My Picking Technique

#21

I do want to use these things in my actual playing because they sound cool to me, but I totally get what you are saying. I will just focus on the simpler stuff until my motion is better. Honestly I have become sort of obsessed with being able to play these sort of standard “shred” things at really fast tempos, but in reality I should probably not worry about it as much. Or at all. At least until I get simple things smoother. I have definitely lost my way with this stuff, but I think I can get back on track.

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#22

Ok! No worries and sorry to criticize your choices.

From your progress clips I don’t think you’ve lost your way here because you appear to be moving forward. Simply focusing more on determining when the motion is working and encouraging more of it will get you farther still.

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#23

No need to apologize. Constructive criticism is always welcome. I am going to focus on the simpler string changes and one string stuff for a while now. Maybe in another month or two I will give another progress update. Doing this really helps me see what is going on and getting feedback has helped me a lot.

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#24



Here is another update on my picking. Not much to add. I have gotten the motion comfortable and pretty much habituated as far as I can tell. I played the diatonic stuff at 240 bpm and the pentatonic at 220 I think. Just to really push myself. Which is what I have been doing. Interested to hear what @Troy and anyone else thinks of this latest post. I am really trying to get the 3 string “atoms” locked in. As in only using wrist movement to track across 3 strings and using a small arm shift to continue on past 3 like in the Eric Johnson lessons, applying that to diatonic and pentatonic stuff. For some reason the pentatonic still feels like a struggle at high speed. Although the speed I was playing at here is perhaps unachievable anyway. 210-215 seems like it may be a more reasonable goal to hit someday.

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#25

Also I am aware I was sort of playing out of key at some points and that my left hand isn’t really keeping up with my picking. So more to work on there if I actually want to play this fast in a real setting.

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#26

Thanks for the update! The good news here is that you have tapped into what is fast for you, and you’re not afraid to go for it even when things are not totally locked up yet. A lot of people get stuck in slow and accurate land, so they never learn what motions they can even make fast.

The main issues here, in order, are:

1. hand synchronization

Hand sync is not really happening yet. In the slow takes, I think you can hear that initial downstroke of each of these patterns is not locked to the fretting finger. We usually do this by way of accents. If you go nuts with this, it can make your playing sound super robotic. But if that’s the only way to feel what synched feels like, then that’s what we do. If anyone has any better suggestions I’m open.

In general, we have tended to use repeating phrases like this for really basic picking mechanics, but again, it’s very “exercisey” sounding and can put you in a rut as far as building up your own vocabulary of more unique lines. So you might try incorporating some phrases which aren’t just repeating chunks. It might not be as easy to ramp these up to super speeds, but that’s ok, because I think hand sync is a more important issue anyway.

2. Motion consistency

Especially in the fast takes, the picking motions aren’t uniform, and you can see this in the slow motion footage of the fast takes (which is very helpful thank you). Meaning, you have some pickstrokes with a bigger range of motion than others: some pickstrokes go all the way across the the string far enough to play a note, and others don’t quite make it and stay either below or above it, and so on. This type of randomness is common when someone is learning a motion and that motion is not habituated yet.

You have to learn to feel when you’re doing something smoothly and consistently. The crux of motor learning practice is to recognize that feeling as immediately as you can, and then to come back a few minutes later and see if you can reproduce it on command, again, completely by feel without looking. it’s not really about repetitions and it’s not about metronomes either. If the timing device is distracting you from really connecting with your hands and feeling what is going on, turn it off and don’t worry about tempo.

3. The picking motions themselves

Your slow playing uses a different picking motion than your fast playing. Or at the very least, it’s such a different range of motion (i.e. much larger) that it may as well be a completely different picking motion than your fast technique as far as your brain is concerned. When two things look this different, they will feel different, and your brain will find it hard to make any kind of connection between the two.

Meaning, when you play these slow phrases, you’re basically practicing a whole different skill than when you play the fast ones. They’re not helping each other. Instead, take the fast one, and try to recognize what that motion is to the point where you can slow it down a little and it’s still the same motion.

