One-page explainer on playing scales with alternate picking — overview of what we know!

Wait, isn’t Andy Wood’s natural position pronated? I mean, based on the videos in that link you posted it looks slightly pronated, although pretty close to neutral, but maybe my sense of “neutral” is off. If that’s not pronated, then what is? If he pronated his wrist much further, the lower strings would get in the way of his thumb, particular if he’s playing on the B or high e strings. Are you only able to pronate when playing the lower strings ala Brendon Small’s elbow technique?

Also, wouldn’t a supinated position be more ideal for upstroke escape?

Anyway, it of course makes sense that using a shallower pickslant alleviates this problem, I was just hoping there was something I had missed.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure a helper motion is even compatible with my technique since I use wrist flexion on the downstroke and wrist extension on the upstroke to get the upstroke escape happening. I can’t even turn it off now, which kind of sucks since I can’t do DSX at all anymore, even though it was my main technique for years.

I think the textbook wrist-based pronated DSX is Molly Tuttle’s pronated form, leaning the thumb side of the heel of the hand against the bridge.

Andy makes the 2:00 wrist motion as his default. This wrist motion will escape from any arm position except the most supinated ones. Both he and Al switch between having both palm heels anchored, to having only the pinky heel anchored. The 2:00 wrist motion will escape from either of those positions.

Andy is never really pronated, where the pinky heel is lifted off the strings with an air gap beneath it like Molly Tuttle. But again, it doesn’t really matter what the arm position is. If you’re making a 2:00 wrist motion it will escape with any of these arm positions, except a Van Halen style arm position.

If you want to get both escapes from the same arm position, with minimal forearm wiggle, you need at least some supination of the arm relative to the strings so that the upstroke will escape (3:00 motion) and the downstroke will escape (2:00 motion). So you can’t use a Molly style arm position for that if these are your wrist motions. You would need to use Molly’s wrist motions which are 3:00 and 4:00.

Let me add also that this type of super-technical description that I’m giving you here is useful for us to know how things work, and it helps us come up with simple and more practical ways to teach these techniques. But nobody, myself included, is sitting around going really slowly and thinking “ok, now 2:00 motion! and now, transition to 3:00!” I can’t even feel these things when playing. I’m just trying to play smoothly and somewhat speedily to avoid stringhopping at first, and then working from there. The whole process we outlined in the other thread.

Ok yeah I just looked up footage of her playing and it’s definitely pronated more than I expected. The way she collapses her thumb into her palm is so alien to me, but I have weirdly pointy thumb joints so I guess that’s why I didn’t think it was possible.

And she is an extreme example. I’m not sure where anatomists or CTC would draw the line between “neutral” and “pronated”, but I’m sure it’s not as extreme as Tuttle’s setup. @Troy probably describes these things in CTC terms in the Primer, but I’m not caught up.

I just describe pronated as any situation where the bones are tilted compared to the plane of the strings. In practical terms this just means there has to be an air gap under the pinky heel. I don’t know if Molly is an extreme example of that, or if most people are just used to looking at players who are not actually pronated, like Al Di Meola, and thinking they are. So Molly maybe looks extreme compared to that.

Either way I think we may have confused people about the arm thing. It doesn’t control the wrist motion being made. The Wood / Di Meola “2:00” wrist motion can be made at any arm position. We’ve seen examples here on the forum of players doing that with a pronated arm, which is common on the low strings when players anchor on the body temporarily. But they don’t necessarily change the picking motion when they do that, which is why the escape appears even more vertical in that position. i.e. It’s the same motion, just with the arm turned.

The further along we get, the less we rely on technical descriptions as we figure out more practical tricks for teaching, like table tests. I’m not sure anyone should really be fussing with their arm position beyond learning a few simple anchor points and then just trying to play smoothly.


I am filled with adrenaline reading this.
As a chronic stringhopper for thirteen years, the ‘just do what comes naturally’ advice was utterly infuriating. It led me to believe that there was some sort of fundamental, physiological problem with my picking hand.

The most common refrain in alternate picking ‘lessons’ was always:

‘When you think about it, it’s actually easy to alternate pick on a single string. The problem is SWITCHING STRINGS. Here are some exercises. Start with the metronome at 70bpm. In six months you’ll be shredding.’

Even prestigious publications like Guitar Techniques from the UK would sagely prescribe this path.

Hey @Troy, I’m curious about this, my understanding was that at this point in time we may not have any record /proof of anybody using pure-double escape for all strokes at faster than ‘medium fast speeds’ (relative to your distinction, I get the general tempos you’re probably referring to) BUT we also don’t have any reason to think it couldn’t work.

I know it’s a bit moot as for 3NPS scales it’s also not necessary, but is this a “it will most likely not work” kind of thing, or a "we haven’t seen it work yet so it’s more sensible to exclude it as a good strategy for ‘faster than medium fast’ " kind of thing, or something else?

Sorry bad choice of words. “Double escape” isn’t a technique just a way of describing what a motion looks like. Any curved motion could be “double escape” if oriented properly to the strings, and as we know EVH style forearm technique creates a curved pickstroke well beyond 200bpm.

I just meant, as you point out, that it’s a moot point for scale playing because it’s not necessary to use only that type of motion all the time so nobody does it as the only motion. However yes if you film fast scale playing amd scale patterns in the 200bpm range you will see double escape pickstrokes in there. On patterns like fours there have to be transitions between escapes somehow and when this happens you will very often see a double escape pickstroke.

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This is really great - but for me I found there were additional factors: string gauge and pick were a large factor on speed and accuracy.