I'm Giving It Six Months, Then I Give Up Forever

I know the title sounds dramatic, but let me explain.

I’m in my 40s and have been playing guitar since I was 12. I’ve never been a good alternate picker despite many periods of dedicated focus toward improving it. When I was in my teens I was a good rhythm guitar player and did lots of fast legato stuff and sweep picking, felt like I was a good guitarist, and was kind of blissfully unaware that my picking was really holding me back. Then in my 20s I wanted to play Yngwie and Paul Gilbert licks, and would spend months at a time banging my head against the wall with a metronome just not being able to break through the plateau. Then I’d give up, go back to playing Metallica songs, and then start the whole thing over again a year later. I made no real progress for many years.

In my late 30s I reached a point where I got comfortable with the fact that I’m never going to be PG or Yngwie, and was OK with it. I’m just going to focus on what I can do well, and try not to dwell on what I can’t. I was having fun playing again, learned a bunch of songs that I had considered too easy or beneath me, filled some gaps in my knowledge, even did some blues jam type stuff. I was in a good place with my playing.

Last fall, I decided it was time for some dedicated time working on my chops and I started a 100 day plan practicing 4 different things for 15 minutes a day each. I definitely made improvement in the areas I was working on and felt good about my playing overall. It was the first time I really felt like I got better in well over a decade.

Then a few weeks ago a friend who plays in a good rock band told me that he would need another guitarist to fill in for him for a few shows, and maybe I could do it. So I check out the band’s setlist and start learning Still of the Night by Whitesnake. There is of course the blazing alt picked run in the solo, but I could fake my way through that. No big deal. What tripped me up is the violin part. It’s 16th notes at all of 104 bpm, should be super easy for someone who has played guitar for 30 years. No so for a rigid UWPS’er though.

I had an epiphany a while back and realized that DWPS does not refer to what way the pick is “leaning” but whether the tip of the pick travels in a path toward or away from the guitar. I’m sure it’s spelled out here somewhere, but I bought the Cracking the Code season pass back in 2016 and watched all of those but never came to the forum or dug any deeper, so I though downward pickslanting meant simply slanting the pick downward.

So like I said one of the things I’m good at is rhythm guitar, metal stuff like fast downpicking and gallops, etc. I filmed myself playing Master of Puppets and realized that even banging on the open E I’m using UWPS. I’ve never, ever used DWPS and that’s why Still of the Night is giving me fits.

So here I am ready to give it one last shot before I give up on alternate picking forever. I’m through my 100 day practice routine, and ready to focus 100% on this. I signed up for the Masters in Mechanics and I’m going to start working on the Teemu Mäntysaari interview right away because I read here that he’s good at teaching DWPS to players who don’t get it. I’m prepared to do some Skype lessons with him too. Wish me luck. If I don’t make it, I’m doomed to a life of blues jams :slight_smile:

Here’s a quick video of some stuff that I can pick fairly well. It was just something that I recorded to show that a PRS can be a “shred guitar” so it’s not musically very interesting or anything.



Welcome aboard! im 51 and making my best gains ever

i’ll throw out some random questions just to get things poppin’ right off the bat

why do you feel you have to switch to dwps? you are correct in that the PATH of the pick is the real important thing. if you are truly uwps that just means your pickstroke will “escape” from the strings when you do a downstroke. When you do an upstroke it will bury itself in between the strings.

DWPS is just a mirror of that. it escapes on the upstrokes and buries itself on the downstrokes

6 months is actually a lot of time if you go about things in a FOCUSED way. of course we all know you arent going to quit guitar so we are going to ignore that part lol

looking at your clip, id suggest the same thing id suggest for most anyone. Start really focusing on single string stuff like the Yngwie 6 note pattern. Get those 2 hands really synchronized together

until you really have single string stuff together, there is no real need trying fast string crossing scales etc. Id predict that a month working on single string stuff would improve your picking considerably

brace up to get flooded with different opinions on this (or any) forum. Ill give you mine up front here lol. 4 things for 15 minutes aint a great way to make killer progress IMO. Imagine it was golf. You hit balls for 15 minutes, putt for 15 minutes, chip for 15 minutes, then maybe play 2 holes which would take about 15 minutes. At the end of a year youd still suck as a golfer lol

if you only have an hour per day you have to make it count. id focus on alt picking only (no arpeggios or whatever) As i said earlier, Id spend the first month or so getting my single string licks up to speed. First just get something like the Yngwie 6 note lick really blazing in one spot. then start to move it up or down the strings. Get that together. Then start to move to the next string higher or lower.

