Pendulum Picking & Escape Motion Issue (Three Questions + Videos)

Hello there, I love what you have made here Troy, great stuff. Hopefully this is not too much :grimacing: I just have three questions for this ascending run & lick I crafted, though I’ve added quite a few videos and some tabs for more context if needed :wink: I’m traditionally more of a blues player, and recently made a commitment to work on my right hand speed and efficiency. I tend towards USX motion as well as DWPS and a supinated forearm (let me know if you see otherwise), I feel this may have developed as I play with my guitar hung lower when I’m standing up. For the sake of this post I’m going to separate the run into two sequences—two questions for the 1st sequence, and just one question for the 2nd sequence (questions are below). I’m of course open to any other technical critiques, if I’m string-hopping, etc. (which I probably am at the moment as a compensation for my lack of proper wrist mobility/technique)

First I will include a brief video of the full lick at a moderate speed, just so you get an idea of the whole picture before we get into Sequence 1

Questions For Sequence 1 (Videos Below)

  1. I’m mixing legato in with these ascending fours for musical purposes; I’m using this whole run in the middle of a speed-metal alternate picking exercise—in that spirit my picking approach for this run is with my right-hand constantly moving as if I’m picking every note. Meaning for every hammer-on in this sequence my right-hand strokes even though it’s not hitting the string, what I call a ghost-stroke, again as a result there is a constant motion in my picking hand as if I’m picking every note. Ben Eller sent me a message creatively calling it Pendulum picking, which I will coin it as here for this post. I’ve been told some blue grass players do this to stay locked in on legato runs. My question is what do you think of this approach and is it efficient or inefficient for this run? I still have to develop it more, sometimes I feel the ghost-stroke itself has a slight string-hop to it, or it at least requires a bit of extension in the wrist to not hit the string during said “ghost stroke”. I’m open to other picking patterns or approaches if this is considered to be inefficient or not ideal. It does have an interesting feel to it, keeping a constant rhythm of the right-hand even through the legatos.
  2. (Granting the approach I mentioned above is sound) With this picking pattern, and my tendency of USX motion and DWPS, there are two moments in each measure where there is no escape motion for my picking hand (I’m going to put asterisks next to those two moments in the tab just below the videos). Mixing in DBX motion or TWPS for those moments with this specific pattern seems a bit off to me, I’m definitely open to doing that if it’s the best option and if it will serve me in the long run. But another option I’m considering and leaning more towards is Swiping. So my question is what would be the best way to solve the escape motion issue for this run? I’m also open to any other suggestions as well (little fyi I use heavier gauges for my lower strings, and a 1.14mm pick)

HD Videos For Sequence 1

The Tab For The Ascending/Repeated Pattern In Sequence 1

D = Downstroke
U = Upstroke
(D) or (U) = Ghost Stroke, which is not hitting the string, but stroking up or down as if I am, explanation is in Question 1. In effect “Pendulum Picking”
H = Hammer-On
***** = the asterisks is where my escape motion question is (In Question 2)

__ 1__________________2 ________________ 3 <------------Beat Count

___D __(U)___D ****U ___D __(U) __D __(U) __ D ****U __(D)___U

Picking Hand ^^^ (Pendulum Picking) ^^^

I tend to count this run in beats of threes. My goal is to get between 150 & 160 bpm in a couple months. My final question is below :slight_smile:

HD Videos For Sequence 2

Question For Sequence 2

  1. This last question is for the final part of the lick, specifically starting from the 7th to 9th fret hammer-on on the G string (in the 2nd tab line below), this is where the ascending 4s end and the run pivots (we’ll call this the pivot). So given that I’m pendulum picking the entire 1st sequence before this, I’m stuck deciding whether I should keep pendulum picking through the entirety of the lick, or if after the pivot I should switch to traditional alternate picking (alternating strictly based on which direction the previous string was picked). I feel after the pivot if I suddenly switch motions from pendulum picking at high speeds to traditional alternate picking, it may constrict or confuse the rhythm in my picking hand. My question is would it make more sense and be more efficient to continue pendulum picking the entire rest of the lick? The only resistance I have to pendulum picking the rest of it is because as a blues player I’m not used to, as you can see in the tabs, three consecutive down strokes in the higher register (even though there are pull-offs in-between). I’m not sure if it will have transferable value with how I normally play my leads, but I’ll do it for this run if switching the picking approach at high speeds may complicate my mechanics.

