Just started practicing for speed

I never really practiced scales or to develop shred style speed. But Ive gone through stints of giving it a go. I always felt that it was my fretting hand that was the problem, but Im realising more and more its inefficient picking that is really slowing things down.

So Im trying to speed that up with the use of DWPS and upward escape. Uhmm yeah so Im just curious if it looks like im starting out right. I dont want to put thousands of more hours into another stupid way of doing things. Hahaha.

Ohh uhh some background on where Im at: so I just started seriously working on scales and speed. Ive got minor pentatonic, blues and harmonic minor at a basic level of memorization, just working on really embedding those scales into my brain so I can play them everywhere on the neck at will… but as far as mechanical technique goes Im just starting to learn about pickslanting and trying some 6’s up and down the strings and up and down the neck.

The video is down and up the strings. This technique already feels way smoother than what i was doing. The instant I heard about that string hopping (i think thats what its called), i realized that i was doing that terribly. and my wrist would hurt… it was bad news bears.

So yeah lemme know if im on the right track. Thanks.

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There is nothing “wrong” here - but you are not doing strictly USX (upstroke escape) as far as I can see. It looks more like “downstroke escape with occasional rotation into USX to do the string change”.

I think if you try some licks that only change strings after downstrokes you’ll be blazing pretty soon!

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Yeah okay I felt like I always turned back towards downstroke escape naturally. i think its cus im used to like planting my palm near the thumb to a certain degree… cool thanks for the tip ill give that a try. :slight_smile:

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Is that also the way you used to do the black-metal tremolo? If so you’ll soon be able to exploit all your tremolo speed for downstroke-escape lines.

We may have unleashed something scary :slight_smile:

Dont know… ive never thought about technique. Just sorta winged it. Uhmm ill make another video one sec…

Okay. Some of the string switching is sloppy af, id like to work on that… and im cold, so its even shoddier on that front too.

Ha - this is awesome! @Tommo is on target in fishing this out, it’s a perfect downstroke escape picking motion. Use this technique from now on, it’s your best.

Given the downstroke escape, it’s mainly intended for when downstrokes are the last note on the string. So try those phrases first just to get the hand synchronization down so you know which pickstrokes are which. And honestly as long as that’s good, and you have at least some muting of unwanted strings, you can even play phrases where there are occasional upstroke string changes and if you happen to hit a string here and there you will very likely not hear it. I think this is what a large percentage of the great neighborhood pickers do without realizing it.

As Tommo points out it also looks like you’ve already internalized the occasional helper motion for getting over the string during upstroke string changes, so you may already be doing what you need to in that regard.

Great start here.


Nice to see some Dissection here. Good job. Fretting posture for the left hand looks nice, too.

For tremolo I would recommend staying away from drastically engaging the elbow at those speeds. Have you tried looking at the Antigravity seminar? More of a rotational blend might work better and feel more relaxed.

For what it’s worth, Jon Nödtveidt footage on YouTube could help here. He rarely used his elbow, the reason being that playing black metal concerts 45 minutes+ with the elbow engaged is dangerous and extremely taxing. Most of the professionals in this style tend to stay away from that. A really, really solid example of great technique for black metal tremolo is Samoth from Emperor. Check him out, too.

edit: Oh and Varg, too, they nuked his channel but there should be some “live” videos of him demonstrating really relaxed technique.

x2 edit: Clarifying “elbow movement” - intentional tensing up of the brachioradialis (forearm area) and bicep to “force” tremolo speed. It’s a bad habit. Your arm should feel like jelly when you get this motion down.


Damnit Ive known that for a few years but really havent been excited about switching over. When i start to get tired and am doing multi string tremolo or slower stuff I switch to wrist. But like anything fast or difficult i revert back to that elbow shit… tense af… and my right arm is like noticeably bigger than my left because of it. Hahaha.

Thanks for the critiques guys.

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We’ve done a few interviews now with great elbow players, and they’ve both reported great comfort with the technique after many years of doing it. Brendon Small recently:

Brendon directly addresses this ability to do it for long periods of time and says he gets no tension at all. The intro song in that video, Icarus Six Sixty Six, is a tremolo tour de force and he never breaks a sweat. @Bill_hall, who stopped by last year, is also great with elbow motion and has decades of experience with it:

In the talk we also discuss the comfort level. We’re backlogged but we’ll get that interview with Bill done, sorry Bill!

