Please critique my wrist motion!

So I have worked for a long time on getting wrist motion right, more specifically the USX motion. I am very sure that I am not stringhopping and i can get quite a lot of speed. The problem (I think) is that I am almost always hitting the above string when changing string. I have wondered if i have more of a DSX motion but the same thing happens when I try that motion. I have also tried almost all the other grips but i can’t seem to get over the string.

Unfortunately my phone cant record audio when filming slow motion so I hope it has some value anyway!

Also please excuse my death-stare in the video :rofl:

Comments on this is much appreciated

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Thanks for posting @drewguitar! It appears the video is “private” on YT, so we can’t open it. If you make it “unlisted” it will be possible to stream it on the forum but it won’t be published on YT

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Done! :slight_smile:

So i have added a new video where i attempt to play a USX bluegrass line I made up. Hope ya’ll can give some inputs! I think i am seeing some elbow movement here and maybe thats why a can’t get over the string?

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Does anyone have a thought on this? Or is the videos not clear?

Thanks for posting! This looks great. I can hear what you’re talking about in terms of hitting the G string but I only hear that once. On the low strings for example I don’t hear any swiping at all. So I think you’re basically doing this correctly.

When you know you’re playing in USX-only style, a quick thing you can try is tilting the arm toward the pinky a tiny bit more and that might give you a little more headroom on the upstroke escapes.

However, the escape might be fine and there might be no need to tilt anything. Reason being this type of wrist motion has a very shallow escape, 10-15 degrees something like that. It is similar to what we saw when we filmed Mike Stern for example, whose general setup is similar to yours. Given the shallowness of the escape, what can sometimes happen is that if your “aim” is off for certain notes, you might still hit a string, even though technically the pick is getting enough air to clear it. It would be like doing a motorcycle jump and placing the ramp too close to the thing you’re trying to jump over. You’re still on the way up when you hit the city bus or whatever it is you’re trying to clear. So you don’t need to change the ramp (i.e. tilt), you just need to move it.

One thing you can try to help that along with phrases like this is if you always hear swiping on the G string, but on not the lower ones, then maybe that means your form on the lower strings is different because you’re closer to the string you’re picking on. So you when you play on groups of higher strings, you can try placing your wrist anchor a little closer to them to reproduce that form. This is what Molly Tuttle does, who talks about anchoring in a different spot when playing on the top three or four strings compared to when she has to play on the bottom three or four.

Technically speaking, this type of anchor relocation isn’t strictly necessary, and you can reach almost all six strings just by bending at the wrist as you’re doing now. But this makes the motion feel a tiny bit different on the higher strings than the lower ones, because you’re operating in a different range of motion. It’s almost like learning a slightly different variation of the motion which is more ulnar / e.g. “bent” feeling. And sometimes simply being aware of this change in form can give you ideas for doing it better.

Another comment I’d make is that your arm position and grip here are basically double escape form. This combination of lightly supinated arm and trigger grip places the wrist in a centralized position from which you can access either USX, DSX, or DBX motion. In fact, the second clip you’ve posted although it’s a little far away to see, looks like you might be making DBX motion at various points. As you’ve noted the motion in that clip is a little different than the first one, maybe incorporating some elbow and wrist type blend.

None of this is bad. What I’m saying is you might trying playing some lines that have unusual (for rock) combinations of notes per string, like combinations of three, two, and even one note on a string, to see if you can feel your way through them. Something like this for example:

Just throw it into the mix and see how you make out with it. You never know. You want the current form for that, not a more “tilted” variant.

More generally, when you film clips like this, the indirect window light that’s coming toward you from the right side in this video, that’s your best light. So if you turn to your left here, that light will fall directly oh your picking hand and provide excellent overall illumination with few shadows. If you film from that perspective we should get a better look at what’s going on.

If you want to give that a shot and also place the camera a little closer, it would be cool to get a closer look at the kind of escape that’s happening. This might give you some clearer feedback on what to do next. If you give that a shot, happy to take another look.

Thanks and nice work so far with all this.

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Thank you Troy for a great reply. In regards to the tilting I am a little bit confused because if i tilt more I feel like the motion angle turns into more on a 30 degree angle, sort of like with Marty Friedman but not as extreme maybe. With the form I have in the first video I tried to replicate the one that you go for in the USX primer.

Also I have some problems with the trigger grip. This grip is somewhat new to me and i have mostly used some type of extended grip before (not sure which). If I look at your trigger grip in the USX video you don’t have a gap between the thumb and the index finger at all. When I play I try to maintain the same grip but if I don’t force it the thumb relaxes and a gap opens up between the thumb and index. I don’t know if I’m wrong but I think this turns the grip intro more of a “DSX-grip”?’

In regards to the double escape, I didn’t know that my form was DBX. That’s great because that’s the motion I want to work most of all. I will work on that lick you posted in the video and try to film an attempt to do it!

Will also take the filming suggestions into consideration! Thanks Troy!

As far as I understand, more or less any grip can be used for both types of escapes, as well as for DBX - provided you pair it with the appropriate amount of forearm pronation/supination.

