Is pick slanting really needed to sweep?


Today I spent a few hours doing sweeping experiments, and I concluded that with edge-picking and a forgiving pick with broad shoulders (like a Dunlop Flow 2.0mm) one can sweep in both directions with no pick slant, although it feels “rougher” than having a strong pick slant. Does anybody sweep with no slant, or is it better to always sweep with a slant, for a more comfortable experience?

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unless you have a death grip on the pick, wont it pretty much slant by itself as u sweep?

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My strings only have 10# of tension and I might have a strong grip… I never thought about it until you asked. I’ll try a relaxed grip and see if anything changes.

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I think a pick-slanted sweep is pretty natural to most people, firstly with rest strokes and the then escape strokes at the end of each sweep, pretty much like strumming - the original pickslant.

Cascading arpeggios like descending 3s and 4s are an example of where using and then flipping the slant helps. The classic two-string triads like Trilogy Suite is an example of when one slant (DWPS) works throughout because it aids an outside string change back to the lower string each time.

Perhaps in your case, without slanting much, it’d be more important what you do at the end of a sweep than in the middle of it. Does that sound accurate?


Slanting the pick makes a ramp just like picking with an edge; so, if somebody edge-picks (like me) and has a pick with broad shoulders (like me), then there seems to be no real advantage of explicit slanting, and I can sweep in both directions with no slant. The question is, just because I can, is that good/smart/productive?


How does it sound? How does it feel? How do these compare to adding a slant?


Edge Picking doesn’t change strings for you when you have to move in the opposite direction at high speed.

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I used to grip the pick so tight during sweeping that i was unable to perform a proper downstroke on the lowest string and instead moved the pick through it and then upwards again, arm clenched as hard as the chiseled images of the Numenorian Kings at the shores of the Anduin.

Obviously, the result of this iron fist of doom was that the lowest note was hit twice and the angle of the pick remained unchanged.

So yes it is possible, but not really recommendable.


Good observation. This is the subject of the “Angle of Attack” chapter in the new pick design material:

Yes, you need to present some type of angled surface to the string to get over it. You can use edge picking, pick flex, or grip flop for this. It is almost impossible to stop flop from happening, and when flop happens, that is pickslanting. So I wouldn’t worry too much about this.

Keep in mind this is not the same thing as what happens when you alternate pick with a pickslant. When you do that, you are not moving parallel across the strings, you are moving at a diagonal. The pickslant matches that diagonal so that the pick’s orientation compared to the way it is moving is about 90 degrees. So, paradoxically, the purpose of pickslanting for alternate picking is to negate the slant of the motion path. There is a slant, but there is no slant!

Edit: Sorry I’m not really explaining this clearly. Grip flop and pick flex do happen during alternate picking, and they do have the effect of providing that slanted edge so the pick flows over the string. But the type of pickslanting you’re asking about for sweeping is when the player provides a fixed angle even beyond that, which causes the pick to be tilted in its direction of motion. This does not happen during alternate picking. When you pickslant during alternate picking, it’s because you’re picking diagonally, and the pickslant is simply correcting for that, causing the pick to be 90 degrees to its direction of motion again, and not slanted (relatively speaking).

Pickslanting in the direction of sweeping is something that every sweep player we have interviewed does. I don’t think it’s just grip flop causing the pick to tilt, I think it’s deliberate, because you can see these arm changes happen before the pick hits the string. Whether this is “necessary” or not, yes, if you use edge picking you can probably try and force no change at all to happen. But that seems unnatural. Making some adjustment, however small, to promote greater sliding seems appears to be what great players do, and they have the best intuition for this.

A great example of this is the min7 arpeggios that Rusty plays in this clip:

He’s using a sturdy grip, with edge picking, so flop is minimal. The slight pickslant in each direction of the sweeping motion is at some level deliberate, however subtle. This is some damn great sweeping, and fastest example of clean, coordinated playing multi-string playing we’ve ever filmed, upwards of 280bpm sixteenth notes equivalent.


What is interesting is that even when the face of the pick hits a string head-on it should really be thought of as “double-edge” picking, because the string will bend on both edges, and both will conspire to push the string towards the body (e.g., it will slide down both edges). That said, this effect is likely less than grip flop and pick flex in most cases.

(In fact, when I think of edge picking, I see the special case of both edges, and then the single-edge case, where the profile of the pick is basically projected onto the plane that is normal to the strings at rest, and that is what defines “high” or “low” amounts of edge picking.)

One thing that I did not realize until Troy pointed it out is that 351-style picks “don’t work” with extreme edge picking (I only use Dunlop Flows now and have forgotten), and “my” technique uses around 45 degrees of edge, quite a lot.

I think that numerically solving these problems would be an excellent master’s thesis for somebody with physics or mechanical engineering graduate students, or CtC needs to hire a PhD student as an intern to do this calculation. :smile:

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We do indeed have an optical physicist right here on the forum ( @tommo ) and he did review our visual vector math for the edge picking lesson. Grazie mille a lui!

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Yeah, I’m starting to dislike this @tommo, he is a great picker and too clever for my liking! :wink:


Prego! But as you know it wasn’t just me, several people in my research group watched the video and helped me give some feedback :smiley: When I’m asked these apparently simple physics questions I always realise I know less than I think!

PS: of course modelling the whole thing beyond the qualitative/idealised scenario (including friction, string deformation etc.) is a different story. I think it would be a cool project, but what exactly would be the useful question to ask?

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Everything in the lesson amounts to observation, rudimentary testing, and some educated hypothesizing / guesswork. Even the nature of the tilt EQ effect is a guess. It seems to bear out, and it seems to be the same effect we see when changing pick gauge. But the actual effect could still be something different with more a controlled test, and in any case we still don’t really don’t know what’s causing it.

I’ve since read some stuff on vibrating strings that suggests the shape of the string wave controls harmonics, where sawtooth and triangle waves have more harmonics because the kink in the string is pointier, ie as on a violin string and it’s sawtooth shape. So it could be the gauge, edge picking, point geometry and all the geometry characteristics are really just modulating this one basic effect. But again, exactly how I think remains to be clearly explained.

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Some very fundamental questions:

  • does the pick push the string down so it touches the final (22nd) fret before the string plays?

  • does the string slide around the point and ride back up the rear edge or does it snap off, come back around, and violently hit the back edge? If so, how often?

  • how often does the vibrating string hit the frets, and what are the implications?

Experiment sounds relatively easy with a high-speed camera or some instruments hooked up to the frets and strings (that are conducive, along with a pick with metallic edge segments).

Solving a simple numerical system would not be so hard on the string side but getting the hand’s behavior right is a likely catastrophe of poor modeling.


Not at all. I don’t slant at all, and I am pretty proficient at sweeping.

But as other’s have noted, you need a fairly solid grip, but you can still stay loose with a solid grip.