Joe's DBX Magnet Practice

I was pretty excited to get my magnet the other day!

It’s helping me already. I’ve been messing with DBX a decent amount the last 8 months or so. Here’s a short phrase that feels pretty easy for me on most days:

Overall I thought I was doing ok considering I’ve never tried cross picking in my life, prior to earlier this year.

BUT, on another tune I’ve been playing around with, I noticed this weird tense looking thing happening on and off. I always knew this piece was harder but didn’t realize exactly why until watching it under the magnet:

To me it looks like in places I can see the fingers start to curl up. There’s probably even some hyperextension in my MCP joints, which isn’t great.

So I tried to specifically address this, playing just the phrases by themselves. To me it looks better already. Flatter pick orientation (I had no idea I was actually slanting the pick downward a bit!!! I was going for the Andy Wood neutral slant since I’ve heard that’s the way to go with this setup). Also, it’s more relaxed looking and a little faster.

I changed my grip a little bit and put on a capo (helps the left hand not have to work as hard so I could concentrate on not being tense in either hand). Still not perfect, but to me this is a great win because I’ve spotted a problem and am already working on solving it and making the piece better. Here’s what that looks like:

Next I’m gonna do the same thing to this one:

I notice the second half, the same thing starts to happen. I can see that middle finger of the pick hand start to move away from my index finger, indicating that tension is creeping back in. It’s a more difficult section in general, both in fretting and of course the picking (a lot more string skips).

Anyway, I’ve got a glowing review of the magnet so far.

The only surprise in usability was that the moving parts felt pretty ‘stiff’, particularly the part that pulls apart to hold the phone. I put a little bit of Vaseline on those moving parts and all better :slight_smile:

Oh yeah, I wasn’t sure if I should put this in “technique critique” or “show and tell”. Since I’ve still got quite a ways to go before I’m impersonating Andy Wood, if anyone has any feedback on the playing, it’s welcome!


Wow! Really great work, man! Well done - Looks great, and of course sounds awesome!


Sounding great! Think I started experimenting with dbx around the same time as you. I ain’t got it going like this yet though :joy:

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i was looking at cross picking again, and i think these sound super clean, nice, and articulate. the thing about this style of picking is there has to be a threshold to the speed, as making that smiley face motion to dip in and out of the string depending on upstroke or downstroke is going to have a limitation unless one can do some freakishly weird thing with their hands, or just doing it for years developing speed just by rot playing these motions over and over, the motion itself it just feels limiting to a certain extent with speed. now is that a big deal absolutely not as it has a certain character to the sound that sounds preferred to the phrasing. and quite frankly if you sped it up more than what you are doing here it might sound kinda silly. what really gave me that ah ha moment was just thinking ok what if i tried to just alternate pick one string, one note, with this motion then it dawned on me that there is going to be a big wall one hits with speed eventually.

Thanks! The whole reason I went down this rabbit hole is because I think these steel string acoustic arpeggios sound beautiful. I can’t get the same articulation doing it fingerstyle, even using nails (which rip to shreds on steel strings anyway lol!).

Right, for these pieces, totally agreed. I’d like to be able to play some pieces that are a little faster than this though. I’m not at Tumeni Notes speed yet, and I’d like to be able to play that. Also Glass Prison and some Anton stuff. I’ll need more speed for those and hopefully the magnet helps me get there.

@tommo sent me this video recently (contextually about something else, though related to this thread, which I will mention later) and there is something pretty interesting in the spot I’ve timestamped below. I’ve actually been wondering about the whole curved motion thing myself lately, because when I can really nail this, it doesn’t feel curved at all. It feels like a flat movement and like my hand is just traveling back and forth, riding the strings. It feels as though it’s just interrupted by the pick hitting the string almost like a ‘ramp’ that helps it get over the next string. Andy mentions that exact thing here pertaining to the mandolin, but I’m wondering if to an extent, it can happens on guitar too, at least at the fastest speeds.

I guess whether that’s true or not, we have seen some pretty fast examples of DBX. Troy has posted stuff of himself playing in the neighborhood of 16ths at 180bpm. Some Steve Morse stuff is up there. I saw Rick Graham cross picking Glass Prison and as far as I knew, he’s not even really known as a DBX player ha! He seems to be able to play almost anything though… Then of course there’s Anton Oparin who can cruise at these speeds for long durations and even skip strings. True, this is all well below the single escape fastest stuff, but there are enough people out there who can play this technique extremely quickly that I think it’s possible for the rest of us.

The little bit of success I’ve had with this technique, when I compare the journey to single escape playing, I feel it’s much less forgiving and the room for error is pretty tiny before it all just turns to a mess haha! It’s a lot of fun though I’ve had a great time learning this.


absolutely you are correct, i just try to elaborate some kind of description to the motion. but yes i get what you are saying like once the pick hits the string it turns the other direction maybe more like a flat v shape would be a better way to describe it.

