Practicing picking-hand motions ONLY?

Has anyone here taken time to isolate picking-hand motions and practice them apart from the left hand patterns? And if so, have you found it useful?

I recall seeing a video a while ago where Paul Gilbert plays the picking of a section alone and it is wonderfully fast and accurate but I really find that as soon as I take my left hand away my picking suffers. I feel like isolating the picking couldn’t hurt, but I have enough to practice already if this doesn’t seem to yield significant results.


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Teemu Mäntysaari likes this approach and uses it for himself and also with students. We discuss it in his interview so that’s one thing you can check out.

As a single data point, however useful that may be, personally I have never done this. If I can do anything with the picking hand separately from the fretting hand, it’s only because the motions are learned well enough to do them separately, not because I actually practiced them separately.

Can’t hurt to try!


I wouldn’t say I practised just picking hand motions, but sometimes if something is giving me trouble I’ll do just the left hand part and just the right hand part to check that I’m actually doing what I think I’m doing.

Sometimes it helps, there’s the odd thing that I can do perfectly with either hand but not with both hands (Tumeni notes intro for example).

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I am currently doing this as part of trying to get the single string volcano licks up to 200bpm (16ths). I am also isolating the left hand by playing pure legato.

I am hoping to see how these triangulate and what I have noticed so far (I have only done it a handful of times though) is that:

  1. My left hand seems to be holding me back significantly where position shifting is involved
  2. Picking lines can be easier than legato because the lack of pull-offs
    3.The combination of points 1 and 2 could be the reason why I struggle with the volcano pull-of escape hatches
  3. (Most importantly regarding this thread) Tempos at which the right hand can pick 16ths notes AND accent the beat feel and sound so much more accurate (even if I don’t actively accent the beat when playing the lick) and I have better endurance.
  4. If I can play 16ths but not adequately accent the beat, I may be able to play a very familiar lick that is quite passable, but its on the edge for accuracy, synchronicity and endurance. Basically, it doesn’t feel like I’m dominating the lick/ ‘In the pocket’

So if the above continues to be the case for me then I have some benchmarking ability to understand how likely success at picking a lick could be acheived in the short, medium or long term and laser-focus practice toward the goal.

If i can’t play it legato - diminished/no chance of picking. Medium/Long term goal

If I can’t accent the beat with right hand isolation, but can play the subdivision in time, then it shouldn’t provide too much issue to be able to play with practice, but might not likely to be sonething that can be used at will within normal playing without a bit of risk. Short to medium goal

Right hand isolation with accents (providing left hand isn’t a finger twister) = low risk/high repeatability domination. In the lickbag!

This might be over the top, but hey - its all fun!:wink:

Tom Hess also teaches this.

I tried this on a lick I was practicing and I did notice a difference. Hess’ approach to practicing speed is quite different from the CTC way, but he has solid advice in many areas.

Just a note: have you considered that using legato requires more strength/effort in your fretting hand? Without legato you can get away with using less force because you’re not hammering-on and pulling-off, you’re using as little force as possible, just enough for the notes to fret perfectly.

Yes, and it is true. I referenced that briefly in the below

And that’s why I put ‘diminished’ chance, but you are pointing out a good reason to attempt the lick and see how it goes. I think that if the legato is pretty much there, then picking becomes viable if my right hand can cope. A good example of this is the ‘Evil Eye’ clip. I find it quite hard to nail the pure legato, but I can pick it much better due to the left hand doing less as you describe. However, it did take some initial work on the really sketchy legato when I first attempted.

Thanks for your comment - appreciated

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I actually think this video is pretty cool and I do see the mental blocks in my own playing. Picking has always been problematic and that is the thought that rings on my ears when I pick up the guitar! Now with CTC knowledge, being a lot more experimental and ‘going for it’ with speed first, I’m now starting to feel that picking isn’t the big mountain as it used to be - way more optimistic!

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Good stuff! It definitely is in big part a mental thing for me as well!

Thanks for the additional posts and feedback here. Not a fan of Hess, but I’m inclined to agree with his advice about internal hearing in this particular video.

I do it, and it helps. For me the reason is that my technique can often fall into old habits when I am combining the two… it’s sorta a mental issue. But I don’t do it for more than a few minutes, then I try to ‘add in’ the fretting shorty afterwards.