Perhaps many minds are more effective than one

Hey fellow CtC folks, I would love some feedback from you. I play with a trailing edge and USX form which is supposed to be for faster stuff like tremolo picking AND for bluegrass i have adopted a slightly more pronated forearm for double-escaped crosspicking. However, my upstrokes are getting trapped or are at least sticking too much, especially on the upstroke. It’s not smooth and in light of the new wrist movement tutorials i wonder if you have any advice for rectifying this with a trailing edge grip. I have tried a number of things like slight forearm position changes and moving the pick into different positions within the grip, but ‘wrapping’ and pressing techniques used to affect pickslant cannot be done using trailing edge grip. I can feel that i have to work too hard to get the pick through the string on the upstroke.

I generally love the feel and tone of this type of grip, so any tips to get that speed going would be much appreciated. I play jazz and folk and bluegrass, and i find myself in situations where i simply cannot keep up, especially for up-tempo bluegrass and jazz.

Sorry if the quality is not good enough to get a clear look. I can mess around and try to find something better if necessary.

4 string arpeggios:

Turkey in The Straw excerpt:

George Benson Blues excerpt:

Tremolo picking attempt:

3 string crosspicking - I hope!:

Jerusalem Ridge excerpt:

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Thanks for putting all these up! Great playing. The Benson clip really gets the vibe. Re: trailing edge, I was hoping all you backwards-picking weirdos would just get back in line and hold the pick the “normal” way!

Kidding. You are correct, it’s totally something we haven’t addressed in this update, in our aim to shoot for mass, and get the most people covered. But plenty of players play this way so we’ll probably add in a trailing edge chapter to this section at some point.

In the mean, here’s a quick medley of things to look at:

First, single-escape pickstroke done fast. I’m doing downstroke escape but either will work. Notice that the pressing and wrapping of the grip does smooth things out here. Except of course that in the trailing edge world, we’re really looking at varying degrees of pressed. The more pressed, the more edge picking, the more smooth. The way I’m doing it here, I’m getting garage spikes when I go too flat. There may some other change I can make to my arm to get flat to be smoother. You don’t specifically need edge picking to be smooth, you just need the attack to be the same on the upstroke and downstroke.

Second, some country-style improv and you can see I’m using a mix of things here, but it looks like mainly upstroke escape, like Benson, with some occasional double escape — also like Benson. I think this is basically when a Benson-style player would look like up close.

Third, crosspicking. Technically this works fine. And on electric it sounds cool because you have the amp and your treble controls. But trailing edge playing is usually high edge playing, and honestly, with this amount of edge picking, I don’t know that you’re going to get a very “bluegrass” type of sound. It’s gonna be pretty dark. Of the grass players we have interviewed, David Grier and Molly Tuttle both go for a lower-edge sound with more treble, and to me, that tone is the most traditionally “bluegrass”.

So, where do you go from here? Number one issue I’m seeing is that you don’t have a fast single-escape pickstroke yet. Doesn’t matter whether it’s USX or DSX, but you have to have at least one. Otherwise, you’ll never really know what it feels like to be fast and fluid. I can almost guarantee it’s not a “speed” issue, per se, because I can see you’re ready to go in your tremolo clip. You just need to get the edge picking / angle of attack smooth by fussing around with your grip and arm position. Hopefully some of the closeup shots in the medley clip will give you an idea what to shoot for.

Second, try some of the leading edge grips in the lessons. Even if you don’t want to play that way, learning different grips can be hugely instructive, because they feel different, and sometimes lead to slight changes in your form. Sometimes, something that wasn’t working at all with one grip can suddenly pop out of nowhere with a different one. And once you have that, it will be only a matter of time until you get it with all of them.

But single escape speed is the first step. It should be at least 150-160bpm and feel smooth. Don’t try and drill this with exercises, but do make many varied attempts with different arm and grip adjustments until you accidently or otherwise get it right. Even a few seconds of “right” is enough. At least then you have something you can try and reproduce.

Let me know if any of this is helpful.


Thanks Troy, this is really helpful. I can see that with a bit more experimentation I will get the single escape motion down. I have tried this with a deeper edge so I thought that the position of the pick on its pickslant plane (for want of a better term) was the issue. I also see I should straighten the painting on my wall to relieve viewers of unnecessary jarring effects.

The funny thing is that before I joined CtC last year I was a leading edge picker for about 10 years. I didn’t know about CtC at the time and I had just become a huge Benson fan. I arrived at trailing edge picking mainly through trying to find a Benson-esque tone, but I also thought it would help me overcome these same right-hand technical limitations. I stuck with it because I loved the tone and the feel of the pickstroke at this kind of angle of attack. To me it felt more robust compared to leading edge, which sometimes felt like as if the pick was sliding along the length of the string towards the bridge during a downstroke.

Concerning the crosspicking, when I play this way I hold the pick pretty flat but still with trailing edge. I will upload a photo of this later, but it is much flatter than what you are using above. I agree with your point about the dark tone; It’s not something I want for the folk playing because I play with a very loud violinist and I need to project. Is there any mechanical reason why it wouldn’t be possible to achieve a smooth double-escaped motion with flatter trailing edge for bluegrass?

From what you say it may be that I end up with a trailing edge form for certain things like electric playing and a leading edge form for the bluegrass, and why not? I have a feeling that by using this new knowledge I could find a more satisfying electric tone with leading edge anyway.

I’ll concentrate on the single-escape motion for now and see where it takes me.

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It’s both! In the pressing / wrapping chapter, we look at how doing this thumb adjustment is really moving the pick in multiple axes at once. So you can have low edge picking with “dpws” and higher edge picking with “uwps”, or at least less “dwps”.

When you feel the pick grabbing the strings, that means that it’s slanted more toward one pickstroke than the other, relative to your motion path, which may itself be angled. So it’s tricky, and it took us years to understand this simple concept. But the short story is that by thumb adjustments, forearm adjustments, and approach angle adjustments, you can make any grip or motion be smooth and stop the garage spikes.

Re: using less edge picking, I can’t see how you could be trailing edge like Benson and also have flat edge picking. At that point, you wouldn’t really be trailing edge any more, at least not nearly as much as a Benson player would.

If your goal is bluegrass mechanics and tone, then I think you should do whatever grip and motion gets you to that. And trailing edge, most of the time, isn’t about that. As you point out, a lot of the appeal of trailing edge is the tone and feel of high edge picking, especially when you use a pick designed for that like a Jazz III, where you can go almost 90 degrees and still have some attack. Some players will say that trailing edge also has something to do with the supinated arm position as well, but you can have that with any grip — I think that’s an education / training issue.

Anyway, the fastest route to bluegrass tone is low-degree edge picking and very often a DSX type pickstroke as your default fast pickstroke. David Grier’s technique is totally a textbook for this:

It’s so easy to see what he’s doing in these new clips we’ve filmed. I’d try replicating his grip as closely as you can, as well as his arm position and anchor point, and see if you can get a fast DSX pickstroke happening. Once you have that, you’re really close to doing fast “G Run” type licks and tabbing out of some of David’s tasty runs here is a great next step.