Petrucci Exercise

Ok I got some clips together. I should add that the act of filming myself makes me worse than when I’m just practicing regularly, so none of this is quite as clean/even as what I normally do.

Here’s the whole thing at 180 at what I consider acceptable. Again, not my best work and I’m aware I drift from the click a little. Usually it feels bang on and I could repeat this 3 or 4 times without feeling like tension starts to creep in. I’m fine calling this my fastest ‘clean’ speed, on good days.

And here’s the bursts, as well as an effort of slopping through it all at 190 at the end:

@Troy and @tommo, let me know what you think at your convenience. Others obviously are free to offer feedback. Again, I never intended this to be a technique critique. These clips are really posted as a reference of what I’m doing and my theory on how to get it better/cleaner/faster over time by using the bursts to ‘live in’ the upper limit more, just like Martin Miller says in the clip posted earlier in the thread.


I think you should go to 200 BPM. That already sounds acceptable enough for me to think within a day or so you could hit 200 BPM if you dropped all the work at other speeds and just had a singular focus on that speed.

Thanks man. I’m not opposed to trying that at all! What have a I got to lose besides a day or too? I’ve honestly never tried playing anything at 200. I should not expect to get there without playing something at 200 at some point. FWIW, this whole thing is to get me to the point where 170 - 185 feels like cake. I don’t enjoy too much music where solos are going that quick (i.e 200bpm+). I of course respect the hell out of anyone who plays clean at those speeds.

Side note/question I remember another thread where you offered to detail the regiment that yielded your (AMAZING) progress over the past couple years. Is that still in the works? You’ve got my curiosity and full attention :slight_smile:

Ah ok, I was going by the original post you made that said you wanted a rep or two at 200 BPM as a personal goal. Either way, you’re more or less 95% done with this. I think another week or so and you can stick a fork in this and move onto something else.

And thank you… Yes I need to get on that, it will be a long post, but work has been nuts. I am going to bump that thread that Rego made to make sure he is still going, too, so thanks for the reminder. Congrats once again on the progress. It would be nice to see you just jack that metronome up to 200, even 210-220, and just say fuck it and go for it.

Ah right, I did say it was a personal goal. True. Just an ego/macho thing. Seeing Petrucci rip through that exercise at 200 back when I was a young lad of 17 was just mesmerizing and I always thought ‘Some day!!!’

Regarding your suggestion to just go for it at 200 or more, are you meaning the whole exercise or to the proposed forward chaining with the small chunks? Or both? I’ve got a decent number of votes from both camps, just curious on your opinion since you’re obviously living proof of someone who whose been through significant speed increases. Did you ever use small bits with brief pauses as you were building speed or did you always just go for it with longer phrases that were already ‘under your fingers’?

Thanks for filming these!

What I’m seeing here is that you’re using a form that we typically think of as a the Gypsy type form, which is usually for USX motion, downward pickslantinga, and so on. But your picking motion appears to be elbow, which is DSX, not USX, where downstrokes need to be the last note on the string, and so on.

In other words, it looks like a mismatch. Which motion type are you shooting for here, USX with downward pickslanting? Are you trying to make sure the last note on every string is an upstroke, and so on? Because if that’s the case, that could be an issue. If I think I’m supposed to be playing DUDU on every string but my motion is really doing UDUD, that will mess me up big time. It will be impossible to synchronize because the pickstroke I think I’m feeling isn’t the one I’m feeling.

I may be wrong here. A Magnet view would make this clearer. Maybe @Tommo can look too. But anyway, my recommendation is to try and use Brendon Small’s form which is the more common form for DSX elbow:

When you do this, you’ll need to rearrange the phrases you’re playing so the last note on every string is always a downstroke. If you want to do sixteenths, then you’ll have to create a pattern which does that. Because the Petrucci lick as written is probably DUDU on every string, aka USX motion. We didn’t get good camera angles on that one so we can only guess but that’s what I think.

So. Go forth and pronate, like Brendon. Find a lick that switches strings on downstrokes. Synchronize on the intial downstroke of a repeating pattern, and see if you can chunk that better / more cleanly. And see if it feels smoother to you.

