Regarding MAB's Theory Of "Potential Picking Speed"


@Troy and anyone else who has watched Michael Angelo Batio’s “Speed Kills” instructional DVD (originally a VHS tape). For quite a while now I’ve been wondering what you think of Michael Angelo Batio’s theory or concept which he named “Potential Picking Speed” (PPS).I thought it was brilliant when I first watched Speed Kills back in the early 90s and heard him discuss it. I was hoping I might see you bring it up in the forum but since it’s been a while now and I’ve never seen you mention it, I’d like to know if could get get your thoughts regarding MAB’s theory/concept named “Potential Picking Speed.” Thoughts such as “is it correct”, “how much value do you see in it”, etc. Personally I think it’s quite a profound theory for a guitarist to discover, especially as long ago as he did come up with the concept. I think It’s brilliant in its simplicity and is correct for the most part although with one caveat. I’m not going to reveal what I think that one thing is because I don’t want to influence anyone else’s answer.


BTW, if you haven’t ever heard of the specific phrase “Potential Picking Speed” (PPS), it’s because it’s a concept which Michael Angelo created (before he started going by Michael Angelo Batio) and introduced on his original Speed Kills VHS instructional tape which I bought along with Jim Gillette’s Vocal Power VHS instructional tape. There was no internet and therefore no YouTube back then so instructional material on how to shred. Especially at the speeds at which Michael Angelo played when he was in Nitro, who I saw at The Rock-It Club in Tampa, FL when they were touring for their second album H.W.D.W.S.

I was extremely interested in the concept of PPS when I saw it explained on Speed Kills which was possibly the best instructional shred video available at the time. Unlike, say the REH Yngwie VHS tape, on Speed Kills Michael didn’t just play a bunch of licks at fast and slow speeds. he also went into his philosophy on how to become fast and clean which is something which was very rare at the time for instructional videos. He made a decent attempt and how and why he played the way he did as opposed to just demonstrating licks which is all most guys did on their instructional VHS tapes.

@Troy I’m looking forward to finding out what your thoughts are on the PPS concept such as how important a concept it is, if you think it’s an accurate test of potential picking speed, and basically how much value you see in the concept.


I can see some parallel between this concept and the “raw” speed of an athlete (e.g. a runner or a swimmer). That is, different people will start from a different baseline of raw tremolo picking speed, but improvement is probably possible for most people (with the appropriate athletic training and within limits).


I think it holds true in general. I don’t think you can pick any faster (ignoring legato here) than your best tremolo. PPS is bang on where 1WPS is concerned as once you have your PPS, all you need to do is string track and boom! 2WPS is slightly different in that the rotation must be included in order to work. I actually practice doing the rotation on a single string - for example 6 note triplets in DWPS and landing a note rotated into UWPS on the beat - if I can’t do it on a single string, there is no way I could do it with string tracking.


Yes, that’s the crux of the issue as MAB explains it. You’re not going to get any faster than you can when you’re just banging away on one string.


I know the part of Speed Kills you’re referring to, and it’s where Mike says something about picking as fast as you can on a single string to determine your maximum picking speed. Of course I have no problem with that - that’s what I’d do if I wanted to find out how fast I could pick. Not sure what else there is to take away from that scene, unless I’m missing something.


One thing I would point out is that a “tremolo” isn’t a type of picking movement, it’s just a musical phrase where you play the same note. You can use any type of picking movement you want to play a tremolo, but you’ll get different ‘max speed’ readings based on the movement. Like if you choose elbow, you might be faster than if you choose wrist.

And of course, string switching matters here. Just because you can do elbow hyperpicking at 300bpm doesn’t really tell you anything about your ability to play a 1nps arpeggio. That requires a completely different movement, and they’re not related at all.

I think most people here know this. But maybe they don’t! So there’s that.


OK, thank you. I’m pretty sure he also added that the way you pick as fast as you can on one string is the way you pick best, so use that same picking motion whenever you play fast. In that same section of the VHS tape he said too many players pick one way slow and another way fast and that’s a bad thing to do. You should pick with the same motion slow or fast according to what I remember him saying on that tape. He said some players start flicking the pick back and forth with their thumb, for example, and he went on to say: If you do this: (uses thumb knuckle to move the pick back and forth) you can’t shred; you’re dead."


