Single string picking - no escape or rest stroke

Hi All,

Hope everyone is doing well in these crazy times. I recently started playing guitar again after about a 10 year hiatus and have been trying to take advantage of all the knowledge that’s available these days. I’ve been taking lessons with Teemu over the last few months (highly recommend him - truly a magnificent musician/technician/human) and have been analyzing my picking movements a lot.

One thing that’s come to light is how minimal my picking movements are. They BARELY go past the strings (except for the first stroke) and there does not seem to be a default escape motion.

So my latest game plan is to take a step back and really try to just get my single string mechanics down. Comfort is something that is constantly lacking for me for whatever reason. It just never feels “right.” When comparing my picking to others it seems like I’m fighting the strings a lot more than those I’ve watched.

Below is a video (fast and slow clips in one) with me doing a few 16th note bursts at 200 BPM on a single string.

I’m not entirely sure which mechanics I’m using (it looks like a combo of forearm rotation and wrist movements) but I figured I would enlist your services to get your feedback on my single string mechanics (what looks off, changes I can make, etc.).

Thanks in advance!

Hi,

Its a little bit tricky to diagnose with the bursts, could you record a clip with a single stream (at least a few bars) of 16ths with a decent amount of full speed and slow-mo? Even if you have to slow down a little is fine, say above 170bpm. That will be really useful.

One nice thing is you’re getting a great camera angle. I’ve watched it a few times and it does appear to be a trapped motion. Also, I don’t see your elbow as driving the motion so some wrist/forearm combination as you’ve already indicated is most likely your mechanic. But like the above request to just bang on a single note tremolo, I think we’ll get much better info and diagnosis.

Thank you both for your reply! Below are two videos at 170 BPM (Slow mo and regular). Thank you again!

Thanks!

The thing I notice, if carefully watching the path your pick travels, is that it’s pretty curved. This may be happening because after many of the upstrokes, your pick sort of slides over the string and toward the body of the guitar. Sort of like this little red line I’ve crudely drawn:

image

That little ‘snag’ could be what you’re referring to when you say you feel like you’re fighting the strings. You certainly aren’t slow, so my bet is that you just need to smooth the motion out…or as I’ve heard on here often, try out some variables like a different grip, pick size etc.

I see you’re a masters in mechanics member so check out this video of Joshco Stephan doing a tremolo and notice how the path his pick draws is pretty straight:

I mean, technically it must be a little curved since he has such a rotational mechanic, but it looks much more like a straight line than what we see in your clip. Plus, if anything, his curve would be the inverse of yours.

Do you also see this too after watching your clip again? I ask because I’m trying to get better at these critiques. @tommo is the current technique critic in chief, so he’ll see this and give you some good pointers.

Out of curiosity, is there an escape path your after? I notice the occasional rest stroke on the quarter note accents so I’d assume you’re after a USX. To me, attempting to get a little more lift on your upstroke (pulling away from the body slightly) would help out with this and smooth the motion out.

Nice job and again, excellent camera angle. You’ll get some good answers on your thread, so stay tuned!

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Thank you for such an in-depth reply! Teemu actually pointed out that same traveling pattern that you’ve shown and it’s pretty evident to me now seeing the drawing (your critique was very insightful so thank you).

I actually went through the pickslanting primer for the second time this week and paid much closer attention. There was one player (I can’t recall who at the moment) that had a trapped path as their primary motion but it didn’t look similar to me.

It seems like Joscho Stephan and players similar to him have the path I’m after but I’m really struggling to get that lift out of the strings. I’m not entirely sure how to practice that. Doing it slow is even problematic because I notice that my path has an arc to it. I read something Troy wrote that mentioned that at slower speeds a lot of players have DBX path which looks like what is the case for me.

I’m trying to figure out what I can change or practice to achieve that USX path because the speed is definitely there it’s just a matter of getting a nice fluid motion that can translate to string changes.

Again, thank you for your help and I look forward to further replies!

Ha! Thanks for the mention! But your input is just as valuable, and in several occasions better :slight_smile: I think the most valuable thing happening on this forum is that we are developing a precise methodology of filming, analysing and discussing one’s picking - a sort of scientific method for guitar :slight_smile:

In this particular case, I think @Hartaj703 has a great starting point with this tremolo motion! I like a lot the rhythmic feel of the most recent video.

Before committing to the fully trapped diagnosis I think we should have a look at some simple patterns that switch strings. New interesting things may happen!
And I think you have spent enough time on a single string :wink:

Something like the Yngwie 6s on a pair of a adjacent strings could be an option (6 notes per string, switching after upstrokes), or any other pattern that you like.