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FYI I moved the videos and their replies to a “Technique Critique” thread so they don’t get lost in the longer discussion of “bursting”.

The em-effing sound he gets starting the 21:50 mark I would pay TENS OF DOLLARS TO BE ABLE TO DO THAT IMMEDIATELY hooooooboy

{coughs} {adjusts shirt collar} is it hot in here?!

that’s a good video and this website continues to be amazing


Absolutely. Do you suspect I’m not doing this?

Hmmm. You’ve lost me there. I’m definitely playing DUDU on each string. I don’t understand what you mean when you say “my motion is really doing UDUD”. I’ve read enough posts to know DSX and elbow are typically the pairing, and if I had an escaped downstroke that UDUD is the natural way to play, but I am not using escaped downstrokes at all, that I can tell, even when I slow the videos down to 25%. The pick always looks like it goes up in the air. Sort of like Zakk Wylde. All his stuff is USX but he’s totally an elbow mechanic. When I was working on the motion I tried tried getting the picking to move as fast as I could move it as per what I hear recommended on the forum. I thought the general consensus as of late was if it’s fast and smooth, who cares what the actual movement is. I’ve noticed my elbow move and thought, elbow…USX…mystery, but no big deal cuz it feels ok and the string changes don’t feel like I’m hopping at all.

Other than elbow/DSX being the standard match, is there anything else that makes you think I’m barking up the wrong tree with the way I’m doing it? i.e. does it look like I’m stringhopping or struggling or have tons of sync issues or something? I really felt like I was on to something but I’ve been wrong before lol…like…my whole freaking guitar playing career. The only way to play this exercise DSX would be to start every string on an upstroke, which I suck at. It’s a good skill to have though, so maybe now is the time. All that said, I defer to your expert opinion and extend a huge thanks for the critique.

Yes it’s DSX. The elbow motion is the giveaway, which we can see without even dropping into slow motion. When do go into slow, it becomes clear. On the first string, first repetition, you leave out the last pickstroke to force the downstroke string change, and all strings after that start on an upstroke and go UDUD.

For kicks try filming this up close with 120fps mode with the camera more at the height of your hand and point the headstock more toward the camera lens to get a straighter view. You’ll see what I’m talking about.

For the first few notes in the first video, where you’re playing slowly, you’re using USX motion with forearm. But as soon as you speed up that goes out the window and you become elbow DSX. This makes it hard to synchronize. At various points in the lick your picking hand leaves out pickstrokes and/or misses the string, probably because you think you’re doing DUDU when you’re not.

This is why the motion choice matters. I absolutely agree that if elbow DSX is what is working, you should use elbow. But doing so more consciously / deliberately will produce better results, probably smoother and probably faster once your brain stops fighting your hands.

We hope anyway!


Wow. Mind blown. I surely can’t argue with you. I’ve known this for a while about myself but I can’t believe how non-intuitive I am. I really felt like things were starting to click for me. Like…I feel as though each string change I am physically leaning down into, with gravity as my aid. It totally feels like downstrokes on each new string when I play it. Craziness. Thanks again @Troy.

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Here’s my plan:

I’m gonna make myself learn this fu*$er starting each string on an upstroke. I’ll use chunking to program that in. I’ll report back with progress. Might take a while. This has me rethinking all the EJ stuff I’ve been practicing haha. Maybe I should film some of that stuff too. It would be interesting to see if I have a different mechanic on those licks.

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That’s fine if you want to do that but why? Do you want to be an upstroke on downbeat player? Because that’s not the way most real-world lines are written.

Even if you do this, I’d at least consider trying some phrases which are more traditionally structured as downstrokes on downbeats. Gilbert sixes is a basic pattern that works that way. Also the entire opening scale thing from this was initially written for DSX:

I just reversed the picking to make it work with USX. But you can switch it back to DSX by starting on a downstroke. The entire rhythm of it, when played via DSX, is downstroke on downbeat. If not this phrase, then you can steal the picking pattern and write your own. There aren’t many opportunities to practice cool scalar things in sixteenths since most shreddy stuff is written in triplets, and this is one of those sixteenths opportunities.

