Picado and Efficient Digital Cycles

The last picking motions on that Segovia sheet is that something that is a no no? As most flamenco stuff I see try to say stick to amiami and never divert at least in a scalar fragment inside a phrase. seems like you would either practice scales like that using


specifically trying to go in the natural tap flow of the fingers right? or am i missing something maybe its just to gain finger dexterity doing this back and forth thing? it just seems like pointless work that could be better spent always going one way to keep developing speed over time practicing scales.

Screenshot 2022-12-20 at 13-53-00 17297247-segovia-scales-for-classic-guitar.pdf
talking specifically about the last picking pattern i,m,a,m,i,m,a

Ha I didn’t even look at his picking instructions…hmm…

I read something about Segovia once where he said practicing scales could solve every problem someone could encounter. I wrote that off as a) way too absolute and b) just plain wrong since, from my experience, I think the hardest part of classical playing is the complex left hand contortions required to leave certain fingers down while moving others. It’s a strange sort of independence we don’t encounter. I can’t see how getting good at scales directly helps that problem

Maybe he was tackling common problems people face in pick hand arpeggios and shoe-horning them into scales to kill multiple birds with one stone. In common fast playing in classical and flamenco, the purists just do i-m. The more adventurous will do a-m-i, like you mentioned. Pretty tough to argue with results like these and makes me wonder who would want to be a purist lol:

BUT, all off topic I’m afraid since none of that matters to the OP :crazy_face: I’d say to just ignore Segovia’s picking instructions for non classical purposes. Maybe even for classical purposes. It strikes me as dogma and adding to the never ending list of “stuff good musicians shalt do” that’s prevalent in that world. That’s sort of what I was getting at in general with my post - “do we really need to play a straight scale”???

haha ya i just noticed it maybe thinking it was an overlooked typo but i dont know everything and maybe wondering why one might do it so i like to ask questions. :stuck_out_tongue:

if it was me i like the 3 notes, 4 notes idea like cmcgee points out at the beginning. you can do 4 notes per string, but the only easy fingering here is to start with the major tetrachord shape. but i imagine practicing this shape would take at least a month for your fretting hand to develop the dexterity to really start speeding it up, or possibly longer. marshall harrison does this kind of thing so it does seem possible, but he also plays piano if i remember from listening to some of his youtube videos so that finger dexterity developed on the piano keys probably helps tackle 4 note per string scale pattern stuff. aint for the feint of heart :laughing: also he tends to lean his fretting hand back and i think it has to do with lessening the scratch sound from the unorthodox 4 notes per string shifting going on during string crossings.


This is an excellent point. You should be developing coordinations which are transferrable to the vocabularly you actually want to play.

I’m also in agreement with this. I should mention though that all of contortions doesn’t develop “independence” in any sense. You learn to coordinate highly specific balancing acts of muscular tension to achieve the contortions, and practicing some set of contortions called “finger independence exercises” isn’t an efficient route to learning how to do this, as the coordinatations for the “exercises” generally won’t transfer to the specific cases encountered while playing actual music.

This is an EDC (the reverse cycle) performed with the picking hand. It’s inherently more efficient to cycle a-m-i or (3 2 1) instead of m-i or (2 1). Also notice that the 4th finger is allowed to move freely and follow the actions of the 3rd finger.

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Yes, it’s funny how much time wasting activities instructors like to throw at us :slight_smile: My teacher had me do exercises where you would hold down all fingers on one string (either G or D string so it’s in the middle), but move just one finger all the way to the high e, then to low e. Then they would graduate you other more difficult moves, like keeping just the index/middle fingers fixed, but moving the ring finger to the high e while simultaneously moving the pinky to the low E, then inverting those fingers etc etc etc. It was challenging. My ability to do this of course steadily increased and honesty compels me to say it did help with pieces I played after the fact. Honesty also compels me to say I could have saved time by going straight to the pieces with the problem and focusing on those problems lol

Yes, I immediately thought of your research when I saw Grisha doing the fast a-m-i picking. Question - I’ve always been told a-m-i is easier/faster than the i-m-a. It certainly feels that way from my experience but that’s probably just from the countless hours I’ve put into classical tremolo. We get comfortable with what we do a lot of I guess. Is there anything anatomical you’ve seen that indicates why this might be, or do you suspect with some practice to even things out and more more used to it, i-m-a has the same speed potential? I know you’ve indicated forward/reverse cycles are equivalent. So I think I know your answer. Maybe I’m more curious to your thoughts on why one is easier to me, if not for the overloaded practicing I’ve done in the one direction.

