’t already, and letting us know what kind of metronome number you come up with:

There are a bunch more of these in our latest Primer update, along with case studies of stringhopping, as well as total beginners doing the tremolo on day one with a pick. If basic motion is giving you trouble, it’s really our best collection of advice on this. And we’re still doing scholarships if the price of admission is in any way an issue.

Edit: What I mean by this is, try not to get hung up on “crosspicking”. I know we’ve made lots of videos about players that do this type of motion, but it’s really just a motion, and the process for learning it isn’t any different than the other motions we teach. If you don’t have a fast and fluid boring old single escape motion, then whatever that problem is, is definitely going to be an issue trying to learn to play bluegrass stuff or Steve Morse licks too. So getting any motion at all happening smoothly and fast is the number one first item of business.

I think there is something in this thread that is just not connecting with you. Also, let me preface this by saying I am not HALF the player that many on this forum are, but I’ve learned a lot and I hope maybe I can help you too.

The motions we’re talking about in regard to picking are not remarkable motions. They aren’t something only a select few can do at high speed. Knocking on a door, erasing on a piece of paper, tapping a pen on a table, etc are all motions that are used in various forms of picking. You didn’t have to start knocking on doors really slowly and then with practice you were able to knock at a reasonable speed. You could just do it. All of the motions can be done easily at speeds we’re talking about for picking. The speed test videos that @Troy and team have posted recently are a fantastic way to demonstrate this. You don’t need natural talent to test a motion at high speed. Barring any kind of physical issue that would prevent you from making those motions, anyone can do it!

I 100% understand how Troy’s advice to try a bunch of things until something “magically” feels easy could be discouraging. I’ve thought the same thing before. Like, “Yeah, sure, that sounds great to you, but how is that going to help me? I need steps!”

I’m a lot like you. I’m very analytical and was looking for step by step instructions to fix my problem. Unfortunately, the truth is, those don’t exist. When Troy says it “magically” feels easy, he isn’t just saying that now because he can do it. That is really the case. I didn’t start really improving until I stopped trying to make specific motions and started just trying things until it felt easy.

By trying things, I (and others) am referring to altering the way you’re picking. Change your pick grip, change the angle of your arm, change the angle of your pick, try some forearm rotation, try some elbow motion, etc. Keep changing things until something feels super easy. For me, it literally feels too easy. Like so easy it’s really hard to control. I always have to warm up a bit, but once I’m warmed up, I seem to fall into the correct motion and it feels easier than I ever thought possible and my accuracy goes straight out the window, haha, but that is improving with time.

My point is this: you can absolutely do it, I have no doubt whatsoever. However, you may have to let go of your analytical approach to it to see the progress that others are seeing. And don’t worry, the irony of me telling you to be less analytical on a website entirely dedicating to ultra in-depth analysis of picking motions is not lost on me, lol. I had to do the same and it was genuinely one of the hardest things I’ve ever done with my playing. Not thinking about it and just moving around until it felt easy seemed completely foreign to me, and frankly, really stupid at first. But I eventually found something that works for me and if I can do it, you definitely can too.

Andy Wood described it like learning to ride a bike. You can’t really describe to someone what balancing on a bike feels like, and when you’re learning, no amount of thinking about how to balance will ever help. Once you get it, you do it a bunch more times so it’s a repeatable habit and you pretty much never forget it, hence the saying “like riding a bike”.

I hope somewhere in these ramblings of a former overly analytical guitar player, you read something that at least helps somewhat.

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It’s ironic that you said this, because I actually can’t ride a bike either. And it wasn’t until someone told me (as a kid) that you have to steer in the direction that you’re falling before I thought “Well why did no one tell me that earlier?!” I wasted so much time falling over. Unfortunately someone stole my bike so I never got to try again.

Anyway, I do have suitably fast motions for USX and DSX (well, kind of, I’ve sort of lost the ability to do DSX once I learned USX), but I definitely didn’t achieve those “magically”. I chose the motion, and started slow because going full speed was impossible. They work now, but not when I first designed them.

To me, the motions I use are much more complex and “remarkable” as you put it than it seems you and others feel. Knocking on a door is a significantly different and much simpler motion that picking on a guitar.

I’m not lying when I say I can’t test new motions immediately at high speeds. I really can’t, and I genuinely find it fascinating that others can. I don’t know if it’s a lack of “natural talent” (because what the hell does that even mean?), but what I’m trying to stress is that it’s not for a lack of trying or stubbornness.