Relearning the motion : help me perfect it!

Hi everyone,

Recently discovered Troy and his videos, I’ve decided to relearn my right hand motion. I am struggling a lot on the wrist motion. Here’s what I have so far :

While the wrist motion itself seems correct to me, it’s not an upstroke escape pickslanting motion. My wrist is flat against the body, so both my upstroke and downstroke are trapped. What I am trying to do now is introduce the pickslant. To do so, I am tilting the wrist and forearm a little bit :

You can see that when I’m picking, my forearm moves with the wrist. For some reason, I can’t isolate the wrist. I would really appreciate any tips on how to achieve a proper motion :slight_smile:


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I’ll be interested to hear the experts chime in on this, but I think this is happened because your motion isn’t centered properly.

When you tilt your hand to get the USX (tilting toward your pinky so that you thumb rotates a little bit up and away from the guitar) the downstroke will literally collide with the guitar if it’s allowed to just keep going. If the movement doesn’t stop before the wrist gets blocked by the guitar then other things begin to move to round out the motion.

I’m not sure I see your forearm moving, but if colliding with the guitar is also causing you to move along the flexion and extension axis then you could be in a supinated position and still manage to have both pickstrokes trapped.

tl;dr I think your wrist is a little too ‘ulnarized’, i.e the motion is too much on the pinky-side of your wrists range of motion!

Honestly this looks fine to me. It’s not wrong if your wrist and forearm move together. We have a whole lesson on it in the forearm section!

The main thing is, does it feel fast and smooth? Or does it feel limited in speed and smoothness compared to other motions you know? Meaning, can you pick faster or more smoothly with some other motion, and if so, why not use that motion?

A small detail: I know we have been occasionally unclear on what the term “pickslant” means, and I apologize! When I use the term “pickslant”, I’m usually only referring to the way the pick looks, not the way it moves. It sounds like you’re referring to the motion itself, i.e. the way it escapes on a diagonal. This is fine, I understand what you mean. The only reason I point this out is that tilting the arm and pickslanting aren’t the same thing.

For example, in the John McLaughlin style, he uses the same tilted arm that you are using here. But he escapes on the downstroke, not the upstroke, and the pick doesn’t have a downward pickslant either! I know that seems backwards but he’s just moving his wrist along the opposite diagonal. The DSX lesson in the Primer covers how to do all that. While you’re experimenting with this motion, it could be helpful to try that one too, because it uses the same (or very similar) arm position and grip. And trying both gives you two chances to find that centralized arm position which will work. Eventually, to play lines with mixed escapes, you’ll need both motions anyway.

So the main thing here is the motion, and it sounds like you’ve understood that.You just want it to be fast, smooth, and have an escape path. It doesn’t really matter which joints are moving. If you find a way that is wrist-forearm, and has an upstroke escape, that’s a perfectly fine way to play.

I don’t know, it looks kind of fine to me. McLaughlin is pretty ulnar in his form. There seems to be a sort of big window there and I’ll admit I don’t know exactly what influences this. DiMeola is a little straighter, Andy Wood is more ulnar, John is more ulnar still. Brendon Small in our latest interview also goes pretty ulnar on occasion, especially when reaching for the upper strings. “I’ve noticed that it [the wrist] fans, and that’s natural” is how he put it.

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My apologies for the late reply. I’ve been practicing :sweat_smile:

Thanks, I think that was it. I’ve been trying to practice with less angle and it seems to work!

You’re right, I’m simply trying to learn this motion in particular! I have been really negligent about my picking technique so I’m trying to be thorough this time.

I can’t really pick fast, or at least not for long. When picking fast, I use an elbow motion which I obviously can’t hold for long.
When using the wrist motion, I do get this smoothness feeling. But I was losing it when using a more supinated motion to get the USX. Hence the topic.

As you suggested, I’ve tried the DSX motion but it hasn’t “clicked” for me yet. I’ll practice a bit more the USX and DSX motions and come back with an update. Thank you for all the feedback!

Elbow is a great motion! And good elbow players can do it for as long as they need to. Also, there is a connection between elbow movement and wrist movement. Many great players do both, and either switch between them, or sometimes even do both at the same time. Usually this is with DSX motion, because the elbow joint creates a DSX motion, and so you very often see players switching between wrist DSX for medium speed playing and elbow DSX for high speed. The two motions can help each other.

We talk about this in our interview with Brendon Small. If you haven’t watched that, I highly recommend it. The whole section on elbow tremolo and wrist scale playing is a great example of how these movements can work together, and everything he does is so clear and easy to see.

So if you have something that’s already working, that’s great let’s use it. Because the main issue with the clips you’ve posted is they don’t look fast and fluid. If your elbow technique is much faster than this, and you can post a clip of it, that would be a great. A “down the strings” angle will help get a better look at how the pick is moving:

Thing is, it has never really worked for me! I’ve always struggled with fast picking.
Here’s my elbow picking motion after watching Brendon Small interview as well as your intro on this specific motion:

On the second one I’m exhausted and holding the phone at the same time. But the motion seems to be a correct DSX.

Now on the plus side I can definitely play faster with this motion than any others.

But I kind of dislike it. It’s quite tiring and I don’t have a feeling of control. Seems like it is based on “spasms”. That’s why I initially wanted to learn a wrist motion that would feel like I am more in control, at least at moderately fast speeds.

However this is not a motion I have specifically worked on, so I am sure there is plenty room for improvement. I’d be really interested in your analysis.

Yes, it is a new motion for me and I was not trying to play it fast! I’ll post a new attempt of an USX wrist only motion soon.

Hey, those clips look great! That’s a very nice looking elbow motion and the escape looks to be the 10- or 15-degree kind of escape these motions usually produce. Why is the sound missing, is that how your phone records slow motion? What does it sound like in normal video? Because if the attack is smooth, that’s great.