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Hi @tommo! Apologies for the delay, I just had a free moment to take the video. Thank you for the reply. Below is a video of me playing sextuplets at 115 BPM across 4 strings. I apologize for the audio (I hold my phone with my left hand to get the angle). I look forward to your reply!

Great camera work and great take!

To me, I still see that same curved motion. All the string changes are flawless though, so at the point when you need it most you’re getting a USX. I see this particularly in the second half, when you start descending. I grabbed this shot right before you change from the D string to the A string:

Look at that pick height! Very nice!

So if the motion your pick made was always like this, instead of the “C” curve (from our viewing perspective) I feel like this would be a perfect USX:

image

Of course, that’s not what’s happening, because once again the motion is about to do this:

image

for full context I’m focusing right around the 0:25 mark of your clip. But I think, even though that’s an isolated example, that this is happening pretty frequently.

Full transparency, I could be wrong, so I’m curious what others think. I don’t class myself as an expert at these analysis but I enjoy them and I’ve been a fly on the wall for countless of them on the forum so I’ve tried to learn from what I’ve seen - watch the pick path, above everything else.

I suspect your ‘problem’ is similar to my own, which is that we can move our hands plenty fast, but we’re not making a straight line with our movements all the time. It’s this inconsistency that robs the picking of its smoothness and I think that’s the difference between us and players that own this stuff and play at/above these speeds for a long duration and don’t ‘feel’ like they’re trying hard.

Now, what’s quite different from your clips is that my inconsistent movement was the product of attempting to do USX where the elbow was driving my mechanic. I should have known better, but I figure because I was rest stroking on the down strokes I’d be ok :slight_smile: That doesn’t matter at all since you can rest stroke and still be trapped lol! Again, your camera angle and filming is awesome, so we clearly see you are not using the elbow, other than as a tracking aid. I feel like your mechanic of wrist/forearm should be fully USX compatible.

However, often we hear advice to simply change the mechanic or embrace another escape. I suppose it would be interesting to see what happens if you played something that’s DSX compatible. I do see some DSX movement in your playing. If you tried something like:

--------------------------------------------------------
--------------------------------------------------------
----------------------------------------x-x-x-x-x-x-
------------------------x-x-x-x-x-x-----------------
--------x-x-x-x-x-x---------------------------------
-x-x-x------------------------------------------------

If you start that on a down stroke and use strict alternate picking that should have you change strings on a downstroke. Maybe your brain would like that better? I dunno. Worth a shot!

So, I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on TV either, but that is my diagnosis :slight_smile: I’d love to hear what the cure is! I think this is great playing that just needs smoothing out. We need some experts:

I’ve seen @tommo and @qwertygitarr and @Johannes all give awesome critiques with actual advice on how to correct the issues. That’s by no means to discredit other awesome reviewers on here, they’re just the ones I’ve seen do the most critiquing lately so I thought I should invite them to the party.

Sorry that’s so long, I suck at being concise. Follow up question: did Teemu have any advice for you? He’s obviously very aware of CtC principals.

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To be honest… I don’t see any obvious problems here! This is well executed string switching at “shred” tempos!

A logical next step could be to work on musical examples like the Yngwie 6s and other simple repeating licks, trying to get good L/R synchronization. I wouldn’t even limit myself to USX licks, because as @joebegly suggested it may well be that you can execute DSX string changes as well.

If any problems arise there we’ll take a look!

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@joebegly Once again, thank you very much for such an in depth reply! It’s incredibly appreciated.

I definitely am seeking that relaxed feeling and do think that “curved” travel bath before I escape is a factor in preventing that feeling. When I look at other players, the only time I’ve seen a curved path is for DBX movements or cross picking and it doesn’t seem to exist as players approach their higher speeds. I also am not a doctor and just a novice student of the art!

@tommo - thank you as well for your reply! Do you not find that curved path before I escape to be a road block in trying to get more fluid and relaxed in my playing?

Apologies for the delayed response - I had to enlist the help of my girlfriend for these videos. Just doing this with my right hand was too tricky :joy: Below are the videos. This time repeating sixes with a change on a down stroke!

Edit: @joebegly forgot to address your Teemu question! He wants me to take the next couple of weeks before our next lesson to kind of step away from the grind of the metronome and just focus on relaxing my mind when I play. I treat guitar the same way as the gym (I track a list of exercises in Excel to see if my max BPM for each exercise is increasing over time). So, more playing while I watch TV, and learning new exercises/songs, and even taking a day off (which is definitely going to be the hardest part!) to just kind of see if this leads to a new discovery since I’d be doing things very differently than I normally do.

