Looking for some advice on my picking motion

Hello! My name is Dillon and I’m new here! I’ve been studying the pickslanting primer, and I’m on the wrist motion tutorial section now. I’m antsy to post some videos of my playing, as I feel like all of my technique is in shambles, and it’s getting hard for me to focus on other aspects of my musical practice!

A bit of backstory on my technique: I was not aware that guitarists frequently used single escape motions with preplanned string groupings until a few weeks ago! This information alone has been mind blowing to me.
Right before joining Cracking the Code, I switched my picking position from anchoring at the bridge to floating my hand but planting my fingers on the side of the guitar. This seemed to help my articulation while opening up Pandora’s box! I have spent a lot of time working on a double escape type concept, where one either sweeps downward or upward, or picks in between the strings. I got this from Miles Okazaki’s Fundamentals of Guitar book, which has a section applying drum rudiments to pick strokes. His picking concept is one of my favorites!

Here are two videos demonstrating my older technique. Both of these examples represent the fastest I can play cleanly. I would like to keep this technique and get it faster and cleaner. I’m noticing that my upstrokes tend to curve away from the strings way too much, but I’m not sure how to go about fixing this.

Line Up: this is a line from Lennie Tristano’s famous solo on the changes of All of Me. When learning this solo, I was not aware of the concept of organized even string groupings. The legato technique is how I generally like to articulate:

Here are two measures from one of Bach’s Violin Sonatas. As you can see, I’m struggling with the wide string skips while alternate picking. This is a good example of my upstroke getting overly slanted…any advice on how to work on this?

Ok…now after discovering the single escape and the string set rules that come with it, I will be spending lots of time transcribing lines from players and constructing a new set of vocabulary that can be executed very fast. Here is a bit of one of the George Benson examples posted in the DWPS economy section. I haven’t worked on this lick for too long, and it’s already faster than I can normally play! I just want to make sure my technique looks good here, as I plan to spend a lot of time with it in the future.

Thank you so much for your time!

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Welcome @Dnadz, great playing!

Let’s get straight to it: these picking techniques you are showing are good for the tempos you are demonstrating, but I am not sure they’ll work at faster speeds - say 150bpm 16th notes or similar. You can test this yourself: can you play the lines fast & sloppy? If yes good, if not then you need to change the picking motion.

Which brings us to the next point:

This is a common misconception: inefficient movements cannot be sped up. They must be replaced by efficient movements! When you find an efficient picking motion, it will be fast instantly (maybe sloppy, but fast!).

So I think your logical next step is to try and do a fast picking motion on a single string, and we’ll take it from there! Attaching our reference video on the subject :slight_smile:

Tommo, thank you so much!

Here is a video of me working on the upstroke escape on a single string, with two strings thrown in at the end. I have been working on this for a few days, and it seems to be improving a bit.

Let me what y’all think! Thanks for your time

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It looks like you are using elbow movement - is that right?
If so, you may want to change it to supination and pronation - a rotation of the forearm.
What worked best for me to get to some higher speeds was doing just that with my wrist slightly bent.
It worked like a charm for me and I play lots of black metal so sinle string picking speed is crucial to me.


It may well be! If so, the motion would actually be downstroke escape - which is totally fine if you play the right lines with it, i.e., only downstroke string changes.

So @Dnadz, you can easily test this by playing these kinds of lines: odd number of notes on the initial string, even number of notes on all the subsequent ones.

Just give it a shot and forget about trying to do the upstroke escape for the sake of this experiment - let us know how that goes :slight_smile:

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@tommo and @Rot, thank you for your time and insight! There is definitely some movement starting at the elbow, although I don’t believe I was aware of it in that video! I was trying mainly go for wrist motion.

Unfortunately downwards escape feels totally alien to me. I should have mentioned this in my first post, but upon evaluating my natural motion improvising at fast tempos, it definitely is upwards escape, and my licks tend to naturally lean towards the dwps economy rules.

Here’s another video of me getting more forearm/wrist movement in my picking. It is interesting that I tend to default towards more elbow movement…Let me know what you think!

At this point my head is spinning with all of the different options and variables, so I may need to take a step back, review parts of the primer again and reevaluate my motion in a week or so :sweat_smile:

Thanks for your time!

