Just isn't "clicking" for me yet

I’ve been working on USX wrist motion for about two weeks now. I’ve diligently studied the Pickslanting Primer and followed it’s instruction as best I can. But I’m just not getting there.

So I’m looking for feedback. I’m likely doing something very wrong and repeatedly doing it…and without knowing it. I hope it’s obvious to you.

Please save any positive feedback (if any) for last. :slight_smile:

Here’s my attempt using trigger grip:

Here’s my attempt using side pad grip (which is what I’ve been using for decades so more comfortable to me):

My goal is to develop a fluid, efficient wrist motion that enables me to play 16th notes at speeds above 150pm.

But I have to be honest - I’ve watch several “Technique Critique” videos and none of them have motions this ugly. So you’ve been warned.

But hey…this exercise has forced me to create a Youtube account, forced me to record myself playing, and now forced me to put it out here for all to see. Because I want to get better.


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Hey buddy you have your videos set to private, so we can’t see them. Can you make them “unlisted” instead?

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Thanks for letting me know! I think I’ve corrected that. I’m a noob at YouTube…

That seems maybe to be a combination of downward escape and/or a maybe nascent double escape motion? It seems to be above the strings on your down strum during the tremolo naturally and it looks like you’re maybe forcing it to escape above the string very slightly during upstrokes.

Tough to see until you switch to down the neck at the end of video 1 though, more info needed for my eyes. Hopefully someone more experienced can hop in and carpet bomb some knowledge.

Yeah know problem, and same here. I didn’t know about private/unlisted and hadn’t even uploaded anything to YT until joining up here. I see your clips now, so you’re good to go.

The only feedback I can give you, based on what I’ve seen in numerous critiques is

  • We’re going to need to see more ‘down the strings’ to see what your picking hand is doing. Here’s the standard link I see thrown around to get a good angle:

  • The speed you’re playing at isn’t fast enough to determine if the motion is problematic, because at this speed, you could get away with playing very inefficiently :slight_smile:

  • Lastly, I’ve heard it said numerous times on here (and experienced it myself) that rather than deciding on USX/DSX wrist/forearm/elbow etc, the best thing to do if you cannot yet play fast is to figure out what motion you can do fastest. Then, you can tailor the next steps accordingly.

So, you may have a great reason for targeting USX. I did, I wanted to play Eric Johnson solos without struggling. BUT, my attempt at USX, even after going through the material on here for months, was just not right. Troy saw what I was trying to do, suggested elbow was what my body ‘wanted’ to do and gave me some ideas on how to exploit this. That’s a DSX motion mechanic. His advice was really good (surprise surprise, I know…) because once I did that I could pick way faster than I’ve ever done before. I was topping out around tremolo at 180 - 190 bpm. Using his suggestions got the tremolo to 220+ bpm. This only took about a night of tooling around with the suggestion too. It didn’t help me play EJ, but it let me know what fast and smooth felt like. Once you know that, you can start trying other things and have a reference point.


I hope this won’t push @Rivethead’s thread off course, but… I often see requests for feedback like this one, and though the answers are typically informed and detailed, it feels like sometimes they overshoot the obvious.

No matter what combination of movements you use, you almost certainly need them to be just that - a combination. In @Rivethead’s case, it looks like there’s no elbow, and because his forearm is pinned down, no forearm rotation either. That basically leaves you with just the wrist.

Does anyone pick fast and efficiently using only their wrist? (Or any single set of muscles, for that matter). It’s not a rhetorical question; maybe the answer is yes and I’m unaware. But it seems to me that before giving up on the goal of USX, you’ve got to give yourself a fighting chance - which means not locking down the shoulder, elbow and forearm.

Isn’t one of the axioms of CTC that fast motion is virtually always a blended motion…?

Thanks for the feedback! I admit the videos aren’t the greatest. I learned some things about video recording in the process:

  1. A Logitech webcam is great for meetings and horrible for recording guitar playing
  2. When you’re by yourself, using the rear-facing camera on a cell phone is…hard since you can’t see what’s in frame.
  3. I have no idea how people get some of these “down-the-neck” shots without a magnet!