    Hope this made sense, thank you so much for your time!

Sequence 2 Tablature

__ 1__________________2 ________________ 3 <------------Beat Count

___D __(U)___D ****U ___D __(U) __D __(U)___D ****U __(D)___U

__ 1_________________2 __________________ 3________________

___D __(U) __D _ (U)___D __(U) ___D **** U ___D __ (U) __ D __(U) :point_left: Pendulum
__________________Pivot :point_up_2:* ******U ___ D ___U ________D _____:point_left: Alternate

End Of Lick
___ 1___________________2 _________________ 3____________

___D ***** U _ _D ____U __(D)___U____D____U____________D :point_left: Pendulum
___U _ __ D _ _U ____D________U____D____U____________D :point_left: Alternate

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Welcome to the Forum @Matthew! Wow, there is a lot to digest here :slight_smile:

I’ll limit myself to addressing what I think are the most important issues (and the things I feel qualified to comment on :slight_smile: ). Also, reading back what I wrote below, in my attempt to address your questions directly I may sound over-critical. So let me clarify that this all sounds pretty good already!

General observation: I think your setup should work well for USX-only playing (Yngwie/EJ/Gypsy stuff). I can see that you also can do the occasional downstroke string change, but when that happens things look a little string-hoppy to me.

So, for now let’s work with USX. I’ll also tag @Troy and make a small selection of your videos so he and others may sanity check what I am saying.

First: the way you have arranged the ascending fours is not exploiting the full power of USX:

As you also noticed, there are two string changes per cycle where you find yourself trapped and end up with a downstroke swipe. With the fours there is alway a way to place hammer-ons and pull-off so that you never have to do the downstroke string change. I don’t remember the exact sequence off the top of my head, but can try to tab it out later if needed, let me know :slight_smile:

I am also not sure that this “pendulum picking” thing is helping your timing - in my own playing I find that legato timing is already a hard thing in itself - not sure things would get easier by adding another coordination challenge for the right hand on top of that.
Moreover - I can’t really see the “ghost alternate picking” that you are describing for all the notes, in the legato passages I see something that looks more similar to the circular trajectory of repeated downstrokes.

My personal suggestion would be again to just find a USX-compliant version of the sequence, and work on its timing within the motions of that system.

Now let’s talk about sequence 2 :slight_smile:

“Pendulum” version

“Traditional Alternate version”

Here I am pretty sure that the “traditional” version is stringhopping: the picking motions look very vertical and I’d be surprised if this can be sped up significantly without enormous effort (if at all possible!) But of course only you can check that. So I’d dismiss it and only work on the “pendulum” version.

Here all the string changes can be made USX- compliant, except this small segment with the back & forth between the E and B strings:


For this you can (i) swipe it or (ii) use hybrid on the high E (so play ad Down - pluck - Down). In either case, your focus should be on getting the lick fast & smooth within the USX system. Again I’d focus on timing, speed and USX compliance rather than ghost notes / pendulum picking (But this is my personal view).

Phew… hope this helps somehow but of course let us know if not!

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@Matthew one more thing I should add: as a more basic sanity check it would be also interesting to see your USX motion in action on something simpler, e.g. the chromatic fours or Yngwie 6s across a couple of strings.

I.e., something with an even number of notes per string, starting on a downstroke. The idea is that you want to make sure your USX motion can be done smoothly (and fast!) in the “best case scenario”, before applying it to more intricate patterns (e.g. the ones above that mix picking and legato).

This is our main reference on the topic:


Thanks for the welcome Tommo :slight_smile: and for your post, yes I was thinking of separating the two sequences into different topics with a time window in-between to make it easier to digest, but thought together the context made more sense–but it is a fat meal for sure haha so thanks for your patience. And no worries about coming off over-critical at all! That’s why I’m here :+1:

General observation: I think your setup should work well for USX-only playing (Yngwie/EJ/Gypsy stuff). I can see that you also can do the occasional downstroke string change, but when that happens things look a little string-hoppy to me.