Good idea, all the info can be overwhelming! I’d suggest starting here, maybe trying to identify where your current technique fits. It may help to have a more close-up perspective on the pick, so you can view things in slow motion and make sure that you are actually making the same motions that you think you are making :slight_smile:

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@tommo, thank you!

I happened to film a close up video today, just to see if there is any more advice I can glean before I continue parsing through everything.

It seems as if my issue is that I’m using an elbow based movement for an upwards escape motion, is that right?

Don’t mind the notes sounding funky, I was pressing my phone against the fretboard to get a good shot!

This is interesting, since your original technique is some kind of DBX (double escape) motion, most likely stringhopping. (Notice how you seem to lift your hand slightly on both up- and downstrokes in the first three videos.) Did you have a different technique before shooting the videos? Can we see it?

Still mostly elbow!

In these situations I think the general advice is to try something radically different. You won’t find what works by doing almost the same thing! Change your grip, anchoring, supinate more/less, try a different pick and so on.

It does seem like the primary motion is elbow, yes. And it does seem like you have incorporated a “lift” (wrist extension) to get the escapes on the upstroke, in other words you are more or less fighting the DSX elbow motion with a wrist motion. Now, there are instances where this can work, but in your case it does not seem neither fast nor smooth – I would try to go for something else.

You mention that you were going for a wrist-based USX motion. We’ve seen similar cases many times on the forum, someone wants to learn wrist USX but end up with elbow DSX instead. My guess is that it is difficult to find the wrist motion if the body wants to go for elbow, and I encourage you to go for something else entirely: wrist/forearm motion. This is the George Benson way, as well as Django and many many others. Take a look at the Joscho Stephan interview, for instance.

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Actually in the latest video there are moments where the pickstrokes seem quite fast to me, even with the double escape trajectory engaged. But I also notice some “hiccups”, as in the technique does not appear fully memorized and there are frequent “random” variations.

As usual, before dismissing the technique shown in the last video, one test could just be to go for it and use it for some fast-ish lines, seeing if at least occasionally things are clicking.

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I suppose you are right! What caught my attention was the distinct jumps (wrist extension) when changing strings.


Hey @Dnadz !

Great playing in the first videos!

I have just recently went through the Primer for the first time and I am currently working on getting the forearm-wrist blended (FW) USX. While trying to get it faster and smoother I believe I ran into a motion similar to what you are doing in your “Picking Detail” video.

To me it seems that you are using a blended motion with your elbow and some wrist. I would also say that the motion path looks like a DBX motion with a more prominent (or steep) upstroke escape trajectory. I guess you could develop it into either an USX or DBX.

One thing that helped me to get the FW blend was to anchor my hand on the bridge and use a jazz III pick (I was using the jazz III XL). I think the smaller pick size and the anchor caused me to flex my wrist and supinate my arm even more. Somehow I managed to get the motion fast and smooth. So maybe you could try these ideas if you want to incorparate your forearm instead of your elbow (EDIT).

If you want to use your elbow and still go with USX, I believe, unfortunately, it hasn’t been analyzed as in depth as other motions here. I think the video that is in the link below “Chunking Accents at 225 bpm” shows Troy doing an USX elbow motion. In my opinion, a difference of this to what you are doing is that Troy has a very rigid wrist and yours is moving.

And maybe for getting the DBX motion this video might be helpful if you want to use your forearm: (I haven’t gone through this yet but it is on my list :sweat_smile:)

Of course you could go for a wrist-only approach for DBX and the wrist chapter of the Primer should be enough but thats up to you! :grinning:

I am by no means an expert on these subjects but I hope I was able to help you out or at least bring up some interesting points for further discussion!

Best of luck in your journey to picking perfection! :smiley:


So Dnadz I made a video, maybe it’ll help, maybe it won’t. But I think you need to incorporate forearm rotation.

Have a look at Jason becker for the style you’re after. He really was the master of this semi floating semmi anchored style I’m on about.

The double anchor you’re doing, in my experience is to restrictive.

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All of you are awesome! Thanks for taking the time to check out my pickin problems!

Here’s what I remember of my old technique, with an alternate picking pattern I would often practice. It’s nuts how wildly inefficient this feels now, as it was how I played up until last month. This is about the fastest I can go with a pattern like this.