To me it looks like a combination of wrist and forearm, or perhaps just forearm, but that’s hard to say. It can be helpful to know, but it’s also not 100% necessary. What you do know is that you can do it, and you know what that feels like. So you try and slow that down just a little while maintaining that feel. And that should maintain the motion. Slowing down your best technique a little is how you can learn to get a better feel for what the motion actually is. You make those attempts to do it smoothly at the slightly slower speed, then go back to the faster speed and see if you can still do it smoothly. Then you slow it down a little further.

The key here is that you are not just starting fast and getting slower. You are starting with a narrow range of speeds that are mostly fast ones, and gradually increasing that window to encompass slower speeds as you learn to recognize the motion and maintain its shape.

4. Motion size

Are you intentionally shooting for really small picking motions, or is that just the way your fast technique works? Reason being that your fast playing motions are so tiny they barely get across the strings. Again, the slow motion footage is helpful here. The tinyness of the motions is giving you a very small margin of error for hitting the note correctly. Even a tiny discrepancy in the smoothness of your motion is causing you to miss the string entirely, or just bump up against it. Those pickstrokes aren’t playing notes and that’s why you can hear dropouts.

If you can add more power / muscular force to your pickstrokes that will increase their size without really dropping the speed too much. And even if it does drop the speed, that’s ok because you have plenty of it.

What is more important is motion smoothness and consistency. Once you have that, feel free to speed up as much as you want. You will reach some point where the motion size gets too small and you will need to add more power to make them bigger. And if you can’t, then that is your speed limit and that is fine. Again, you have plenty of speed so I’m not worried about that.

I know this sounds like a pile-on and I apologize for that! You’ve got some good things happening here and a lot of people would want the easy access to physical speed that you have. If you can become more aware of what that motion feels like, and start to slow it down and make it larger, smoother, and more consistent, you’ll have something great.

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#27

Thank you for all that information. I will reply to each one.

  1. Hand Sync-I am definitely aware that I need to work on this. It is better at slower speeds even something as fast as 220-225 although this can vary day to day. My left hand does get tired eventually so it is hard to maintain that for a long period. Which is just a stamina thing I will work on too.

  2. Motion Consistency-This is something that I have noticed. I need to try and get all my pick strokes uniform and with a bigger range of motion. This is the main thing I feel that holds me back. I sort of have two “locked in” feelings when I play fast. One which I can use bigger motions and have pretty much no tension in my forearm and another where I am more tense and can play very fast like 240 bpm, but the motions are very small or don’t even make it through the string sometimes. I need to try and get the bigger motion happening at all times because it really feels like I need to move a lot to switch strings at those speeds and I think it is due to not having consistent picking like you said.

  3. Picking Motion-I am aware that my slow and fast are different. The slow is more wrist and the fast is basically all forearm. I will work on making sure I am always using the same motion when practicing. I try to do this, but sometimes old habits take over.

  4. Motion Size-This is the main issue I have I think. I am going to slow down until I can maintain that other locked in position I mentioned above that allows me to play fast, but not as fast with bigger motions. I can probably work on hand synchronization and the consistency of my pick strokes and motion too, since I will be playing slower. Then I will work on getting faster once I can move across strings more consistently.

Thanks for all the input. I have definitely seen improvements over the past few months and I wouldn’t have been able to without the help of Cracking the Code. I will continue to work on this and post an update at the end of November most likely.

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#28

I am having trouble speeding up my motion with larger pick strokes without adding in elbow movement. With the wrist/forearm motion I can’t play very fast without using super small pick strokes. What should I do?

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#29

There’s nothing wrong with adding/mixing-in elbow, as long as it’s not overly stiff.

As far as wrist/forearm not being able to move quickly: try isolating each movement… just so you can kinda see if there is a ‘weak link’ motion. Make sure to stay as relaxed as possible.

I’ve done this with each in every mechanic… just so I know that everything can move as fast as it needs to move.

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#30

If you post another video with the added in elbow mechanic it will definitely be easier to help out.

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#31

@hamsterman Adding the elbow usually adds a lot of tension. I can play really fast with the forearm/wrist, but the motions are so small as seen above, that it’s useless. I have to increase the size of the pick stroke so it is more consistent and easier to change strings. I will try to isolate the movements I guess. How did you go about adding speed to the wrist only mechanic? That one feels very unnatural to me when I try to speed it up.

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#32

I will try to make another video soon.

