Need serious analysis on my upward pickslanting (YouTube videos included!)

Hi all,

I’ve been almost exclusively a downward pickslanter and have had very limited progress in my overall alternate picking. After seeing Troy’s videos, I thought that I realized mechanically what was holding me back.

However, playing licks that require two-way pickslanting, even at medium speeds, I’m a complete mess. Upward pickslanting just feels really awkward, like I’m “missing” the strings (it doesn’t have the same rhythmic punch as downward picklslnting). So I think my two-way pickslanting is lacking because of my deficiencies in upward pickslanting?

I’ve uploaded two videos of myself for y’all here to demonstrate what I mean. I realize in the first video that, the last time I do the ascending lick in the first video, I’m not snapping into the downward pickslanting position fast enough (which is why it sounds jumpy).

But I don’t (think I) do that in the other times. If you look at the second video, you’ll really see my inability to upward pickslant.

Any analysis would be greatly appreciated. Here are the vids:


Also, if it matters, I know that a lot of people use the side of the pick when playing shred licks (a la Paul Gilbert) but I really like to have the pick cut through the strings straight on (as in, using the edge rather than the side of the pick). I know that you Coders have a term for this but I’m still getting used to the terminology.

I did look at the guitar anatomy video so you can talk to me in those terms and I should understand.

Thank you all!!!

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Others here have a keener eye for this kind of thing by now, but I wonder if you are using more than one motion in getting the note to sound. Almost looks like you are finessing the notes with some finger motion on at least one side of the equation? That might be killing the one-engine, “autopilot” feeling one might have otherwise?

I’d be looking for where my pick stroke is actually initiated and then I’d try to make it consistent between the two positions. Instead of “snapping” into position, I’d be asking myself if I’m rolling between the two correctly? I look forward to what others have to say. Cheers, Daniel

thanks; i’ve been toying around with this.

i just feel like i’m barely hitting the strings when i’m upward pickslanting, while the downward pickslant feels great.

for example, the “gypsy jazz” rest stroke on the string higher (e.g., playing on the g string, resting on B) feels snappy and rhythmic. but doing upward pickslanting the rest stroke on the lower string (e.g., playing on g, resting on D) feels so awkward.

and as you can tell, with upward pickslanting, i’m barely hitting the strings. no power or rhythm whatsoever.

i looked at the updated content on the pickslanting primer which made me realize you can “upward pickslant” without pronating like I am, but i find the pick grip change really awkward and even harder to execute at fast speeds.

also i really like minimal edge when i’m playing for
tonal purposes, similar to bluegrass players referenced in the videos.

gahhh!

Hi! Thanks for posting these. I think one of the things that’s throwing you here is partly our fault. You’re looking at the “slant of the pick”, and not the way it’s actually moving.

Pickslanting has two parts. The most important is the motion — the pick needs to move from an escaped position to a trapped position, and back again. In other words, it goes into the strings and then out again, tracing an angled path of motion. That’s where the speed comes from: straight (or gently curved) line into the strings, straight (or gently curved) line back out again. Because the pick only escapes during one of these pickstrokes, either the upstroke or the downstroke, that is the only time you can switch strings.

But in these clips, whenever you’re playing a moderate speed, this is not what’s happening. Set the YouTube player to 25% speed and watch the first few pickstrokes in the first clip. You’re moving from an escaped position to an escaped position. In other words, you’re making what we call a double escape motion, where the pick makes a semicircular path in the air, only dipping down to hit the string and then rising back up again. Not only that, but this doesn’t change when you change your arm position from “dwps” to “uwps” and back again. You’re still making a double escape motion. The “pickslant” change isn’t doing anything, because you’re not really changing the motion you’re making. This is the pitfall of “looking at the slant” instead of “doing the intended motion”.

Once again, this is our fault! If you’ve only watched some of our earlier stuff, and not our newer stuff or the Pickslanting Primer, then this distinction between the pick’s motion and the pick’s appearance is not something we made super clear early on.

So what you’re looking to do here is get any kind of single escape motion happening. That’s going to be either upstroke escape or downstroke escape. You can do this with wrist motion, forearm and wrist, finger motion, combinations of all of the above - lots of options. Of our free videos, we have one for wrist motion which is more recent that comes directly from the Primer and makes these issues super clear:

And here’s a free page from the Primer with a written overview of same:

The other Primer chapters in this section detail how to use slightly different arm positions, grips, and wrist motions to generate these escape pickstrokes. This can be helpful because sometimes, for reasons which are totally arbitrary and random, one particular setup will work before another. And my recommendation is always to try them all and go with whatever works first. That’s the fastest route to getting something happening.