I am glad you have a positive outlook on accomplishing this as I seem to see it differently I feel everyone is unique and we won’t all hit speeds of other players. And you have to be confident in your own abilities no matter how good or bad you feel that they are just have to try to find your own voice sometimes.

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I’m sorta convinced clean DBX one note per string probably tops out between 160-180 BMP 16th notes which is real fast, but not like 240 BPM elbow picking fast.

Why? Martin Miller managed to hit Glass Prison at 160 and I think the full 170 back in college. Andy Wood, Rick Graham, presumably Pettrucci at some point in the studio, and a few others have hit it at full speed. I haven’t seen any of them exceed that. Anton Oparin might be able to go faster, although he tends to incorporate sweeping in a lot of runs that could be ONPS - he can certainly alternate pick them in that 160-180 BPM range but I haven’t seen videos of him exceeding that on strict ONPS runs.

Troy hits 190 16ths on a specific pattern and he calls out that he feels like it would not be a speed he could just universally hit and maintain with any picking pattern using his DBX motion. Which is some further evidence it’s somewhere below that in general.

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I don’t think you should group the wrist-based DBX and the Miller Motion / CMC-based DBX (whatever we’re calling it) it together. If you try to do the table-tap test with the Miller Motion you’ll see why. I’m tapping out (pun intended!) at 180 here, but can do almost 215-220 by tapping with the wrist like AW does for his fast scalar lines.

I suspect the wrist-based motions will be ~10% faster, maybe a little more?

Nice work Joe.

My wrist-only crosspicking movements feel like this on acoustic guitar, but on electric guitar it feels like the strings do less of the work for me.

My wrist+forearm crosspicking movement always feels like the movement is curved and that I’m breaking though the string in both directions.

I’ve definitely done one note per string patterns with my wrist+forearm movement above 180 BPM, more like 190-200 BPM.

There may have been some swiping, or some slight thumb+finger movements incorporated to assist in string changes. I genuinely don’t know, it was half my life ago. I’d have to spend some time re-developing the form and studying footage of it to be sure.

The difficulty with that movement was always accuracy rather than sheer speed, and those patterns were all heavily practiced.

I do think wrist-only movements are slower, but they’re more transferable and less sensitive to different conditions (preferred pick, etc) for me also.

Incidentally, the Tuttle/Grier style crosspicking movement is something I couldn’t do at all for the longest time. I could do 902 and reverse dart-thrower with rotation, but I literally could not involve any wrist extension on an upstroke. I think this was why I never had trouble with string-hopping.

It was only when I spent some time deliberately practicing the Shawn Lane style dart-thrower wrist movement that I was able to extend on upstrokes, and the Tuttle/Grier style of crosspicking has come very naturally since then. I’m actually beginning to prefer it to my other crosspicking movements on acoustic guitar.

I’ve wondered if the natural DSX path of the elbow assists the escaping downstroke in this form when the elbow is used for tracking.

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That’s still not far off my estimate but I’d also need to see it close up, my theory is that it would flatten out to begin including swiping - but very precise muting technique could make this imperceptible. Still significantly slower than the fastest alternate picking speeds, and ~10% off from my upper estimate.

I definitely agree with the accuracy issue - you saw my early attempts and if I let it rip, I could easily hit some decent speeds - but doing it cleanly I’m still not close to being able to nail Glass Prison.

I’ve messed with dart thrower more recently, and I think it might be more natural for me than 902, my natural style is more of a pronated DSX and I can say it feels like elbow is involved when I attempt something with a dart thrower motion.

I’ll need to spend significantly more time with it to figure out if I can clean it up more rapidly than RDT.

I’m just commenting to give you more information. That technique had a very hard, percussive attack. If there was swiping, it was imperceptible to me. I can definitely say that I didn’t know swiping could be imperceptible, and I was trying to make all the string changes cleanly.

I understand that what I could do as a teenager but can’t demonstrate anymore doesn’t make for great data, but I have no reason to lie about this. I try to be completely honest here about what I can and can’t do; I couldn’t sweep pick until my mid twenties and I’m hilariously terrible at tapping.

I’ve been using the dart-thrower movement for less than two years and it’s already functionally faster than the reverse-dart thrower for me, which I’ve been using since I was about 14 years old.

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Interesting. Do you have any ideas why this might be? Personal comfort? Or some anatomical reason based on the studies you’ve done on the muscles in the hand and forearm? Dart thrower is among the only motions Troy has covered that I can’t seem to make myself do with any consistency. I have done it, but then I lose it and can’t figure out what caused it to start/stop. I chalk it up to my poor sensory perception lol!

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It’s hard to be sure. I feel that I can alternate the antagonist muscles for both movements equally quickly.

Dart-thrower is driven by flexor carpi ulnaris (FCU) and extensor carpi radialis longus & brevis (ECRL and ECRB). Reverse dart-thrower is driven by flexor carpi radialis (FCR) and by extensor carpi ulnaris (ECU).