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#33

The elbow can be used in a loose/relaxed way, but if it takes a little bit of learning and adjustment, and it requires that the elbow muscle isn’t ‘keeping up’ your hand from falling down. Here’s a thread on it: Here are a few elbow picking mechanic tips for staying relaxed
But it’s not for everyone.

As far as the wrist mechanic… if you are talking about ‘side to side’/deviation… for me, I can only speed it up if my wrist is completely loose. It just takes a bit of practice… but looseness is everything.

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#34

I can’t get much speed with a “9-3” wrist movement at all. When the Steve Morse CTC interview inspired me to try to get some wrist-based crosspicking going, it become clear to me how much better my wrist-oriented picking got with a flexion/extension component. My best results for single-escaped (downstroke escaped) wrist-oriented picking is with what the CTC clockface analogy would describe as roughly an “8-2” movement, or perhaps even a “7-1” movement.

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#35

That’s interesting. I’ve had similar experiences, and I agree that flexion/extension movement seems much easier. I haven’t had much luck with wrist-only though.

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#36

I think that’s what MAB was referring to when he said that our wrists aren’t made to move side to side. Literally they can move side to side but I think what he was getting at is moving strictly “9-3” feels unnatural and hinders speed.

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#37

Just something I noticed in your clips fairly consistently, which is almost certainly affecting your hand sync- your left hand fingers come really high off the strings, and how much varies quite a bit too.

Try doing some legato runs with your left hand, go as slow and lightly as you can to find the MINIMUM amount of space and effort to get a note to sound with hammers and pull offs. Pay very close attention to making things even and smooth and watch how far your fingers are above the strings. Also have a finger target relative to the fret which remains consistent.

Do just a single string at first, then work on gradually adding in string changes.

Give it the same attention you’ve been giving your picking and your sync issues should be much improved in no time.

Keep up the great work!

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#38

Here’s a clip with the elbow added.

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#39

I have been trying to get my forearm rotation working better for a little while now and when reading a post yesterday I realized I may have been going down the wrong path. For my super fast playing I was adding elbow, or so I thought. I don’t remember what I was reading, but I saw @Troy say that basically elbow couldn’t really be used for downward pickslanting (which is what I do) and that when he does it, it is likely some forearm thing. This got me thinking and when I actually looked at what was going on when I did the hyperspeed picking (which for me maxes out at around 270-280) there wasn’t really elbow happening that I could see. Now the real revelation from this will be how is forearm rotation “supposed” to feel. When I do the super fast thing, in my mind I was adding elbow because that’s what it felt like, but I think it was just because I was tensing up in order to execute it. I think. This felt different than what I have been trying to do which is get forearm/wrist going without any “elbow” added. It feels sort of awkward and it’s hard for me to speed up most of the time with it. I can, but I am not sure if I was adding in some of the fast picking element unconsciously. When I do this movement slow it feels like I am sort of flinging my wrist and arm a little. I am not sure if that is the right description, but I think it fits. My question is mainly what do you feel @Troy when you are doing your standard forearm rotation technique? I know you said you don’t think of it as a rotational mechanic, but I don’t know exactly what that means I guess. I included a video of what I am doing. I have close ups and slow mo too if that would be helpful. All of the playing is done with the fast technique I use, even the slower parts. What I will say is that by doing this the slower stuff feels pretty easy. I need to refine it because I am not used to doing it reasonable tempos that I am actually likely to use which is obvious in the video.

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#40

I am not an expert on hyperpicking, but a lot of hyper-pickers say they have a forearm component, and from what I see, lot of hyper or near-hyper pickers use a combo of elbow & forearm. I would just say to try and stay relaxed when doing it, otherwise, it will limit your precision & endurance, and may even cause injuries.

The elbow can be used with both DWPS & UWPS. But what I think Troy might have been saying is that hyperpickers are more commonly UWPS.

I do think that doing short hyper-picking ‘bursts’ can absolutely be beneficial for learning how to play at moderately fast speeds. But I would just say that doing tiny ‘micro-picking’, hasn’t helped me. When I do super-short tremolo bursts at about 250ish, I try to really keep my pick-strokes as large as possible. Then, when I go down to a moderate speed of 160ish or whatever, it feels a bit more solid & reliable.

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