Maybe you can't handle pickslanting at all...?

I know not everyone will agree, but I respect the variety of considered opinions on this forum, so here goes… As someone who would describe himself as an intermediate player, I feel there’s a problem with the presentation of pickslanting on this site. (For reasons which I hope will become clear, I’m posting this not in Site Feedback but in Playing Technique)

The various forms of pickslanting and their details as presented on CTC are nothing short of revolutionary - no argument there. The question is whether this is actually a legit starting point for a lot of (perhaps even most) players.

Advanced guitarists, by which I mean guys with professional chops, seem to struggle through some kind of wall that only pickslanting gets them through. But judging from the tales they tell, that period lasted a while… and meanwhile, they were somehow managing to play lead guitar lines anyway (albeit not as well as they eventually would). Troy got stuck around a year and half into his playing; if I understood him correctly, pickslanting was another FIVE YEARS away for him at that point!

Hard to imagine that in the interim, all these guys were awkwardly ‘string-hopping’ away, given its severe limitations (not to mention the typically super-keen observation that such players engaged in of other, already accomplished guitarists).

So what WERE these guys actually doing before the eureka moment struck?

Seems to me the answer’s gotta be DBX (or something pretty close to it).

And that would indicate to me that there needs to be much more focus on double escape for the beginning and intermediate player.

To put it another way - can you really go straight to UWPS or DWPS without first gaining proficiency with DBX? (Remember - we’re talking about beginners/intermediates here; an advanced player likely already got his foothold in DBX or a reasonable facsimile thereof, so for him, pickslanting isn’t nearly such a leap.)

Don’t read this as a slam of CTC. Maybe the content here is in fact primarily geared for advanced players. That’s fine; you guys with fast fingers deserve it. (The magnum opus trilogy - Volcano, Cascade and Antigravity - are in my opinion strictly off limits to anyone still playing a Squier;) But if that’s the case, I think it would be a lot better if the site would somehow funnel the player who is at an earlier stage down a different ‘rabbit hole’ (viz. DBX), rather than have him walk wide-eyed and star-struck into a world of slanted picking that’s not yet for him.

(I also suspect this is what’s behind the anguished ‘I-can’t-get-it/gonna’-smash-my-guitar!’ posts which I read not so infrequently on this forum.)

That all took a bunch of keystrokes to say… thanks to those who had the patience to make it to the end. Now go ahead, blast me. But again - please remember that I’m talking about players w/o massive chops, and that Troy himself describes a lengthy period of pre-slant single-note playing that begs my original question. Peace:)

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There are probably almost as many routes into “finished” guitar technique as there are players with “finished” guitar technique.


My main guitar was in the shop for the first month I started this website and so I was working exclusively from a $200 Danelectro. I don’t feel like it held me back at all. At all!

If a guitar is all jacked up that’s a whole different issue. However, I feel like a well set-up Squier (or whatever) is a fine tool for learning picking technique!

Not sure I understand how that relates to my point. Not to be snippy, but there are 9 ways to get into my house from the ground floor - and 8 of 'em are windows. I’d rather go through the door; safer and quicker. I get that there’s no ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ But every conceivable method can’t be an equally good starting point, either.

But also I get that wasn’t the point you’re trying to make! I respectfully disagree with that too though. Speaking as someone who has taught guitar for 15 years and also teaches middle school: you really should just give people The Thing, not a simplified version of The Thing. I don’t think this website is overwhelming or confusing. I really do think the pickslanting primer would be perfect for someone who’s only been playing guitar long enough to just begin forming questions about picking

G-d bless your Danelectro! Again, though, not really my point. (I was referring to chops, which typically - not always, but typically - equates to moving up from your $150 instrument… which I have not, btw.)

Try not to think about “pickslanting”. Just think about picking motions. You already have one, right? Which one is it? Odds are very good it is already a “pickslanting” motion. By which I really mean an “escape motion”, where some part of the picking motion goes up in the air. This is not an advanced thing. Probably 9 out of 10 players that come to us already do this.

If you’re Yngwie, you can recognize this and start to build lines around it - upstroke is the last note on the string, and so on. If you’re not, you may never realize this and never arrange the lines to fit upstroke escapes. Or the downstroke escapes. Or whatever. How many players do we we get on here saying they “can’t pick fast” but they have awesome elbow tremolo who never realized they can use that same motion to play lead lines?

So, in summary, what is your picking motion right now? Is it an escape motion, and which kind?