Anyway I’ve heard this about elbow playing before, that it’s dangerous, but there seem to be lots of anecdotal examples of players with decades of playing time who don’t seem to have an issue with it. I have no doubt that people have become injured who also happen to be elbow players, and they might have even done something wrong that caused it. But so far as I know that’s true of every technique. I really don’t have anything specific to go on that suggests elbow motion is any more dangerous than any other technique at this point.


Movements in and of themselves are just… Movements. I’ve personally noticed on nylon acoustic guitars I use more elbow, probably to generate more force because of the lack of compression that I’m comfortable with through my amp.

My cause for concern is when OP posts a video and then says

I don’t think it’s necessary to force a movement.

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Cool, good to know. It’s funny you say all this because I was just thinking back to when I played really fast for long periods and would sometimes get a little bit of an issue, like a plucking feeling in a forearm tendon… but that would be like when going ham at full speed for hours a day for months on end, other than that it hasnt caused any problems over the years. So i guess no harm no foul?

Although on the issue of tension, to get the hand moving back and forth with the elbow seems to require a basically static contraction of both the bicep and tricep. So i dont understand how it could even be done without “tension.” Perhaps that guy in the video above just means that it isnt “excessesive” tension?

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Doing anything repetitive for hours a day where a high percentage of that time is the movement itself, is a recipe for trouble no matter what. That’s true in sports, or any other physical activity. To completely clear, I wouldn’t recommend doing anything that’s painful or even highly fatiguing. I don’t even like getting “gym sore” from playing guitar, because it’s a warning sign that overuse is happening.

More generally, fatigue is counterproductive to the learning process for me. Especially if I’m trying to “figure out” a new or unfamiliar technique, I get the best and fastest feedback when I’m totally fresh with as little feeling of fatigue as possible. Because that’s what it feels like when expert does their technique fresh, so that’s the feeling I’m trying to “locate” when I’m trying things. i.e. I’m looking for that feeling of hey, that’s working! And it’s just way harder to feel that when your arm is burning.

Re: “static” tension, we measured @milehighshred in a lab and even at his speeds, the EMG data shows the muscles pulsing on and off. You can even see a little bit of it on the screen as the camera passes by:

So it’s not static tension in the sense of all muscles firing all the time. It might feel like that, if that’s what you’re saying. I can’t say for sure if any picking motions I do feel precisely like that, because there’s a lot of movement happening it’s all kind of a blur.

But I can tell you for sure that Brendon and Bill describe the feeling of doing their techniques as easy and comfortable, and they both reference being able to do them for extended periods within a song when needed with relatively little fatigue. The one thing Brendon complained about in the interview was playing sitting down, because he had to hold his arms up and his shoulders started to burn. So not even the picking motion itself, per se.

Without getting too much into what’s going on at the level of muscle activation, because I think there will always be unknowns, I think we can just say, hey, shoot for something that feels comfortable while also producing the result. If it doesn’t feel comfortable, see if there’s some way you can do things differently that feels easier. “The search for easy” is how I think of it. Sometimes you get the sense that, hey, I can feel this is going to work but I’m just awkward with it right now because it’s new. That’s an ok feeling too. I’m sure we all get more streamlined as the coordination increases. And try to take those comfort readings while not playing hours per day, since again, that’s going to throw off all your meters and everything will feel hard.

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I know a guy who snapped a tendon in his right arm playing in this style (I’ve mentioned this on here before), and the sensation of what you describe is exactly what he felt before it happened.

I realize I’m not Troy and as a result my opinion gets less consideration by default, but if you were sitting in front of me I would tell you to let your right hand slouch more. By definition, holding your arm in the position that you are in the video requires more effort that letting it slouch down as a result of gravity. It takes excess tension, by default, to hold your picking hands in an upwards slant. The hand does not naturally lay like that against the guitar in a default position.

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… ! You guys dont fuck around. God damn. That’s some indepth shit dude. Thanks Troy.

guitarenthusiast, dude snapped a tendon?! Holy fuck. That aint kosher… :0 what happened?

