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.

Hey Troy,

Happy New Year! Hope you had/are having a great holiday.

Your feedback from your prior posts were well-taken. I signed up for the full Cracking the Code membership (or “Masters in Mechanics,” not sure which it is called) through your Cyber Monday deal.

Please see below three new videos, which basically are almost identical.

These contain two licks: (1) doing a 3 note-per-string scale ascending and descending across 5 strings (I snapped my high E) and (2) a lick involving one note on the B string and then moving back up to the G. Lick #1 only appears in the first video and then the other two are devoted to Lick #2.

Would appreciate any and all feedback. Lick #1 feels relatively comfortable, though it gets a little loose (and feels a little loose) as I descend to the thicker strings. Lick #2 feels awkward as I go from the B string to the G, as my pick seems to “swipe” over the B string again when going back to the G (you’ll see me try to point this out by hitting both strings).

Oh, and I realized I should’ve recorded that two note-per-string lick from my original videos. I didn’t but it feels a lot smoother after reviewing the Pickslanting Primer and, of course, practicing a lot more.

Here are the videos (I call them "wristslanting,” kind of as a joke, but that seems to be what’s key here. As you mentioned, “pickslanting” can be kind of a misleading term, especially for initial viewers, since you can have the same pickslant but the wrist movement has to be different):

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Hi Troy, I hate to piggyback on another topic but is there hope for those of us with wrists that default to radial motion more than ulnar? My wrist is more comfortable and has a much wider range of motion going in the radial direction as opposed to the ulnar. I’ve seen you mention a few times to start with the wrist straight and move in the ulnar direction, but this direction feels quite unnatural to me. What do you think?

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This all looks and sounds awesome! Huge improvement from the earlier clips. Only a couple of recommendations.

One, try some single-escape stuff, where you know every string change is going to be a certain kind of pickstroke, like always an upstroke or always a downstroke. This kind of thing, for example:

Reason being, the single escape motions are the simplest. So if you want to get a motion going and keep it going, for the purposes of feeling what smoothness and consistency feels like, they offer the quickest route to doing that. They will also point up any issues in the technique, like if one type of motion is working and the other isn’t. So if you try the sixes phrase starting on a downstroke and it works, then DSX is working. If you try it on an upstroke and it feels weird, something could be wrong with USX. Alongside this, by all means continue to do “real world” phrases as you are doing here, with as much variety as you can throw at it. Anything that’s similar to the kind of phrase you really want to be playing, do that. Occasional exercisey stuff can be there, in the mix, as a diagnostic and another source of variety.

Two, the short bursty stuff like where you try to do three notes real fast — I haven’t seen good results with that in clips players post here. My guess is that when a phrase is super short, people can’t feel whether the motion they are making is the one they want or not, because the phrase is over before it begins. So if there is a kind of motion you want to work on, then a longer phrase that contains that motion is my best guess as to the way to do that. This way you have time to go, yeah, that feels smooth, or no, something is off there.

The emphasis doesn’t need to be on super speed all the time, just smoothness at medium speed or better. A range of speeds is what you want, to try and see where you sense that feeling of smoothness the most. Wherever that occurs, that’s the form you want to try and replicate at the other speeds. At least as a starting point, until you discover otherwise.

Finally, I see no actual Bigsby vibratos in these videos, so please work on that for the future!

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As far as I know, everybody has more range of motion in the ulnar direction, short of injury. Even then, if you were ulnarly-impaired (I made that up!), you could lose 15-20 degrees of ulnar range of motion and still be tied with what you can do in the radial direction. This is just the way that joint works. That being said, I completely understand that there is a learning curve to figuring out how to do that kind of wrist motion.

So, a few things. One, if you’re not doing this already, you can try the middle finger grip with its matching supinated arm position:

When you do this, the term “ulnar” really sort of ceases to be meaningful, because what looks “ulnar” really isn’t ulnar any more. It’s ulnar and extended at the same time. And that just feels different. I recommend everyone play around with grips and arm positions when they’re trying to learn, because it’s easy to get stuck in a rut where you do the same things all the time and don’t know what else to try. What better thing to try than something you wouldn’t ordinarily do, and might not even want to do? Just think of it as a fun experiment. You might be surprised.

