Question about picking with thumb-index finger muscles

Hello everyone, I have been watching the Pickslanting primer series and I was wondering if somewhere in Cracking the Code has it been explained the concept of only picking with thumb-index finger motions without wrist motions.

A professor of mine once told me that this way of picking was the most efficient because one uses fewer muscles to actually pick a note etc… In the long run, I noticed that I was lacking speed because of this technique was not for playing fast, hence it actually tires the hand quickly. In reality, most guitarists who play fast use pick slanting techniques and wrist motions to play and not this kind of motion.
Has anyone of you heard of this approach and has tried it or can say something about it? I’m eager to know what y’all have to say about this!



Welcome to the Forum Carlos and sorry for missing this earlier!

We don’t yet have specific lessons on exclusively finger motion (i.e. without any wrist or arm components), but I did a search on the forum and found a number of related discussions from our community:

“Circle picking” may also return relevant results:

A theme that comes up often is that, while fingers-only picking should be possible on a single string, multi-string playing seems to always require some additional motion, at the very least for string-tracking purposes.


Hi, i also want to incorporate thumb index into my toolbox. Yngwie is using it too. It looks very efficiënt and combined with wrist motion one can relax the unused muscles. Maybe it can be part of a video. I don’t any other gitarist than yngwie switching between these 2 motions. \m/ Frank

Apologies if I’m being dense here, if you are combining the two, what are the ‘unused’ muscles?

i have recently discovered this technique as i have been having issues with tremolo picking for quit some time now. everytime i get above 170 bpm 16th notes i tend to flex and yes i know that everyone says stay relaxed but the issue is i literally no matter how slow i go cannot make the picking motion without flexing my bicep and this wears me out extremely quickly. I have tried and tried multiple techniques and nothing seems to work until i found this. While im still around 170 i have found that using this allows me to relax the muscles in my arm that were getting tense before so im hoping that this is the answer to reach my goals. As to why i get tense using any other methods i am unsure and wish someone could answer that, If not i hope that this method works

Very intersting, can you go faster than the 170 with it?

i can but for only around 6 beats as i get out of time. i usually try to go in sequence of four beats timing wise. Usually if i skip the last three notes on the fourth count that lets me reset to pick it right back up to stay in time but if i try to continue i fall out of time.
i can go faster using the other method but for only about the same time period and i have tried many techniques for months and months now

my ultimate goal is 200bpm 16 notes. i have been trying to reach that goal for a very long time now without any luck. Well i can go that fast just in short bursts.

Ah so performance isn’t improved with the thumb and finger movement, with exception to the relaxed bicep…

Have you gone through the ctc primer etc including the recent testing your motions stuff? I think it would be a good idea, even if you think you have tried everything - the content is great.

well the thing is i feel way more relaxed doing that technique i think some practice with it may produce better results just getting the muscle memory down. And yes i have tried those tests but everything seems different when on the instrument. Not sure if im just not doing something right or just not fully understanding how to do what it is im trying to do thats why ive seeked out help. Ive watched numerous videos and i understand the logic but applying it seems to be a task as everytime i try it i still tense up no matter what thats why i feel the thumb-finger technique may help. Any advice would help also

I think a video would be the best thing for some of the peeps on here that are great at dissecting whats-what… Post a video doing your tremolo (both with and without thumb/finger) as fast and smooth as you can, without a metronome is preferred.

I was thinking playing a phrase with thumb and index finger and then a phrase with wrist motion. But it can also relax wrist motion with a combined motion to extend .

Yes it would be interesting to see you play a phrase with both techniques in your critique post, but make sure to also include the tremolo picking.

Have you tried to measure your speed without a guitar? A lot of times, players already have the speed they want, they just get confused by the complexities of holding a guitar in their hands, and holding a pick, and targeting a string, etc. Our recent update addresses this issue:

Just as an example, here’s one of the tests which you can watch on our YouTube channel:

There are others in the full update which simulate different wrist motions, elbow motion, and a simple tapping test of raw physiological speed. If you can do a motion like Eddie’s wrist motion on a table, doing it on a guitar feels very similar when done correctly.

Testing is the best place to start when asking questions about speed and whether or not you have it.

I just noticed a strange effect recently; it’s kind of out-there, but I thought I’d describe it in tortuous detail and see if anyone else has any similar experience, to see if it’s just my personal weirdness or a phenomenon common to many humans haha.

