I am trying to improve my picking technique such that I could I play 16th notes on low E and then play a chord on the A and then come back and repeat. Long term, I hope to be able to do this at 200 bpm+ speeds. Currently, I can play 150 bmp with about 80% accuracy. I have provided a video at 3 angles with normal and slow motion speeds where I try to play the riff at 160 bpm. When I watch the video, I can see I don’t have the technique correct but I haven’t figured out how to correct it. Also, I can see that I am skipping an entire string when I strike the chord on the A string. The large movement seems necessary but I know it’s not.
Here’s the link to the video:
Any advice or comments that point me in the direction to be able to play this riff and others that are similar will be greatly appreciated.
Hi @bbunton. I am a noob so I’m sorry I can’t give you a critique. In fact, I actually have some questions for you. First of all are you anchoring your picking hand anywhere in this video? I can’t tell if it’s floating or if you’re anchoring on the bridge. Second of all, how are you recording from up above the guitar?
For heavy rhythm playing, I would suggest to maybe supinate your forearm more and bend your wrist, so you can add a bit more of a “knocking” motion. I think it might give you more power and the ability to hit the chords easier.
Hi Brad, thanks for posting. What you’re really asking about here is just a picking motion. I wouldn’t think of it is as specific to playing a riff necessarily, just an alternate picking motion moving back and forth. And the goal is to find a motion that can work smoothly.
This isn’t stringhopping, per se, but it is somewhat inefficient because you’ve got things moving around that really don’t need to be, like the upper arm / shoulder area. That’s why you’re missing the string occasionally.
Rather than nerding out on tiny anatomical things, I think you just need to make sure you’re using the motion that you can do best right now. In other words, try them all and see if there are others that go faster with more smoothness and consistent string contact.
Like if you just had to play a single note as fast as you can with no metronome on, is this your best motion or is there a better one where you feel you can go faster and it’s more consistent? If so, let’s take a look at that motion instead.
I think you are correct in saying I am really trying to find a motion that can work smoothly but the reason I bring up the riff is because that is specifically the goal I’m trying to achieve. To achieve the goal, I believe I must use downward pickslanting with the upward escape motion. Do you agree?
Perhaps that is not true but I don’t want to push through the string as examples I have seen on your website and I don’t want to sweep through it either. I want to alternate pick the whole way through and I don’t want to lead with an upstroke so that I cross strings on a downstroke (which is easier for me). I want to play with a downward pick slant and an upstroke escape. That is the motion I want to master.
You pointed out that I am moving my upper arm/shoulder area. I will work on not doing that. There is certainly a tension/anxiety that builds as it comes time to cross strings. Is there anything else you can see that I can change that would enable me to play with a downward pickslant and upstroke escape properly. It’s very difficult for me to play like marty friedman with an exaggerated upstroke. I am much more comfortable playing with an upward pickslant, downward escape but I cannot achieve the desired result with that motion. It seems that Andy Wood uses this motion and then changes his motion right at the last opportunity in order to switch strings. I have just started to try this with some success and will continue to try it out.
You asked if there was a better motion where I feel I can go faster and it’s more consistent. When I play what I think is called “gypsy” style with my hand floating in the air but my underneath forearm planted on the guitar, I can play higher speeds with little effort for long periods of time. I don’t have a lot of control however. i.e., crossing strings is really difficult and even just changing fretting fingers requires a great deal of concentration … but the picking is motion requires very little effort. Do you think this worth pursuing? Somehow try to get the same motion but when my palm is down?
No. What you need is a picking motion that you can do smoothly. It doesn’t matter which one it is at first. If you don’t have that, you really can’t do anything else reliably with a pick once the tempo gets faster. If for some reason you want to learn different picking motions for different riffs because you decide that one is better suited, that’s totally cool. But you have to start with one first. And getting one really smooth is a huge help in learning others because that’s how you learn what smooth and accurate feels like.
Try not to overthink the escapes and stuff. These are just joint motions right now. If you line up all the ones you can do, all the different forms and stuff, which one has the smoothest feeling motion and best sound to you?
You’ve got the one you’re using here, which I don’t think is working that well because of all the upper arm stuff moving around. Then you’ve mentioned the Gypsy one. It would be good to take a look at that, since you say it feels smoother. Are there any others and can you film examples of those?
I will make some more videos using other methods tonight and post back to this forum. Until then, what if I just can’t do any of the methods smoothly? What would you recommend in that scenario? Put down the guitar Continue to practice alternate picking until one emerges? Are there exercises I can do to improve the motion in a generic sense?
If you can’t do any picking motion at all smoothly then you have to learn one. But considering that plenty of picking motions consist of a single joint moving back and forth it’s pretty likely you can do so just fine or you’d have major problems going about everyday activities. So I wouldn’t worry to much about it. An experimental and enthuasiastic mindset is the best, and fastest way to approach picking up new physical skills.
I’ve recorded new some new videos. The first is alternate picking using what I think is called Gypsy Style. I’ll just say my picking hand is floating above the guitar. This takes little effort but I have little control. Perhaps it’s worth some work trying to gain control.
The second video here is alternate picking using what I think is called downstroke escape (DSX) picking. It’s comfortable for me and is my goto position when I’m not trying to correct my picking technique. Therefore, I try not to use anymore. My picking hand is planted on the bridge and slightly on the guitar body.
Please let me know if you see anything in here worth pursuing. Note that this video is slightly different than my initial video as I am only playing a single string rather than trying to play a riff. As such, I think there is less activity with my shoulder.
The first video you’re doing forearm rotation, like EVH’s tremolo technique:
This looks more like pure forearm like what Eddie does as opposed to Gypsy which is a blend. That link explains. But either way, you’re doing this very well. That is a very nice looking and sounding picking motion and certainly worth keeping around. Yes, you can use this for synchronized playing. It’s an upstroke escape technique and you would use it for lines where you have an even number of notes per string and the string changes are upstrokes.
The second video also looks really nice. This is wrist / elbow motion:
There is some inconsistency here where it looks more wrist at times and more elbow at other times, so this motion could still use some smoothing out. This is something you will need to do over time by feel. But this is still a nice motion and looks very good to me. And yes the escape path is downstroke escape. So you want an even number of notes with this, but this time you want the string changes to be downstrokes instead of upstrokes.
The next thing you should do with either of these is is learn to play smooth synchronized lines with both hands. They can be simple lines. But you want to get the hands working together. You want to keep an eye on making the motions smoother over time, so that you can go for longer stretches without the motion changing and unwanted other motions creeping in. Like in the wrist/elbow one, you want to learn to tell by feel when it’s wrist and when it’s elbow. Both are great. You just want to be able to choose instead of having a mishmash.
Try not to focus so much on doing the one problematic riff that you can’t seem to get right now. Instead, do the opposite and go for whatever is working best. Think of it like a crossword puzzle where you are filling in all the squares. Any square you get helps the next ones. Eventually as your motions smooth out and you develop real synchronization and the ability to play gradually more complicated lines, you can go back to those problematic lines and find that they’re not so problemat any more, or only need a little attention.
Given what we’re seeing here I don’t really understand why you were worried about not being able to do any motions smoothly since it’s obvious that you can.