Racing with Al on a DSX highway

I really joined up to see if I could learn to do the Yngwie thing, and while some things are working better than others in that system (I struggle particularly with the mix of pull-offs and picking in the Black Star lick) I also developed a bad case of mission creep and looked into the Anti-gravity stuff.

And I wondered if anyone can suggest how to play the twiddly bits of Al di Meola’s Race for the devil on a Spanish Highway? I got a GuitarPro tab which I think is probably ignoring an octaver, but even so I can’t see how this snippet could conveniently be arranged with even numbers of notes per string:

Which leaves, in no particular order, the following possibilities:

  • I’ve missed something obvious
  • Swiping
  • Two-way pickslanting
  • Shift positions a lot to get four notes on some strings
  • Just brute force it with string hopping, it’s not even that fast

Has anyone here who is actually good at things figured out a good way to handle this? I would be moderately grateful for advice!

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Based on wearing out the grooves on this version (which I like better than the record) at the bit where he’s trading with the keys, it looks like probably two-way slanting, but I am still willing to defer to anyone who understands this style better than me (which isn’t a high bar)

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I’ve worked on this very section recently - I’m convinced he is using TWPS for a few of those notes. He has a pretty neutral (or central) arm set up. I suspect he can do DSX and USX equally, just prefers mainly DSX.

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Great question and apologies for the confusing terminology. Forget about “Two way pickslanting”, we’re probably going to get rid of that part of the Primer anyway because it’s pretty vague as to what the term even means.

This is mostly true, although Al does swipe on upstrokes a bunch so I think for whatever reason he just didn’t learn to do upstroke escape when it comes to certain kinds of phrases. Why? Probably path of least resistance. If it sounds good 80% of the time or better, then there’s probably a tendency to just keep doing that.

In very general terms, Al is a wrist player, and he uses the Andy Wood style arm setup, which means supinated arm and dual palm anchor. The clip you’ve ( @vonbladet ) posted here makes that super clear. From that arm position, you can do whatever escape you want, and when you do this with only wrist motion, there is very little difference in feel between them.

For a look at a technique that is very similar to Al’s, let’s check out some Andy Wood:

If you watch this in slow motion, you’ll see that Andy starts out double escape. However by the end, the pick is no longer traveling in a semicircle. Instead, it’s moving either upstroke escape or downstroke escape as the line requires. There is no “slanting” per se. If your choice of picking motion involves forearm, well, that’s going to make the pick appear to rotate, but I still wouldn’t describe that changing the slant. It’s just a motion that’s engaging or not. And Andy does some of this on occasion, for certain kinds of string changes.

So the answer to how you do this depends on what picking motion you’re currently using. If it’s wrist, then you can do it like Al does, with this arm position and just motion at the wrist joint.

Thanks, Troy and Thegent!

At the rest of going on a bit, I will split my remarks into three(3) sections: how Andy “Woodchuck” Wood would do it; how Al himself does it and leastily, how I might try to do it.

  1. Andy Wood’s system of supinated one-or-more escaping

If I’ve understood Andy Wood’s pivotal role in the terminology reboot to USX/DSX, which is only mildly likely, he uses the supinated double anchor position and separate motions for the USX (via pure radial deviation) and DSX (ulnar deviation + extension) components of what can either be a cross-picking double escape motion OR (at high speed) broken down into exactly one of the USX or DSX component such that the movement extends through the laser-pointer-centre-line of picking but doesn’t go far enough beyond the string to trigger the other part of the movement. Clearly this is a very elegant engineering solution!

  1. Al di Meola

If I hesitate to think that Al is doing this mechanism extensively, it’s because of the footage in anti-gravity of him in the trio with McLaughlin and de Lucia, where the delicate play of light and shadow on his hand was cited as evidence that he was (in my words, summarising what I took to be Troy’s opinion at the time) rotating the forearm such that his deviational movement changed momentarily from an angle that effortlessly generates USX to one generating DSX (what in the cheerful naïvety of our collective analytic youth we once called “two-way pickslanting”). Is it now the view that this light effect could be consistent with the Andy Wood mechanic? I mean, a superimposed wrist rotation to control the escape angle of a deviational mechanic is surely still physiologically possible? (This is mean to sound more confused than confrontational, I hope; I confuse easily and I’m not sure how radical the Andy Woods inspired re-evaluation has been, if that’s even what it primarily was.)

  1. Me

The main technical problem in the passage cited is an isolated note on a higher (thinner) string in this passage, akin to the Gilbert lick and when I was messing around in a supinated mainly-USX position yesterday it seemed surprisingly easy to swipe it at speeds that may (in my case) admittedly not scale up to interesting.

