Pick feel over the strings

Hey guys, when I play a cascading ascending lick (from the low e to high e) the pick feels very smooth over the string and I can play it quite well. But when I try to do a descending lick the pick feel over the strings does feel smooth at all and I can’t play it nearly as well. Any suggestions or tips for why this might be?


Without seeing a clip of your phrase, all we can do is guess. My guess would be that maybe the escape isn’t enough and you’re tripping over the strings on the descent. Is there economy picking involved? Ascending economy always felt very natural to me when ascending since gravity sort of helps.

If you get time, post a clip and we can get you better advice :slight_smile:

My guess is since the pick angle is reversed on the way down (I’m talking about the angle where the point of contact is the vertex, the string is one side, and edge of the pick is the other), the feel is much different. Now technically it’s the same angle just flipped 180 degrees, but it will feel different against your fingers and thumb, since the other side of the pick is making contact. Another likely case is that if you play down strokes more often, the pick is more worn down on that side too.

The other angle that changes is the angle made between the plane/face of the guitar and the face/plane of the pick. If your hand remains in the same position, this angle will not be reversed, but will be x moving one direction, and 180 - x in the other,

My tips:
If you can get your descending right hand to look like the mirror image of when it’s ascending, I think it will feel better. You can do this by tilting your picking hand to get that first angle, reversed.

Another option, which will only work with strict economy picking, is to have no angle between the pick and the string, and perpendicular to the face/plane of the guitar. This will not allow you to have and escape stroke, but as long as your strictly economy picking, you wont need one. Loosen up your grip on the pick, and allow the strings to push the pick one way when you’re ascending, and the other, descending.

Unless you are very partial to the sound of either ascending or descending, I recommend practicing them equally. This will help level out your abilities going up or down. Practicing one direction more would be like going to the gym and doing bicep curls with different weights in each hand. The one you practice more will inevitably be stronger.

Hope this helps!

Isn’t that very specific to the phrase he’s playing though, and possibly not even generic enough for general playing applications? Eric Johnson definitely doesn’t do this, neither did Shawn Lane. They are both cascading pentatonic beasts. Until we see exactly what @jbentl3 playing it’s all just guesswork and our suggestions might be no help.

I say this because I’ve read countless threads on here where Troy pretty much flat out refuses advice until people post a clip :slight_smile: We’re very often not describing what is really happening, footage clears this up.

Yeah footage would be helpful for sure. But as for general advice, I believe it still applies, given that the ascending and descending patterns are true inversions of each other. By this I mean that the downstrokes and upstrokes are switched, and the numbers of notes per string are mirrored with respect to your new starting and ending point. Here’s an example of what I mean:


Where the picking is D U D D U for each five note chunk. The inversion would be:


With U D U U D for your picking.

Given that assumption, I believe this advice should always work. But yeah you made me realize in the case where a different picking approach is used for the other direction, this method might not work. In the cases of Johnson and Lane, my guess is they aren’t doing the inversions, they’re either altering the number of notes per string and/or using upstrokes and downstrokes in different ways.

But yeah when I hear “the same lick, descending” it makes me think the same lick, but backwards (inverted) so I did make that assumption

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Gotcha. Yeah that is a cool way to play 5’s. Sort of a la Rusty Cooley :slight_smile: He loves those big stretches.

The Lane/Johnson approach is more like this ascending:

|-----------------5-7-|  etc...
  D D U D U D D U D U

Then descending is

  D U D U D D U D U D
|-------------------7-|   etc...

Both are complete USX licks

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I feel the same way actually - I think it might have something to do with arm tracking when ascending versus descending. Especially since you can’t really do a rest stroke on the high E string since there’s no string above it to rest on, I find when I start a speedy lick there and work my way down it starts to feel smoother as I descend down to the lower strings. It’s an interesting issue and as more of a DSX guy originally I’ve always been a little faster at ascending phrases than descending ones. Take some videos and look at what differences you might notice with the wrist/forearm when ascending versus descending.

Yeah it’s my favorite way to play fives, I actually wrote a whole song based on this picking pattern haha