New Here - What do you guys see in this clip?

Hey guys, it kind of dawned on me that maybe I should find out just what kind of a picking creature I am - so I tried to make a video that shows some simple 6’s and a variation on the Paul Gilbert lick. lol both played terribly, but you know how it is right?

I am not much of an analyzer, but it seems to me that I am not really rotating the wrist much? Also I think that my downward pickslant is kind of inconsistent looks like DWPS but I am not sure…


(And thanks so much in advance for any thoughts or suggestions anyone might have!)


I see cross picking at “low” speeds and downward escaped strokes at “high” speeds.

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I am not a better guitarist than you, so please consider my input just as an addition to the critique of the other guys:

Your attack is very strong and i think this is a result of a pretty unyielding grip on the pick. That isnt a bad thing per se but i find that it often leads to tense fingers which lead to a pretty “locked in” wrist. That might be a reason for your picking relying mostly on elbow/forearm movement at high speeds.
The sixes lick was played perfectly. It might be a good idea to consider whether the little mistakes in the gilbert-variation stem from the wrist not being as flexible as it might be while applying a softer grip, which would make rotational movements to free the pick during stringchanges feel harder but dont come in to play during one-string licks.

Most of my ideas here stem from the fact that when i get the tone that you have here (very powerful and a lot of attack, pretty cool actually), it means that i am much more tense than how i usually play. I dont know if you are, of course, but to get your tone i would need to cramp up. I couldnt play anywhere as good as you do while doing that, though, so i am not sure if i have a point.

I hope that is in some way helpful.

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I am guessing here, but it looks like when you speed up, you are letting your elbow kinda ‘rule’ your picking. By that I mean, it looks like your faster elbow movement causes your wrist form/articulation to becomes tense. I could be wrong though, it’s kinda tough to tell.

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Hey guys! Thanks so much for your thoughts! I think that based on what I saw in the video I am going to focus on learning to pick using a forearm rotation mechanic and see where that gets me! It does feel like when I am playing quicker stuff that I am kind of doing a push/pull thing with a pretty rigid wrist… I have developed it, but it definitely hits a wall, and some stuff is really difficult to play…

Right! So, let’s see what a focused week of forearm rotation does for me!

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Hi, great picking!

I second what the others already said.

Two additions from my side:

  1. To evaluate the forearm component it would be helpful if you provided some more frontal view material. Also a higher framerate when recording would be helpful.
  2. Sad to say this, but one week will probably get you nowhere. It might be enough to give you some understanding of how the motion works or maybe some insight in how to do it the right or worng way, but to evaluate the potential of a new picking motion you have to at least learn it up a point where you can do it nearly as good or “automatically” (I hope you understand what I’m trying to say) as your old motions. I’d recommend focused 2 months for that.


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I will try to put some more clips together, but in the meantime I “think” I am making progress… trying to mimic Troy’s arm rotation, (palm up-palm down thing)

I agree, I will be needing to be spending more than just the next week developing this, but I am thinking that by the weekend I will have it together enough to at least ask some better questions and present it better…

Thanks so much for your replies, guys! Much appreciated!

Ok so, as it turns out I don’t know what the hell I am doing hahaha I gotta get this sorted out… I will try to get some better umm picking only type videos, but dammit I can’t seem to get a good mount for my GoPro or my phone… In the mean time, I “think” I have started transitioning over to being a wrist-is player, but I don’t know… my picking grip is all messed up… I may have picking hand confusion, so I am going to use the “pistol grip” for now… Also, I tested my “speed” doing good old 1-2-3-4 and kind of bottom out at 208bpm (16ths)

Anyways, here is some of the early cracking the code stuff, along with some Paul Gilbert type stuff (yes, I know sloppy as hell, sorry! :grinning:)

And here is a video of my picking nemesis, the Dreaded Bach orchestral suite in D Major from the John Tappella “Challenge the Masters” book. I was never really able to break the tempo to be much faster than I play it in this video, and I am wondering if it’s my approach - And yes, I have a metronome and use it hahaha It’s that first two measures that I have kind of struggled with… I am wondering if I should legato it or tap it or something… Trouble is I like the sound of the pick attack… Lemme know what you think, guys!

And I slowed some stuff down, used a go pro… Holy hell! I am not sure how the heck I ever learned how to pick at all, the motions look like two squirrels going to war with one another… Opinions/guidance?

Ummm I think I need a reboot…

Hi! Thanks for posting these and sorry for not seeing this earlier. In general, it looks like you’ve got a nice start with elbow motion for very fast playing, and for more complicated mid-tempo stuff the wrist-oriented technique sounds pretty cool. I think a lot of players would like to be able to tackle the Bach piece as well as you’re doing. What exactly is the problem you’re trying to solve?

