Pathological speed picking limit


Hello, I’m in a pretty desperate situation. I’ve been trying to improve my picking technique for like 5-6 years still can’t get it right. The only thing that worked was the elbow movement but it caused the pain and I had to quit (also I had a huge speed gap between 120 bpm wrist movement and 150bpm elbow movement). After that I tried to play with wrist without paying any attention to my technique, could play any faster than medium speed (120 bpm sixteens/80 bpm sixtuplets), the wrist movement was very erratic and bouncy.

Right now I’m trying to focus on tremolo picking, trying to copy Gilbert’s hand position. I’m practicing 8ths and 16ths and I’m also practicing Paul Gilbert’s four note alt. picking lick. I’m using resting technique (after hitting the string downwards I’m resting on the next one, when I play upstroke I rest on the uppper string from underneath - it kinda helps me to minimize the curve and make sure that the pick won’t bounce far enough). I’m afraid to go any further, because it creates tension in my pinky finger joint instead of forearm muscles.

I’m also using planting technique at slow speeds (instead of hitting the string I slide underneath of it and vice versa to minimize the movements).

I have only two questions,

  1. please watch my short vids and tell me if there’s anything visual that could limit my progress?

  1. Is tremolo picking technique difficult to learn? I’m not talking about alt. picking because I know it’s hard, but what about tremolo picking itself? I’m feeling like there’s something wrong with my hand, because I see newbies who can pick fast without any effort and I’m still stuck after all these years. It’s funny because I can play legato and sweep at 130bpm sixtuplets without a sweat but my picking hand drags me way behind.

I hope I made it clear and I really hope for help.


Hey dude! The most obvious thing I can see that might be holding you back is excessive tension.

In the first video, your bicep and forearm muscles visibly contract quite hard when you start picking - this will slow you down significantly and probably lead to injury.

Check out the Joscho Stephan interview - he’s generating a LOT of volume with his right hand, but he talks about feeling totally relaxed when he plays. It really is key.

Another place where you might be holding a lot of tension is in the index finger knuckle on the right hand. Keeping this knuckle mobile is important for letting the pick flop over the string, especially when you’re swiping outside string changes (like you do in the latter two videos).

See if you can move the pick back and forward using any method you feel comfortable with (wrist deviation, forearm rotation, but probably not elbow if you’ve hurt yourself that way before) but keeping the muscles in your upper arm and forearm as relaxed as possible.


Thanks a lot for pointing out. Yes you are correct, I feel huge tension, mostly in my finger joints, dunno what to say about upper arm tension (ain’t feeling anything), but forearm muscle is used for wrist motion isn’t it? I’ll watch that interview, thanks. I still got nothing to lose, my guitar instructor’s couldn’t help me so I’ll try everything that might (or might not) work. I still can’t pick faster than 120-125 bpm longer than 10 seconds. Also, I’m not going around the string during outside picking, I pierce through it, not sure if that can cause trouble.

I’m also struggling with my index finger tension you pointed out. I’m trying to make my fingers rigid by straightening out the thumb (for making the pick more parallel for better sound) and pressing my middle finger against the index finger. My guitar teacher told me to do this because it minimizes the unnecessary finger movement. I’m not sure if my wrist should be monolithic (from thumb to pinky) with zero finger movement involved or if it acceptable to move index finger/thumb independently (while 3 remaining fingers remain more static/anchored).

What about the movement itself? Is there anything excessive in it (the curve, bouncing?).

Thanks again for help.


Hello. Maybe you should try some different hand positions. I love to watch Gilbert’s picking mechanics, but maybe something different would work better for you. Maybe try resting a finger or fingers on the body of the guitar or just letting them glide across the body etc. I sort of glide my little finger across the body as I pick…it keeps the pick from dipping too low into the strings and keeps only the very tip hitting the string. Not that you have to copy that…but trying some different ways might help. Not touching the body can work great also for many players. I also find that if I just sort of focus all my energy towards where the pick and the string meet and not so much on the picking motion mechanic it just happens more naturally…without thinking about where the motion is coming from. Just some things I thought about reading your post. Good luck to you!


No, I don’t see any stringhopping and the shape of the movement looks fine. It’s textbook downward pickslanting. Do you know what downward pickslanting is, and are you intentionally trying to use it? Because that’s what you’re doing. A lot of people have trouble with this but you are doing just fine.

However downward pickslanting doesn’t really work for the Paul Gilbert lick. And, two, when you use dwps, you cannot use rest strokes when you play an upstroke. So these ingredients do not go together, and will probably just confuse you. If you are going to continue using the dwps setup, then I would only practice lines that fit that setup. If you’re not yet familiar with what that means, then you have some homework to do!

For now, apart from the other great advice in this thread, I would suggest turning off the metronome and just try to play as fast as you can on a single string for a brief amount of time. How fast can you do that and is it comfortable? If not, is there some other way you can move which feels more comfortable? Finding a picking movement that is easy for you is the first step, and again, I would not use a metronome and slowly increase the speed for that.


