Robert Fripp's unique style of crosspicking

Based on what I’ve seen from his playing live, his technique seems to rely on string hopping. I’m not seeing that fluid rotational dynamic that a lot of other masters use. Take for example his picking in this clip at about 3:33

Does anyone have any insight into this? His picking is so honed and perfect, it would be funny if it was based primarily off of stringhopping

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It’s hard to tell from that short clip…

But the result speaks for itself.

I don’t know, I don’t have good eyes for this stuff (though CtC gives an education for that for sure). I’d say the motion is fluid with forearm rotation combined wrist deviation. It looks to me not so far to what Andy Wood is doing.


I”m pretty much certain it’s not string hopping. I’m not particularly skilled at analysing movements from video clips but it does look like the Andy Wood style cross picking movement there.

He has a very specific style and clearly defined approach to what he “thinks” his picking mechanic is. However, i would bet that what he actually does when he speeds up is very different to what he thinks he is doing.

I spent 2 weeks living and studying with him in the 80’s on the early Crafty Guitarist couse. I only did Level 1 so i’m definitely no expert on it but I have seen it close up and had private lessons with him where he tried to teach me his “new standard” picking technique. I believe it had evolved considerably into a “system” by the time I saw it.

He says that the hand ishould float (clearly not what’s happening in that clip) with the pick (always a large medium guage triangular pick - he was very specific about that and had is one brand of picks which everyone on the course used) perpendicular to the string (ie no slant orientation). He advocated a purely wrist deviation movement where you only EVER “make” a down stroke. In his “system “ the upstroke is never “made” it is purely the result on the hand returning to its natural wresting place. He felt the making the down stroke placed the hand/wrist in a position of tension where the muscles wanted to release thus creating the up stroke. We spent hours doing just down/release (ie spring back to rest). I tried to pursue it for several months after the course but eventually gave up.

Every day we would have a private lesson, personal practice time then group practice sessions. My recollection of watching him close up (bearing in mind it was about 30 years ago :slight_smile: ) was that there was definitely an element of forearm rotation and there apeared to be a reasonable amount of tension when the speeds got fast. I don’t see how this could have been achieved using the movement that Robert “thought he was using.


There is a really good shot of Fripp’s picking hand here at about 57:25


Great playing here, especially to keep that up through whole sections of the tune. This was a cool band I really didn’t find out about until much later.

It’s clear what’s happening here mechanically, and it’s fine for this line. What’s less obvious to me is when he uses this amount of forearm adjustment while doing 1nps lines. The constant twitching on ascending inside string changes looks super un-smooth to me in the previous example up-thread. It may just be appearances, it may be fine. Can’t say. What I can say for sure it is not necessary when you match up the arm position and motion correctly. Or at least not necessary to that degree.


1972 Fripp. 1982 Fripp.

Frame by Frame was pretty much the soundtrack to my junior year in college at Oberlin, 1988-1989. The trilogy of albums by that eighties band along with an introduction to Al DiMeola’s approach… Pretty much zero chance of my stumbling upon DWPS until, well, youtubes and CtC. Careful how much credence one attributes to one “master” or another? I’m laughing and crying.

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Wow, an alum of the “crafty” school! Thanks for sharing!

Explains a lot. While I’ve learned of fingers returning to rest position by an alternate mechanism, interesting to consider with regard to wrist deviation. The wrist having the 360 degree mobility, treating it this way seems both very odd and very Fripp-ian. (Robert Fripp, if you are lurking out there, I wonder if you would still teach the mechanic that way.)

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The phrase is different, but the movements look the same to me in both of these clips. It might not even be the forearm component specifically. It could just be stringhopping on one or more of the notes. Either way, this is something we have seen in clips here on the forum, so my interest is figuring out to what extent this kind of solution is workable or not workable for someone who is still learning. The simplest answer is that we don’t know, but we know for sure that other methods do work, and you should shoot for one of those.

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It’s important to note that Fripp learned initially on a very hard to play guitar by an instructor who was a master of bluegrass playing. There are recordings of Fripp playing fracture like passages at similar speeds in his late teens

Apparently, he practiced like a madman and must have developed insane wrist strength


I have 12s on the guitar we’ve used in our crosspicking clips, and as many have noted in YouTube comments, the action is currently super high. If there is a “hard to play” guitar, it’s this one. If that’s the case, I can confirm in my case at least that wrist strength, per se, isn’t really a factor. You can always back off the pick attack if it feels like it’s taking too much muscular effort, and things get light quickly. Honestly, I think just learning that the motion exists at all, and that there is a particular way to do it that is totally smooth with minimal effort, is a huge hurdle. Nobody ever told me that. If I had grown up playing bluegrass though, those odds would probably have been higher as you point out.


