I got some video of my picking hand for you to look at

I had my neighbor come over and film my picking hand. I’ve had problems with the pick getting stuck on the string on the upstroke. It’s hard for me to make the pick glide smoothly through the strings on both the downstroke and the upstroke. I also sent these video links to Chris Brooks whom told me in an email to do this.

I would like you to look at the four clips and tell me how I’m doing. I basically adopted two methods of picking in the videos. Where I’m picking the treble string I’m just using my thumb and forefinger to push the pick back and forth through the string.

The other method where I’m picking the Low E string I’m using more wrist and forearm (even though you can’t really see that in the video).

If you feel I’m doing something wrong or even if I’m doing something good please post your observations.

Here are the YouTube links:


I just heard from Chris Brooks and he told me to stop doing that thumb thing which I’m doing in the third and fourth videos. He says it’s not creating any motion and it’s a waste of my time until I get a functioning downstroke and upstroke established.

He also told me that what he sees in the first two videos is better although he could not quite tell where the motion was coming from.

I have also experimented with picking from the wrist moving the wrist back and forth like it appears a lot of people do. Although this feels a little foreign to me.

Please post your recommendations.

What’s usually recommended on here is to find out how you can pick the fastest. It’s always going to be by playing a tremolo on one held-out note. It’s got to be fast too. Aim for at least 16ths at 140 -150bpm.

Once you figure out what joints are involved in this fast motion you can then determine if it’s best suited for playing patterns that change strings after upstrokes or downstrokes.

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Overall, these videos show a very limited amount of footage, not only in playing but in visual scope (can’t see anything really past the fingers except for the last video).

Based on the guitar and the use of finger movement, I’m guessing you’re trying to approximate Yngwie’s technique. The issue is I think the finger movement isn’t executed correctly.

Can you post other videos of you attempting wrist / forearm / elbow?

The video of me pushing the pick back and forth using the thumb and forefinger was the Yngwie technique. I don’t see the problem with it.

I don’t know what is not being executed correctly in regards to the Yngwie technique.

@357mag the last two videos are what I’m going off of; it looks like you’re doing very small movements that don’t have much room for speed improvement. I think @Twangsta has done this style, I’ll see if he has a video or two so you can see a better perspective (and maybe he can give you some feedback). I do small finger movements but pair them with wrist.

This is how I do it too, I think brooks is right, straight thumb method is best developed first, then the bend thing will happen naturally, if it’s happening from the start and you can play quick in a relaxed manner that’s fine too. Coordinating the thumb motion into an atomic motion along with the wrist is key, as others have said.

The key idea is the index moves forward and back, the thumb is merely a support, think with your index, play real passages for practice, two to string scales etc, I often use the motion for string tracking, I find if I rely solely of thumb picking for single string picking I loose attack, ie: my pick is likely not to make it through the string strike, it’s a fine balance of divided power between the wrist and finger push or pull.

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Well Chris didn’t like the idea at all. He told me to stop it. He said it does not create any motion and it’s wasting my time.

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Hey @357mag , I second @joebegly 's request of trying to do a fast tremolo on one string and showing us what it looks like.

Here’s our filming suggestions for getting a good quality video:

Regarding the sticky upstroke, I think you are having a problem that we call “garage spikes”, where the pick is grabbing the string too much before letting go of it. This is typically a result of the mismatch between your picking trajectory and your choice of pickslant, if you know the terms. You can try to mitigate this by increasing the amount of edge picking, or you could try a completely different pick grips and/or hand positioning.

If you are not familiar with the terminology, here is a free resource:

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I think the important thing is to identify what doesn’t work vs what does. There’s nothing wrong with finger/thumb movement, but if it’s not working for a particular player, the thing to do is to find a motion you can get moving fast without having to put much time into it. So Chris is correct that in your case, it’s sort of a waste of time.

Most people, if they don’t have an injury or some physical limitation, have at least one fast movement they can do. Scrambling eggs, scribbling, scratch-off(-ing???), hitting a button repeatedly fast on a video game controller etc. Those are all movements that if transferred to the guitar would equate to acceptable levels of speed picking. The key is figure out what you can do fastest and start working with that. For some people, thumb/finger just might be that motion. Since for you it’s not working, move onto some others.


Today I worked on a two-string sequence on the B and E strings. I changed my picking approach to using the wrist. Hand moving back and forth at the wrist the way you see so many players play. Although I suspect I still incorporate some thumb and forefinger movement in there still I think it’s a habit.

