Looking for some feedback on my USX technique

Hey Troy and fellow Code Crackers,

I’m looking for some feedback on my USX technique. I feel like I understand the general idea but I can’t help but feeling that, as soon as I get any kind of speed going, I start string hopping and my technique falls apart. It also seems like playing different notes (and therefore changing the tension of the string, depending on what fret I’m playing) wreaks havoc on my ability to keep a consistent motion. For example, the string has a certain amount of give if you’re fretting the 5th fret but much less give when you’re playing the 12th fret. I’m wondering how you account for that, or if it just naturally comes without over-thinking it.

I’m also wondering if my angles seem correct, i.e., am I coming in at a steep enough angle? I’m definitely making contact with the B string and I don’t seem to be hitting the D string, so are those the only criteria? Or should I be aiming to be closer to the D string (without hitting it), or maybe even further away?

I’ve been playing guitar for a long time and am considered a pretty good general rock player but not a shredder by any means. But my current goal is to get my speed up for fast alternate picking. I never really prioritized playing fast and clean and now I feel like it’s kind of a liability that prevents me from playing some stuff I’d like to play.

Thanks in advance for any feedback!

Here’s me playing with the trigger grip; this is not a grip I’ve ever used before seeing Troy play with it and discuss it and, being the good student that I am :grinning:, decided to give it a try as suggested. And I actually think my USX technique is a little cleaner this way, compared to my usual pick (included below):

Here is my attempt at USX using my normal pick grip, which I guess would be considered a relaxed trigger grip. This feels more natural and comfortable to me but looking at the video seems less controlled. But it also could have been a bad take. I haven’t done any extensive comparisons.

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The more relevant question is, are you coming in at a shallow enough angle? The advantage of wrist motion is that it generates a shallow escape path of only about 10 degrees. This is enough to clear the string, but shallow enough that if you need to switch to the other escape you’re not asking the pick to make a dramatic change in trajectory. This is what allows those changes in trajectory to be done quickly with a feeling of smoothness - as in three-note-per-string scale playing, for example.

And the good news is that in your case the escape trajectory does look to be in the 10 degree ballpark, which is what we’re looking for. In fact, you’ll notice that when you do this slowly it’s a little artificially vertical. It’s only when you speed up that the escape becomes the ideal 10-degree escape that we’re looking for. Nice work on this.

The next step would be to try the DSX motion and see if you can get that happening from the same arm and grip position. The only thing I’ll point out as far as attempting this is something we’ve been discussing in another thread here:

And that is the elbow position. You’re playing what looks like a Strat-style body with the forearm contour, and this allows you to keep your elbow a little bit behind the guitar’s body. This results in more arm supination as you rest on the contour, and a slight flex in the wrist as you reach down toward the strings. This flexed form is more typical of USX-only players and could cause an issue when you try to switch to DSX. Players that move easily between both with minimal change in their arm setup or grip usually have a straight wrist geometry in both axes at the start of the downstroke - no flexion extension, and no deviation.

So one thing you might do is try and get your elbow a little more in front of the guitar body, as I’m doing in these checklist shots:

Even here, I’m still resting on the contour, I’m just not back perhaps as far, so my arm and wrist are coming in a little closer to parallel with the body. This requires a little less flex to reach the strings. Maybe give that a shot and see if you can still get the results you’re getting here. If so, then try the DSX motion.

Once again, nice work here.

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Thanks a lot for the feedback. I’ve tried moving my elbow forward and I think I can get more or less the same USX motion, but it definitely makes my right arm a lot less relaxed. I can feel tension in my forearm since I’m holding my arm out instead of just letting it rest on the body.

Also, I noticed that I can make my wrist a little less supine just by paying attention to it, even when I’m resting on the contour. So I wonder if that’s a way of dealing with it that will allow me to keep my arm relaxed. (But if I go too far in getting rid of the supination, then it feels like I’m not getting enough of an angle to clear the top string for USX.)

I’ve tried the DSX motion as well and seem to have about the same results, regardless of my elbow position. But I find DSX harder to evaluate because I feel like I can’t see the motion as well, since the escaped side is now under my hand.

I’m not posting a follow-up video because I have office hours with you this week, so I can ask you about it then. :slight_smile:

I appreciate the help!