Is it better to alternate pick or use economy of motion?

ok so i dont have a video currently, but basically i have always had this issue with playing slowly feeling terribly awkward to me. I would cap out and almost switch to a different technique when using a metronome and then could go much faster.
I have figured out why.

when practicing something slow i use strict alternate picking, and I am probably not using the correct two way pick slanting practices when doing 3NPS runs, etc.

When I play fast, I swipe, and will just do the same movement a Second time

something like this

Upward pick slanting AL DI MEOLA STYLE
would be D U D U, U D U D U swipe, D U D

is this an inefficient movement? I can do it at high speeds. However it is so weird to me because for years i have been alternate picking purely for slow speeds, and naturally doing this at high speeds. When I apply this technique I realize I have an easier time playing things at slower/medium tempos. I just have to almost relearn how to play slow/medium tempos, applying the same feeling i get when playing fast.

No problem! As long as you’re ok with any of the following being incorrect since we’re taking your word for what’s going on :wink: Even the best players aren’t always doing what they say they’re doing. for example, your tab/description I can only do that as you notate if I use a downward pickslant (more accurately, a USX motion). If I try it with upward pickslanting (i.e. DSX) , the swipe happens here for me and the other string changes look after themselves as they all happen on downstrokes:

D U D U swipe , U D U D, U D U D

EDIT: I just copied that from the OP and moved the swipe, but this is not what I meant. This has a repeated upstroke but I was actually doing D U D U (swipe), D U D U, D U D U

It’s possible I’m misunderstanding or that you’re doing something different than you think. Video would clear stuff like that up.

Probably not inefficient if you can do it fast

See, to me, this isn’t weird at all. How many instructional videos are out there where people demonstrate the example “slowly” and it’s not really using the same motions (or sometimes even pick strokes)? The answer is going to be a very high percentage. Even Troy has said that many fast motions can’t really be slowed down to a certain speed. The motion changes. It’s just like sprinting → jogging. Jogging is not sprinting in slow motion, it’s a different motion entirely.

My follow up question would be, do you have an actual problem? If things feel and sound good at higher speeds, mission accomplished, right? :slight_smile: That’s where we all want to be. Does it just bother you that your motions are different at the slower speed? As per the above, I’d expect the motions to be different. Are you averse to swiping? Some people are but I don’t get why. It’s an awesome “feature” of many fast players.

Hmmm, I just played this and simply alternate picked it and had zero problems with it starting on a upstroke and then alternate picking everything; I am a DSX player, and 2 string licks like these are pretty easy - I play them at a high speed also and while I sometimes swipe, I usually don’t. Dang it, this might be a very, very simple uber-basic “mixed escape” thing… more research reqiuired…

Interesting, thanks for sharing…

Ha wait I read this wrong before. There is a place where you have 2 consecutive upstrokes. Does that mean you’re using economy picking there? I see “economy of motion” in your title but usually that’s just meaning “be efficient with motions”. Is this not a repeated lick? That would be just fine if it’s one time through, but if you looped it, you’d have to start with an upstroke on the second pass.

I guess, again, this is why we like videos because it takes guess work and people like me misunderstanding out of the equation.

A have an abstract related question: Should one play something the same way at any speed?

I have convinced myself that the “correct” answer is yes, as that enables slow practice with the metronome to make sense—but is that right?! :thinking:

I’m not sure one can, really. I’m not talking about pick direction/escape and all that - that I do think should be maintained at any speed, if that’s what you mean. But faster playing involves some amount of momentum that can’t be replicated if you’re going too slow, so I think finding the low end of where that comes into play is a good “practice zone”. Slower than that, you might be using the pick direction and escape you want, but you’re missing a key ingredient that needs focus.

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Yes, that’s exactly what I mean.

Ah, you raised a second question that I had but didn’t ask: Does playing slowly mean that the hand just rests longer between notes, but that it always traverses quickly in order to get the appropriate volume?

I concluded that the “correct” answer is yes, because I think that the volume of the piece shouldn’t change if one is playing slowly. Indeed, this has given me a mental model where the hand just flips back-and-forth, and the question is how long it waits after the last flip before it flips again. Now I realize that this is a model and it’s not exactly reality.

