I think I'm using elbow+USX

Hi all,

I’ve read many times in the forum that elbow motion is primarily DSX and that elbow + USX shouldn’t work or at least there’s not an easy explanation for it. I think that elbow + USX is precisely my default way of picking and that’s why I’m puzzled. I’ve recorded a few videos playing the sixes pattern using what I think is elbow + USX so you can judge/comment on what you think I’m doing here.

The only video with audio is the normal speed one as my smartphone disables audio in slow motion.

Here’s the video at normal speed with audio. Sixes pattern at 130 bpm.

Here’s the slow motion sixes

And here’s a longer version of the slow motion sixes, both ascending and descending

Hey @oliversosa, interesting question!

My best guest is that you are adding some kind of wrist assist (or maybe forearm?) to enable the upstroke string change - but in some cases you may be swiping, i.e. hitting the lower string instead of avoiding it on the way down. No biggie if the left hand is muting.

Conversely, if you are doing elbow picking DSX should feel effortless. Is that the case?

Would be great to have a video with both image & sound - maybe you can record the sound separately (e.g. on the computer) and then sync the two? It would also be good to have something like your first video but without stuff blocking the view of the picking hand.

I’m also attaching our general advice on filming just in case :slight_smile:

This is not USX motion. Here’s a short section from video 2. You can see that upstrokes are not escaping. In fact, they are trapping, which we know because we can see them rest stroking against the lower string. Toward the end of the clip, you can even see an escaped downstroke string change, which is DSX:

Yes, you can occasionally do upstroke string changes but I think Tommo is right that it’s probably with an assist from another joint motion like wrist or forearm. When you are picking on the string itself, the motion isn’t USX. So we can probably think of this as DSX motion with an “assist”.

In general, the motion looks a little inconsistent, like the pick isn’t always making a smooth diagonal motion. This can sometimes cause a feeling of awkwardness, or a loss of speed. If you’re going to use elbow DSX motion, you might get better results by trying to be more conscious of that and making it move straight back and forth, from trapped to escaped. It might be smoother and faster that way.

You can still do this assist when you need it. That’s what Vinnie Moore does, who uses forearm motion for that.

Thanks Tommo! I’ll try to film the first video again, it was the only video with audio that I have available. If I record the video with slow motion and the audio with the computer, don’t you think it will be hard to sync both?

“My best guest is that you are adding some kind of wrist assist (or maybe forearm?) to enable the upstroke string change”
I’ve also thought about it. My guess that I’m using a little bit of forearm.

“but in some cases you may be swiping”
That’s a possibility too. If I’m doing it I cannot hear it at least in the first video.

“Conversely, if you are doing elbow picking DSX should feel effortless. Is that the case?”
While I’m doing it it feels effortless although to go the fastest that I can I lock the triceps. I also feel that the shoulder is playing a part while I’m doing this. After an hour or so when I stop playing it feels like I went to the gym…

Hi Troy!
I wasn’t aware of that DSX change at the end of the clip. I’ve always thought that I was changing after upstrokes… It’s an eye opener to me! So your suggestion is that I try to do elbow+DSX and then whatever I’m doing to have downstroke escapes ocassionally?
I have to say that besides this movement I can do forearm rotation ala gypsy and some kind of forearm+wrist blending. Those movements feel smoother and more consistent than what I’m doing here but they’re not as fast as elbow. The maximum I can do with those movements is sixes at 120bpm. Plus the tone I get with the forearm+wrist blending is a little bit “thin”. I’ll try to record something using forearm+wrist so you can hear what I mean.

I think this motion is elbow but not smooth - it appears to wiggle around, and so does your arm. When Brendon Small does elbow it moves in a perfectly straight line, just back and forth. If you want maximum speed and smoothness, focus on DSX elbow that moves in a perfectly straight with no other arm motions. Work on single-escape phrases with that motion, no upstroke string changes.

Once you have that you can try phrases that mix in some upstroke string changes with the helper motion. You don’t have to know what kind of helper motion it is, but you do have to make sure it’s not happening all the time otherwise the elbow motion will not be smooth. Only do the helper motion when you need the upstroke string change.

I’ve devoted some time to record what I hope are better videos. I’ve added audio to the slow motion clips. Appart from the “wiggle elbow” motion I’ve recorded other movements that I’m able to do, maybe one of those is a better candidate to be my main picking motion… I’d like to have some feedback on them.

They’re still work in progress so they are not the best thing I’ve ever recorded. To be honest it’s a little bit embarrasing for me to upload them but I guess it is part of the process to learn a new thing. All of them are sixes between 100 - 110 bpm, so here we go…

This is the “wiggle elbow motion”

This is what I call “gypsy” because I’ve got my wrist flexed and there’s a gap between my wrist and the body of the guitar, although in the videos that’s not seen clearly.

This is my attempt at wrist+forearm. It is the less developed motion I have but when I got it right it feels quite smooth. I think it has a lot of potential to become my main picking motion but I’d like to hear a few opinions on it.

And at last my attempt at having a straight elbow DSX.

I’ve been trying it for a few days but it’s not working. It feels weird to me and checking the video footage I think that what I’m getting is a fully trapped movement. Any ideas on how to get it right?

Hi @oliversosa. I feel like I’ve been having similar issues, in terms of trying to play USX phrases with an elbow. I swallowed my pride and posted a video and got some extremely helpful feedback, so please don’t feel embarrassed by your clips. If you’re interested, or need some help falling asleep, feel free to peruse my thread here: Petrucci Exercise

While I feel like what’s causing us to not get the results we’re after are aren’t the same issue, the solution is probably the same: practice playing some DSX phrases and stop fighting the system lol! I’ve read a thousand times on here that elbow and USX are incompatible. I felt like what I was doing was for some reason an exception and I swore I felt I was getting an upwards escape. While the results of what I posted were complicated, what I was feeling was not reality. Well, partially anyway. Again, it was complicated. Troy’s recommendation remained the same: play DSX stuff, with a straight forearm and wrist like what Brendon Small does.

To me, your clips look like your body is aware that you can’t clear the string and that’s where the little wiggles/flips are coming from. If you play phrases that naturally clear after a downstroke, your body may adapt accordingly. Here’s a DSX version of something similar to the riff you’ve been playing. Maybe try that out, focus on keep the forearm and wrist straight and let the system work its magic!

Hi Oliver! Forget the wiggle motion, it doesn’t look smooth. The elbow DSX technique (the last one) looks the best. It is exactly what Brendon Small does. The motion appears smooth and linear with no randomness. That’s a great motion for a Vinnie Moore type picking style.

The “Gypsy” one also looks possibly OK as a USX tecnique but I didn’t watch too closely. But that’s a whole different technique. I wouldn’t try to mix these together in the same phrase, they’re really just different physical styles of playing. If you work on both of these, I would do it like separate languages. When I play USX using a Gypsy type form, I usually play whole songs or pieces in that style, mostly because all the phrases I know are different:

The hand synchronization is a little off in your clips, so I would pay attention to that. I would also try to introduce musical variety and not just play basic licks and patterns all the time. If you play only a small number of things all the time, you run out of ways to learn.

Nice work here, you have lots of options. Try to choose some that work best and move forward into more musical territory.

@joebegly actually your post was what inspired me to write this one!

Thanks for the analysis @Troy. Probably I’ll go with the gypsy form for now. I’ve worked on some Malmsteen licks using it and it works very well. Once I’ve got that ingrained (fixing the hand synchronization issues) I guess I’ll explore the rest of the movements.

I understand that mixing movements in a phrase is a no go, but what about using different movements for different phrases in the same song? Some players do it successfully right?

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