Not only that, but I’m pretty sure you are doing a combination of wrist and elbow, not just elbow itself. In slow motion it looks to me like the wrist joint (i.e. the hand) is moving in addition to the elbow itself. That means you are basically doing the DSX wrist motion that we teach in the Primer, but like Brendon, you are doing it as part of a connection to the elbow joint.

Try taking that motion and slowing it down a very small amount and see what it looks like. Then go a tiny bit slower. Does it become more wrist or stay elbow?

Either way, I like what this motion looks like. Maybe it’s something you can experiment with to see if you can find a way of doing it that feels less tense to you. When a motion is new, we tend to “overdo” it by using muscles that aren’t totally necessary. Over time, very often without consciously thinking about it, these motions become more relaxed because you learn by feel that only certain muscles are necessary, or only a certain amount of effort is necessary.

As you experiment with this, don’t do anything that’s painful or causes fatigue. And don’t play for long periods of time. Just be casual and experimental with this motion, using it at different speeds and with different kinds of phrases, whenever you have time. See if you can find a way that works more smoothly.

You’re using the pronated form here, where the pinky is slightly lifted from the bridge. This is the form where elbow DSX links with wrist DSX. But if you want to continue to experiment with the wrist USX motion, that’s fine too. Just flatten out the arm so the pinky heel also touches the bridge. Keep everything else the same - same motion feel, same speed. These two forms are very similar, almost opposite sides of the same coin. If they feel too different, the form might be wrong.

However, the pronated form seems to be working for you. When it comes to pure alternate picking you can do a lot of what you need to from this arm position without switching to supinated. This is what @tommo does, for example. Tommo’s form looks similar to yours, and he also does the elbow-wrist combination movement. We have a great clip for Instagram which we’ll put up soon where he plays fours against a three-note-per-string fingering using this combination motion. The upstroke escape is achieved by “dart thrower” wrist motion, helping out the elbow.

Nice work!

Hi Troy,

First I wanted to thank you again for all your feedback, as well as all the content you and your team have created. I really feel like this will get my playing to the next level, and after being stuck for so long you can’t imagine how grateful I am. Keep up the excellent work :+1:

Yes, sadly I can’t record in slow motion with the sound on. Below are some clips with the sound though. The attack seems pretty smooth to me but is pretty inconsistent. You can easily hear mistakes here and there.

I’ve taken a few shots this morning, mainly to see what was happening when I was slowing down from a fast motion, or just going slow but with everything in the same place.

Slow wrist DSX:

Mixed speed wrist & elbow DSX:

I’ve also taken the liberty to take a different angle when doing a fast elbow motion DSX. because you couldn’t really see the angle of the wrist in the previous clips:

With this form I am definitely using a wrist motion when playing at slower tempo. But as soon as I am trying to play fast, I am switching to a mainly elbow motion, with some wrist to help. What concerns me though is the angle of the wrist : it’s pretty steep.

I would say it’s ok for an elbow motion. In fact, you say in the introduction to the elbow motion that’s it is a pretty common form, and that you often see it (i.e John Taylor or Vinnie Moore).

Now I don’t think it would be a good idea to use this form for a pure wrist based motion. It’s a bit “too much” : too much angle and pronation. Also I am also not sure how it would interact with an USX motion that I will need to use when switching strings on the upstroke. I need to try this out! Overall it feels like I can find a cleaner way to play at moderate speeds.

Anyway, do any of the new clips (especially with the different angle) changed your mind about my form ?

I have a last question about the following (my apologies for the long post). You were comparing the elbow DSX with the wrist USX, and what I need to do to transition from the first to the second:

Shouldn’t the wrist motion be a lot more relaxed though ? I definitely get why you’re saying that they are almost the opposite sides of the same coin. I realised that when slowing down to take the clips. Should I tense my arm when trying to play fast with the DSX wrist motion ? Or should it feel as relaxed as when playing slow ?

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Too much what? It’s not “too much”. This is a very common form for pronated playing! John Taylor, Vinnie Moore, David Grier, Molly Tuttle, @tommo, @Bill_hall , and many other great pronated players all use a variation of this “radial” wrist offset.

You can still do upstroke string changes this way. From the pronated form, the wrist makes a radial extension motion, or a “dart thrower” motion, to do upstroke string changes. You can watch the wrist mechanics videos in the Primer for more details on what this is. In the first three videos we talk about all the wrist geometry stuff.

But try not to overthink this. What you’re doing is good, and the results speak for themselves. Everything looks and sounds great. Just try some phrases that have all downstroke string changes, because those are the simplest. This way you can just get the feel of the motion happening, and make sure the escape is actually getting over the string.

You can try phrases that have upstroke string changes too. Don’t worry too much about how to do the dart thrower motion. Just see if you can figure it out by feel. When things are working well I like to just go with that. A little knowledge helps guide you and evaluate the results. The learning you can do by feel.

Nice work here.

I am a bit confused with your previous message about upstrokes and downstrokes.

Are you still talking about a DSX motion here ? If so, there is something I didn’t get.

Hey! Just following up on this. Yes if I’m following all the above, I believe Troy was just saying using all DSX / downstroke string changes will be the easiest starting point with the elbow motion you’re doing above. Though you can also work on the USX wrist motion from the same basic pronated position. Still some confusion here? If so let us know!

Sorry, yes, when I say “downstroke string changes” I mean phrases where the last note on the string is always a downstroke. DSX motion is when downstrokes go up in the air. So players that use this type of motion, like John McLaughlin, arrange most of their lines so downstrokes are the final note. When you play these types of phrases, you can use one picking motion for the entire line so it is the simplest test of whether that motion is working.