Thanks me later lol

btw, Yngwie and Paul G are a bit different in how they do things. Paul is way more straightforward as he is usually just straight alt picking, whereas Yngwie is really a hodgepodge of a lot of different stuff. When he ascends he will economy pick and when he descends he will throw in a pulloff when needed etc. Paul is a “2 way” pickslanter whereas Yngwie is pretty much just a downward slanter and he built his style around that fact. if u joined MIM you will be able to see all of that explained etc
Peace, JJ


Hey JonJon, I appreciate the response and it’s so awesome to hear that you’re making your best gains ever at 51. You’re right I’m not going to quit guitar. What I mean is I’m going to give up on being a good picker and just focus on legato and sweeping, etc.

I don’t think I need to switch to DWPS per se, but I do think that I should be able to do it. It seems to me that a large majority of guitarists use DWPS (at least stuff that I want to play) so the majority of music is written in a way that favors DWPS. I understand that UWPS is just a mirror image, but anything with two notes and then a string switch gives me trouble like the Whitesnake thing I mentioned. I could start with an upstroke, but it feels very awkward and would mean I have to sit down and work out the pickstrokes of every song I’ve ever learned. I just don’t see that happening.

When I was practicing it regularly, I could do the Yngwie single string stuff around 105-110 bpm. I thought that was “fast enough” so didn’t really try to push it further. If you think that would help though I’d give it another shot. Maybe if I can do one string at 140 bpm, then switching strings at 120 bpm would feel easy.

I see your point about 15 minutes, but I don’t know if I completely agree. Setting a timer for 15 minutes, using a metronome, and focusing 100% on what your doing is a decent amount of practice. I improved measurably over the 100 days. I probably play more like 2 hours a day on average, but it was 10-15 minutes of warmup, an hour of practice, and then 45 minutes of songs, improvising, working on theory, or whatever.

I understand that PG and Yngwie are different, I was just giving examples of things I wanted to play. For 10+ years practice to me was trying to learn Scarified for example. I’d play it over and over, along with guitar pro at a slower tempo. I’d get it up to maybe 70-75% of the actual tempo and then hit a brick wall and couldn’t improve any more. Then I’d quit practicing seriously for a couple months, and start over with a Yngwie lick or something by Jason Becker, or Symphony X, etc.


I second this. And if you’re adamant about adding DWPS to your toolbox right now, rather than refining your UWPS, I’d also suggest using just repetition of one note on a single string (i.e. tremolo picking) as the “baseline” test for whether a picking movement feels fast and smooth.

If you’re concerned about whether your motion is “slanted” enough to clear the strings, I think a good simple test is switching between adjacent strings with 24 notes on each string, where the odd-numbered notes end “trapped” and the even-numbered notes end “escaped” (either something like repetitions of the Yngwie pattern or even just a single note on each string). Any even number would work, but I like 24 because “musically” I think of it as triplets, and since it’s also a multiple of 6, it fits conceptually with a lot of Yngwie and PG repertoire (“widdly-widdly-widdly-widdly widdly-widdly-widdly-widdly [SWITCH] widdly-widdly-widdly-widdly widdly-widdly-widdly-widdly”, where each “widdly” is three notes). That allows you to know whether you’re smooth and fast on each of the strings before and after the switch, and “isolates” the string switch in a sea of fast smooth notes so it will be easier to detect whether it stands out as being “less smooth” than the other notes or not.


yes id say you have a good understanding about uwps etc. if you are uwps and you start on a downstroke then you are correct, you will be slanted totally the wrong way to do 2 note per string stuff. dwps is ideal for 2 note per string stuff since the 2nd note would be the upstroke that frees the pick etc

you are also correct that its best to be able to do both types of slanting for sure

haha, its funny, we just had this sort of big flame war thread about “learning songs vs exercises vs licks”. You werent here for that but you just proved my point 100%. someone can say “its best to learn SONGS”. uh huh. Then they set out to learn Scarified or Frenzy or whatever lol. They quickly find out that their technique is very lacking.