I will try to get some video of me tremolo picking one note and I will post the link. Maybe I will also film what my wrist picking looks like too.

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This doesn’t make sense to me. We have all read and heard that to attain speed it’s economy of movement. No large unnecessary motions. So if I am making small movements that is exactly what I would think I need to do.

The “unnecessary” part here is the clincher. I think all motions have a minimum range of motion that’s needed to not only have a decent transient (or how the forum refers to it as NOT having “garage spikes”, @tommo talked about this in his response), but also be able to speed up and have some “maneuvering room” to switch strings. It seems like you’ve taken the approach of making as small of a motion as you physically can, and have the actual note quality / speed as secondary. I’d recommend you instead find a motion that not only yields a note that you find pleasing, but has a motion that can be sped up. From there, you can make it more efficient with regards to movement range.


This is the sort of dogma where Troy’s work has really shined a great amount of light. Small movements aren’t in and of themselves efficient. If you can’t make a small movement go extremely fast, than it’s clearly not efficient. Most really fast players don’t make tiny movements. As you say though, “we’ve all read and heard” that this is the way. It’s more about the joint that’s involved that dictates what the size will be.

Yngwie is a great example when he does his finger/thumb movement. That is a tiny joint, so it makes a small movement. The movement isn’t fast because it’s small though.

Rusty Cooley usually plays a good bit faster than Yngwie

The elbow is his main source of motion though. That’s a bigger joint so it looks like it moves more. The closeups show that his pick moves as much as it needs to. It’s consistent in it’s span and extremely smooth and that’s why it’s so fast. Sure, the faster he gets the smaller the movements get, but it’s the speed that’s causing the reduction in movement size, not the other way around. And these are extreme speeds!

I know we’ve all been conditioned to think we need to move the pick as little as possible so that it just cuts through the string and stops but I can’t think of anyone who really does that. Troy’s footage shows what people actually do. It doesn’t really matter what they say they do :slight_smile:


I would say it’s more a matter of what they think they do, than what they say they do. From the perspective of the person playing, they may be thinking that they really are indeed keeping their motions small, because that’s what they are focusing on doing, but that may not be what is actually happening when you dissect it. It doesn’t mean the focus isn’t useful in some regards, it’s just that maybe you might want to put other conditions on it.

Conversely there’s a practical limit to this as well, and I can’t think of a single player filmed so far that makes motions so large that they are traversing the distance over six strings to make fast pick strokes.

Well that’s the other extreme I’d suppose. I don’t think anyone’s advocating intentionally making huge motions lol!

The point is, we’ve seen plenty of technique critiques where someone’s ill advised attempt at making tiny motions was one of the things holding them back. The thing to do is to try a variety of movements that can be used for fast playing and see which one we’re fastest at. That’s the starting point. We can refine things from there.

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Exactly, we are all physiologically different. Putting too much focus on something just because our favorite player does can be very limiting.


Maybe these are not exactly 6 strings, probably 3 or 4, but to me Joscho’s strums seem about as fast as his single note playing.

(video shoud start at 3:26)

PS: the point of posting this is just to show that some motions can be enormous while still fast


Yeah that’s a really great point. That’s tough too because we’ve learned the way these people sound and what they play is all bundled up in the (probably) subconscious choices they’ve made in how they move their pick. I don’t know how much it’s been discussed, but physiological aspects could be why they chose a particular primary joint over another.

I’ve been a victim of this myself and if I had to pick one recurring theme I’ve seen is players submitting technique critiques where they want to do USX because they like Eric Johnson or Yngwie. If someone else has a very natural wrist based DSX or elbow mechanic, it makes sense to foster this. It’s really all EJ and Yngwie did! They found what worked for them and exploited it.

Again, myself included, I think many have a tendency to focus on what we’re not so good at since it’s viewed as a weakness we overcome. Everyone has some weakness somewhere. Ask Eric Johnson to play a 3nps scale with alternate picking…he probably can’t do it very well lol!

The better approach is what Troy advocates and that’s to roll with what you’re good at. You can always add more things in later. If you’ve never experienced the freedom of playing fast with a truly efficient motion (and selecting phrases that conform the implications), you have no reference point. Once you get this, onwards and upwards.

But if there’s something a player has been really struggling with for years or even months, the best remedy is to try something else.