Yes exactly, good eye, this is where I haven’t committed to either swiping or perhaps a DBX motion in those instances, because of not knowing which approach would better serve this run. I’ve experimented with both, but still not sure hence my post; so I allowed any little hops that may potentially be there to be, until I got clarity on which direction I should go in. To either swipe or mix in different motions.

Yes definitely! Very curious to see that. If I’m not exploiting full power I would definitely love to know what that is :man_superhero:

I definitely hear what you’re saying regarding committing to USX and the best way to utilize this run from there, 100%. That’s actually an approach I would like to know more about for the hammer-ons in this run, so I’m glad you brought that up.

In regards to the downstroke string changes, I’m mainly curious about that in so far as when I’m improvising I want to have something in my pocket that can also make the downstroke string changes smooth on command if I come across it, like you eloquently put, all about making it smooth. Because I do tend to come across it… so for my knowledge I guess one way to look at it for this run specifically, and maybe to clear some fog I may have added with all the legato I’ve brought up, is with USX motion if I start on a down-stroke and my approach is to pick every single note in this ascending 4s pattern, what would be the best way to solve the escape motion issues in each cycle? Because it would be the same two down-stroke string changes if I chose to pick it with no hammer-ons

I ask that for my :brain: and the potential practice I can make of it. With that said, again I definitely am open and appreciate your suggestion of a USX compliant version with no downstroke string changes, curious to see what that looks like :wink:

Ahh yes spot on, this is something I’ve seen too. Now correct me if you feel I may be wrong, but one of the reasons I feel that is, is because my strict alternate picking speed is very slow at the moment. I can’t even strictly alternate pick the 4s at the speed I played it at, so when I recorded the videos the “ghost-strokes” are happening at a tempo quicker than what I’m used to. So the dexterity in my wrist isn’t at a point where it would look like fluid alternates, but more like repeated downstrokes like you said. I guess I have this feeling if I slowed down my playing and spent time working out the rhythm it would look different. Any thoughts on that? and just out of curiosity what are your thoughts on alternate ghost strokes vs. circular trajectory of downstrokes, is circular trajectory of downstrokes considered to be not an efficient approach overall?

Hahaha here my hand is hopping like a bunny rabbit, yeah definitely I was actually cramping I remember. I kept switching between the two approaches for filming and my right hand not being that good anyway was having some difficulty. But yes no speed will come from that lol I’ve gotten it smoother before with alternate picking, but I feel you may be right, it may just get confused coming off the pendulum picking

Will definitely look at your “best case scenario” suggestion as well!

Hey Matthew!

I think the priority should be to get rid of string hopping - or more generally to make sure you have at least one picking motion that is hop-free. We can come back to the fours later, based on what your most efficient motion looks like.

So I’d start directly from here:

Could you make 2 simple magnet videos (regular speed + slomo in the same video) with these things?

  1. the fastest tremolo you can do on a single string
  2. a pattern with an even # of notes per string on your favourite pair of string. You don’t even need to fret anything fancy with the left hand - even open strings or a “power chord” shape are ok

Yes definitely!

USX motion is my tendency for 75% of my playing, but man I was never fast at it or couldn’t really tremelo with it at all. So there definitely has to be something off with my mechanics, be it my wrist or forearm. I always assumed, and still do, that it was because I never built the tremelo speed up slowly with that motion. So here are the two videos with my attempt at a magnet view from two different zoom-ins. I was in a bit of a hurry, and if you can believe it my forearm was tensing a bit even at this speed. On some of the other takes it looked like I had a no-escape motion going on just to be able to tremolo better.

I thought this 3rd video would be insightful, I have noticed that I can tremelo much better on one string when my forearm is very pronated and I have a DSX motion going on. My wrist just tends to fly better, I’m not great at it and never ever practice it since I’m playing USX motion most of the time. But if I ever need to tremelo on one string in an impromptu jam and the speed is above my USX tremelo capabilities (which most are), I’ll then pronate strong and DSX motion tremelo. I’m saying this because maybe it will reveal something to you and Troy that I’m not seeing. If I may, I’ll include a brief video of that below too :slight_smile:

Thanks so much!