So they say “I have to learn this bridge or verse lick” so they isolate it and do it over and over to try to get their technique up. Guess what?? They are now doing an exercise anyway lol. good stuff

The Yngwie single string stuff. if we are talking sextuplets then its easy to do the math as far as speed goes. sextuplets at 120bpm = 12 notes per second (nps). Loosely going by Willjays list (google it) 13nps is starting to get up to world class speed. controlled sextuplets at 140 would be 14nps which would be pretty beastly

Dunno if id place a number on it but im just personally finding great success where I spent like 3 weeks focused on single string stuff. it just tightened up my overall picking so much. I still generally start all my practice sessions with something like the Yngwie 6 note lick just to start things off with good coordination

my own history is sort of like yours. I started in 1988 and then when I got Paul Gilbert Intense Rock i simply could NOT do the Paul Gilbert lick. So it was a similar problem to yours. i was (unknowingly) dwps so when that lick went DUD then change to a higher string, it just wasnt going to happen for me lol. I didnt really understand why until like 2014ish so I did like you, I just played whateevr I could play lol

One last question before I get started practicing single string picking. Does it matter if I practice from the elbow picking like I did in the faster part of the video I posted, or from the hand/wrist which is much slower as of now?

can of worms now opened lol


That’s some awesome playing. PS that guitar :ok_hand::ok_hand::ok_hand: sexy as hell


I’d try both and see how each of them feels. Or even try some movements you may not have attempted previously. I’m a believer in an approach which I think @Troy has frequently advocated here, which is “initially, try a bunch of different movements, and if one of them seems to be giving you better ‘preliminary’ results than the others, use that movement as a starting point for further exploration.” That is, through trial and error, pick one movement that seems promising, and see how far you can take it. Once you feel pretty good with that movement, decide if you want to go back and attempt to further develop any of the others.

The kind of elbow-driven picking you mentioned wouldn’t be right for me (I’ve experimented with it, and I don’t like how it feels), but that doesn’t mean it can’t work for you.

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About the elbow picking thing…

Agree with all the advice given.

I’m 42 and started with the Volcano series little more than a year ago. Hang in there and post questions if you’re stumped. Have patience above all, as others have said focused sets of practice is where the gains are.

Think of it as open world games vs linear path games. You want to keep your progress goals very linear. Single string mastery, followed by multi-string scalar patterns broken into sets of 2strings, then three strings, and so on. After that or when your at the 3 string scalar stuff you can start with 2 or 3 string arpeggios to add some diversity. And so on… just a suggestion of course.

For the single string stuff, I’d suggest thumb and index extension/contraction motion, and use the wrist motion for establishing cycles, that uses the wrist for that first note of the pattern. I find it hard to stick to the thumb extension picking but most of the time if happens naturally/subconsciously. I found these extension actions to help tremendously with bach sequenced arpeggios patterns etc. Try to keep your pick as loose as possible in your grip. Try to use Delrin 500 1.5 mm Dunlops, they’re forgiving while articulate and have a great tone.

One of the things I’ve noticed with DWPS arpeggios is on the way up your pick is essentially sweeping up, but on the last note do a down stroke, I found this to be very important in almost all cases. Also that flick starts to come natuarly, like the snap when your driving a car around a bend when the weight shifts, you gotta catch it natually, will come with practice.

edit: on a side note, I went though 3 months of excrutiating pain in my picking hand, I just plodded on and used ice packs. It would ache at different points from forearm to the neck. I had worked out a lot in my younger days, the pain was familiar, as in it would disappear while I was playing, return soon after. Please stop or see a doctor if you think it’s necessary, I think the pains will come if your doing it right, part of the process but for legal and ethical reasons you need to take your own course, again see a doctor who treats athletic injuries. I’m a softwar developer, been at a keyboard and mouse for 30 years or more, I had to change my mouse to a logitech M570 type device, the pain would get drastically worse with a regular mouse while using it, it’s possible my pains were mouse related but I was burning the candle at both ends. Hard to be sure.This is just my personal exprience.

Never Give In!

Another alternative is just to get a really good guitar teacher…

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find a good needle in the haystack while you are at it lol, or maybe hit the lottery


You know, your legato technique here really is pretty decent - I’d hate to see you quit guitar just because you never sort out picking. If anything I’d spend some time on things like vibrato and loosening up your phrasing a little, because your tone and smoothness could be a very effective voice here.

