Pentatonic blues scale and USX/DSX practice

Hi all. I made this practice video to practice pentatonic blues scale and USX/DSX. In this video I ascended by USX and descended by DSX. There is a normal speed, faster speed, and slow mo version in this video.

One thing that troubles me is how to chunk this lick (riff?). If I chunk by 4 notes then some accents would fall on the blue note, which sounds weird to me. If I chunk from root to root then each chunk seems pretty big and I would forget about the next accent. Any ideas?

Another issue is string noise or buzzing, especially on strings low E and A. Just the slightest movement, like changing strings, would cause them to buzz. It is quite annoying. What should I do about it?

Appreciate your comments. Thank you!

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Just a note to avoid further confusion!

It’s DSXdownstroke escape (formerly UWPS), and USXupstroke escape (formerly DWPS).


Oops thank you @Johannes I will fix my post

And, about your video! A few things jump out.

Firstly, at those speeds I don’t think you have to worry about chunking all that much. If you goal is to play it at shredding speeds, then of course chunking comes into play.

Also, at the speed you’re playing at, you can use almost any motion and it will work just fine. Again, if you aim to play this at a much higher tempo you need to find a motion that works at those speeds. I’m saying this because you won’t find that motion at the speed you’re using now.

Right now you seem to be using a double escape motion when “downward slanting”, and a more efficient single escape motion when “upward slanting”. In other words a DSX motion.

Finally, the way the notes are arranged and laid out in your pentatonic scale lick, it is not really as simple as using USX when ascending and DSX descending. Some of the string changes require a downstroke escape, others an upstroke escape, in both directions!

If I were you, I would take a close look at how this line could be rearranged to be played using a single escape motion, by moving some of the notes to another string and fret, perhaps adding some strategic pulloffs or hammer-ons.


Thank you @Johannes! About chunking, I wanted to play this at higher speed and I thought chunking this lick would be a start. How would you suggest I achieve a higher speed?

I am not sure where I did a Double Escape. Could you point that out? Certainly I did not mean to do that as I have not learned what double escape actually is.

I thought I laid it out that when ascending all the string change would happen on an upstroke, and when descending all string change would happen on a downstroke. I will take a look again.

Thank you

Sorry, my bad! You’re absolutely right. I tried playing along to check the switching, picking every note, and didn’t notice your strategic slides…

By playing it fast! Assuming you’ve got the notes under your fingers, so to speak. Try it and see.

Regarding the chunking, that depends on the rhythm or pulse I think. In my mind, I hear what you’re playing as 16th notes so digesting it in chunks of 8 notes seems reasonable (an accent every other beat).

When ascending, it looks to me like every pickstroke is escaping, both up- and downstrokes. In other words, the picking motion is curved as opposed to straight(ish). I’m not sure any of this matters though, because when you play it fast you’re likely to use a different motion. The test is – can you play it fast? If not, you need to find a faster motion!

Thank you again @Johannes. Well you are right, I cannot yet play it fast. Not sure yet what motion I should use to play fast. I did watch the whole CtC, but if there is a specific video you think I should refer to please let me know :slight_smile: Thank you!

From hanging around here and having some good progress: Don’t ‘choose’ a motion…experiment until you find a flowing tremolo (at least 16ths at 140 ish bpm). Once you find it - you’ll know types of phrases to go for. If you can do it and don’t know what it is - post it here.

Thank you very much @Thegent. I have been experimenting and still pretty noob at tremolos so far. About 80-90 bpm of 16ths. Will keep experimenting. Thank you.

Looking at your video you could experiment with ‘tightening’ up the space between your index finger and thumb (see the pic). Then go for it at speed. This is by no means meant as a ‘correct’ way - just one aspect that struck me you could try differently.

This kind of experimentation felt really weird to me at first…like my first reaction sometimes is 'there is no way I would even want to get used to this’, however that goes away. It always goes away. As long as there is no persistent tension that feels like it’s ‘jamming you up’ or pain, then go for it - at speed (e.g. 16ths at 140bpm) . Be free to sound terrible in the name of breaking new ground. I wish I had done this 30 years ago.

