How to make the door knob motion on the guitar?


I’m having trouble using the correct wrist motion once my hand is on the guitar.

I can do the doorknob motion away from the guitar, but once I place my hand there, it’s a different story. I dob’t know if it’s old habits sabotaging my efforts but I can’t seem to do this consistently. Sometimes I do get it right and picking feels smooth but most of the time I don’t.

Are there any drills I could do to ingrain the correct motion?



I had to start very, very slow. Like quarter notes DWPS rest strokes) at 60 bpm. The metronome was essential here. I rarely use one otherwise.

Once that feels consistent and smooth, bump up the metronome 2 to 5 bpm and continue the game.

Every once in a while, jump up to sloppy 16ths at 160 bpm or so. See how clean you can get it in a few minutes, then back to slow and deliberate. Try to marry the two speeds together until you have the feel memorized.

I did 20 minutes to an hour, once per day. After a week it was usable after a short warmup. After a month it was second nature, and I stopped practicing it in isolation.

At very slow tempos, don’t slow down the pickstrokes themselves, just put space between them. Each pickstroke should feel like a distinct event, they shouldn’t smear together. This helps you memorize the feeling of the individual strokes, which is necessary before you can start chunking, IMO.



Well, I cannot replicate the correct doorknob motion at will, so that’s where I have to start before doing it with a metronome. I sometimes seem to be doing it correctly, but most of the times I’m not.



I see. Could you post a video? That would probably help tremendously.



Funny thing that helped me: I had a car with a troublesome ignition and had to jiggle the keys while applying pressure in order to start my car every day.



There is something fundamental that I don’t grasp about the doorknob motion: Is the karate-chop part of the hand resting on the guitar as a pivot, or not?



Pretty sure i can do it either way.



Yes, a video might help here. Is the door knob motion the same as forearm rotation? There was a recent thread about Eddie style tremolo which is essentially the same motion with a more exaggerated wrist bend.



Hi! The “doorknob” motion as you call it isn’t a wrist motion - it’s a forearm motion. Interestingly, very few famous players actually use forearm rotation exclusively as their core picking technique. As @qwertygitarr points out, probably the most well known one, and really the only one I can even think of off the top of my head, is Eddie Van Halen. Eddie uses the flexed wrist form of this where the hand does not touch the body.

For the EVH style of this motion, check out the the blog post and thread that @qwertygitarr linked to. Lots of good information there, including some clips of Qwerty who does a great version of this with a straighter wrist. I will add to that, most people get this motion fast first, and often only in the air as you describe before figuring out how to do it on the guitar. That was the case for me as well so you’re on the right track.

Otherwise, many of the players you might think are doing this motion are actually doing a blend of wrist and forearm and not actually pure forearm at all. Players like Doug Aldrich come to mind. If you see some arm movement but it doesn’t look like Eddie, with the whole arm turning around in space, there’s a good chance it’s not actually the same motion. We cover wrist and forearm blends in the Pickslanting Primer.

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I’d like to use this type of motion to pick. I seem to use elbow picking with mild DWPS and ulnar deviation. I found I could play the pop tarts lick straight away but seem to be lifting the pick/hand up and jump across to change strings. My type of motion feels very limited and unuseable for most other things. Turning the doorknob rotational type of picking would seem to be a more natural way to me for crosspicking and for starting either with an up or downstroke. However I also have difficulty doing it on the guitar, it is fine going slowly but do I try to develop tremolo picking with it - I can’t do that at all…? I’ve spent my whole adult life trying to alternate pick but I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to do it in a flexible way…



Can you do it fast and smooth in the air?



Yes, reasonably, I would say fast enough for the kind of speeds you would need. Is it then a matter of working with that kind of motion at the guitar?



Yes. But since it’s an unfamiliar picking motion and you’re trying to isolate it, I would start very slow. When I did it, I spent some time playing quarter note rest-stroke tremolos at 60 bpm. That’s slow enough that you won’t be struggling to keep up, and you can focus on just making the notes sound. After you can do it reliably at that speed, you can profitably use the bump-up-the-metronome trick and the jump-up-to-max-speed-for-a-few-seconds trick.

FWIW, I don’t know if you can get a double-escape from pure rotation. I decreased my supination, and added in some wrist and fingers to make it a neutral-slant crosspicking motion. But I only did that after spending several months on pure rotation with fairly heavy DWPS.

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That’s really useful, thanks! I have just spent 30 mins trying it, making a rotational tremolo style motion in the air and trying to keep it going moving towards the guitar strings, but as soon as I am at the guitar strings it won’t work at all. I tried a bit of the EVH trem picking movement with marked wrist flexion, which I can get to sound on the strings more than this but I’ll keep working at it at low speeds for the next few weeks to see what I can make of it…!