I only tool around with that grip occasionally, but each time I do, I find ways of doing it that get a little better. Here is a recent Instgram post:

You can see how much more supinated the arm is here than if you were to use a trigger style grip and a more deviation-appearing motion. This feels pretty comfortable to me, but again, it didn’t start out that way. It was just something I started tooling around with in a low-pressure way and then started noticing it felt better. This feeling of “ulnar” is now replaced with the feeling of “ulnar extension”, like the back of your hand is moving toward the bridge. It’s just a different thing. Even if your ultimate goal is to use some other grip or motion, doing this can give you a hint as to how that other grip or motion is supposed to feel when it’s working. Get anything you can get right away, for the learning experience.

Another thing you can experiment with is the pronated form, since that’s more radial side. I do that with index finger grips, not the middle / three-finger ones. The tutorial for that is here:

Finally, you can also… not do wrist motion at all! I highly recommend trying out the new wrist-forearm lessons we uploaded since those just feel different altogether:

You may want to learn certain motions for various reasons, and that’s totally doable in the long run. But you gotta start somewhere, and if you can learn one thing, you’re that much closer to learning another. Get good at something, get that smoothness of feel and even attack happening, and start building out musical vocabulary with that motion. You can always make occasional attempts to get other things going too, which is a nice low-pressure way to acquire skills, and puts you in the properly (to me) fun and experimental mindset for doing so.

More than that, I’d post a clip and we can take a look at what you’re doing with more specifics.

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@Troy Really appreciate the insight. Sorry for the lack of bigsby haha. I actually don’t own any guitars with a bigsby (i’m also not a secret agent…so I guess you can say my username is a complete lie).

With respect to the single-escape stuff, it feels smooth to me at somewhat fast tempos. I have trouble with picking speed generally but I don’t think it’s because of my form. I will upload videos of some single-escape stuff in a couple days.

Please check out the below videos. This lick is based off Kotame & Koume’s Theme from Ocarina of Time :slight_smile:.

Where it sounds especially awkward should be clear (in the first vid: the inside picking part at :02 when I go from the B to the E, and the inside picking part between the G and the B at :03). I took the second video to see my wrist, if that’s helpful at all to see if anything looks awkward.

These kind of inside picking licks, where I have to play two notes on one string, then one note on the higher string, and then two notes again on the previous string (e.g., 2 notes on B, then 1 note on high E, and then 2 notes on the B again), have made me hit a real roadblock in my picking development. Even when I slow it down, I can’t exactly see what the issue is, but I know something is wrong because it feels really awkward.

Any suggestions? I know filming the right angle for my pick is difficult. Let me know if there are any alternatives (hopefully a magnet will be available soon!).

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Your problem here is these techniques don’t work with 64-bit phrases, only 16-bit. Anything past the SNES, and we’re in the dark about how to play that stuff.

Great clips! Thanks for posting. The stuff you’re trying to do here really is next-level in terms of the purely pattern-based phrases that a lot us grew up with, so the first thing you should do is pat yourself on the back with how far you’ve come in playing the purportedly unplayable. The wrist-based approach you’re using is well suited for this kind of thing, so you’re on the right track. In general, the form you want for this is lightly supinated and moving a little more in the ulnar range of motion than what you’ve got going on here.

Regarding arm position, when you see the arm wiggling, you’re sort of flip-flopping between two very similar arm positions. Instead, you can just stick with one of them, and it’s the one you’re using when you play the individual downstroke on the higher string. So you might feel like you’re resting a little more on the thumb side than you’re currently starting with. If you place your arm in that position, then you won’t have to wiggle around as much because you’ll already be where you need to be for both upstroke and downstroke string changes.

The second thing is range of motion. When you do the downstroke on the higher string, and the pick has played the note on that string and is at the furthest extent of its motion, this is the way your wrist should look:

That single note is the only note you’re playing on that string, and it might feel a little farther away from you than the notes you’re playing on the lower string. The way you reach that far away note is by feeling the wrist bend further in the ulnar direction. So you’re not really reaching down toward the floor, or toward the top string, you’re reaching more toward the bridge. And you’re doing it just by bending the wrist more in that direction. In other words, not by moving the arm around, or using fingers, but simply by going more “bridge-ward” with the wrist joint. If you’re doing it right, you’ll be performing an escaped downstroke as you do that. So more bridgeward = more downstroke escape, which will take care of those individual notes on the higher string, or really any time where the downstroke is the last note on the string, regardless of whether it’s one note or many.