Regarding the motion…I’m definitely forcing some of it. It just doesn’t feel controlled, smooth, fluid…pick your favorite adjective.

The root cause of my video issue is that after uploading to YT you HAVE to edit them. YT asks all these neat questions about are your videos for children, marketing, etc. and only after answering these is the video “finished” (and you can set to unlisted). Posting this in the hopes it saves others new to Youtube.

Regarding your feedback, yes I’ll see about some better “down-the-neck” video.

Regarding your speed comment. I understand it. But it seems like a chicken/egg problem. The video represents as fast as I can go. I want to reach shred speeds (150 bpm 16ths) But that speed is the speed at which you know you’re doing a motion correctly. As I understand it, that’s the entrance exam into the world of shred.

Your last bullet point is interesting to me. I started studying the Pickslanting Primer at the beginning (pick history) and stopped once I got through wrist motion. I stopped at wrist motion because: 1) it was described as “most common” and “easy” (common is good enough for me :slight_smile: I don’t need to be different) and 2) most of my metal guitar heroes are wrist pickers from what I can tell - I just want to play their stuff.

I’ve repeated study of the entire wrist motion chapter several times now. Slowly repeating each step.

I guess I should watch the rest of the content (forearm and elbow)…

I can play faster with an elbow motion…locking my wrist/forearm like an iron bar. But I can’t do this for more than few seconds without fatigue, I can’t control it, I can’t change strings, etc. It doesn’t feel like a fluid motion I should be using.

If I may ask, did your DSX ability eventually lead to a path to find a useable USX mechanic?

Right or wrong, that’s by design. I’m following the wrist motion section of the Pickslanting Primer as best I can…trying to keep the wrist straight (only a slight extension) and the motion being entirely deviation on the ulnar side.

This all happened pretty recently, then I got slammed at work and couldn’t spend as much time on this as I wanted. So, I’m still in the middle of trying to get this faster motion synced up with my fretting hand.

So the short answer is “no”, but only because I haven’t gone back to my forays with USX yet. Now that I have a better idea of what ‘smooth’ feels like (I could already play moderately fast, just inconsistent in path/escape) I am pretty sure when I get back to USX I’ll at least know right away what works and what doesn’t.

I’d really like for both of us to hear what others have to say on this point about wrist-only; I, too, am just a recovering string-hopper.

But it didn’t seem to me that any of the anatomical categories in the Primer were meant to be stand-alone - rather, you’ve got to combine two or more motions. At least that’s what I thought.

(You might be, for example, predominately an elbow guy - but not to the 100% exclusion of some kind of motion coming from elsewhere. Again, that was my impression. We’ll hopefully see from other posters if I’m wrong…)

My first smooth motion was about 10-11 months ago…and it has changed over that time without thinking too much about it. It started with a pronated DSX (wrist only) then moved to a slight supinated (almost central) DSX with more elbow and some wrist (this was a conscious effort)…then USX became a usable motion when I didn’t use elbow and just wrist (didn’t think too much about this)…recently forearm rotation is just starting to ‘bud’ on the bass strings…now I don’t know what my primary is except I’ve embraced just trying to make things smooth without thinking about it.

My point - you are not necessarily tied to any one motion (in my experience)…just knowing the concepts in the primer can make you conscious of them…which can open the door for you experimenting with them when the music calls for it.

Capitalize on anything that is working at the moment and build your go-to phrases. You may collect more motions as you continue to develop.

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Was your first smooth motion “discovered” following the Pickslanting Primer or was this something you’d developed yourself (or did it just one day “click”…as I hear a lot of lucky people describe)?

A broader question to everyone: is finding a smooth motion, regardless of mechanic, like finding a needle in a haystack? I’m trying to understand if finding a smooth motion is elusive (but replicating it is easy once you do) OR if finding a smooth motion is easy but replicating it consistently is the hard part.