Guy playing at tempos of 230-280 blast beats with the fastest (hobbyist) drummer I’ve ever met in my life. It was a practice session, and he blew his arm out through loss of a connective tendon. Idk if this resonates but he said the tendon had a “pinging” sensation; as in, the tendon seemed to like slip out of place for a bit, only to re-enter, then snap. Had to get surgery, does not play guitar anymore. He technically can, but he won’t; kinda gave up the ghost. Similar story in Guthrie’s Creative Guitar about that one dude who snapped something playing chords on his couch.

You can severely fuck up your arm with improper positioning, posture, etc. It’s not as uncommon as people think. When in doubt, just keep your tension to a minimum.

When you learn a movement, put the feel of smoothness before what the motion looks like. That’s what I mean by “not forcing” a movement. I like the way Michael Angelo Batio answers it when asked if he uses his wrist or elbow: “Yes.”

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I get that this may be true, but I also get a lot of pushback here from all quarters. So if there’s deference, there’s less of it than I imagine there is wherever Jason Richardson or Rick Graham comment or some other really popular person. And I’m happy about that. I really do feel like we get the best information by hearing from everyone. Evidence is evidence, doesn’t matter who produces it.

It sounds like you’re referring to wrist extension. Most wrist and elbow techniques use a certain amount of that, because the pick is sticking out between the hand the guitar and you’ve got to make room for it somehow. You can see it in Brendon’s clip above. You can see it Molly Tuttle’s technique and Andy Wood’s technique:

It may look like the wrist is cranked uncomfortably, but I play this way when when I do wrist motion, and I can tell you that when done correctly, it feels like you’re describing, like it’s resting. The actual amount the wrist is being extended isn’t much. This is maybe similar to Gypsy technique, which is flexed, in that it may look effortful, but players who do it describe it as comfortable.


Totally agree. Even though I’m a big advocate of pushing oneself in order to reach max potential, I advise all my students to limit speed or endurance pushing sessions to about 20 - 30 minutes. After that, you’re mentally and physically gassed. No benefit in continuing to break through your boundaries.

As Mr. Jeff Cavalier says, “you can train long, or you can train hard, but you can’t do both”.

Even I back off and give myself little breaks if I feel any weird sensations in my joints. Muscle pain is something I’m used to from all the years of weight lifting. Joint pain, that’s something you DON’T want to mess with. I learned that the hard way.

Play smart, and have fun!

One last thing, whenever I do play for an hour or longer, it’s within my comfort zone. I’m just having fun. I think a lot of us guitar players forget to have fun. I’m working on correcting that for myself :wink:


Thanks, Troy! :slight_smile: I know you are super busy. I hope you all are staying safe and healthy! I remember the first time I read in a forum where people were posting that using an elbow motion would wear out your arm I didn’t really understand why they would say that because I had never felt any wear on my arm from picking that way and I had been doing it for years. I did remember reading in an interview where someone asked Vinnie Moore if he hurt his arm from picking that way and if it forced him to change his technique in any way and he said he has never had a problem with his arm ever. I saw some recent live videos and he was doing a full on elbow movement on his older songs.

When I do it…I just feel the motion more in where the pick meets the string than from the joint although I can feel the elbow moving for sure but not in a tense way. I really do not feel more tension that if I used my wrist. I sort of mix my motion mechanics up and I use different motions for slow, medium and fast speeds and sort of go in and out of them without thinking about it too much. I when I play faster lines I tend to turn my hand and lock my wrist and that lets the elbow motion take over so I sort of use my hand to engage it. I do not squeeze my arm when I use the elbow. It sort of feels like my arm is floating…it is not pressed real hard against the body. My arm rests real lightly on the body back towards the elbow and the motion is all elbow…I just let the motion come from the elbow and I do not worry about making the motion small or anything like that. If fact if I try to make the movement real small that is when I would feel tension. Trying to make it real small on purpose is almost like it gets in the way of the motion. I do not use a huge motion by any means, it stays inside the next strings but I can feel it moving pretty nicely. That also helps for changing strings. Thanks for letting me add my thoughts. Stay safe everyone!


I think because it’s fairly easy to discover a kind of elbow motion which I will describe as basically tensing up your entire arm and letting it spasm about from the elbow, it’s easy to think “oh that involves too much tension, it must be bad” and then never investigate whether a similar motion is possible without excessive tension.

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