I normally use a wrist-forearm movement – I once tried to do what was once said to be the almost-purely rotational Yngwie mechanic and the biggest problem I had was tracking so I was glad to abandon it for the wrist-forearm technique of the Picking Primer a couple of weeks ago – and I can get enough twist on that to do the Pepsi lick on a good day, but what I can’t get to work at all in that system is swiping, it completely throws me off.

At this point I might go any of all sorts of ways (or let’s face it none - not getting this to work at all is very much on the table) but the laser-pointer-centre-line double-mechanic Andy Wood technique is the one that I am least convinced is going well for me in practice, even though it clearly has a lot of advantages if it can be made to work.

If the supinated wrist position gets properly comfortable and fluent, I will likely be tempted to develop a decent swiping technique on licks that suit it in that system purely as an homage to Big Al. (I also want a cherryburst Les Paul I am absurdly impressionable for my age.)

I do dabble in the crosspicking stuff, though, so if I get that going I could always switch to that full time.


Your explanation of what Andy is doing is great. Your explanation of what Al does is great. However Andy does the same thing Al does. Both guys use a tiny bit of forearm when they do ascending inside string changes, i.e. upstroke moving to higher string. When they do any other kind of string change, it’s all wrist. This is a very common approach. McLaughlin does it. @tommo does it. Lots and lots of players. We don’t know why this particular formula exists but it does.

That being said, I would in no way worry about any of this any more than you already have. I see you have a tendency to think a lot about this stuff. That knowledge is a great guide to getting in the ballpark of the correct form, and understanding in general terms what the result is supposed to be. Once you have that, you go entirely by feel to learn the motions. Then you use knowledge to evaluate the results, again knowing what the result is supposed to feel like and look like when done right. This is where things like the closeup Andy footage can help, to give you a good basic idea of what “correct” looks like. Then you go back to feel again. And so on. Over time, through various little happy accidents, you will have successes and memorize / learn those successes.

If you want to try wrist motion, by all means. You can use either supinated (Andy / Al) or pronated. The forms are slightly different in terms of anchor points. But the feel is basically just the hand moving back and forth with very little drama from anywhere else. Even if you can just get one of these core motions (whichever, doesn’t matter), happening with smoothness and speed, and good hand synch, you can sound great on lines like this. You might hit certain string changes, you might not. But again, smooth motion, good pick attack, good hand sync, that all goes very, very far.

Re: swiping, I don’t “work on” swiping. I try to avoid it. When I can’t hear any swiping and my playing sounds perfect to me, but I film my playing and I see it occasionally, that’s how swiping works best. That’s how it evolved for these players.

Go forth and do wrist motion! Great work on understanding the concepts here. I’m sorry we put you through all this!


@vonbladet I was messing around with this a couple weeks ago. I’ll get some tabs posted on here shortly. I had it worked out so that the whole thing was DSX and I was most definitely swiping. Not to disagree with others on here who suggest Al is doing some 2-way stuff…he very well could be. I just always view swiping as an option – you can 2-way pick slant anything that you can swipe and vice versa. I actually opt for swiping.

The tricky bit for me, as I recall, was that after some of the little ‘pauses’, phrases must start on an upstroke to have the picking work out. I’ll try to get this together for you soon…stay tuned!

I’m sorry we put you through all this!

No problem! Thanks in turn for your patience!

I admit I was really mostly hoping there was a secret McLaughlin refingering trick that would put an even notes on each string, but if there isn’t then I’ll have to live without it if I’m ever to earn my cherryburst Les Paul.

(By “working on” swiping I mean I simply play as if the string wasn’t there, and with the Andy/Al/et al. hand position I can keep my disbelief effortlessly suspended, even if there is an occasional audible timbral alteration I might have to choose not to investigate the causes of too closely. With a floating wrist-forearm motion even the gentlest glancing swipe throws the entire mechanic instantly and unrecoverably out for me; my guess is that the lack of a firm bracing for the hand makes it much more vulnerable.)

@vonbladet here you go. I think there’s no way to 100% swipe it so there are just a couple places where 2WPS will get you the rest of the way.

My interpretation should be largely self explanatory with the aid of my crude notation legend (not sure how else to indicate swipes and pick slant rotation). I think a huge red herring from the transcription snippet you posted was the b natural in measure 33 on the upbeat of the third beat…fretting that on the 9th fret of the D string instead of where I’m playing it (14th fret of A string) would make this require way more 2 way moves. I think I can back this up by the cool video I found here:

Go to 0:47 if my timestamp in the link doesn’t work. Shortly after this, I can pretty clearly see Al shift positions right there with his pinky going up to the 14th fret.

