Is 'starting with speed' always the way to learn new motions?

Hey everyone. I’m not sure if there is a settled answer to this yet, or if there are still discoveries being made. But here goes:

I have an elbow motion that works. It was the natural motion that I developed unconsciously during my early years of playing. But now I want to learn something new that allows for an upstroke escape.

A year ago I began the relentless ‘trial and error’ process, trying for a wrist USX motion, and later a forearm/wrist blend. I have made no progress.

Filming my playing recently confirmed that any attempt to ‘floor it’ results in immediate interference from my elbow motion.
Becoming aware of this hasn’t made it easier to address as of yet.

So, if my elbow has claimed total dominion over the ‘fast zone’, is the common advice to go straight to ‘tremelo picking’ still applicable? Because so far, this approach has only resulted in me discovering just how many ways my elbow motion can disguise itself as something else!

Does anyone have any suggestions?

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Hi there. Does anything in When I "go for it" I revert to elbow/DSX - how to avoid? help? Cheers, z

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I was gonna recommend what I posted in the thread @jzohrab linked!

I broke into USX when I started concentrating on the pentatonic 2nps stuff…I didn’t want to start on an upstroke at that point (I’ve since stopped judging…well…everything regarding technique).

I’m comfortable with it (USX) now…but, and I know this is a cliche, but it took time.

More specifically, when I felt my old motion start to kick I would immediately stop, relax those muscles and keep going. Eventually it clicked…but again…it took time. It was defiantly a ‘train your brain’ thing.

I feel using the pentatonic stuff (and other 2nps shapes/phrases) kept me from focusing too much on my picking motion and let me just search for a clean sound by feel.

I don’t feel that it would have worked if I didn’t stop/restart when my older motion (which I still use and love) kicked in.

Thanks for the responses everyone!

The exact nature of this type of motor learning is utterly fascinating to me. And I see now it is a subject that has been discussed pretty relentlessly across the forum and in the CtC material.

I think I have to train myself in stopping, unpacking, reassembling and trying again. Because so far my strategy has essentially been trying to ‘brute force’ a tremelo motion that feels clunky into something that feels smooth.

In other words, I haven’t really been ‘trial and erroring’ at all. Rather, I’ve been falling back on what feels familiar and expecting sheer willpower to alter the motion for me.

Hey @GreenGuitarMusic sorry in advance if this gets long. I have issues being concise but I feel like I am pretty familiar with many aspects you’re describing.

My fastest playing is driven from my elbow. I can fairly easily get an elbow tremolo going around 16ths @ 225 bpm. Firstly, what speeds are you getting when you do an elbow tremolo? I only ask because I did not fully know what this “fast and smooth” thing that Troy is always talking about really was until I felt those speeds. This needs to be the benchmark for 2 reasons:

  • It lets you know the motion is correct, so if you opt for sticking with this inherently fast motion, you can back this down to the slower speeds you’ll be using when you play the majority of your fast playing. It must feel the same as the fast motion, but it will just be slower (for example it could be 16th in the 170 - 180 bpm.

  • If you choose to jump ship and do something like USX (elbow will not do this on its own), you will know right away if the motion you are making feels correct. You will be able to relate it to what you felt when you floored it with your elbow.

I think this is an excellent way to approach it. The main motion, whether it is elbow or wrist or forearm blend, should feel easy at the high speeds. You must be relaxed. The only player I can think of off the top of my head that looks at little tense at REALLY fast speeds is Rusty Cooley. Even so, I bet he is controlled and what we’re seeing (his bulging forearm muscles) is just the result of the athletic power needed to get his arm moving that fast. For any normal shred tempos we can and should look/feel relaxed. That doesn’t mean the movements will be tiny of course (they probably won’t be if you’re using elbow!!) but ‘brute force’ should not be necessary at all.

Another good observation. The only willpower I can think would be involved in your scenario is (assuming you’ve got a good fast and smooth elbow mechanic) making sure elbow is not involved at all if you’re trying to do a wrist or forearm based USX. If it gets involved, your motion is wrong. You may be so used to anything ‘fast’ conjuring your elbow into being, so you’ll need willpower to focus on your other joints being what moves.

Anyway, best of luck with your endeavors! Sounds like you’re on the right track with your realizations.

I hear that. Still working on things myself, but making progress. For me, the willpower involved is: “stop and note any observations,” rather than “keep going despite this tension, it will work itself out.” The tension accumulates as my hand and arm try to sort things out while playing, but I think that’s better done during rest periods. Cheers! Z