I could see one being easier to do as when you close your fist the flow of the fingers is always the same.

But I would also like to add that you could utilize the descended 3 notes 4 notes idea like cmcgee with these shapes. plus not knowing your own picking or fretting hand tendencies i left the motions and fingerings blank so you can develop a path.

I think it really depends on how well you can play certain phrases or that feel the most natural flowing. Like there is this whole half diminished phrase that I know that’s 3 notes one string, 2 notes 1 string, 3 notes 1 string, 2 notes 1 string, 3 notes 1 string, I like the flow of it. And I have played it so much that I could utilize this kinda repetitive motion picking fragment that I have ingrained in my right hand and start incorporating it into other scale soundscapes like major I would just then have to learn a new fingering to paste over the picking.

Also just knowing of the open string fingerings for scales can help navigate the notes better in a key so learning this can aid in finding new fresh ideas for compositional purposes. Which doesnt mean just learn one scale shape off one starting string, learn starting off each string in the open string area, both ascending and descending.

I think this is contextual. If I try a-m-i or (3 2 1) on a single string it feels easier/faster than i-m-a or (1 2 3). However, if I try cycling over a group of three strings, for example EBG, then the cycle (G B E) with the forward cycle i-m-a or (1 2 3) feels faster/easier than the cycle (E B G) with the reverse cycle a-m-i or (3 2 1), with the latter reverse cycle feeling less natural than it did on a single string. My feeling that both are probably plenty fast, but they don’t quite align the same way.

I’ll think on it some more. Most people find it more natural to tap their fingers from 4th to 1st rather than vice versa, which is an interesting little bit of support for the idea that the reverse cycle might develop more quickly for most people than the forward cycle.

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Well @joebegly , it turns out I wasn’t able to stop thinking about this. I think I understand why the reverse cycle is faster/easier in the specific context of three finger picato on a single string.

The most likely issue is the lack of indepence in extension between the 2nd and 3rd fingers, and the difference in strength of extension.

In the reverse cycle, we need to flex the 3rd finger while keeping the second in relatively greater extension. The common extensor is Extensor Digitorum Communis (EDC), which is much stronger for the 2nd finger than the 3rd. Also, the 2nd finger is naturally longer, which means the relative difference in extension is small; the length of the 2nd finger assists in achieving this goal. The 3rd finger has an individual lumbrical and muscle slip of Flexor Digitorum Superficialis (FDS), so the flexion of 3rd finger can easily overcome the weakly engaged common extensor.

After the flexion of the 2nd finger, the 1st finger can act as a “buffer” between the flexion of the 2nd finger and the extension of the 3rd because it has it’s own individual extensor (Extensor Indicis).

However, in the forward cycle, we must hold the 3rd finger in extension while flexing with the 2nd finger. The common extensor EDC is much weaker at the 3rd finger than the 2nd (and can’t be engaged entirely independently), and the relatively shorter length of the 3rd finger compared to the 2nd exaggerates the required extension. The 2nd finger again has an individual lumbrical and muscle slip of FDS, which are stronger than those of the 3rd finger.

This imbalance results in extensor fatigue, especially if there is engagement of Flexor Digitorum Profundus. There is no “buffer” effect from the 1st finger, as the 1st finger is used at a different point of the cycle.

Much greater extensor activation is required during finger picking than in fretting (where we don’t so much need to extend as just cease flexion), so this problem is much more apparant for picking hand cycles than fretting hand cycles.

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Thanks @Tom_Gilroy. We’ve both done what we do best - you’ve provided a really interesting answer and I’ve derailed a thread.

@tommo when you get some spare time (ha) can you put my rogue posts (and Tom’s responses) in a new thread with the working title “EDC’s for fingerstyle picking” ?


I’d argue that what you do best is encourage me to check my work and improve my understanding with insightful questions.


Sorry I only got to this now. Sounds very interesting! Let me know if you can think of a more accurate title :slight_smile:

trust me guys if its one thing i am good at i can analyze something to rip it apart all thanks to that slow down feature that started it all. analyzing cesario it seems took me a few months, but i learned alot about the process probably. but when i get into these books, and music i want to know how it works and why, not just technique i want to go further like who were johann sebastian bachs influences. :smiley: :sweat_smile:

and are popular rhythms only popular because we made them popular by our attitudes in that moment that we had? for instance what if we were all living in a horrible time with not much happiness would they have become as popular?