Moving in this range of motion will also give you more edge picking. You won’t be as flat on the string as you are currently. So if you’re used to the flat feel, then you may need to convince yourself that the more edge picking feel is correct. Look in a mirror briefly if you have to, to make sure you’re getting the proper ulnar bend on the downstroke. It may look or feel weird to you, but that’s ok. When you have that feeling, get a mental image of that and stop looking in the mirror. That feeling is the correct feeling.

More generally, ironing out these little kinks puts you into the “long tail” of the process, where you try to and work out every kind of picking combination you might encounter in real-world playing. Phrases like the one you are using here are great for this because they are full of variety, and not just the same repeating picking and fretting patterns. This just gives you more opportunities to find all the little pockets of unfamiliarity that you will encounter all the time in real-world playing.

The “long tail” takes anywhere from six months to a couple years to work through, until you’ve found (consciously or otherwise) all the picking and fretting combinations in the kind of music you want to play, figured out how to replicate the correct form, motion, attack, hand sync, etc. on all of them, and they have become second nature. During this time, feeding the process with a wide variety of musical phrases is where you want to be. Try not to stress out about “roadblocks” and specific things that are not working. Instead, just notice the things that are working. When you do stuff that clicks, feels smooth and accurate, and sounds good, do more of those.

Troy - That was super, super helpful feedback. Just the minor change of resting more on the thumb-side, plus the more ulnar movement of the downward escape, makes hitting individual, or multiple, notes on the higher strings (and then coming back down again) feel much smoother. it looks like 64-bit licks may be within our grasp in this lifetime.

Perhaps a more theoretical follow-up for you: in that picture, it looks like the player is making a pretty wide movement in the ulnar direction. it doesn’t look like it’s as far as he can go in the ulnar direction but it’s pretty close. indeed, i have replicated this same movement myself and it works (i.e., close to, but not as far as i can go, with respect to my ulnar range of motion).

can one afford to make such large movements at high speeds though? that is, making a relatively larger movement to prepare for the string change.

just curious what your thoughts are on this. at the higher speeds, should i expect to have my wrist not be as ulnar deviated as in the above pic?

EDIT: Ah, I think I get it. My starting position is my wrist being more ulnar-deviated than in my previous videos. That way, I’m doing proportionally the same range of motion and not making an excessively large movement. Is that it?

Came here to type this. You typed it first!

Don’t worry too much about motion size. It’s not a thing you control directly. You can control speed and force, and “size” is just what results from that. i.e. If you go faster with the same picking force, the motion gets smaller. If you pick less forcefully at the same speed, the motion gets smaller. And so on. The focus is really just doing the motion smoothly at a rate of speed that’s fast enough to know that you’re “really doing it”, even if somewhat awkwardly and sloppily, at first. You can clean it up and smooth it out over time as you begin to zero in on the mental image of what correctness feels like.

Hey all,

So, contrary to what these videos may suggest (including the ones below), my picking has improved tremendously. I’ve dialed in some more edge picking so now I have more of a trigger grip, which really helps.

I’m still really struggling with (a) inside picking and (b) lack of definition and volume. I think (b) might be a symptom of struggling with (a).

Check out the below two videos to emphasize the point. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Pardon the loungewear; everyone is staying inside so you know how that goes…

Thanks all!!

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Hey @Bigsby007, it appears so far I had missed a fellow Nintendo fan! Ocarina of Time brings back so many memories!

Back to guitar - what you are doing in the last video requires double escaped (DBX) pickstrokes, as you are probably aware. One thing I noticed is that you are making relatively small picking motions, and as a result notes are occasionally cut short. Instead, efficient double escapes are often quite big (approx 3-string wide is a good ballpark figure), see for example this clip by @Troy:

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Thanks Tommo!

Yes, a definite N64 fan here, especially Ocarina of Time. Brings back plenty of nostalgia for me too.

Looking at the Instagram video you posted, it looks like he is only going a little past the string he just hit? In other words, I definitely don’t see a 3-string wide movement. When he is descending, I see him go mid-way past the string he just hit and then going back down to the lower string.

Can you clarify?

Ah yes sorry! It’s the whole cycle up+down that covers 3 strings-ish, so let’s say that a single pickstroke covers about 1.5 strings

Thanks Tommo!

So I don’t really have issues with the string path anymore but, as you can tell from the second video, I have trouble keeping the notes separate at moderate to high speeds. At those speeds, it sounds like I’m just strumming the notes rather than hitting them separately.

Any suggestions?