Ok yes, I remember that. But like I said, 300bpm on a single string with elbow movement has no relation to playing lines that require a different kind of picking movement. So no, I would not agree with that in all cases, and I think that’s pretty obvious to any of our regular viewers.

But in the general sense, sure, if multiple movements work, try them all and see which is fastest. I have made that suggestion many times on here. i.e. Just play as fast as you can with all the pickslanting movements and see which one is fastest. No, not every movement is going to work for every type of phrase. If you’re best at uwps wrist, then you should make sure to practice uwps wrist types of phrases. That’s maybe the update to what Mike was talking about. But in the general sense, in terms of finding out which movements are working or not working for you, sure, I still agree with the idea of taking that survey.


I agree with MAB’s point in the sense that, if you can’t do the simplest application of a given picking movement at speed X, you have pretty much zero chance of performing more complex applications at speed X.

I think that principle manifests on this forum in the advice to start out working with simple patterns on one string (even just repeating a single note) to get a handle on whether there are speed bottlenecks that need to be overcome before introducing the additional complexity of more challenging synchronization tasks with the fretting hand and/or the additional complexity of string switching.


At the time I first watched Speed Kills and was introduced to this concept I was very interested! I thought: “This concept is brilliant in its simplicity”!

Now it might just see like common sense but at the time when I was a lot younger (this was over 25 years ago!) I really appreciated the fact that MAB had come up with this concept. Of all the guitar heroes who made instructional tapes Michael Angelo (this was before he used the Batio name professionally) seemed to be the only one or at least one of the very few who tried to explain how to do things and made an effort to explain concepts to the buyers of his instructional DVD instead of just playing a bunch of licks fast and then slow.

One approach was actual teaching. The other approach was just letting us have the notes and fingerings to some of the licks in their lexicon.


Hey Troy, I’m watching Speed Kills right now and found the section where he talks about PPS. Here’s a direct quote which you may find interesting. Whether you’ll agree with it or not, I’m not sure. Michael states: “Now the biggest problem most people have is when they’re picking fast they’re fine but when you go to slow down your picking technique changes and this is where you get all screwed up. It would be like a runner running straight ahead, then he slows down and bobs left and right; it doesn’t work. And what you need is consistency with your right hand so when you get that tremolo, that’s the way you pick the best, that’s the way you pick fastest. Then take that exact motion and begin to slow it down.”

That may sound simple or like common sense now but when I first heard it over 25 years ago, I thought it was groundbreaking stuff and for the time it was. I think it holds up pretty well to this day! I attribute a good amount of the progress I made around that time (early 90s) to watching and learning from Michael Angelo’s “Speed Kills.”


I suppose, the only way he could of improved on it (excluding pickslanting of course😉) would have been to explicitly state that you should experiment with hand positioning when working on your tremolo, I think it would have helped a lot.


Well I’d say it covers a high percentage but still it’s just a part of the whole thing.
Every player can play 1nps all 6 strings lightning fast … when strumming.
When sweeping (and sometimes ecomy picking) the weak point is the fretting hand not the picking hand.
Just to get some situation where pick faster than tremolo playing.
Same for stringskipping licks, physically there’s no way to pick them at the same speed (alternating) as on a single string.
Anyhow I agree with it kindof, in most cases the tremolo speed is the target and should be atainable (with the right technique) as rule of thumb.
Just we should not forget about workarounds or physical limits that at least can exist in certain situations.


I think one must be careful about thinking there is a universal motion mechanic for all tempos.


MAB is a beast… and his technique is amazing… and a lot of his advice is good… but sometimes I think he simplifies things too much.

His blanket statements need to be taken with a grain of salt. Like its impossible to pick quickly unless you lock your fingers? There are plenty of exceptions to that.

As far as tremolo picking… that kind of advice may be good for advanced players looking to speed things up a bit… but I wouldnt suggest it for beginners. To me, it’s not about learning to tremolo pick as fast as you can… It’s about tremolo picking as fast as you can using a mechanic that suits you well for switching strings.

Anyway, I am grateful for him showing his form on CCTC videos… and again… he is a picking beast.