Playing Within a Mechanical System

For the sake of articulating the question in this topic, I have separated mechanical systems into 4 categories, each with their own relevant articulations and escape motions.

DWPS w/ alternate picking, sweep picking, and legato (USX motion)
UWPS w/ alternate picking, sweep picking, legato, and swiping (DSX motion)
2WPS w/ alternate picking and/or sweep picking (Mixed escapes)
Cross Picking w/ alternate picking (Double escape motion)

My question is should you stick with practicing and/or playing in one system, or is it okay to play within multiple systems?

It’s clear that a wide variety of phrases can be developed inside of one system. Yes? This is one of the key takeaways I got from the Volcano Seminar. Moreover, there are so many great players who play within a single system. Maybe playing within one system could actually aid the creative process, giving a stronger foundational platform to build phrases off of that flow smoothly and seamlessly together.

And what about the motor learning side of this concept? Descending Fours across all six strings can be played within the DWPS system or the 2WPS system. Might it be almost counter-intuitive to learn that phrase within both systems? You would be learning the same sequence of notes, but with two different picking patterns. This seems like you would be putting in extra practice, while getting less out of your time.

Note: I apologize for any confusion in regards to the terminology I used above to refer to the mechanical systems. I understand that “UWPS” or “DWPS” are terms that are not necessarily representative of the motion path, but more so the visible orientation. I used these terms to refer back to the seminars.

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I use 1wps and alternate picking, I find that practicing different ways of picking the same thing only helps.

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"I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times. "

Bruce Lee

The way I see it, 2wps sort of covers everything that either upws or dwps can do. With 2wps you can choose whether to pick every note all the time, or use legato a’la Malmsteen if u prefer that sound

If i were to say 'im a dedicated uwps guy" or “im a dedicated dwps guy” id feel i was limiting myself for no good reason.

its all fun as a thought experiment but I there is probably more thought put into your post than Malmsteen put into his whole development.

Id imagine that as you rack up those thousands of hours of practice and improv etc, you’ll have less theoretical questions about this “system” or that one

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I think this just becomes a semantic question. What is a “system”? I think everything essenitally becomes a system at some point, where a player has a family of motions they know and use and many others that they don’t. Even players like Jimmy Bruno or Oz Noy, who use both “pickslants”, are still in a system. By which I mean, a subset of things they know how to do, which they choose from when playing lines.

Keep in mind, also, I would include everything in the system, like anchor points, picking motion, because it is the mechanical groove you get into. Oz doesn’t play like Marty Friedman or a gypsy player, or like I do / did when I use “dwps”, because his anchor points and motion are totally different. He plays physically more like David Grier in terms of his grip and prontated arm setup. That’s the mechanical foundation where the “system” starts, in my mind. On top of that you layer some basic joint motions — wrist, elbow, whatever. Then on top of that you layer whatever type of string change you know how to make. Then you write and improvise your lines that use all those ingredients. Take that all together, that’s your “system”.

I spent ten years in a “dwps” world, but not just because of the string changes, but also the specific angle pad grip, bridge/strings anchor point, and wrist-forearm blended picking motion. I can essentially improvise completely in that mode without worrying about string changes or anything that low-level nit picky. This includes throwing in sweeping and pull-offs as necessary to move around the neck. I think when you listen to players like Marty Friedman, Yngwie, and Eric Johnson, and many others, this is the point they get to and why they play the lines they do.

So “system”, yes, it’s a great way to look at this and the word “within” I think is also on-target. Everyone has a system, and lives within it. That is the end of the road you are trying to get to.

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Hello @WhammyStarScream, @JonJon, and @Troy,

Thank you all for reading my topic and replying! Much appreciated.
In a way, what inspired my post was how some players prefer outside picking
over inside, sweeping over alternate picking, and more mechanical challenges similar
to those. The seminars also had a big impact on the way I view guitar technique in
general, and were another inspiration for my post. I have been working on refining a lot of stock shred licks in my playing, and sometimes I’m almost afraid to expand my playing because I don’t want anything to mechanically conflict with the stuff I am working on currently.

Happy picking to all!

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Oh no! This concerns me a little - we are supposed to be expanding your horizons not delimiting them. While everyone has a ‘system’ of sorts, that definition is much broader than a specific technique or type of pickstroke. These players all learned by feel and a do a varied mix of things. You should do likewise. Not only is that what happens in the real world, but variety is an aid to learning. If you live only in a world of patterns and licks you’re leaving some of that subconscious learning on the table.


I see. Very good point. I had a busy guitar day yesterday. I watched the Martin Miller Through the Changes interview, the Yngwie instructional video, and the Frank Gambale Monster Licks instructional. I’m going to start looking back into some DWPS stuff as well as some of the Gambale 2WPS sweeps. What intrigues me the most, by far, is the wrist picking w/ mixed notes-per-string. I have so much homework to do for the mixed notes-per-string kind of stuff, or so that’s how it feels to me. Maybe someday I’ll get there, but right now it seems like a foreign world. I’m going to go back to the drawing board and I hope to make some posts about that topic.

I could play you a country-style improv done with pure alternate and a “pick every note” wrist approach, and the same thing using a “dwps economy” style approach with sweeping and pulloffs, and I doubt anyone aside from mechanics nerds would really be able to hear the difference. Sure, the lines would be slightly different but the end effect — uptempo improv moving around the neck with good attack and “country inflection” — would be similar.

I’d try and resist the temptation to place any single approach on a pedestal, and instead try them all and work on whatever is producing results. In your case, we’ve noticed that you may have some wrist motions that are working for you already. These are not really similar to what Martin, Yngwie, and Frank are doing, for the most part. They’re more similar to what Molly Tuttle does. If you do some experimentation with this and it seems to work, by all means, full steam ahead. But if it doesn’t, choose something that does and move straight to musical ideas and building out vocabulary.

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