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Firstly, to me this DSX stuff looks smoother. Excellent work. I agree with @tommo that both this and your other videos showed good string switching. I did note that in my critique. However, I’m still in agreement with you that there’s something holding you back from feeling like you own this and even speeds 15 - 25 bpm faster than what you’re playing. Perhaps it’s that the string change is efficient but the notes in between are the more curved movement???

Just bear with me for a moment please. Here is a link to my video critique:

No need to read the whole thread, just checkout the 2 videos to the link. In terms of notes per second, both @Hartaj703 and I are in the same ballpark. I believe I was doing these somewhere around 16ths at 180 bpm. Troy’s overall feedback was that only since I was expressing feelings of ‘speed limit’ and not being able to fully control this that we should investigate an alternative. Granted, my string changes were not as clean as @Hartaj703 as I was swiping a lot in both directions. Aside from fighting nature by attempting USX with a DSX mechanic, there was some inconsistency in my motion. This I understood to be taken as lacking the smoothness of someone who could play the exercise I was attempting at and beyond my speed with total control. Let’s just say, John Petrucci, to throw out a random name :slight_smile: I walked away from the critique of the opinion that someone who can move their hands fast enough to play 16ths at 180 has everything they need to play even faster, but certainly to not feel limited at 180 as I felt. The answer was embracing a mechanic that set me up for more smoothness.

What is different, if anything, about this thread? Is the recommendation to keep doing what he’s doing, just attempt faster speeds? I can’t see how that curve he’s got (which is the inverse of a DBX curve) is helping. I believe if that curve were straightened he’d be in supersonic territory (if he chose to play faster than this) but certainly these speeds wouldn’t feel like he’s fighting anything, as he’s indicated he feels. Most of my career I have been stuck at roughly this same speed, so I’m extremely interested how 2 similar cases might warrant a different prescription :-). I had my marching orders and now my problem is hand sync at the faster speeds since my new mechanic makes my right hand faster than my left. What’s next for @Hartaj703 after viewing the DSX video?

Thank you again @joebegly for the reply! I am curious as to how are similar problems result in different conclusions. I agree with you that the curved path can’t be helping me. But I also am no expert. The gap between my single string speed and string changing speed is pretty large (115 sextuplets for 3 NPS patterns on my absolute best day vs 150 BPM sextuplet single string) and I’m just trying to figure out how to translate that speed to move across strings. Granted, that’s one of the hardest parts of guitar but if there’s a way to make the path to the promised land any clearer that would be great :joy:. If the diagnosis is to keep on doing what I’m doing and keep pushing myself then that’s what I’ll do! I’ve never had a problem putting in the work so :slight_smile: Thank you again for the replies and analysis!

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Hey @Hartaj703, @joebegly, sorry for the delay, weekends can be a bit crazy :slight_smile:

The shortest answer is that I like a combination of Teemu and Joebegly’s advices: spend some time working on more musical stuff (songs / riffs / licks) using these picking patterns at various speeds, and also try some variations of hand/arm setups and pick grips to see if your feeling of comfort improves.

The slightly longer answer is: I may be wrong but I think Joe’s and your case are actually quite different!

  • Joe was working on USX but with a DSX motion mechanic (elbow), so that the high-speed USX string changes were not working as intended (still sounded great, but resulted in the feeling that something was holding you back -IIRC :slight_smile: )
  • In Hartaj’s case, it seems to me that all string changes are working as intended. Though I acknowledge that your picking is not feeling as good as you’d like.

So let’s talk about the fully trapped trajectories that happen on a single string - I also agree that they sometimes look like a “inverted U” shape - but not for all pickstrokes. Sometimes I even see something that looks like a double escape, e.g. around 5 secs in the latest slo mo video.

Is this inverted U shape a problem? I’m not sure, it could just be the pick climbing up and down the string during fully trapped strokes. Something like this happens in Jorge Strunz’s playing and I don’t think it’s holding him back, it’s just pick & string doing their physics :slight_smile:

Futhermore, you are reporting a speed of 150bpm sextuplets on single string tremolo! That’s amazingly fast! I don’t think you could do that if your single string motion was somewhat inefficient. Do you feel discomfort when you are doing that, and what type of discomfort?

So the next question is… why can’t you change strings at your top speed? What exactly happens when you try to do it? Maybe try to film that and we’ll take a look.

…But in the meantime these 115bpm sextuplets can serve you well in a lot of musical scenarios… so I reiterate the suggestion to start playing music with the technique you already have :slight_smile: :+1:

Finally, I’ll also tag @Troy just in case he sees something I’m not seeing!

