Need help with ascending scale

Long story short. I can play descending scale more or less fine (video included 135 bpm) and I just can’t run thru ascending. What should I correct in my technique to improve? I can play it better than on video with proper warm up but I will stuck with faster tempo.

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@Troy and I debated the ascending vs descending topic plenty!

If I remember correctly, the last thing we agreed upon is that by making your picking trajectory more vertical (with respect to the string plane) you should be able to reduce the interference between the string tracking motion and the picking motion.

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Hi! Thanks for posting. Great playing so far. Short story is, when you say you “can’t run through ascending”, what do you mean by “can’t”? Are you saying you can’t move your hands fast enough? Are you saying you’re hitting wrong notes? I know what I’m seeing / hearing, but what is different to you about the second clip versus the first one?

As far as as what I’m seeing, I can’t really tell from these two clips which motion you’re trying to make, but the motion you’re actually making is pretty cool, and it’s much more visible in the second clip.

In general, the phrase in the second clip uses all downstroke string changes. Meaning, every time you move from a lower string to a higher one, you’re doing it when you play a downstroke. To do this with a wrist technique like the one you’re using, you would need to move the pick along what we call a “DSX” motion path. Meaning, the downstrokes would be going up in the air, and the upstrokes would be going toward the body in between the strings. This way, when you have to do the string change, the pick will go right up in the air, over the top of the next string.

But that’s not what you’re doing. If you put the YouTube player into 25% speed and look at your motions, ignore the notes on the E string, and look at the notes on the A string. That string goes UDU DUD. But… the upstrokes are all going up in the air. That tells us you are making a USX motion, not a DSX motion. This is all well and good for the first five notes, because you’re not changing strings. Now look at the final note. The fifth note was an upstroke, and it leaves the pick up in the air. But the sixth note comes down, hits the string, and also goes back up in the air again, so you can get over the string. In other words, the sixth pickstroke is a different kind of pickstroke. It is what we call a “double escape” pickstroke, because it starts and ends in the air.

Now you’re on the D string and the whole process repeats. First five notes are USX motion, last note is double escape, or DBX — the curvy one. You are actually using two different wrist motions here, switching between them at the right part of the phrase so you can get over the string. Your default motion appears to be USX, since you use it for five of the six notes. You only switch to the DBX motion to do the last note, the string change, then you go back to USX.

This is actually cool. This is how it is supposed to work. It’s how players like EVH can make any string change they want without any change in arm position. They just make the wrist move in a different direction when they need to. We don’t have a term for this yet. We used to call a slightly different version of this “two way pickslanting” but I don’t think that is a good way to describe the motion switching you’re doing here. I would just think of it as switching escapes or switching wrist motions. Or maybe just “wrist motion, make any string change you want”!

No matter what you call it, it’s a skill, and it’s what you would need if you wanted to play a three note per string scale, for example. The first string would use DSX, then the second would use USX, then back to DSX, and so on. So it’s worth getting better at it. And maybe becoming more aware of it might make it feel more smooth to you over time. The key is learning to feel and then perhaps even see (in a mirror, for example) how that final downstroke on each string looks and moves a little different than the other five notes. The next time you pick up a guitar, see if you can notice how that note looks and moves differently.

As far as the first lick being faster, it could be that you’re not doing the motion switching there, and maybe you’re faster at just using one motion than doing the switching. You’d have to film it from the “down the strings” angle to know.

If you can film both phrases again using the same camera angle as the second clip, in slow motion, I think that will tell us what we need to know here. The second camera angle is perfect, but regular speed video is blurry compared to slow motion. Just try and make sure you have enough light when you do that, because slow motion mode will be a lot darker. See what you can do.

So, that’s an essay for you, apologies for the length here. But this is a cool example and a lot of people probably do superpowered stuff like this without knowing it.

I think that was a slightly different topic, where the player is not doing the motion switching, but one direction still feels different. In this case, I think what we’re seeing is switched escapes. If you get a chance, drop the YouTube player into 25% speed and let me know if you can sanity check what I’m talking about. First couple repetitions of clip two should be enough to see it. Thanks!


True! I mistakenly assumed it was a string tracking issue. It’s difficult to compare videos 1 and 2 due to the different camera angle, but I have the impression that you are right and the first video is a single escaped motion, while the second video has occasional double escaped pickstrokes.

Yes! In the second video at 25% speed I do see the different downstroke trajectory for the last pickstroke on each string. I am not sure, however, that the pick is managing to escape every time, hence there may be some “swipes” (the downstroke hitting a muted string before playing the desired note on the next upstroke). These may cause a feeling of resistance if the player is unaware of them. Just guessing of course, I can’t tell for sure from the video!

Thank you, but it is not great till I master and can play what I want.

I feel like it is not comfortable to jump on next string, like I am being stuck and I need to push more to make a jump to next string. Descending feels smooth like it is easy to me to do it without even thinking about it. But ascending is a mess. It is ok till 90 bpm (sixtuplets), yes I can hit even 110 with enough warm up. But it is not stable, not smooth. Maybe because I need more practice to build this motion as a habit

I do understand what you are saying in other part of text. But what you would recommend me to do? Just play more with same motion? Try to focus on wrist movement to make a DSX so I could be in the air on lat more and hit next string.

Here we go 2 slow motion videos both scales.

@Troy thank you in advance for help