Also…is it just me or does Steve reach behind his left shoulder directly before this flurry of 16th notes??? It’s like he’s pulling a magic arrow from his quiver or something lol!


I forgot about that riff until I saw your post.

So I tried to see if I could do it and to see, what I was doing in slow motion via youtubes. Sorry, I couldn’t figure out how to make it slow in the video, you will have to use Youtube for that.

I start on a upstroke. For start of the riff, I use USX. I change slant when I descend from the G-string so it is more DSX. I am not as fast as Al is on the studio version, that stuff is just crazy ;D


Thanks so much to both of you! I have been to many guitar forums in the last four decades and while they have certainly improved in the last couple where we all actually have the Internets, I have not seen anything remotely comparable to this before.

I’m going to see if I can get @joebegly’s version to go first, because I think that cheeky extra swipe might be crucial, but I will certainly compare and contrast it with @Danish’s fine interpretation. I have a suspicion that some of that extra-turbo-warp speed is fueled by ahem a certain insouciance about non-functional pick-string contact, but we’ll see how that pans out.

If I can get it to anything like a non-laughable tempo during Plague Times I will try and rig up a video recording rig of my own to prove it.

(It occurs to me that while Chris Brooks has written what amounts to an extended book on neo-classical vocabulary informed by the CtC account of Yngwie’s system, there doesn’t seem to be anything similar for the anti-gravity school, while it probably makes me a bad person and a bad guitarist that I am willing to risk letting my fingers outstrip my ability to transcribe Al or Vinnie Moore’s wizardry for myself, I am after all both a bad person and a bad guitarist, so that’s only natural.)


Yeah I like @Danish’s approach. I honestly tried it some that way in the beginning.
It’s super fun, now that we’re armed with these groundbreaking discoveries, to try and figure out exactly how these monsters like Al D actually play what they do. Sometimes though, I take the approach of “Ok…this is probably how they play it…I’m gonna do my own thing though, using other options within the general CtC framework of how to solve picking problems”. I think that’s what @Danish did. It even sounds like he just played it how if felt natural to him, then filmed it and figured out what he was doing. I am not there yet…I’ve only been on here a few months so I’m still in the very strict re-learning phase where I need to re-program all my habits. Pinpointing swipes and things of that nature are the only way I can survive these phrases. Hopefully in another year or so, it just becomes rote.

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Yeah, trying out the different options, that you have learned from CTC is a great idea!

I want to share just a few pointers, that I experienced while practicing this.

  1. I remember working it out quite methodical and analytical as to where I would use USX and DSX. So it is no accident that I start on a upstroke and that I change to more DSX when I get to the G-string section of the song.This is where knowing the CTC vocabulary give the option to use different strategies. I found it difficult to work things out purely from an analytical perspective though and this is where…

  2. the “feel” thing comes in. I try to remember what Troy says - it has to feel easy. So the technique should start to feel easier, and this is where the analytical part of the brain shuts off more. I’ve already done that.

“You have told me what you think. But how does it make you feel?”

There was a time when there was no CTC and these guys, our heroes, were able to teach them selves by feel. So I think, this is a state of mind that is good to practice. It has to feel good. We have to search for that feeling in our playing.

  1. Don’t forget about the left hand! So is it easier to use the pinky or use the third finger instead? I would try both solutions. Try and map it out. Analyse and feel.

  2. Chunk and think about the accents. You have to start somewhere and end somewhere. The middle part will take care of itself.

BTW. There is also great chunk at the end of the song, great practice, perfect for ruining your girlfriend’s night when she is watching the television :nerd_face: :guitar: I actually find it a bit easier than the first one in this post, since it is in the middle of the guitar and my picking hand can find support easier than on the E string. It is almost the same riff though, but it loops neatly.

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I tried your post with the notes this am - I think it’s bang on. Where he likely swipes vs add a little rotation is great…it’s also helped me move past stumbling on this section. There is value in a well placed swipe.


Glad it helped! I <3 swiping…I can play certain phrases so much faster now that I know that it’s
A) A thing; and
B) A totally viable and pretty widely used way to solve outside string changes

I apologize again for unleashing the monster of “2wps” on the world. Mainly because nobody knows whether we’re talking about the pick’s appearance (“slant”), or something to do with its motion, or something to do with which body parts are used to create that motion such as “rotation”, which only the forearm does, or some other type of joint motion. So again apologies!