Fripp’s instructor was the late Don Strike.

There’s some info on him and his teaching and why he got stuck with a hard to play guitar here:

To get better at picking, I used part of the moto perpetuo section of fracture as an exercise for practice as its a demonically difficult piece.

There’s actually an entire youtube series called “failure to fracture” that discusses one man’s attempts at playing the whole piece and he interviews the only guy he found on youtube who could play the entire thing successfully (who also was a guitar craft alumnus).

Worth a watch. He’s the guy behind the “Make Weird Music” youtube channel.


Cool! Never heard of this before. I’m just clicking through the first timeline here, and honestly, his technique looks great:

I clicked around just now only cursorily through the rest of these, but whatever he thinks he’s not doing right, I’m not seeing it!

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This is the guy who has come closest to nailing “Fracture”:

He’s got another video that’s clearer and easier to see but the guitar is more distorted, this one is cleaner and easier to hear and he’s using a metronome so his rhythm is really tight.

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Can’t really see or hear anything in this clip very well, but I still think the original guy does it just fine. He’s doing [one of the] deviation crosspicking motions we’ve been looking at for a while now, and it looks correct to me. Notably there is none of the periodic forearm adjustment we’re seeing in Fripp’s own technique, which is a little… ironic.

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Here’s my own attempt at doing that piece, can you glean anything in terms of technique from this video? I think I’m crosspicking but I might not be


Nice playing!

I think this is up to you to tell us. When done correctly, this type of picking motion doesn’t feel effortful. It doesn’t feel jumpy or bouncy, and there is no tension buildup over time. When you look down at the hand itself - not necessarily the fingers or the pick, but the hand itself, you almost can’t perceive the up and down component of it. It just looks like the wrist is moving side to side, even from player perspective. If these things are true, then you’re good.

On a related note, there are probably degrees of this. Something like 1003 or 902 might be the flattest motion path you can make and still actually get out of the strings. But something like 901:30 or 901, while still technically “crosspicking” might not feel as smooth, and you might experience more tension build up over time. I suspect there are players who make slightly more angular motions like these that are still “correct” (loaded term) for their application. Like on mandolin, for example, where the strings are really two strings, and you might not feel as free to make movements that are as big and flat as you would on a guitar. That’s a guess but I think that may also be true.

So again, how does it feel, what does it look like to you - those are the determinants. And have you tried the roll patterns, and can you get them flat and smooth?


The guy did an updated version of the fracture video with clearer video (but more distorted guitar which is sort of impressive in that he still makes it sound clean):

The MWM guy, Anthony’s take has occasional hiccups and not as smooth. The other Anthony (Faide) is very smooth and he never has a hiccup but basically you’re cross picking for long minutes without a hitch.

I think, in the case of this piece it’s more a test of endurance even though it also involves specific picking techniques.

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In extended passages like this especially, I definitely like to see flow. If it’s not relaxed and sustainable, it loses that moto perpetuo feeling, and it likely won’t hold my attention. In that case, yeah, it comes across as a “test of endurance” for sure.

Here’s a clip for contrast…

I think the goal for many of us is to have technique in spades to where we may focus on real artistry. That which presumably drew us in to begin with. Peace out. D

You do employ quite a lot of edge-picking though, whereas Fripp tries to minimise that, I feel. Isn’t that likely to have an effect?

Although to be fair, the first acoustic cross picking vid I saw of yours was very flat. Erm…I’ll just carry on arguing with myself for a bit, don’t mind me. :slight_smile:

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Everything has some effect I’m sure. But if the question is whether building “strength”, as in muscular power, is one of the main obstacles in learning crosspicking, my best guess is that it really isn’t. I haven’t found any techniques so far to really require big power. Edit: Well, maybe hypericking, but I can’t do that!

I think the biggest obstacle is simply not knowing that there is a particular type of picking motion that is necessary. The second is having clear instructions for actually doing it. And the third of course is actually developing the coordination to do it. But even then, the lack of the first two requirements has probably heavily colored most players’ impression of how easy or hard this might be in reality.

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