I have been watching the forearm section of the primer over and over for the last week, and I’m putting all of my focus into achieving the blended wrist/forearm motion on the instrument. Hopefully I can watch the Joscho Stephan interview tomorrow. It took a long time to be able to do the forearm movement at all, but now I can somewhat execute it. I’m noticing that my elbow movement will sneak back in when I try to push the tempo, especially on multi string moves. Here’s a video of my attempt at the movement. When I switch to the 5 note pattern, I can feel my elbow getting involved a bit. What do you all think of this? Does anyone have advice about avoiding a joint movement without tensing up? I’m definitely still working out the kinks, so I may just need some more time. I will check in later once I’ve had more time to experiment.

Thank you so much for the video! I will check out the Jason Becker video, and I’ll definitely be experimenting with this more. I’ve been working on letting the other fingers move more with the whole hand, instead of rigidly planting them to the body…this seems to help a lot!

Thank you again!

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The elbow movement is fine to use, I just think you needed a bit more options in the angle you can rotate the pick.

If you look at Jason here you’ll see he’s anchored with pinky and using ring finger as reference on high E. And is still able to use forearm rotation to sweep like mad.

An exercise that’s helped me loads is doing a sweep up n down then right into an alternate picking passage then back into the sweep and then alternate etc…

Hello once again!

I think you got the forearm-wrist motion down in the first couple of seconds but after that the elbow crept in. As for the five note pattern my bet is that you are using finger motion to pick the notes and some elbow for tracking.

From what I understand finger motion alone isn’t necessarily an efficient motion for high speeds but maybe someone more experienced might chime in and clarify the situation.

I just wanted to mention what I noticed, I hope they are correct and agreeable :smiley:

Good luck with the practice!

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HI! Changing a picking motion can be tough and, as has already been mentioned in this thread, a good thing is to do something radically different from what you usually do.

One thing you could try is to really focus on playing “into” the guitar on down strokes, doing rest strokes so the the pick lands on the string beneath the one you’re playing. Like Altaykacan mentions, you actually seem to do that during the first strokes in your last video. But when you speed up, you old habits kick in and the elbow creeps in.

Now try to really fokus on keeping the downstrokes angled towards the guitar body and you might be able to keep the rotation happen without the elbow kicking in. Here is a video that shows how pure rotation can look. Notice that the forearm motion is the same as when shaking your hand mid air as if you burnt your hand. You could get an idea of your speed potential with this motion just by do just that, shake the hand in the air.

The problem for me was getting this motion to be stable on the string. I recommend finding ways for your hand to get contact points around the strings that can flow with the motion. It took some time to develop the stability to get the technique reliable but now it feels very easy and tension free.


@qwertygitarr, thank you for this video! This has been really helpful and illuminating. I’ve been practicing this pure forearm move, and it’s been awkward with bursts of feeling very comfortable!

I just wanted to share a quick video update, as I’m not perceiving elbow motion anymore, and want to make sure I’m not trippin. I’ve also been working on the “throwing” wrist motion with the blended variation. Sometimes I catch myself doing a wrist lift, but I couldn’t see it on this go around. Let me know what y’all think!

I’m tempted to start practicing some patterns with the technique, but maybe it’s good idea to stick with the basic moves longer? Any opinions?


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Wow great work! You single string tremolo looks good and you seem to get great speed out of it! I think this will get more and more comfortable with time. For me the speed came quickly but I had to work on getting the reliability.

The last part where you change strings though, I can see some elbow motion in combination with the rotation. This might be problematic because the elbow only capable of giving you a DSX motion path while the rotation is giving you a USX motion path. They are working against each other so to speak. But to be clear, I don’t have any evidence that this combined motion is bad. And you seem to still be having a USX motion path, which is good.

The one evidence that this is not the best combination is that the speed is lower than in the tremolo clip. Since there isn’t really any finger sync to worry about in your clip , you should be able to use the same speed as your tremolo speed. Here is an example of how it might look when changing strings using the tremolo motion.

So in conclusion, you might want to work on your tremolo until that motion is more second nature before you try too complex things. All also, work on single string licks first so that you get the finger sync with your new motion before covering more strings. The sync can feel a lot different with a new motion.

Keep up the great work! Looking forward to your development!

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@qwertygitarr, thank you so much for the video and the advice!

Now that I’m watching my video again, I can see the elbow movement in the second clip…I’ll check back with y’all in a bit once I’ve made some more progress.