Maboroshi's picking motions

Sorry for the delay in replying, I keep losing the motion and it takes me a few days to get it working again.

Troy and I had some discussions as to whether pickstroke size can be consciously controlled or not - we are not sure.

I might be misinterpreting this but I didn’t know people had an issue with controlling pickstroke size. Isn’t that (or using more pick) how people generally play louder? Troy mentioned it earlier in the thread:

One thing you can do to help learn the different feels is to try different power levels. More power will generate a larger motion for the same speed, and this will provide a more easily recognizable motion feel.

I definitely gravitate towards a smaller motion, especially as speed increases, but I’ve been messing around with bigger pickstrokes and got it working okay. Motion from the elbow usually starts to creep in as the motion gets bigger, which I can’t do without some uncomfortable tension, but there were also moments of it using just the wrist and feeling pretty good.

I tried to start with a smaller motion and gradually make it larger here:

I’ve also been trying the fully trapped tremolo picking. I can do it a bit but rather than using a neutral pickslant it looks like I’m just doing the DSX motion deeper into the strings so the downstroke can’t escape.

There’s a definite improvement in string switching using the bigger pickstrokes, at first it was pretty rough and when I looked at the video I noticed some of the pickstrokes not escaping properly like someone mentioned earlier in the thread.

I managed to iron that out and got it a bit smoother. I noticed there’s more of the pick exposed in this one too. (My high E is muted by my makeshift Magnet, which is why is sounds like that)

By the time I get to the high E the movement feels pretty shaky, I’m at the extreme range of ulnar deviation at that point so I think I need to reposition the wrist. I haven’t gotten palm muting working either but compared to how completely stuck I was until about a month ago this seems like decent progress.

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Well done! I think this is fantastic progress!

The video “DSX crossing strings better” in particular is the smoothest picking you have demonstrated so far. I’d do more of this motion to try and make it more permanent.

I think the logical next step is to work on some actual DSX licks / riffs / musical ideas. (E.g. some of John Mclaughlin’s vocabulary should work great)

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I’m not sure if this warrants it’s own thread so I’ll post it here:

I keep reading about the idea of just playing fast and letting the motion become sloppy as long as it feels smooth, but I really don’t know how to do that.
The way my motion stops working when I play too fast isn’t by becoming sloppy and inaccurate, it’s by a combination of the pick getting caught on the string and a build up of tension in the the arm causing everything to come to a complete stop. Even with no regard to the actual notes being played I can’t seem to reliably get the pick going through the strings fast and smooth, and when I do it’s only when I can also play relatively clean.

These videos are a repost from earlier in the thread but they show what I mean:

I can’t separate speed and smoothness from playing cleanly, and I think it might be what’s making it so difficult to find a fast, reliable playing motion.

Your fast playing in these clips looks like you are tensing your whole hand and making it tremble, not really doing a wrist motion. Do you feel like you are locking your wrist and tensing up the forearm? These previous DSX clips looked really good, I think you should stick to it and maybe work on some vocabulary near the 150bpm 16ths tempo.

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Quick update: Still no lasting progress, just the usual variation from day to day. I tried to learn some vocab but the motion isn’t getting any more consistent or comfortable so I just awkwardly try to play the phrase while making slight changes to the motion over and over again, but it never actually gets better.

I noticed there’s a constant tension in my arm and shoulder to keep it in the playing position, but I haven’t been able get the hand into a playing position without it. I’m not sure if it’s a necessary tension or a correctable problem.

Sorry to hear you’re not making much progress!

May I suggest that if a motion is not working, especially after working on it for a long time, that making “slight changes” is not going to make a significant difference. It’s been said many times in other threads, you need to make a big enough change that it actually feels different. In your case I would suggest trying a completely different motion, such as forearm/wrist!


Sorry, I should have been a bit more specific. I have tried a lot of drastically different motions like pure elbow, EVH style forearm rotation, various blends of wrist and forearm movements, different blends of deviation and flexion/extension, different mounting points, different pick grips, different pickstroke sizes, different picks, different guitars, etc. I practice a lot and I honestly think I’ve tried just about everything.

When practicing vocab I try to vary the motion as much as I can while maintaining the pick escape to keep it compatible with the lick. I also flip all of the pickstrokes so I can try playing the lick with a motion of the opposite escape.

When I initially did the table tapping test, I could only hit about 180BPM so I thought it was a physical limitation, but I’ve actually gotten better at table tapping and can go well into the 200s now, it’s just not translating to guitar playing though.