Wow, thanks alot for advice. Didn’t expect to see Troy himself, cause I know you’re extremely busy, so I appreaciate it.

Yes I guess I use DWPS judging how it looks (arched). Gilbert hand looks more flat. About rest strokes, I hope it’s ok to used them when doing downstrokes. I got used to it, and I use them during slow speed. When I play faster, the movement is becoming more economical.

Practicing without a metronome seems like a good idea. I just tried to play tremolo, starting slowly then accelerating to the max.

Well, this is my maximum speed and stamina for right now.

Looks pretty miserable. Propably out of shape. I can usually play around 110-125 bpm/16ths for 5-10 seconds, after than my hand gets exhausted. Don’t know what to say about feeling comfortable to be honest, because I have no idea what it feels like (I always struggled with tension), but I’m pretty used to it. Feels a bit tight, have to forcefully push my wrist up and down, instead of shaking it loosely. It feels better at slower speeds though. I’ll try to practice without metronome for stamina.


Hm, that seems low, not because of the speed itself, but because it doesn’t really look like you are pushing yourself physically. How about this: if you tap on a desk with your hand, each tap would be like a downstroke. How fast can you do that? Much faster than this?


Yeah, in this particular video is not my best performance. My maximum speed’d be like 125-128 for no longer than 10-15 secs. But I guess that’s low too. I can’t physically push myself further (also it creates unbearable tension my finger knuckles instead of forearm muscles don’t know why).

Tap with my fingers? Just tried it and can do it like at 180bpm 16ths. I used to be able to play downstrokes at 160-180bpm, maybe I am able to do it now. Although my downstroke technique is too different from tremolo because I can’t fuse it with tremolo. Also my upstrokes are at the same speed with tremolo (110-120bpm 8ths). I can record my downstrokes if you want.


My point is that there is probably nothing pathological about your speed - 180bpm 16ths is exactly the middle of the speed poll we took. 50% of the people who took the poll were worse than that, and 50% were better. But overall, most people were in that range.

So now that we know there is nothing wrong with your hands, it’s up to you to try all the picking movements we know of to see which one is the fastest for you right now, without needing massive work. I don’t think this is something you should work on for any great length of time. Just find the movement that’s easy and then move on to musical type practice that uses that movement.


Ok. I just tried three attempts to play fast tremolo by any means possible and here’s the result.

The first one seems to be the easiest (using elbow), in the next vids I use thumb, although I’m not sure. It’s a bit harder to click into it. I find finger thumb picking more comfortable for downstrokes and gallops. Also I have to raise my forearm for that.

However, I can’t play any slower than that with such technique. Only from like 160bpm 16ths. I guess Batio was talking about the gap between playing slow and fast. Dunno how to solve it. I guess I should try to improve my technique I showed in the first post and make my technique two-phased (wrist for the slower and finger/elbow for the faster tempos).

I have a final question. My guitar instructor said that Gilbert’s pure wrist picking technique is the most effective to teach/learn in terms of motion/sound compared to other ones. He told me that it suits everyone without exception and it’s much faster to obtain. Is that true? Or there are some things that are might work only for certain people.

Anyway, thanks a bunch for making things clear.


These all sound awesome! They are waaaay better than the other videos. Use any of these, and use them with dwps type lines - read up on why this works and how it works.

It doesn’t matter if the Gilbert method is the best. We have no way of measuring that. And even if we did, it doesn’t matter because these other methods are working better for you right now, so use them.

Great work here.


Ok. I’ll try that. Dunno how long will it take and if you’ll succeed at it, but gotta try.

If I can sweep and legato like this.

Some basic stuff like tremolo picking shouldn’t be a problem, but funnily enough it is.

Anyway thanks for the free advice, sorry for bothering so long and I hope I’ll get my results soon and I wish you all achieving great results as well.


I hate to be the one to say it, but your instructor is wrong about the Gilbert “pure wrist” technique. Yes, it’s certainly effective, but it’s definitely not the most effective, and DEFINITELY doesn’t suit everyone. Based on your legato/sweeping video he’s obviously doing many things right, but he’s way wrong on this. Dangerously wrong, in fact.

There are a number of motion mechanics, all equally effective if (and this is the important bit) YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE DOING THEM. The proof is in your own videos.


Yeah, I think you’re right. I think that if Batio or Vinnie Moore would try to copy Gilbert’s way of picking instead of coming up with their own, they’d be propably stuck for years.


Amen to that. And not everyone has Gilbert’s alien-like physique.


I watched a youtube video by Adam Neely where he advised a young bassist he needed to relax into the activity he was performing. Tension kills any efficiency to me it seems.


That’s damn impressive legato. I’m astounded that you’re having so much trouble with single string tremolo after watching that vid.

But yeah, in order to reach the 160+ bpm, my technique changes from wrist to elbow. Probably more of a mixture.