If you haven’t already, be sure and check out the Pickslanting Primer’s new and growing overview of picking motion, which may give you a clearer presentation of this:

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During the first week that I found out about this website I really was just running around like a total lunatic explaining it to anyone that would listen. The core concepts did not go over anyone’s head. This is including my sister who only plays ukulele. She always used her fingers although for some applications she thought a pick would sound better. I explained to her the idea of never getting stuck and pick slanting and what cross picking is. She now is good enough to use a pick pretty effectively after only two conversations.

I also explained it to my parents using a pepper and salt shaker placed on the edge of a table and my finger and they totally got it. I really think the stuff is pretty intuitive to understand, it’s just kind of tricky to find in the first place because it goes against so many assumptions of what good technique is


I binged-watched the whole Primer - and took notes!.. In answer to your question, I’m still down the bunny hole of string hopping. Yes, my pick escapes - way upwards. If I try a run fast, it looks like an impersonation of a Singer sewing machine. Ever watch the needle on one of those? Now if my hand could move that fast, I’d be getting somewhere;)

And I don’t know if I believe (yet, anyway) that we can forget about slanting and just focus on motion. Pickslant is a physical phenomenon, and motion is created by physical entities (wrist, elbow, etc).

More to the point though - and please correct me if I’m wrong… I paid a lot of attention to anything you said regarding your own development, Troy, and it was pretty clear to me that you were playing a lot of demanding music without slanting. Yes, for sure you got better when DWPS (assuming that was the first form you experienced) became a reality. But you weren’t exactly stuck rocking “Lightly Row” from Mel Bay Level 1 for five years before the epiphany.

So… What were you doing for much of the '80s? Had to be DBX, right? And if so - and maybe this is the thesis behind my whole thing here - DBX is foundational and primary. You start there, not with slanting.

(BTW, just want you to know how highly I esteem this community - I’m using valuable practice time to write and respond to this thread;)

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I think I’m probably not explaining this correctly. “Pickslant” just refers to the way the pick is oriented in space. That doesn’t do anything as far as the picking motion. The pick escaping is caused by the motion of the joint you are using for picking. You can remove the pick from your hand, so you have “no pickslant”, and the motion will still be whatever it is. If you have a stringhopping problem, that’s a problem with having learned an inefficient joint motion, not a problem with which way your pick is “slanted”.

The tutorials in the Primer take care of the pickslant aspect automatically. I show you how to grip the pick and anchor your arm so that the pick has whatever slant it needs. The thing you need to do is figure out how to move the joint.

When I was a teenager I could pick sort of quickly, albeit probably with a mish mash of different joint motions because I was unaware and so inconsistent. But I didn’t have a stringhopping problem when picking single notes on a string. What I couldn’t do was play fast licks that switched strings without feeling like I was banging into all kinds of wrong notes.

So my problem was, I was probably using an escape motion and didn’t know it. I am the answer to your rhetorical question of what do all these players do who don’t know this stuff? They do what I did. They have one or two fast licks they can play, maybe some tremolo. But anything complicated feels sloppy or bouncy. So they mostly stick to “fast 80s” type stuff where you pick a few notes with legato. That was me.

So, to recap. Do you have a fast motion you can do on one note on one string? Can you post video of it? That is step numer uno. If you don’t have that, you can’t play guitar. And if your only core available motion on one note on one string is bouncy and slow, then your first hurdle is finding a motion that is efficient. When you do, it will be an escape motion, and you wil be able to play.

But first things first, let’s see some video.


Bwahahaha! Yeah, I have that t-shirt too! (Technically, for me this was back before the forum, shortly after “Get Down for the Upstroke” was posted to youtube). The animated section two minutes into that video was like watching the ending of The Sixth Sense, where the twist ending put everything into another perspective.

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How fast?

One small mistake I made in the beginning on CTC was that I tried to go way too fast, and into sort of a hyperspeed territory where “fast” meant a bit too fast for my current level of ability. I measured it around 170 BPM 16ths. Sure it was faster than I had played before, but I had pushed it into a non-technique zone without realizing it. I couldn’t figure things out further, largely because of the resulting tension.

And that was on me, really. There wasn’t anything strange to it, my picking wasn’t actually flawed. The instructions weren’t wrong. It was just me choosing wrong by trying to go too fast. And it’s fine, it’s part of the learning process. Things started improving again when I began paying more attention to relaxation.

I’m not saying you’re doing the same, but maybe give it thought. Have you experimented with taking the speed down just a bit? I’m talking like, what feels like 4-10 BPM when playing without a click.