Yeah, my eye for this stuff isn’t as good as some here, but I think @adamprzezdziecki is onto something here. In your “Starting with Speed” video and, especially, your “DSX Burst to Failure” videos, it looks like you’re using a wrist deviation movement for slower/individual pickstrokes, but when you start trem-picking, your whole arm seems to be vibrating back and forth. Watch your lower forearm/underside of your wrist in some of those faster burst movements, it seems like the part things start to fall apart on you is the point where I stop seeing a clear wrist deflection and the arm itself starts vibrating, as sort of an elbow movement.

I’m wondering if this is the root of your issue, that you’re not really making the motion you think you are at speed? I’d love @tommo’s eyes on this in particular, but to me it looks like you’re just clenching up all the muscles in your arm and trying to use some sort of elbow motion here.

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Hey sorry for the delay in responding!

In @Maboroshi’s case there doesn’t seem to be a “speed problem” in either video, though I prefer the look of the DSX clip. The issue is that the motion appears to stop suddenly, for unclear reasons.

Maboroshi, I think it might be good to take a step back and remove the guitar out of the equation - to see if the “intermittency” problem persists or goes away. For example, you could try the new speed tests that @Troy recently uploaded to the Pickslanting Primer (linked below). In case you don’t have the primer, I’m also attaching a free youtube excerpt which fully illustrates one of these tests:

It would be good to know if you can perform any of these motions continuously and consistently, for - say - two bars of 16th notes. If you have some time to try all the tests and write down your results, that would be very good info to move forward!

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It could be my imagination, but I could have sworn that there was a change in technique from wrist deflection to some sort of tensed arm/elbow mechanic that seems to occur right as the motion stops - can you see what I’m describing, or am I crazy? :rofl:


Which video are you referring to?

I think I can see the elbow moving in both clips. But it’s hard for me to tell what exactly is happening, or if there is a correlation between what the elbow does and the halting of the motion. Big picture-wise, the movements in the DSX clip look more consistent to me, as in, less subject to seemingly random variations.

To me this looks like all the movements come to a more or less sudden stop after a handful of pickstrokes.

And in general I agree with @Johannes that looking at the details of a motion that does not work may not be the best way to go - it needs to be replaced by a working motion! I’ll ask @Troy if he can have another look too — but I suspect he may say something similar.

I just re-read a few replies and realised @Maboroshi has done the basic table tap test with results above 200bpm. Was the start-stop issue present there as well, or could you do a reasonably long & regular sequence of taps (2bar-ish)? That would be kind of reassuring, as it would indicate that the start-stop issue is most likely specific to guitar technique, not indicative of some deeper issue with the joints / muscles / nervous system.

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Yeah I don’t know how valuable it is to micromanage the motions. I think testing is the answer. Does it happen during the table tap tests?

Does it happen when using different picking motions like elbow? How about forearm? How about three-finger / middle-finger pick grip wrist motion?

Does it happen when picking lefty? Does it happen during other activities?

You get the idea. Outline the scope of what and when. If it happens with utterly different joints like elbow than it’s either psychological or neurological in which case I’d make a doctor’s appointment.

If other joints (elbow) or picking lefty works, and it were me, I would switch to that immediately. I’d rather be productive immediately than continuously bang my head against a wall doing something I already know doesn’t work. That’s just me.

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Het @tommo - sorry, should have inclided video clips. I think compare these two.

I guess in particular watch the “Burst to failure” clip, and in particulay the knuckle of the thumb. You can see a pretty regular back and forth motion going on there where, I guess, the “plane” of the hand behind the thumb is coming in and out of sight with every pickstroke, and right about the time the picking motion fails, it just… stops.

To me, that suggests that at lower speed (where this is working cleanly) wrist deflection is occurring, and at the tempo comes up, it stops. Could be unrelated, but it’s a hypothesis.

(EDIT - though, yea, this is fairly academic, in that I think the answer in either case is abandon this motion and try something else until a different one clicks)


Apologies for the delay, I haven’t had much time to sit down with a guitar and work this out in the last couple of weeks.

I did the tap test some more and I can tap 8th notes at 230 bpm near continuously, with no starting and stopping, once I work the motion out. I’ve tried the same approach to picking without much luck though. I was also only able to do that with wrist flexion/extension, I can’t do the other tests nearly as fast.

All of the motions I can do (both escapes with wrist, both escapes with elbow (or at least something that feels like USX with elbow), and even strumming) stop working in a similar way. There’s a buildup of tension starting in the elbow, then the upper arm and shoulder area. I got the tapping test to go faster by learning to do it without this tension, so a lot of my practice has been trying to do the same thing with playing motions.

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