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Thank you Drew. What I meant about quitting didn’t come across right. I’m not quitting guitar, just giving up on being a good alt picker.

I did what you all suggested yesterday, and spent several hours on single string, single position stuff. I could work up to about sextuplets at 110 bpm using either wrist based or elbow based motion. The most interesting part is that I experimented a little and figured out a way to DWPS with wrist motion, and I was able to do DWPS and UWPS equally fast. I could also do the stupid Whitesnake violin part using DWPS!

I’ll record some clips in the next few days to get your input.

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You would think it’s spelled out here, but it really isn’t… yet. This is precisely the confusion we’re attempting to adress currently. In a matter of a couple of months all the new stuff will be up and this stuff will be ultra clear.

The reason this matters is because the way the pick moves is determined by the picking motion you use. So we can’t just tell someone “make sure you escape properly” without also showing them exactly how to do the motion that makes the pick do that. And there are many such motions, each with a different set of instructions for explaining how to do this in its simplest form.

Currently, our best set of those instructions is here:


It’s not terrible. It’s better than what we’ve had previously. But it’s not clear enough, and it’s not parted out into short sections for each motion for easy reference. That will be coming in the updated Primer material over the next couple months.

However for now I recommend checking this out if you haven’t already and trying to follow along with some of the instructions we’re dashing off in that talk.

You can - everyone can. And you can do it from essentially the same arm position you are using in the clip you posted above. The way this works is that the wrist actually travels through a different path in space to create the different escapes. Here’s what that looks like:

Note that you can’t really see any “pickslant” here when you look at this. Or at least I can’t when I look at it without looking really hard. From a few feet away this would look like someone playing with “no pickslant”. In actually there is a very small arm adjustment, but again, it’s so small that it would not rise to the level of what most people would think of as “switching to dwps”. Despite the smallness of this adjustment, note how dramatically the different motion paths look when I’m playing the slow “demonstration”-style pickstrokes. They are quite different.

So it’s the picking motion that creates the escape path, and then a comparatively small adjustment to either the grip or the arm position you’re using will adjust the “pickslant” for maximum smoothness of pick attack for that picking motion.

And again, this is not explained or demonstrated in our instructional material yet. It will be soon, in plain English, with very clear instructions for the different combinations of pick grips and picking motions you might choose.

Apologies from us for the lack of clarity here, but we’re working overtime to get this stuff up there!


This is awesome, thank you. No need to apologize at all, I’m way further ahead that I would be without Cracking the Code. That much is certain!

obviously one thing u can do is just start from where you are and start incorporating some two way licks.

IMo a super easy one is this: (on whatever strings u like etc)

b----5–7--8---------------------8–7 repeat

thats a cool one because you already have your uwps string changes dialed in and once you get up on the e string you already know your next move will be a dwps downstroke to the b string. so from the time you get up on the e string you have the space of 5 notes to work into your dwps. very easy

then a slightly harder version is this 16th note version:

b—5–7--8-----------8–7 repeat. But this one is still WAY easier than the Paul Gilbert lick

PG Lick. very difficult


IMO these are all basically the same lick but the top version is just spaced out so you can take your time and gradually work into the dwps part. The middle lick is a little faster paced of a change and then the last lick is the hard version. (not the hardest because you can always throw in a string skip and also repeat the string change lol)

The point of all this is, you already have years of uwps in you, so I dunno if id be trying to start from scratch with some “new” picking motion. The one you have is probably just fine…it can just be re-aimed a bit. When standing, pick on the “bottom” half of the string lol.

You only have to be “dwps” by a few millimeters. You aint got to go silly like Marty or Zakk


Hey @JonJon I practiced this for a little while tonight. I don’t know if I’m getting the DWPS part right or not, but it sounds OK to me. I also think I picked from the elbow a little more in the video, but Ic an do it at the same speed or a little faster with wrist motion.


video not working at the moment. it will come…at first this stuff is awkward but after a while it smooths out

a lot of it for me is small hand movements.

Like dwps = pinky edge of the hand closer to the strings while thumb side comes up off the guitar slightly

uwps = thumb side digging into strings a bit more and/or pinky edge of the hand coming away from the strings

or sometimes its just small finger or thumb manipulations

I accidentally made it private. Can you see now?