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Hi @Thegent. I have been experimenting with this pick hold for about a week now and I do feel some changes. Mostly I feel when I hold it the way you taught me my picking hand doesn’t do a “fan” motion so much and I THINK it moves more linearly. Just several days ago I started to notice that when I downstroke my picking hand would pull away, for some reason, which results in kind of a “fan”, double-escape motion. Applying your pick hold helps to keep my picking hand in a more linear axis to some degree. I have also discovered different results depending on how much of a “gap” I leave between my index finger and thumb as your referred to. I felt that when I’m trying to go faster I have more success when I tuck my index finger and thumb as close as possible to each other, which leaves very little “gap.” Now when I play I subconsciously tell myself “OK, fast lick coming up, better tuck your fingers in tighter!” and then when that lick is over I would relax my fingers again. Is this what others do as well? Am I doing it right? It feels weird that I change picking method just for a single bar and then change back.

Thank you

I experienced the same thing at first - changing hand positions to play my fast motion - adjusting that gap. That went away eventually in my case. I used to fan my fingers out too…however the picture above is now my default without trying…it also just happened with time and not thinking too much about it.

If your getting results - I’m pumped for you! It’s a thrill to get results for sure. I went back to the primer several times to cherry pick certain videos as I was learning about matching picking grip with arm set-up…it helps to get these concepts as you find things that work vs. don’t.

@Thegent speaking of your default, are you anchoring by pinky touch, or palm on bridge, or not anchoring at all? I can’t tell by the photo. Thank you.

I notice I tend to anchor with the pinky as I get to the higher (E and b) strings (more of a touch than an anchor). Definitely anchoring with palm as I love to Palm mute…although this is a challenge for me the higher strings…come to think about it - just as I reach out my pinky I struggle to palm mute. Eureka. Will have to look at that.

Yes I also do pinky touch. Are you saying you only pinky touch for higher strings, and not lower strings? For a long time I thought pinky touch was wrong, until I saw EJ do it as well and I felt much better :slight_smile:

Yes, just for higher strings. I don’t think there is a wrong if it feels smooth and you get the music you want our of it…took me coming to CtC to figure that out tho.

@Thegent I just recorded this practice session before bedtime, and incidentally it was a pretty bad one :slight_smile: seems like I’m not having much luck with accuracy tonight. Nevertheless I still want to share this video with you. In it I’m just trying to go from B string to D string, 2 notes per string, but a lot of times I completely miss the D string by not going high enough when changing from G to D. The lower I go (or higher, relative to one’s body height) my accuracy seems to be less and less. I wonder if this is because of my pinky touching the body, and my pick is going farther and farther away from the pinky? I have no clue. Pretty frustrating to be honest… Some days I can do this with maybe 70ish % accuracy. Other days, like tonight, I can barely get 50%. Appreciate your comments. Thank you!

I can encourage you to experiment and tell you what I do but I’m not great at diagnosing the minutia of someone elses technique…yet. learning alot here. Probably @tommo or @Troy can get in there.

Hi! I haven’t seen this thread before, sorry if we missed this one. As @Johannes and @Thegent are saying, you’re still in search of an efficient picking motion, and the only way to find it is to go fast.

The simplest way we know of for that echoes Michael Angelo Batio’s old advice on “Speed Kills”: “When you find that tremolo, that’s the way you pick fast, that’s the way you pick best - now take that motion, and begin to slow it down”. I mean that’s it, pretty much, in a nutshell.

So basically just choose one note and play as fast as you can. Forget all these patterns and stuff and don’t worry about which joint motion you’re supposed to use or not use. Just wing it and go as fast as you can. Can you get any picking motion going in the 150-180bpm range in terms of sixteenth notes?

That’s the first step, and there’s no way to skip it. If you want to read up on different picking motions you can take a look at some of this:

But again try not to overthinking thijngs, and just go fast and see what happens.

I had a chance to watch your video. …I’ll give it a go. The 2 notes per string phrases you are doing are pretty difficult at first - I wouldn’t recommend starting here. Try getting a tremolo going first as mentioned above. My 2 notes per string didn’t come along until after I started to cement my three notes per string playing.

With respect to the tremolo…to reiterate what has been mentioned - go for a fast speed…let it fall apart…let it sound bad - then try something else…likely something that’s a little awkward…something you wouldn’t normally try. Don’t think about it to much, just play around like there is nothing to lose. If you post a video - show where you fall apart…everyone here is really good at catching the reasons for it.