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I’d say yes, with the caveat that I personally don’t believe this method will help one build picking speed. It could even be deleterious, potentially promoting increased tension during these pauses. But if you intentionally wanted slow, loud notes, then yes.

For the fretting hand, however, this sort of methodical work could be beneficial. The picking hand is too dependent on momentum to be worked very slowly, I’d say - it’s just not really training the same thing. But I’m happy to be wrong if it does work for someone!


The gross motion should be functionally the same but if you’re looking at your slow playing vs your fast playing and thinking “They should look identical” - that’s a fool’s errand, IMHO.

The only way to improve speed is just like exercising. You go as hard as you can (or lift as much as you can) while still maintaining reasonable technique. You’ll sound like Jimmy Page for a bit and you’ll struggle, but that’s the point.

There are others on here far more versed in the explanation, but Shawn Lane’s approach was to practice as fast as you can, provided you didn’t lose the time feel. No matter how sloppy it may be. As long as the motion is efficient and you’re able to keep time, it’ll clean up on its own as your limit expands.

I am a good example of this. In less than 6 months I went from a not-so-efficient technique (and understanding of it) to being able to play lines cleanly that were totally (and laughably) out of reach not so long ago.


Ah, I didn’t explain why I’m interested—sorry about that. It’s not about speed, but quality. Most self-taught guitar people are (1) slow compared to classically trained artists, and (2) inconsistent—notes have variable duration, are not played as written, etc.—and that’s my concern. I really believe that the classical approach of bumping the metronome is critical for consistency. So, given a plectrum, I’m trying to draw the analogy of what this practice would have to look like. I am somehow thinking of the plectrum as a percussive instrument and wondering, “if somebody plays slowly, should the volume change?” I’m guessing, no, but I’m not sure! And thanks for the commentary! :grinning:

Definitely there shouldn’t be any dependency between speed and dynamics. A Technique that can only play fast quietly is no good. A technique that can only play slowly if it’s quiet is also no good. The music might demand things that are various combinations of speed and volume. It’s especially true in classical music since they are obsessed with dynamics but even in other genre’s it can be important.

I guess if there’s enough compression on the signal maybe it’s a moot point lol!

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Even classical players don’t ‘bump the metronome’ the way most think they do. That you get something perfectly clean, bump and if it goes away…slow back down. That doesn’t actually work in any reasonable way. It’s dogma that no one questions ‘becuase that’s how they’ve always done it.’

I believed that for decades. No more.

Get the mechanics right - and then push to a level that’s somewhat beyond your personal limit. It’s a very individual thing and progress takes far less time this way.

It’s not unlike an artist starting with a rough line drawing and refining the image as it progresses.

I’ve seen and experienced too much evidence to think it’s any other way.

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Last time I grew my nails out and dusted off my classical tremolo I decided to forget what all my teachers said and just play it as fast as I could. It was a little out of control but in not too much time it was just as clean as I’d ever done it but a good bit faster, and it felt easier too. Back when I was studying classical I could do a convincing performance of something like Recuerdos De La Alhambra but good god did it feel hard. Most likely, I was doing it wrong. The teacher I spent the most time with cared more about expression than technique and he didn’t offer me much guidance on my tremolo (other than telling me to practice it slowly). So yes. “No more”.

I think part of the problem, at least with guitar, is there are some very good players who advocate the slow gradual practice. I agree with the general discussion here that slow motions are not the same as fast motions and something like a 50% version of our fastest speeds but in slow motion is probably impossible. Most likely impossible in joint motion but certainly in muscle activation. But, I think these “good” players are most likely using a pretty similar technique (for example, joint motion and pick trajectory) slow vs fast and at the moderately fast (clean it up) speeds, they are probably using the same motion they do fast. So to them, this “works”.

I’ve had far more success flooring it and backing off just a little. The other end of the spectrum is people hearing the “start super fast” advice and thinking it means to tense up and brute force it. That likely won’t work either. As long as we’re aware of what excess tension feels like (easier said than done, I know) we should be ok “pushing it” more than conventional wisdom says we should.

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I suspect that this right, and slower speeds enable one to reason about dynamics and timing.

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