Finally, I’d recommend trying Brendon’s form since it’s more common among players who use your motion. I’m not sure there’s any benefit to using a Zakk-style flexed wrist for what you’re doing, since it’s not a forearm technique.

More generally, changing something fundamental about the way you play is one of the best ways to break out of rut and learn something new. Whether it’s grip or arm or wrist position, any of those can work. This doesn’t mean you can’t go back to the old thing. It just gives you a way to learn something from a new angle. And that may produce some unexpected benefit in terms of becoming more kinesthetically aware of the pickstrokes you’re making and what they feel like. I’m a big fan of this type of learning.

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Because you said this earlier

I’m aware this is the rule of DSX and maybe you meant more generally speaking and not that I should immediately apply this to the exercise in the clip I posted. That’s where my head was when I responded. sorry if I misunderstood your suggestion. If I want to play the Petrucci exercise with DSX and elbow, what else could I do besides start it on an upstroke though? I guess I could just not want to play the Petrucci exercise and instead want to play other stuff that’s more conducive to what my default fast motion is…like this:

Maybe that would be a better place to focus my efforts. I can play that ‘ok’ at 300 bpm (8ths haha, not 16ths, this is bebop though lol)…way slower than the Petrucci exercise, but it is much more challenging of an exercise since the shapes and patterns twist and turn so much. It naturally is DSX since that’s how I wrote it. I’ll take your suggestion to adapt a different form from the supinated thing I was doing in the clip I posted (though I am pretty sure when I play DSX on purpose I use a much more pronated form by default). I’ll get a video together for that for your critiquing to make sure I’m not wasting my time like I’ve been doing on the Petrucci thing.

Anyway, thanks again. You’re absolutely amazing at what you do!

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I have a hard time fully understanding the pickstrokes in your video but I do see the elbow movement as well.

I of course echo Troy in suggesting some DSX phrases to see how it goes / feels, as well as trying a more DSX-friendly posture. But I also understand how you might not want to give up on the Petrucci challenge.

So here is a little suggestion: why don’t you start the lick on the second note? I.e. you’d have 3 chromatic notes on the low E, starting with the middle finger, then 4 notes on the next etc. It may also sound more interesting because the beat is in a different place compared to the original (and we all heard the original a million times all over the internet by now :slight_smile: ).

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Sorry, yes, I was suggesting that you just ignore the Petrucci exercise. It’s just a pattern. Rock Discipline is full of that kind of stuff, which he says he only does for warmups and exercises. To me that’s a waste of my time when I could be doing something that’s just as beneficial mechanically and also learning something I might be able to use musically.

That being said if you like the chromatic idea sound-wise, and would actually use that musically, far be it from me to tell you not to. However you’d be playing on an upstroke which again is probably less ideal. It wouldn’t be too hard to come up with some other chromatic pattern that starts on downstrokes, and has downstroke string changes. You could steal any DSX type picking pattern to create something like that. Edit: Didn’t see Tommo’s suggestion until just now - starting on the second note. Ha. Done and one.

Whether your forearm is pronated or supinated doesn’t actually affect the motion of the elbow joint, since the forearm is downstream from the elbow. The path the pick follows will still be the same no matter which way you rotate the forearm. That’s how you’re able to do DSX with your current form.

Instead, there are a few reasons to use the Brendon form. It’s a straight wrist and the whole arm just rests right on the body, so it’s easy to do and comfortable. This positions the edge picking and pickslant in a range that we know we need for DSX motion. It’s not a super crazy amount of edge picking, so you have some range of motion there if you want to add more or flatten it out for tone or attack reasons. By contrast, the supinated forearm with flexed wrist approach has a very high degree edge picking by default and you have no way of really changing that without undoing that form. This makes it harder to get sound on acoustic, for example, unless you use a really pointy pick. More moderate edge picking lets you use a wider variety of picks (pointy, rounded) and still get sound.

Finally, we have a really good reference (Brendon) for what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like when done correctly. He has done the hard part of trial and error for us, so we don’t have to guess if it works or not in a wide variety of musical scenarios. There may be some unforseen other benefit of doing Brendon’s form versus some other form, so I’m sort of allowing for that possiblity as well.

Just some general thoughts.