FCU is the most powerful wrist flexor and ECRB is the most powerful extensor, meaning that in terms of power, dart-thrower should win out over reverse-dart thrower.


Nice work here! These look / sound great. I think they may two different techniques. The “Happy” clip looks like Grier / Tuttle style to me, and the “Rocky Top magnet practice” clip looks like Andy Wood style. Perhaps knowing this, you can more intentionally “do” those forms and that may provide some insights as to why one way feels more smooth.

The Molly style sounds like it’s working better, so maybe focus on that one. @tommo plays this way, and when he was here we got some shots of what it looks like from the bridge side. This is what it looks like:

You can see the small air gap there, along with the thumb heel anchor. It is similar to your form in the “Happy” clip. This is what makes the “dart thrower” motion necessary to escape on the upstrokes. But don’t worry about that. Just fiddle around with this form while trying to find the smoothest / fastest motion.

As an aside, I notice the camera angle in your “Rocky Top magnet practice” clip is very high. I’ve seen a bunch of clips from new Magnet users on Instagram that look like this but I’m not sure what’s causing it. Typically the camera is near the edge of the phone, so I place that edge nearest the strings. This gets me down low and permits viewing of the “air gap”, escape motion, etc. Are you mounting the phone differently in this clip?


Nice work, @joebegly! Out of curiosity, since you’ve been at this for 8 months give or take, did you happen to note what speeds you started at, or use any other method to measure progress?

Thanks @Troy and thanks to everyone for the encouraging feedback (@Scottulus @jptk @bradejensen @Tom_Gilroy @Riffdiculous ). It’s much appreciated because this has been my pet project and I’ve put…not a small amount of work into it :slight_smile:

I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that I was trying to do the Andy Wood motion only. Pretty funny you spotted 2 different motions but I’m sure you’re correct and it would totally explain why that one pattern feels so much easier (not that the other one feels bad or anything…just a little more work). Thanks for the tips though, and time to take a(nother) look at the Molly interview :slight_smile:

I’m only ever mounting the way you outlined in your videos on your site (which were really helpful BTW).

I do noticed that sometimes it looks like it switches to landscape mode like in the “Rocky Top Practice” clip. The only thing I can think is maybe I’m leaning the guitar a little funny (upper horn against my belly, lower horn out and away so that the guitar is not flat against my belly) and maybe if I lean it a little too much, that slight change causes the phone to think I’m in the different orientation.

Anyway, thanks again for taking a look!

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@Riffdiculous thanks for asking.

I very intentionally started by playing stuff that was above 16ths at 120bpm because I’ve seen lots of posts of people struggling with crosspicking. More often than not, they couldn’t get above 120 and it’s because the motion just wasn’t right. I’ve learned that the most important thing is to spend time finding the motion. It was difficult at first because it’s like, you don’t know what you don’t know. How do you do a motion you’ve never done? It was just a slop fest but I stuck with it until it started to click.

For me, that came from playing a pattern where the left hand didn’t have to move, and the picking was just the first 4 notes of an ascending pattern. I just kept trying to play those 4 notes over and over until something stuck. Then I’d play 4 notes descending. I remember specifically working on the pattern here:

I experimented with lots of grips and ultimately landed on what Troy outlined here

Though apparently I’ve drifted from that form a little :slight_smile:

DEFINITELY within the first week, I had decent speed a little above 120bpm and it didn’t feel like it was a tiring motion. So I’d encourage anyone else embarking to not get stuck. It may not be clean, but it should feel fairly effortless and be fast. Troy always says something like “It’s either easy or it’s wrong” lol! And that is the truth.

The way I measure progress is by aiming for higher speeds and learning different (more) patterns.


Thanks for that tip! I’m going to take this approach starting tomorrow :fire:

I wouldn’t worry about re-watching Molly, you have the form. It’s the thumb heel anchor with a little daylight on the other side. You already know what it feels like when it’s easy so it’s just a matter of continuing to re-find that easyness on as a wide an array of picking patterns as possible.

Note that we should not think of this as a “crosspicking” technique. It’s wrist technique and to learn it we need to try to play everything including things which are scalar. The bluegrass tunes are great because they pay no heed whatsoever to how many notes are on a string or whether something is a scale or an arpeggio. You cannot become good at this just by trying to alternate pick arpeggios exclusively.

Re: camera mounting, what I mean is that your last video is a mich higher angle than the first two. You’re looking down from above, not laying low against the strings. So you can’t see the palm anchor, the air gap, etc. Why is that? Did you change something about the phone mounting there? Or do you have multiple camera lenses and did you choose one mounted in the middle instead of near the edge? That would explain it.

I’m left hand dominant (with a lot of right hand training - but certainly nowhere near as comfortable with my right as my left).

RDT feels less “controlled” than DT to me, maybe the difference in strength of the muscles is more noticeable with it being my non-dominant hand.