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Thanks for doing these!

The third video (DSX) is definitely the most promising - it looks much more efficient than the others so it appears my USX diagnosis was wrong!

I’d start from there and work on licks that only change strings after a downstroke - try a variety of patterns and tempos (including fast from the get go!) and let us know how it goes!

I see that is interesting, all of my playing and performances come with USX (most of my speed is left handed legato). Which is why I’d like to change that :slight_smile:

I would like to solve my USX motion cause that is where my playing is at the moment, from the studio to playing live. I appreciate all the help, but is there something faulty or off that is going on with my USX mechanics? As far as why it’s slower and just more tense than the tremelos of my DSX, or is it just a matter of putting in the time to slowly build my USX?

I ask because it’s strange to me since most of my playing life, be it rock or blues has mainly been with a somewhat supinated arm and USX motion, yet somehow my pronated DSX motion on the tremelo is freer, faster, and less tense. So I wonder if something is off with my USX that I’m not seeing.

Thank you :pray:

Try experimenting with a more centralized arm position so that USX and DSX are ‘close by’. I started with a pronated DSX (which I still use often and love) however once I adapted my DSX to more centralized (or ‘neutral’?), my USX advanced.


Thanks for your reply :slight_smile: Ok when you say neutral are you referring to my forearm or my wrist?

I feel perhaps my wrist may have too much of an Ulna deviation at its starting point on my USX motion.

But then again I’m not sure it could be fine, I haven’t gotten feedback yet if that is the case. My concern is if there’s something wrong with my mechanics on my USX motion, if not then great I’ll just practice some more. But if so I’d like to resolve that or at least know what that is just so I’m not working on something that may hold me back in the long run.

Hey Matthew!

In short, I think you currently have 2 motions: a inefficient USX and an efficient DSX

In the near term, you can keep using the USX wherever it works (unless you have pain/discomfort from it) - but if you want to melt the audience’s faces with a fast-picked run, you should briefly change into your DSX position.

Will talk more about the USX form later, gotta run now!

I hear you - I struggled with USX fo a long time after getting DSX. When I say ‘neutral’ I mean the point most inbetween pronation and supination (arm set up). As @tommo notes, your DSX is great, you can shred with this movement.

Ok, I’m back :smiley:

The evidence so far suggests that you [as in: anyone] can’t fix an inefficient motion by just hammering at it - you have to change it into another more efficient motion!

So again your DSX is great, just start shredding with it ASAP (and make sure you pick compatible lines!).

What is the reason why your USX has a speed bump? Not sure, but I noticed a little thing: your downstrokes seem to climb up a bit after the rest-stroke one the higher string. Can you see this in the slo-mo videos? In the 2-notes per string example it is more noticeable, but I think it happens a bit also on the tremolo.

This could just be an inertia thing, and that would be fine, but it could be that your hand is actually pulling the pick up after the downstroke - and this is something you need to avoid because it easily leads to string-hopping within your setup.

So, maybe you can concentrate on making the movement more linear, just go straight in and out of the string plane, knowing that the rest stroke will stop the downstroke for you - no effort needed on your part.

Another option is to temporarily try something completely different like a 3-finger grip (a la Steve Morse). Just to make sure you change enough things to move away from old habits. Once you experience the feeling of efficient USX with whatever setup, you’ll know what to look for with the old setup as well.

@Thegent’s suggestion to try more “centralised” arm setups (not super pronated or supinated) is also a good one!


@Thegent Thank you, I see, so you’re saying to be at more of a neutral position between supination and pronation.

Thanks for getting back, and EXACTLY, the former being what I want to solve at this point.

What is the reason why your USX has a speed bump? Not sure, but I noticed a little thing: your downstrokes seem to climb up a bit after the rest-stroke one the higher string. Can you see this in the slo-mo videos? In the 2-notes per string example it is more noticeable, but I think it happens a bit also on the tremolo.