Re: elbow, it’s a great motion and not everyone can do it. Just keep in mind that elbow is a downstroke escape motion only — meaning you can only use it for lines where the final note on every string is downstroke. Any upstroke string changes are going to sound sloppy. This means no PG lick, no straight scales, etc. For the smoothest possible experience with elbow playing, write a phrase with only downstroke string changes and this will give you a fighting chance at being clean.

Hey! Troy thanks for checking it out - I have been a fan of this Cracking the Code thing since it first came out. You are doing important work… lol
Thanks for the analysis, and the kind words I know that I am using my elbow/arm and while I can pull off some decent quickness for certain things it’s hard to really get the kind of finesse that I’d like… I really like what Marshall Harrison is doing, and actually I totally like how you play so if I could get some of that control in my life that would be awesome! I’m not afraid to work for it, but I’m afraid that I might misunderstand what it is exactly I have to do - what I normally do has become very comfortable in it’s own uncomfortable sort of way… hahaha Playing the way I do is a lot of work, Troy! lol So I’ve gone through parts of the primer but I may have some wrong impressions…

As for the Bach piece, I am trapped at 110 bpm as a max tempo -I’d like a comfortable 130 bpm (16ths).

Ascending and descending sequences of 4 have been an enemy for quite some time. Single string, no problem. Across strings ugh… The Diminished 5’s lick in the arpeggios section of the Volcano pack has been kicking my ass for quite some time. A single alternate picked 3nps scale NOT economy picked is hit or miss, any of Frank Gambale’s stuff from the Speed Picking book is almost useless, as I kind of hit a sort of tempo block with it (approx 110 or so, same as the Bach piece…)

OK, more to come…

Oh and a really dumb question, is the 25 bucks a month thing a Masters in Mechanics subscription?

Actually I’ll have lots more dumb questions… lol

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More picking stuff

Tragically bad, and yes I should practice before I make these but it’s a good indication of the hangups I end up with with a couple of things I play… You know, challenges I talked about in the earlier post… I included the diminished 5s fail lol

Now when I pick, I am trying like the devil to pick with my wrist but I am thinking that how I “normally” pick, regardless of the grip I use - I tend to not include my fingers, you know there is no push/pull with the thumb and the first finger of the picking hand. I mean, I am wondering if I am trying to separate the movement to a “wrist only” thing when really there needs to be a kind of “lets work together” sort of deal, anatomically speaking… For instance, when I try to “economy pick” something, I have zero rhythmic control over it beyond a certain tempo. y’know sweeps are kind of blorpbloopblorp OR slowly duck duck duck duck if that makes sense… A certain tempo hits and gahhh it falls apart.

Can you hear the little blast of noise when you try and switch strings on that Paul Gilbert phrase in the beginning of this most recent clip? If you can’t hear it, that’s step one. You can’t fix what you don’t notice. Once you hear it, there is no point in continuing to do more repetitions, because it’s not working.

In this case, the “fix” is a bit of a trick question. Elbow motion doesn’t work for the Paul Gilbert lick — at least not without the swiping noise. The fix is simply avoiding that phrase. I know that sounds like a cop-out, but it’s not. All motions have things they do and things they don’t. Elbow motion is only a downstroke-escape motion. It can only switch strings noiselessly when you play a downstroke. So you get the best results with it by playing only phrases with downstroke string changes. When you do this, you can play some terriyfing stuff, especially if you like rock and metal which you do. You owe it to yourself to write and / or find phrases which are exclusively downstroke switching phrases, and do some jamming on those. We have the “upward pickslanting” section of the Primer currently which has these types of phrases. We’ll be adding lots more musical variety to this over time.

Elbow is a great place to start. It’s a simple motion that only works with certain phrases, so it gives you a really straightforward goal of getting good at it and making it sound butter smooth and tightly synchronized. You can always add to it later on with other motions. And even if you do go for phrases that are technically “off limits”, the intermittent noise might be less noticeable when your whole attack becomes more smooth.

While you’re at this, I recommend watching the Pick Grip section of the Primer and trying out the different grips we look at with your elbow motion. If you’ve been playing a long time, you — like most of us — grow to accept certain aspects of your technique as set in stone. This limits your opportunity to learn, because you’re walling off things that might work better than what you’re currently doing. Give some of those a try and see if you can get any of them to work.

Also give this chapter a shot:

We talk a lot about thumb position here, and the advantages of using a straighter thumb rather than one that’s bent over at the knuckle. I would try and experiment with different thumb positions to see which ones sound the smoothest.