In short, your primary goal here is to learn to make a single-escape motion that goes into and out of the strings in a straight (ish) line, and that works fast. Do this on a single string with simple repeating fretboard patterns, and try as many grips and arm positions to get this to happen as possible until you find one you can do fast. It doesn’t matter whether this motion is upstroke escape or downstroke escape. It just matters that you have one motion you can do that’s fast and comfortable. If you’re gonna climb the wall, you need at least one foothold to start.

Good luck!

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Thanks, Troy!

Funny thing you mentioned the Pickslanting Primer as I found that I actually had purchased that a while ago and saw all the updated content.

I went through the entire thing again, and found what you meant about the segments where you de-emphasize the pickslant itself and focus on the wrist motions.

ive been working on implementing this new information into my technique and will post updated videos soon.

Question: Upward escape strokes are really easy for me (previously known as “dwps”) and i get a nice clean rest stroke on the next string (that is, the higher pitched string) when pushing through on the downstroke.

However, for downward escape strokes (“uwps”), they’re pretty good but not nearly as comfortable as my upward escapes. my main question is: for downward escapes, do i need to do a rest stroke on the lower string when doing the upstroke (lower as in pitch wise)? i find that my ability to radially deviate is more limited compared to ulnar deviation so i find that doing a rest stroke (ie the pick presses against the string) is awkward and seemingly a waste of energy. i can get the pick between the two string of course so that, if it was more comfortable to radially deviate, it would hit so it’s still a “trapped pick stroke” in my mind. in other words, i’m not doing that double escape motion anymore. is this something you see in other players, where they don’t do the rest stroke when doing alternate picking with downward escapes?

i also had a side question: it looks like players such as Molly Tuttle and Albert Lee engage in double escape motions (albert lee not doing it as frequently). are these double escape motions necessarily a “bad thing” when doing these “two way pickslanting” licks (for lack of a better term)?

is the two way escape move better for stuff like one note per string lines? think arpeggios like this song:

thanks!!

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Please take this with a grain of salt, as it is my perspective that might be incorrect:

I think that double-escaped is the absolutely most general technique because it allows one to play ANYTHING, up to its speed limit. It particularly shines on one note per string, because, well, that’s all it does. In its perspective, 3nps = 1 + 1 + 1, etc., and there is some real power behind that concept, but it just doesn’t go that fast (at least for me).

If one wants to go faster and is willing to suffer complexity, then these are the choices:

  • DWPS lets one sweep up [thinner strings], one often needs “legato” to remove odd nps cases, and isolated single notes are a catastrophe
  • UWPS lets one sweep down, one often needs “legato” to remove odd nps cases, and isolated single notes are a catastrophe
  • 2WPS lets one sweep up or down but requires careful switching, and isolated single notes are a catastrophe

I think most of the complexity of DWPS, UWPS and 2WPS effectively is because of the 1nps case, the exact strength of double-escaped. I don’t know if Steve Morse switched recently because of his hands, but he used to be double-escaped, and he seemed quite fast to me.

Sorry! I should have checked to see if you had access to the Primer. In the future we might try to find a way to add something automatic to the signature here on the forum, just so I can see what resources a commenter can watch when I’m replying.

I wouldn’t necessarily say you have to, but because of the way the pick is moving, when you do this motion correctly it’s easy to hit that string and hard to not hit it. You can watch any of Andy Wood’s clips for example, and you’ll see he frequently rest strokes the lower string. So this tells us about how his range of motion is set up: Just make your wrist straight, deviationally, and place the pick against the rest stroke string. That’s what Andy is doing. That’s where his and your downstroke should start. Now do your downstroke and allow the wrist to go ulnar. That’s your range of motion. No (or very little) radial deviation required.

A motion is only bad if it’s not giving you what you want, and in the clip you posted, you’re not getting what you want as far as smoothness or speed. No problem, good first shot, but let’s keep trying to get something smoother. Just try to get one of these motions really happening and don’t worry about getting both immediately or doing “two way pickslanting” yet. Don’t try to not do it, try everything, and see which one(s) work first. Just make the focus as simple as possible, i.e. just to get any picking motion happening and sounding good on a single string, at a medium-fast speed or better, maybe with a simple left hand component, like a repeating pattern. Whatever you can get right away to start.