I realise this is brief and full of buzzwords so feel free to ask more :slight_smile:

Thanks for the reply! I realize that I probably meant the pickslant. If I watch the Frank Gambale interview for example there is a very obvious “wrapping” of the pick around the knuckle which at least what I think would be almost impossible to use if you play USX phrases.

Sorry for the confusion! These are all good questions.

The motion you’re making isn’t more or less “extreme” that what Marty does. It’s just a different motion. You’re making a deviation motion which is a motion where the wrist moves toward the thumb. If Marty did that with his arm position, then his pick would go straight up in the air, with an almost 90-degree escape. That’s because his arm position is so supinated. So in Marty’s case, the reason he doesn’t get a 90-degree escape is because he’s not making a deviation wrist motion. He’s making some other kind, something with forearm and fingers - it’s interesting.

But anyway, in your case, once you’ve established that you’re doing the thumb-ways type of motion, the angle of the escape is just determined by your arm position. Tilting that a few degrees toward your pinky won’t change the motion — it will still be deviation. It’ll just give you some more headroom on the escape.

Just as another example of this, when you look at players like let’s say Albert Lee or Eddie Van Halen, they use a more supinated arm position. If they made a deviation motion, the pick would go way up in the air, more like the 30 degrees you’re talking about. But when we look at Eddie for example we don’t see that. His pick still looks like it’s going flat. Drum roll please… he has chnaged his wrist motion.

We put a cool demonstration of this in the Primer at about 1:45 in this chapter:

So basically, if you have the tilted arm and you use a thumb-ways deviation motion, you get 30 degrees. If you use an Eddie-style motion, you get the 10-15 degrees escape again, but with the more tilted arm. So in your case, I’m saying, just keep the motion as you have it, and tilt the arm a little more. That’s one potential approach.

What are the downsides to this? Well, nothing as far as this motion itself is concerned. 30 or 15 or 10 doesn’t matter. But we do notice that players who change escapes, tend to use the flatter escape. This way when they switch from USX to DSX, the wrist only needs to make a small change in trajectory and it can be done fast. If you think of these picking styles like a language, someone like Eric Johnson never changes escape. He “speaks” USX all the time and all his lines are in that language. So it doesn’t matter what escape he’s using so long as he escapes.

Personally, when I’m “speaking” USX and playing things like EJ lines, or really any kind of one-way economy line that involves downstroke sweeping, I notice that I tilt a little. When I’m playing something like a three-note-per-string scale, where I might need both escapes, I revert back to the Stern-style arm position where the escape is shallow for both USX and DSX. They’re two different modes or langauges for me, and the lines I play in each fit the arm position and escape I’m using.

What you’re doing here looks pretty good. I only got into the trigger grip a few years ago. Before that I was exclusively angle pad. Getting into this grip helped me understand the relationship between grip and arm position. The trigger grip, when done in its flattest arm position, looks like Mike Stern. You can see some really good closeups of him in the chapter I linked to above. This is what it looks like you’re doing, and it looks right on target.

When I use a slightly more extended index finger grip, like angle pad, the arm position because slighly more supinated, like Andy Wood. When I use a middle finger grip, the arm position is even more supinated, like Eddie. In all of these cases you can still get the flat escape, but you’re changing the wrist motion to do it. If you go from trigger to Eddie the difference is visually obvious. If you go from trigger to Andy the difference is much less obvious. This is why I’m saying that learning the different grips helped me understand the changes these players were making — especially learning the Eddie style grip, arm position, and motion. All grips work, just choose the correct arm position and motion for each grip.

The way you should look at this is that wrist motion has like four different modes: pronated like Molly Tuttle, lightly supinated like Stern, slightly more supinated like Andy, and most supinated like Eddie, Albert Lee, and Steve Morse. Each of these setups represents the center point for that grip and arm position. When in the center point, you can get all three motions, USX, DSX, and DBX. I’ve linked to this clip before, but check out this Andy Wood example:

If you watch this in slow motion, you’ll see how Andy uses DBX at the slower speeds. As he speeds up, you’ll see he switches to a combination of DSX and USX that he can’t actually feel. If you watch the string changes in the last two repetitions closely, you can see that the downstrokes go over the string in a straight line. So that’s DSX. The upstrokes also come back over the string in a straight line, just along the opposite diagonal. But Andy’s arm position doesn’t change.

That’s how we know Andy is using the centralized for for this arm position and grip. If we were to ask him to do a downstroke sweep I would bet we would see him tilt away from that center position a little. If we asked him to play the scale again, I bet we would see him come back. If we asked him to play an upstroke sweep, I bet we would see a tilt in the opposite direction.

So… for each of these “modes” of wrist motion, I think you basically have three variations. The center point from which you do things like scale playing. This is where you will probably end up mixing USX, DSX, and DBX in a way that you can’t really feel. Then you have the slight “DWPS” type tilt for one-way economy. Then you have the slight “UWPS” tilt for upstroke economy.

