Pick slanting and strumming?

I know that there have been a number of posts on strumming, but unless I am missing something it they seem to be focused on wrist/elbow motion. But CTC has given me an awareness of how I HOLD THE PICK.

I am particularly thinking of the fast strumming characterized by gypsy jazz players and what they call “le pompe”. I see some players that clearly are holding the pick DWPS as they strum. But as I try to duplicate their strumming technique I find my pick catching on the strings on the upward strum. This quick little upward accent is essential to many styles, not just gypsy.

How do you hold your pick so that you can do a quick upstroke without it getting tangled in the strings?


I know what you mean… I don’t really play gypsy jazz but ‘la pompe’ is somewhat familiar to me and do something similar (fast upward stroke accent) in my strumming. I’m not sure there’s a right way of doing it but some years ago I would struggle on this, either my grip was too loose and the pick would slip, or too tight and the accent was kind of stiff and unmusical. What I think is that you should NOT let your hand going to low on the downstroke. Instead you have to ‘recover’ right after your hand pass the E string, but in a very smooth way,and at the same time you do kind of a wrist or forearm rotation to angle the pick for making it gliding on the upstroke. That what works for me.

On a side note check out how Cory Wong do his funk strumming. Totally different grip, more of a Benson way of holding the pick. It’s bizarre to me how he can achieve smooth upstroke, but he sounds totally awesome.

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So you do alternate pick slanting in your strumming? DWPS on the downstroke and UWPS on the (usually quick) upstroke?

That makes sense, and sorta what I try to do. But it is a quick rotation at Gypsy tempos (or Funk, where you hear it a lot too) and it doesn’t feel efficient. In fact, when I try to do that it feels an awful lot like the dreaded “bounce”.

Any CTC formal analysis on this ever been done? Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?..

(And by Bueller I mean @Troy and Co.)

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From my own experimentation, some old comments by @eric_divers and from watching the gipsy tremolo clip from the Joscho Stefan interview, it seems you actually need an almost neutral pickslant for fast strumming. In Joscho’s case there’s a lot of bend in the wrist which gives the impression of DWPS, but if you look at the actual pick there isn’t much inclination with respect to the strings. this makes sense, as with a pronounced DWPS the pick would grab the strings and get stuck, or release the strings with a violent snap in the best case scenario.

PS: Regarding swapping consciously and continuously between UWPS and DWPS, this feels way too much work for me and seems too slow and clunky. There’s going to be a little bit of that anyway, but the more neutral the better, I think.

PS: I also have to fix my strumming at some point, it’s embarassingly far behind my leads :slight_smile:


I think (from my own experience, although again I have no way to prove that I can actually walk this walk) that there’s no way to have a “pickslant” when you’re strumming anyway. You just get a really really large, slightly curved motion, and try to have it contact your strings near the middle of its range. There’s no way to have a particular “slant” when you’re doing this, since your pick’s orientation is changing so dramatically through the motion.


True! I’ll correct my statement by saying that the range of inclinations the pick goes through during the arc must be as small as possible, in order to minimize string-grabbing in either direction.

All theory, as again my strumming sucks :joy:

Wish I had those funky chucka-chucka chuc-chuc-chuc-chucka down!


Lots of strumming here on the site, in the interviews!

Of course if you want la pompe, you’ll head to the Joscho interview around the 1 hour 3 minute mark:

We also talk about the tremolo here which is a slightly different but related form. We also did a whole section with Andy Wood on strumming, because Andy is a strumming master and we wanted some closeup footage of this. The acoustic workshop is where it’s at, again, around the one hour mark:

Both Andy’s form and Joscho’s form are similar, involving a little forearm and a little wrist. This is probably the “textbook” strumming form. Don’t worry about “pickslanting”, it’s not really about that, per se. You’re just throwing the pick along a pickups-parallel pathway, and since no individual joint actually moves that way, you will need a combination of wrist and forearm to do this. Andy and I go over some of the motions in our talk.

This clip on mandolin is totally awesome:


Wow! Well looking at those two clips, especially Joscho’s, they are most DEFINITELY attacking the downstroke with DWPS and rotating to UWPS (Joscho) or Neutral (Andy) for the upstroke. I like Andy’s description as twisting a motorcycle’s throttle. That gives a good sense of the mechanics.

I wish I could really see it frame by frame. Is there any way to download these clips to put into VLC or some similar software and really have granular frame by frame look?

This isn’t really “pickslanting” in the sense that we use the term when we look at things like Joscho’s alternate picking. In these examples, the fact that pick changes its orientation in space is unavoidable because you are using forearm rotation as a source of picking motion. That’s just the way the forearm works. The pick may appear differently oriented at the top of the strum than at the bottom, and may even appear to have the “wrong” pickslant for the way it’s going, hitting up-strums with what looks like a “downward pickslant”, for example. Try not to be too concerned with that.

The main thing is that you are using a combination of forearm and wrist here because you want to move the pick in a vertical direciton that covers a lot of distance — all six strings — with a fair amount of power, and those two joints combined is how you do that.

All the examples on our site play in slow motion by switching the recording to the slow-motion camera. You can get an additional 50% slower with the speed slider. The slider itself is not how you enable the really slow motion though - just remember to switch the recording. You can of course pause at any point.

SoundSlice may have a frame advance control, I don’t know. Otherwise we sell download copies separately, but I don’t think it’s really necessary for something like this to see a frame advance. What you’re trying to do here is actually a big, fluid thing, not a “tiny adjustments” kind of thing. The best way to learn this is to experiment with making large, fluid motions that feel fast to you, and to notice when it begins to feel smooth. You can refer to the video once in a while but try not obsess on small spatial orientations at first - the bigness and smoothness of the motions is where it’s at.

OK. I guess it makes sense not to mix up the nomenclature.

What is interesting to me is that they do change the angle of the pick by rotating the forearm. The stroke seems generated from that rotation more than an up/down motion of the whole forearm generated at the elbow. Yes, I can see it is both. The hand has to move a couple of inches in either direction from the elbow. But the rotation is key, especially on the smaller strums of drop 2 chords. It may seem obvious, but I did not know that. Although I hadn’t given it systematic thought in the way I’ve learned from CTC I can see now that I was attempting to strum mostly by flexing my elbow causing my whole forearm to pivot.

Again, this is new to me but I do recognize that I have generally locked my forearm rotation into a specific pick slant. But a frozen forearm rotation appears to be what has been causing some of my strumming woes. Whichever way I held the pick, there was a strum direction that did not work. The pick would get caught up in the strings or catch and bark out one string when I want a smooth chord. I am breaking free of that by practicing the TWPS from the Antigravity seminar. Changing pick slant is a matter of forearm rotation. I can see now that an exaggerated form of the same forearm rotation is being used by these strummers.

Strumming by rotating the forearm is new to me. I’ve spent a couple of hours today giving it a try, and I can see that it will be transformational once I have it encoded in muscle memory. As I speed up the tempo I find myself reverting to wanting to move the whole forearm from the elbow. As soon as I do I get caught up in the strings.

I’m guessing a lot of people have worked out forearm rotation on their own and it may seem silly that anyone would try to strum by sawing up and down their whole forearm. But these mechanics are rarely taught. You learn to work around these mechanics (like never play Ska). Learning a more efficient way… priceless!

In one rotation three strings maybe four strings can be covered in one movement as can be seen above.

This is Robert Cray using forearm strumming.