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Thanks @Troy and @tommo for the great advice. I greatly appreciate the time you’ve both put into helping me.

I think I might just take a week or two off from playing in general. This whole thread has me pretty frustrated with myself. And it’s definitely me, not you guys :slight_smile: The fact that I was so certain I was on the right path at the ‘normal fast’ speeds, then to find out I’m STILL doing something that’s making this harder than it should be is indicative a deep problem with my lack of intuition, and I think a complete reset is in order.

When I watch those clips I posted again (the first one that’s at 180 bpm), I honestly cannot see what you’re seeing @Troy (regarding me not doing DUDU on each string and DSX being used rather than USX). When I pick the guitar back up and play through it, just backing off the speed a little so I can really focus on just when the pick hits the new string, it still feels like I’m doing DUDU on each string to me. Each downbeat accented, each downbeat a downstroke. It may not be evident from the angle I filmed it, but I’m using a pretty aggressive pick slant angle AND intentionally rest stroking so that each downstroke hits the next string. I just cannot fathom how DSX is even possible given those factors. I fully trust your critique though and I’m certain you’re right and I’m wrong. When reality differs that much from what I perceive as I play this…that’s concerning to me haha.

When I pick it back up in a week or so, refreshed and reset I’ll try some DSX stuff out starting with the Brendon form. I’ll post some new stuff immediately so you guys can tell me if I’m on the right track. Wasting time is no fun lol!

Any way, sorry for all the posts and thanks again so much for the helpful critique.

You are not rest stroking in the fast clip, you are clearing on downstrokes. The “pickslant” doesn’t do anything to the motion. Again you can rotate your forearm and grip any way you like, the elbow still moves how it moves.

When in doubt, film up close in 120fps and we’ll see it. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. I love to be wrong, because that’s when I learn.

Please don’t think this way. Instead, think about what you’re actually doing here. Your motor system figured out that you were making DSX motion and specifically learned to eliminate a pickstroke on the initial string to make that work out. Despite your conscious efforts to make it do otherwise, it then succeeded in continuing that flipped picking structure across all the other strings of this very long sequence. If that isn’t the same sort of subconscious learning that “naturals” like Petrucci do without being able to explain it, then I don’t know what is.

Consciousness is overrated. As the saying goes, I’d rather be lucky than good. Well, in gutiar playing, I’d rather be good and unaware than the reverse.

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Maybe this will help:

Here’s the first bit of your clip in slow motion. The slow speed motion looks like double escape to me. I know it may feel like a rest stroke, but you can see the pick actually bounces back up again at the end of the downstroke, creating a curve. It’s neither here nor there, it’s not a motion you use for “real world” playing.

That’s the next motion, when you speed up. As you can see the motion path changes completely to DSX. Another reason we know this is the attack. Look at how forcefully the upstrokes pick the string, versus the downstroke when the string doesn’t move at all. This is because you are using DWPS with a DSX motion, causing the “garage spikes” problem where the pick digs under the string a little on the upstroke.

We could go through the rest of this but honestly it’s hard to see with regular speed video. And it’s sort of academic because we can see everything we need to see in just these first few notes.

Ergo, since your picking hand wants to go DSX when you speed up, let’s embrace that.

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Wow I hope you didn’t spend much time on that. Thanks for putting that together though. You don’t need to convince me that what you’re seeing is what’s truly happening. You’re probably the leading expert on this type of analysis in the world. In general I am not a confrontational guy. Arguing with a personal hero of mine on something he knows WAY better than me is not in my DNA :slight_smile: So I hope you don’t think I’m challenging your critique, I’m not!

What I’m trying to convey is an a sense of panic because what this feels like to me as I play is not what the camera exposes. We all know that feelings lie! How can I be sure I’m doing the right things when I practice if my perception of me doing this correctly is flawed? I think I know the answer: do a generally accepted DSX form/slant on patterns that are conducive to DSX and hope I’m not effing something else up as I do this.

As I say, I’ll get another critique clip together when the new Brendon form feels ok and I can play some DSX patterns at a speed close to what I posted here. Seriously, thanks again for everything. I feel like I’m hogging your time, so you can let my dead horse lie beaten haha

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