So I wouldn’t worry about working on DBX specifically. I’d look at this more holistically in terms of getting wrist motion to work as a system for whichever arm postion and grip you choose. The tilted variants will have more escape and also sweeping. And the flatter variations are for pure alternate stuff where you want to mix various escapes. You probably won’t be able to feel that you’re doing this. That’s normal.

Whew! That’s a lot detail. I’m writing this out also as a reference for others who may have similar questions. This will all be in the Primer at some point, hopefully soon.

Let me know if this is helpful!


Wow! Thanks Troy! A lot great info here :slight_smile: I will get back to you as soon as i can with a new video.

Ok, so when I try to tilt more this happens every time:

My index knuckle hits the string and I think I’m flexing but I don’t know how to fix it. This has always been a big problem for me when trying USX, especially pentatonic lines.

And this is the above view:

What does your typical setup look like from this perspective? i.e. The same one you used in the videos you posted earlier?

I starts out with the same form as in the first video but as i play towards the lower strings it changes to the form in the pictures.

Especially when playing Eric Johnson style pentatonics.

Are you doing anything to change your grip that would cause your index to contact the string? Maybe this would be helpful:

This is the slightly tilted form, a little bit DWPS from the centralized form I’d use for scale stuff. The change is so minor I can’t even tell I’m doing it most of the time. That’s how minor of an adjustment I’m talking about. I get no index contact on the string at all here.

Again, this is trigger style grip. There is no rule that you have use that grip. You can use any grip you want, including extended index and three-finger. If you feel more comfortable some other way, do it that way!


So I have uploaded some new videos. I came up with some lines for strictly USX:

Here I’m playing the DBX line from the video you linked Troy:

Also, I’m having a hard time getting the focus right when taking pictures with my phone so sorry about that!

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Hey @drewguitar, the first three examples sound great to me!

In the fourth one I only noticed a little thing: it may be that you are not fully escaping with the downstroke on the high E string (at the very start of the line): I can hear a slight “chirp” noise which may indicate that the pick is making a light contact with the E string on its way to the B.

Just a minuscule amount of extra curvature in the pick path should solve this - but perhaps you don’t need to do anything conscious, just focus on cleaning up the sound while keeping the pickstrokes in a nice smooth flow like you have here.

I’ll tag @Troy who may have further comments :slight_smile:

Great playing here! Yes as @tommo is pointing out you’re hitting the B string in the beginning. In slow motion I think you may be hitting other things here and there, and also missing certain notes. But that’s totally fine in the beginning stages. That’s how it first starts coming together.

In general, when I see these kinds of errors, it’s usually an indication of correct but not-yet-totally-accurate motion. Ironically sometimes the stringhopping clips we see on here are played perfectly. But they are technically not correct, don’t feel good, and can’t go any faster. So that’s why I think that starting off with a less accurate version of the target motion is the way to go.

The key is how does it feel? You’re playing at a speedy clip, so does it feel smooth, or does it feel tensiony and like you’re hitting a hard speed limit where you couldn’t move faster? If it feels smooth, that’s what you’re looking for.

As you tool around with this, I also recommend trying out all the grips, including the more extended index grips and even the middle / three-finger grip:

They each require a slightly different arm position and motion. You may find that some of these swipey and tracking (i.e. “aim”) challenges are less challenging with these different setups for whatever random reason. Even if you don’t choose to stay with those other approaches, the feeling of correctness (or difficulty) can really help provide clarity on when you’re really getting something right versus not getting it right.

The USX stuff looks and sounds good too. That third lick is pretty cool. Merging the musical and the mechanical by coming up with phrases is a great way to go.

Nice work here!

Thanks again @Troy! So I have experimented for the last few days and taken your suggestions and tips into consideration. I’m not quite sure but I think that I have made a breakthrough actually but I’m not quite sure. The main is the tilting which have puzzled me for a long time and I haven’t figured out how to do it and it has never felt like I got over the string.

I think what I have been doing is tilting the hand so that the fingers get closer to the body (when USX). Now, however I have tried to instead start with a centered hand position on the string and “lift” the thumb a minimum amount and It seems to make a lot of difference actually. I don’t know if this makes sense but i think this is why I scrape my index against the strings trying to get over the string.

Also, regarding DBX, is the pressure of the hand usually very light on the strings? I’ve tried this and it seems to help somewhat getting that shallow motion but I don’t know for sure.

I’m not following about the thumb lifting vs tilting, but if it works, it works. Sometimes what a thing feels like and what is actually happening may as well be two different things. You verbalize in your mind something and if that helps you reproduce the thing that works, so be it!

No I wouldn’t say the pick attack or feeling of force is any different with any of these wrist motions. They’re all so incredibly similar. In general none of them should really feel like you’re digging in unless you want to. When done correctly, all these movements should feel pretty glidey. If you want to dig in and play more loudly, you can grip the pick more stiffly, apply more force, or both. But it only takes a tiny modulation of grip force to dramatically increase the attack. So modulating grip strength and allowing flop is a thing you can definitely do. If the pick is very heavy, like 1.5mm or more, you might have to, otherwise you’ll really shove the string around and be ungracefully loud. I don’t really hear that in your playing so I wouldn’t worry about it too much.