If it’s true that the motion he is making “looks like a sewing machine” then that’s stringhopping and that’s nowhere near 170. So slowing down isn’t going to help, slow stringhopping is still stringhopping.

On the other hand if it is 170 then it’s not stringhopping. So whatever the problem is we won’t know until we see it.

This is why I really caution against trying to guess what someone’s problem is when you haven’t seen any video. Until I’m actually looking at someone’s technique I take everything with a grain of salt. I’ve seen lots of video on here that had nothing to do with the player’s initial complaint.


Thanks for offering to have a look. Painful to say this: I’m probably around 3000 hours of playing so far.

Some Doggett licks:

A scale in slo-mo (first 10 seconds or so of the vid):

I know, I know… Too much wrist extension, too little wrist deviation. In other words - hoppin’ like mad. Yikes, it’s hard to watch.

(btw, Imnobedhead, when should I start working on my guitar faces? yours in the recent post… they should be on a t-shirt;)

You’re right, I shouldn’t guess like that. Seeing @Yaakov’s videos now, my point likely doesn’t apply here.

Hi @Yaakov, thanks for posting the videos, this is much more helpful to assess what is going on. The answer is fairly simple and it seems you know it already:

Yep, that looks like stringhopping. Don’t get too lost in the details about wrist extension/deviation. This is a door-knocking-type movement which uses the same muscles for upstrokes and downstrokes, it won’t get better by drilling it more.

But this is good news, now we know what to do!

You have to completely ditch this movement and try something else. Just try to tremolo on a single string and see what you come up with. If it helps, change your pick grip completely, or you hand/arm position, or you anchoring points, pick type etc. You can even try elbow picking if it feels good. Just get away from familiar territory so you hand is less tempted to default to your memorised hopping movements.

That is the first step. Only after you stumble upon a fast motion on a single string it may become beneficial to analyse what it is (wrist? foream? elbow? everything?), and what types of escapes it can do.

Give it a shot and let us know, we’re rooting for you :slight_smile:


Like @tommo said, yes, it’s stringhopping. But apart from trying to find a motion that is fast and efficient I’d like to add one observation: the Doggett lick (2+1nps) and the 3nps scale are not playable with strict alternate picking unless you use some sort of double escape. An efficient single escape motion would not help here.

In order to play those things with a single escape motion you would need to add sweeps and pulloffs. The lick, for example, could be played D U D D U... using USX, with a sweep to get back to the higher string.

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Tommo just finished telling me that he rarely sees cases of players who have learned stringhopping as a core motion, and I just finished telling him that I feel like I see them all the time. So maybe I’m just a bad omen? If I appear on your thread, look out people, you may soon be stringhopping.

This is indeed a super textbook stringhopping motion. Just for our education, are you saying this is the fastest way you know how to pick? Or is this just the motion you use for “complicated” lines like scales or other things?

When you say 3000 hours, do you mean to say that this is how much time you’ve spent working on phrases with this motion? Did you ever take any lessons and did anyone ever try to help you find a different motion? If so, what did they tell you? Or not tell you?

How did you get these shots, did you build a Magnet? This perspective is right on and really makes it easy to see what we need to see.

Sorry for the question barrage!

Anyway as others have noted the solution to your problem is to try and go fast on a single note on a single string. You want a motion that appears to go side to side rather than up and down.

Sometimes we see players whose core technique looks like this, but where they have a different motion which they think of as “tremolo-only”. If that’s true in your case, then that motion, whatever it is, would also be a good starting point.

If not then you’ll need to do some experimentation. As you do that, don’t forget about elbow. Sometimes players who do wrist-based stringhopping like you’re doing find that elbow motion feels different enough that it doesn’t trigger the learned response. Whatever the motion, you’ll know you’re on to something when it moves much faster than this and doesn’t feel like as much effort.

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I think what I was trying to say is that most people** who do stringhopping tend to also have a faster motion that, however, they have dismissed for some reason. Your example of players with a fast “tremolo-only” motion is pretty much what I’m talking about.

Furthermore, it seems to me that pretty much everyone we’ve seen so far passed some version of the “table tapping” or “polaroid shaking” test. (I.e. can you tap a table with 180bpm 8th notes, or shake a polaroid with 16th notes at a similar fast tempo?)

@Yaakov - maybe you can try one of these basic tests when you have a minute, let us know how that goes!

** = when I say most - this is a rough estimate and I may be wrong!

What is this ‘polaroid’ thing you speak of? :wink:

Just kidding I am actually old enough to remember polaroids haha! Man we are spoiled these days! I bet some of the younger members on here will be like “what is Tommo talking about?” hahahaha

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