Completely agree! One thing that’s been surprising to me is how self-conscious I now am when I’m picking guitar strings. I’m thinking a lot more about what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. My wife says I’m probably over-thinking these things, as I tend to do.

And I can also say that since starting my study of the Pickslanting Primer, my guitar playing has gotten worse. A lot worse.

But I see this as a good sign. A (hopefully) step backwards before a giant leap forwards? I’ve no doubt that string hopping is prevalent in my technique. Now that I know what it is and am trying to stop it, my playing is worse. Does that make any sense?

Keep in mind that I’m not playing any tempos where it should matter if I’m string hopping or not!

It was discovered following the pickslanting primer - I was a dedicated string hopper prior. Did it ‘just click’? Yes and no - it took me weeks (maybe a month) to get the motion in a continuous tremolo stream…mainly because I didn’t know what it felt like and a new pick grip/arm set up felt awkward.

Once I did get the motion…it kind of came and went. Like I got it for a few minutes then lost it for a few days. Then it came back…lost it…came back and stuck…basically.

Once it stuck, I was overjoyed however…my pick strokes were very light on the strings…it didn’t match the volume of my melodic playing enough to even use as a tremolo…this took months make more confident and to dig in more.

Make no mistake - for me at least - eventhough you can sum up this alternate picking thing as ‘start at speed and experiment until it clicks’ is a really summed up order of operations. At the end of the day I’ve fought like hell to get a usable, fast picking motion…it just didn’t involved slowly inching up the metronome while no considering form - which what I had done for 30 years.

If was to advise myself 1 year ago I’d say use this forum’s technique critique without any shame or shyness. The expertise here is second to nothing else out there. It will fast track you. I posted one critique and it set me up to change my arm ever so slightly…which set me up to get both USX and DSX into some form of usable.

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Absolutely true

I think step 1 for @Rivethead is to find a fast motion. He’s already gotten started with the technique critique, we just need a better camera angle and some faster picking examples.

For the angle, I resorted to enlisting the help of a beloved and patient family member to hold the phone at a good angle. Troy told me to bypass this I could buy a $10 phone holder and use that with a regular camera tripod and while I can’t get as closeup, it’s enough for a good critique angle. Yeah it costs a little $ up front, but so do guitar lessons and this is a much better investment.

For the speed…I feel your pain like you’re in a catch 22 with the chicken/egg analogy. But, there’s got to be some fast movement that your hands can already do (scrambling eggs, knocking on a door, beating your chest to break a cough up, shaking a bottle of something that says “shake well before using” etc.) that you can transform into a picking mechanic. It’s not going to feel normal (yet), but I bet you’ve got something in you that you can use to tremolo at 150 already :slight_smile:

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Same here re. the expertise and fast tracking. @Rivethead I don’t know if my thread in technique critique might help - I was in a similar position to you. In particular see the part about winging it and also the table tapping part.

Getting a good video showing a down the neck view will be helpful as well - I did this without a magnet or any other hardware - i just tremolo picked the open string whilst holding my iPhone with the other hand.

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Thanks for the detailed reply!

Your experience on finding and ultimately retaining a useable motion was super helpful. Because I have had moments where the speed suddenly increases and resistance seems to disappear. But they go away pretty quickly and I cannot reproduce them - nor figure out what I was doing to cause them!

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Yes, this thread has definitely helped me understand that I need to just search for a fast motion first, video tape it, and get it validated that that motion is producing the smoothness or “feel” that I should be trying to get with all the motions.

And I need to improve the quality of my videos if I hope to get any feedback from them!

Regarding fast motion…the only motion that’s ever got me into the shred motion is elbow motion. But it just feels so rigid and uncontrollable I can’t see how that could be a regular, useable motion. Yes, it gets me to the speed zone and maybe that’s enough to get the feel…

Thanks! I will take a closer look at your thread. I do recall that Troy commented on how you produced such good down-the-neck video without a homemade magnet. I’ll have to give that a try too.