Yes I can see it, good insight, it’s hard to tell whether it’s inertia or not, but there is a “string hoppy” looking quality to the movement. It is very much an unconscious movement if my hand is actually pulling the pick up after the downstroke without inertia, because I don’t even feel it, but I can see it in those videos and this is good to see!

If that is the only thing you’re seeing perhaps there isn’t too much I have to change to get an efficient movement going with USX motion.

I appreciate it very much @tommo. I really hope this isn’t insolent of me, but I also wanted to ask if it was possible for Troy to take a look at my USX motion? I didn’t want to tag him because I’m new here and I felt that would be a bit presumptuous of me, I’m sure he’s very busy, but I also didn’t want to ask out of respect because you’ve also been great. But I’m curious with that one thing you pointed out, what he could see with my mechanics that could also be contributing to my speed bump/efficiency issues in USX. At this point I’m actually making music my career, so I’m gonna start working on building my picking technique but I’m waiting to know exactly what to alter as not to have problems down the road as I build my dexterity, because like you said— you can’t fix an inefficient motion by just hammering at it. So thank you, thus far that insight with the pick seemingly climbing after the rest stroke is one I’m definitely looking into right now, and will start weaning out :+1:

Just a side-note: curious if you ever came across that tab for the hammer-on pattern with the ascending 4s that have no downstroke changes? If you feel that would still be good

Much appreciated :pray:

Small correction. For every arm position you can have, you can (in theory) do both USX and DSX from that position… except for one arm position. The only one that doesn’t work is the one that is exactly parallel with the strings. This is the one you don’t want.

So you always have to be pronated or supinated, you can’t be “in between”. Even if you are very supinated, like Steve Morse or Albert Lee, you can get both escapes from that one arm position. You just have to use a three-finger grip so that your pick attack is symmetrical and you don’t have a pronounced downward pickslant. Once you do these two things, that arm position will in effect be a “centralized” arm position for getting both escapes. This is what @Tommo means when he says “centralized”.

That’s great. Use whatever is working. So far, pronated players we have filmed generally get DSX andt double escape. I don’t think we have filmed a player who is pronated and has a USX motion. Nothing wrong with this. Pronated with DSX and DBX is a lot of picking power and can accomplish lots. You just won’t be playing the EJ fives pattern that way. But you’ll be playing lots of other things.

For your USX test video, this looks good but it’s not super fast. Don’t do 2nps patterns, lots of people have trouble with those and introduces variables that may be misleading. Try not to get fancy, just play a single note on a single string and see if you can go fast. If you can’t, then it’s not right and you can try something else.

Also, keep in mind that when you use an index finger grip like you’re using here, and you use the big wrist flex and the big supination, that’s a DWPS-only approach. Perfectly fine, I play that way a lot when I’m doign Gypsy type stuff, EJ lines and so on. But this a single escape playing position, and comes with its own vocabulary and so on. You’re not going to be switching from this position to pronated in the middle of a line to try and get both escapes.

If you want both escapes while in a supinated position with an index grip, you use less flex and less supination. That’s the Di Meola / Andy Wood approach. That’s the “centralized” pairing for that pick grip.

These test videos are good because they are simple and focus on motions. If you can any of these to work, you can immediately start to use it. Don’t spend too long on this and definitely don’t overanalyze. If it’s not fast and continuous picking motion, it’s not right.

Nice work so far.

I challenge that! (on a theoretical level) :wink:
In a parallel setup I should be able to do 2-8 as well as 4-10 movements (clockface system), aka USX and DSX (don’t know which is which in clockface).
So either string-change should not be a problem.

BUT! Of course Double-escape motions, aka 1nps stuff are impossible or lets say inefficient string hopping, so this setup is not desirable. So from a practical point of view I totally agree.


I’m not understanding this - but I’d like too. First - are we talking about the flat part of the arm being parallel with the string plain? Could you not move your wrist in such a way to escape in one direction at high velocity (lets say 16ths at 150bpm - can choose - USX or DSX) with a ‘parallel’ set up?