After decades of picking from the wrist with a locked thumb (i.e. no motion whatsoever in the thumb or finger joints), I just recently experimented with adding some amount of thumb-index finger motion (while the wrist is still moving, just less because the thumb-index adds some additional movement in the same direction so I need less wrist.)

Here’s the really weird part: mentally, the tempo of the song or metronome seems to slow down maybe 25% in my perception as I play this way. Not that I lose the beat, but that suddenly… I have time to think between notes, for example at 160BPM four-notes-per-beat. That I think, “oh, on that last note the pick dug a little too deep, let me get my pick ready near this next string for the upstroke, but maybe this one I’ll do a little shallower, okay, that was better, now for the next note…” (I’m exaggerating the magnitude of the mental effect, but that’s the idea).

But then, if I switch back to wrist-only picking, sure I can move fast, but mentally, 160 BPM feels like a friggin’ blur, where I can’t really tell what’s going on and I can only hope and pray my muscle memory gets me through the group of notes, and I have to rely on mentally breaking the sequence into chunks of notes because my conscious, non-muscle-memory brain can’t keep up with the notes individually; I can only actively think about every other or every fourth note.

To be clear, I’m not saying I can physically pick faster with thumb/index movement; in fact, I’m pretty sure my top tremolo speed is slower. But what’s weird is the mental effect, that I have time to think between notes, and that does tend to make me play cleaner and more musically, and it’s more enjoyable, haha, to be that person moving that pick rather than a spectator watching my muscle memory do some blurry thing.

I’m intentionally exaggerating the effect in order to convey it in words. It’s not as huge effect as I’m describing, it’s more subtle, but it basically makes 160 BPM feel more like 120 BPM, mentally, letting me feel like everything’s that much more under control and more detailed, with fewer mistakes, which is a pretty big deal. Feels great.

I have found this very repeatable but a bit bewildering, haha. I have an out-there theory, which might be loco, but it goes like this: Smaller muscles are connected to neurons, in the arm and in the brain, that are more attuned to quicker movements. Just like how a hummingbird can do some insanely fast reactive movements compared to a giraffe. Not just that the hummingbird can move faster, but it can think faster, like, “on this next flap next millisecond, I’ll alter the wing angle to twist me a bit to the next blossom”, haha, whereas a giraffe has absolutely no need for neurons that can process or plan physical motions that fast. It’s almost like the hummingbird (though its neurons are based on the same structures and physiochemistry as the giraffe’s neurons), has neurons that just are tuned to manage movements on a faster timescale, both in the body and in the brain.

So, my crazy theory is that the fine-motion, very small muscles controlling finger motions like writing with a pencil are connected to neurons that are more attuned to slightly faster actions, i.e. on a bit faster timescale, including also the neurons in the brain that those finger peripheral nerves connect to. My brain can just think faster about those finger movements. The significantly larger bundles of muscles in my forearm driving the wrist are, in contrast, connected to neurons in my brain that think a bit slower about motion, i.e. planning it, executing it, analyzing it. By adding finger and thumb motion to partially control the pick height, angle, speed, somehow that brings into play different parts of my motor brain (sure, they are right adjacent to the parts of my brain that control my wrist) that think about motion a bit faster.

Here’s another experiment: set a metronome at 110 BPM, and try to stand up and “run” in place four steps per beat like a crazy fitness drill. I can just barely do it, but more importantly, mentally, everything feels like a rushed blur, where I can’t sense anything or process any of the individual foot sensations in each step; it’s all I can do to just keep those giant muscle groups in time. Then, with the metronome still at 110 BPM, set your hands on the table top and tap the same beat with the tips of your index fingers using your finger muscles. Of course it’s easier, and your fingers are quicker, but more than that, mentally, I find I can think so much more about how each strike feels on my fingertip, left, then right, the left, then right. I can feel the motion to raise them, then the motion to lower them, then wait for the next one. I can for example, tap the fingertips so each strike touches in a different place in a repeating sequence, no problem. Mentally, it just feels like there’s so much more time in between the strikes, even though the metronome has not changed.

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It’s a good movement to know. I have tremolo picked very smooth and fast using it. Many people have incorporated it in with their wrist motion. I’m concentrating on mostly developing my wrist now. That guitarist named Cesar something uses it to great success.