For camera-related stuff, here’s a quick run down with some pointers. What you’re doing now, unless you’re filming in 120fps, the slow motion isn’t going to show you much. And the upside down video is weird. A simple phone in “slomo” mode, on a cheap tripod pointing down the strings is the best way to go:

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Troy, thanks so much for your reply (You do great work here!) And I really can’t state enough the value of the folks who have replied to my posts here, and the work you have put into your videos and presenting a topic that is so critical, yet arcane and mystery shrouded. Thanks man.

I will be going through those links right after I post this… I am thinking that I will be 3d printing a camera holder for my guitar tomorrow… it sucks setting up cameras, but I will do my best to present stuff a bit better!

- yep, I have been playing for a really long time and always noticed that that little ‘blast’ of noise was there in some things, not so much in others. And yeah, I also recognize that perhaps avoidance was a viable strategy, but without another way to achieve those notes, “putting up with it” was an equally viable one. I mean, I guess the fingering could get changed around, or I could start with a different pick stroke, or whatever. I do know that what I have doesn’t totally suck, it’s just that I am using it for things that aren’t really that efficient, and after trying a lot of different things I realize that perhaps I have only changed my grip, and that the “propulsion system” behind it is the same.

I created another video, (I made it before your reply) and it’s got some better umm explanation from my viewpoint. Well, at least what I think is going on… I am realizing that I really don’t have a clue as to what is going on with my picking, and that my ability to analyze it is, ummm skewed…

So here it is, thanks again to anyone who checks it out and if you have any ideas or thoughts!

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There is no way to make the Paul Gilbert lick playable, with only elbow motion, without hitting something. It has one note on a string by itself, so you’re either coming back on an upstroke (noise) or going to that note on an upstokre (noise). Let’s just take it off the table.

I don’t need any more video feedback right now. We know what we’re seeing and we know what to do about it. This is your mission, should you choose to accept it. This forum post will self-destruct in thirty seconds!

Just kidding. Your elbow motion looks good, and again, lots of people would like to have it. Just give it some phrases that work with elbow motion and you’re on your way

Thanks for the feedback, Troy… I practiced for a bit and hopefully there’s a bit of evolution here. I think that there is… hahaha

Ok, evolving towards wrist picking. Sort of. umm, I thought that if I am going to torture this forum with dumb questions and playing evolution that I may as well try and make it semi-musical…

What I think I have here is a kind of wrist picking thing with a forearm push - it’s really hard to not use my elbow because I have played that way for quite some time. lol I currently have my forearm glued to the guitar body… I’m also trying a new (for me) grip - pistol grip, I guess… I am trying to develop a deviation, 9-3 on the clock face (I think) and I do have a downward pick slant. I felt like it was an upwards one, but upon closer inspection it was indeed a downward one, although just a slight one… When Frank Gambale ascends, I downward pick slants, and when he descends, it’s an upwards one, right? I’m pretty sure that’s what I got from the Gambale vid… So Yngwie uses pulls when descending to compensate for the trapped pick, yes? Frank just slants differently which is another compensation, right? Please correct me if I’m wrong on that!

Still struggling with playing things that are appropriate for my picking mechanic, although I can sort of just “left hand” my way through it, although it feels a lot like cheating…

So yeah, I am trying to get that super comfortable looking Martin Miller/Frank Gambale/Everybody but me look and sound to my playing Maybe I’ll have it a bit more together in a couple more weeks, thanks in advance for any suggestions/input.

One thing that I really, really, really need to get through my head is this kind of thinking that “alternate picking solves everything” kind of thing… I mean, Frank Gambale doesn’t do Yngwie, now does he? Michael Batio doesn’t do those Eric Johnson Two note per string Pentatonic in odd note groupings right? Yngwie doesn’t do Vai, and Satriani doesn’t do Paul Gilbert… Not just “one way” to solve everything, now is there?

OK back to practice…

(Just watched this morning, dammit that elbow is LOCKED on the faster stuff… thought I was close, but nope I think I am doing a sloppy version of what I always do. Might be hopeless, lol - But perhaps I will try spreading my other fingers out on my picking hand and see what that changes…)

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As I review more material on this site and compare it to my own playing, I am thinking that a more strategic approach to playing might be in order… alternate picking for even-numbered groups of notes on a string or single string stuff. Sweeping or hammers/pulls for odd-note stuff, hybrid pick on other things, crosspiece some stuff etc etc Kind of a working with my strengths as opposed to against them trying to impose my will (and “one-way” approach…) on the music I study…

String tracking is something I think I need to consider here also as my hand seems to be comfortable for, oh about 3 strings, but has to kind of reach for the next 3, especially the last. Lots to learn, that’s for sure…