Looking for feedback re: scalar sweeping

hi! lately I’ve been shedding scalar sweeping, and i could use some feedback. take a look:



a few observations:

-it’s difficult for me to drop in to it. usually i need to orient my wrist by playing a single note for a beat or two, and then i can execute more effectively. of course, i’d like to be able to just play it at will without any kind of prep. i assume i just need to practice more?
-i can’t always tell how much motion is coming from my wrist - i worry that i’m jackhammering my way through it. can y’all tell from the videos?
-i find that certain strings and neck positions are easier than others. do others experience this as well? again, i assume the issue is just to PRACTICE MORE!
-it can feel like i’m memorizing patterns when what i really want to do is be able to play whatever comes to mind. in other words, if i vary the scale at all - if i play minor instead of major, or in a different octave, or starting on a different note - it throws everything off. is this just something that will come with practice, or is it an indication that my technique is somehow flawed? this applies not only to scalar sweeping but generally to my picking motion.

thanks for your time!


In general, improvisation is quite pattern-based, so if this is your goal, you are actually on the right track. “Whatever comes to mind” is actually learning all the vocabulary (the patterns), and then trying out different variations/permutations during practice/woodshedding/small gigs and then what the public sees is the end result. Even the greats, while they can seemingly make off the cuff improvs sound totally unique and original, it is still based on their signature patterns at the heart of it.

You are of course right that the edges get smoothed out with more practice, but I’d politely disagree that the technique is flawed just because “it is so.” Usually with such dilemmas, frustration is a sign you’re at least on the right path.

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Hi Alec! Agree with everything @Peter_C said. In addition, I’d just point out that you’re using what looks like elbow motion for this. You may not have consciously “chosen” to use elbow, but that’s what you’re doing. Is elbow motion the motion you also use for alternate picking?

I tend to view these things as motion families. Meaning, if I’m using forearm and wrist as my alternate picking motion, then a slight tweak on that motion is what I’m also going to use for sweeping. This way I don’t feel like I’m completely switching to a different technique just to play one part of a phrase. Yngwie for example always seems to have a little finger motion going in his technique, in addition to forearm motion, and the particular blend of it seems to vary based on what he’s playing. So when he does scalar sweeping phrases, you’ll definitely see the thumb going. So that combination of forearm and fingers is sort of the “motion family” where he lives. Eric Johnson is more of a wrist / fingers player. Frank Gambale is a wrist fingers guy as well. And so on. Lots of possibilities.

In general, if you can learn a little more about what motion options are available to you, that will give you some things to experiment with, and you might find that you “get” one of these sooner than another. And if that happens, by all means use it. You can always learn more picking motions over time.

thanks for the responses, and for the observation about my elbow. it absolutely wasn’t a deliberate decision. going through the primer, i took your advice to find something that worked at a certain tempo and just went for it. i’d be hard-pressed to tell you if it’s a wrist motion, forearm, etc - i guess i need to be more deliberate about it. i do notice that if i want to deviate my scalar sweeping in any way - even keeping to an alternate picking pattern - i get de-railed, like i said. is that indication that my technique needs tweaking? in other words, should i be able to drop in to these things right away?

thanks again!

“Knowing” what your technique is can be helpful because you have to try and recreate what you were doing until it becomes second nature. And sometimes the tiny differences in feel can become maddening when you don’t really know what is causing them. Why does one day feel better or worse than another? It’s like fumbling in the dark. But if that’s not an issue, and you can replicate what you’re doing consistently then it’s ok to “not know”. You just have fewer options when things aren’t working as you expect or want, and you want to try and understand why.

Motions become more automatic the more they are learned. When you are doing a thing totally correctly and have been for a while, you will have more of that ability to turn it on or off like a light switch. That is a thing that develops over time during the journey. It is not a thing that you have immediately from day one. But it’s not some impossible elusive thing either, and if you’re just talking about playing a single note with an alternate picking motion, you should be able to get that pretty automatic and smooth early-ish in the process, within the first weeks to a couple months let’s say.

Didn’t realize you had access to the Primer. Try to give all the motions a shot, so at least you have a general idea of what the joints are and how they work. There aren’t many — elbow, forearm, wrist are the main ones. Even if you “go for it” and see what you stumble across, it’s likely to be a combination of one of those and it can’t hurt to have a general idea what it is.

Knowing which type of pickstroke your motion makes is also helpful, whether that’s upstroke escape or downstroke escape, because that determines the phrases you can play with it. Some of these motions really only generate one kind of pickstroke. Most forearm and forearm-wrist motions are only upstroke escape, for example. So the phrases you’re playing with them will be like Eric Johnson, Yngwie, or George Benson, or Gypsy type lines. This includes ascending scalar sweeping like you’re doing here, and we have a whole chapter in those new lessons on how to actually do the sweeping motion. If you haven’t watched that new sequence, it could be helpful.

You’ll get there!

hey, thanks for such a detailed response.

i totally get what you mean about being deliberate about what motions i use. i got to a point where USX wrist motion (or at least what i thought was a USX wrist motion!) was pretty consistent, where i felt comfortable moving on. that’s what brought me (eventually) to scalar sweeping. i get that, unlike a single note, scalar sweeping (for example) will take more finessing - that’s why i posted a video - to see if i’m on the right track. i’m working my way through everything, including the new sequence.

hey i have another question on a different topic- do you address wrist motion as it pertains to strumming? have i just not gotten to that part yet? in particular i’d love to see you address and break down motions involved with both funk comping and big open acoustic-y playing. check this out:

not sure if it’s part of the primer, so consider this a request. thanks!