Sorry for the confusion! Yes, if you use a parallel arm setup you can still do an Andy Wood type DSX wrist motion and it will escape. This is something you’ll see players do. But you won’t be able to do USX with the wrist because your deviation motion is trapped. So when players use this form you’ll usually see forearm motion creeping in for the USX string changes. Then they get jammed up trying to do things like the inside picking “Paul Gilbert” lick, or 1nps arpeggios, because they need constant forearm motion to do it — which then becomes a whole different technique that’s not wrist motion any more. This is probably what players mean when they say they “use 2wps” to play those kinds of lines. It’s not 2wps, it’s just a wrist-forearm approach that is no longer purely wrist motion.

As @Tom0711 is pointing out you could use also use wrist motion that has flexion-extension in it, and use that for upstroke escape that way. But you couldn’t do that back to back becauase that would be stringhopping. Trust me, I thought of this possibility and looked for it. But I have no evidence that this is something that great alternate pickers actually do.

I didn’t mention any of this because In threads like this I’m trying to stay out of the theoretical weeds and keep things nice and practical for everyone. They already tend to start off with lots more analysis than is necessary, so we’re trying to bring it back to the simplicity of what is your core arm position and motion and is it one of the ones we know to work.

And what we’ve learned about wrist technique is thankfully pretty practical. If you want to make both escapes with wrist motion, there are four combinations of arm position and grip that will work for it across a spectrum from pronated to max supinated. That’s really it. If you want to be Petrucci, Andy Wood, Paul Gilbert, Anton Oparin, Molly Tuttle, and so on, you just have to choose one of these pairings and get your motions happening from that position. If you see small amounts of forearm changes here and there that’s fine don’t worry about it. But at least get yourself in the ballpark of what works right away so you can eliminate the half decade of interviews and trial and error it took us to figure all this stuff out!

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Are referencing going ‘back to back’ between USX and DSX in a DBX attempt? BTW, This is really valuable information for me…gives me more details to consider when things are not working out as I experiment. Stay in the weeds!

Thanks for the great response @Troy! I really appreciate you taking the time, so it seems you didn’t see anything “wrong” with my USX motion is what I gather. Tommo pointed something out that I saw, with USX my downstrokes are “climbing” a bit after my rest-strokes on the adjacent string, and this could be contributing to my lack of tremolo speed. Was curious if you saw this as well, I’m not sure if it’s inertia or not.

Also I have one question and I’ll be out of your hair and back in the woodshed! It’s related to what you said here:

I’ve been practicing my DWPS/USX with two-way escapes today at a slower pace after reading your post. I used to assume any double escape is impossible with a supinated USX/DWPS because of the issues with extension (that many attribute to string hopping), and the only efficient way to change strings after a down-stroke in this arm position and pick-slant was swiping. But as I’ve learned from your Albert Lee video and clock-motion video (great videos btw), you said you can make this motion a double escape by using extension in the wrist on the downstroke and deviation for the upstrokes, that extension downstrokes are not inefficient with a supinated arm because it is utilizing two different muscle groups with upstroke deviation. So assuming I’m on point with what I just stated— my question is would it be inefficient to have a trapped down-stroke USX motion (ala EJ), but when a string change after a down-stroke is required, to shift to two-way escape (extension on downstroke) for those moments?

In a way applying the supinated two-way escape of downstroke extension the same way you would a swipe. I understand Albert Lee doesn’t do this, in the video it shows he keeps downstroke extension even if he’s alternate picking on the same string, but I’m curious if it is inefficient to do it the way I raised in my question.

I ask because I’m working on my USX trem-picking for metal riffs by practicing on Whiplash by Metallica, speeding up over time but at the moment I’m currently trem-picking on the low E on the trajectory of EJ, trapped motion of DWPS and USX. I love that feeling of “digging in” with that motion, but I want to start utilizing two-way escape of downstroke extension for my overall playing, so I’m wondering with arm supination if both can flow together seamlessly (one-way escape of DWPS & two-way escape of downstroke extensions) or if there may be complications.

I hope this made sense :slight_smile: thank you so much, I know you probably spend alot of time answering these questions.