So… if by “2wps” you mean the alternate picking style where you use wrist motion most of the time, and then wrist plus a little bit of forearm motion for certain string changes, there’s no “2wps” in this at all. I forgot about the video of Al and Steve playing this, but that video makes it super duper clear exactly what is going on here. Drum roll please:

There is only one picking motion Al is using for the entire thing, and that’s the 2 o’clock wrist motion. This is the same core motion used by McLaughlin, Andy Wood, Andy James, and lots of others. Can that one hand motion handle all the string changes in this line? Technically, no. I suspect that if we filmed this we’d see stuff going on where not all the notes are really being picked the way you might think. Either swiping, or other incidental things like displacement where you pick a different string than the one you’re fretting. Any of these things may be happening.

But it doesn’t really matter because it sounds good! I think this is tune is a great example of how far you can get with one simple picking motion that’s fast and fluid, and where you have good hand synchronization, and you don’t worry about the other details. For anyone working on this, if you want to do it “like Al”, the absolute simplest way is to use that one wrist motion and not worry about the details.

You might say, well, I want to go one better, I want to pick all the notes and I want to hit those notes and not other notes. Sure. But I’d also suggest that doing the one-motion approach is still the fastest way to get there. Because if you don’t have a motion yet which can move like that, then trying to do something more complicated is like trying to add windows before you build the wall.

Get the core motion happening, get the whole thing smooth, fast, and linked up, and worry about totally complete accuracy later. That’s the long tail of the process anyway.

Lol! I have seen some posts on here that the initial jargon was changing. Do we have a ‘sticky’ thread anywhere on here that contains all the acronym definitions? That way, if something changes, it can be kept in one place.

Well damn, guess my approach sort of falls apart in one aspect. I do think the tab I posted is a viable solution. But, as you point out, his wrist is never rotating. He’s doing the 2 o’clock thing the whole way. So I can’t see how my interpretation supports that. The places I labeled as ‘RD’ or ‘RU’ are complete requirements, given the other premises I’d established (which are probably flawed haha)

  • These are in fact the exact fretboard locations
  • I’m starting all the phrases on the same pick direction (upstroke or downstroke)

So in one sense, since my interpretation is sane, it’s ok. But then there’s that desire to play it exactly like he’s playing it, simply because that’s possibly the most efficient way to play it.

Thanks again @Troy for your always stellar insight. I’ll have another go at this with the 2 o’clock approach and see where things land :slight_smile:

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There’s not a sticky thread. The Primer is sort of the reference for everything. But it’s our fault that the Primer still includes some of this stuff. We’re working to update it and will eventually remove the “2wps” section. People still use the motions you’re talking about, and we’ll mention that in the new material. We just probably won’t call it “2wps” because it’s too confusing. It’s really a kind of alternate picking system that uses slightly different motions in very specific instances. These changes are so slight that to what extent we tell learners to even worry about that, or just learn it by feel (or not!), is even an important question.

In the mean time we’ll consider creating a thread.

Just keep in mind that “never rotating” and “doing only 2 o’clock” are not the same thing. You can get upstroke escape without rotating the forearm joint. You can just use another wrist motion. Andy Wood does this, which we’ve talked about before. And probably Al also does that too on occasion, I would imagine. It just doesn’t really look like it here.

For sure, this isn’t the greatest quality video, and you would need a Magnet to really know what’s going on. But just from the look of it, and also having looked at his playing on and off over the years, I have seen enough of this “single motion + swiping” type instances that if you’re asking me to guess, I’d suggest that single motion is a close approximation to what’s actually going on here.


Just in case anyone’s planning on going through this as Troy’s suggesting, here is the video that maps out the hand position and pick path that Al is using:

Just watched it again myself.

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I am working on the solo, mainly DSX but also with some of my own idiosyncrasies such as economy picking and a 3 note sweep.

This solo (and the whole song, actually) contain some DiMeola classic riffs, meaning, he does these all the time.

The four note sequence
The doubling of 3 notes to get an even number = 6

One could consider these DiMeola “atoms” because the appear so often in his playing. So it is well worth the time, in my opinion, to try and focus on these for a while and build up speed.

It is attached as pdf and Guitar Pro. Have fun :slight_smile: :guitar: :love_you_gesture:

Race with the devil on the panish highway .- solo.pdf.pdf (582.7 KB) Race with the devil on the panish highway .- solo.gpx (16.3 KB)

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