Edit: also found an old practice video of mine where you can see a combination of fully trapped pickstrokes + occasional escapes. I think you can see the “inverted U” shape also here as the pick climbs over the string to go to the other side

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This is most certainly correct, thanks for pointing this out. I guess a huge difference is I feel like what I was doing was just a square peg in a round hole. @Hartaj703 is surely on the right track. Good mechanic, good control etc. The similarity I was thinking about is the feeling of limitation at speeds where we shouldn’t feel that way. Also the ‘non-straight’ pick path in both our cases. However…

This is extremely thought provoking.

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So I just rewatched the super slow version of my critique video and saw tons of this “C” curve in my own playing too haha! Not sure if it’s apples/oranges but I do know my motion was classed as not smooth. This is a cool learning opportunity. I’d be interested to see what @Troy thinks about this. 2 questions I have that directly pertain to this thread:

  • What is it about @Hartaj703’s mechanic that makes his path travel like this and not more of a straight line? I’m sure I’m missing something, but I thought a wrist/forearm blend like he’s using is a recipe for USX. He’s obviously getting USX on the string changes, but what is causing the other notes to have a more trapped trajectory?
  • Is there anything with this “C” curve that we should be trying to avoid? Is it ok in general or at least in this instance where the string changes are clean?

I suspect there is always going to be a little of a “C” shape around the string, since the pick must climb over it to get past (the string also moves a bit but not as much). I mean, both you and @Hartaj703 can pick crazy fast, so whatever you are doing must be working well. Also, how would you make the “C” go away? Particularly with elbow motion, there’s not much you can do beyond moving the elbow on its only axis.

In terms of @Hartaj703’s motion, the last two videos displayed a pretty solid DSX motion, almost only wrist (discussed this with Troy as well). EDIT: maybe I’m seeing what I want to see but the DSX example also looks more like a “linear” path.
Hartaj, Could it be that your “primary” motion is actually DSX, and then you use a secondary motion for the upstroke string changes? Was the last example more comfortable than the one with upstroke string changes?

Linking the chapter on primary / secondary motions for completeness :slight_smile:

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Thanks @tommo, good responses as always.

No I don’t think you’re seeing what you want to see. I noticed/noted that in my critique of his latest. I fully agree it’s more a straight line. Curious what his response is about if this ‘feels’ any better.

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Hi @tommo & @joebegly, apologies for the delay! I read through your responses earlier but wanted to make sure I had video before responding!

Thank you for such in depth responses! A lot to go through :joy: !

I don’t know if I’d call it discomfort it’s more of just the movement not feeling fluid. Even doing a chromatic run at 170 BPM and above gets that same feeling of being unable to track across the strings in a fluid motion. Maybe that’s just something that comes with time?

It’s interesting to see that “inverted U” shape occurring in your video too. This gives me some hope that I can still get where I want to go with it occurring!

I think answering this question is the one that will help sort this all out. I’m not entirely sure “why” my motion path ends up being this way and what I can do to rectify it without introducing elbow movement or if it even needs to be.

I’ve actually never considered that possibility and now looking at the videos, it does look like a much more straight path to me. It’s really strange to me to think about this because historically speaking changing on upstrokes always felt easier to me. Even earlier in this year it felt more comfortable! I did show Teemu a video of me when I was 17 and he said it looked like I was more of an upward pick slant which does align more with favoring DSX and using a helper for USX (in my case I think I use forearm rotation to USX). (It’s pretty hard to tell from the angle but here’s the video if interested https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCHjpbBxZ8U)

I have a couple of videos for you to review. I’ve been focusing on keeping the pick a lot looser in my hand to avoid tension so there are varying degrees of attack in these clips. The first clip is just me attempting a couple of runs at 200 BPM going 4+4+1 (Slow mo and regular). A lot of takes I notice me missing the final upstroke before going to the next string change. I also see the introduction of swiping to compensate for these missed strokes.

Next video is me taking 3 NPS scale and breaking down the core beat to beat movements @ 200 BPM(1+3, 2+3, 1+3+1)
The 1+3+1 sequence gives me such immense trouble that I can’t even describe it. Getting that last 1 to accent the next beat is so difficult for me and leads to a lot of missed strokes. Very curious to get your diagnosis on all of this!

Once again, thank you so very much for the amount of effort you guys are putting in to help me!

Could it be that you are over-anticipating the string change, making you ‘reach out’ to the next string, when you don’t really need to? Kind like a tiny motocycle rev type motion that interferes with your efficient motion. I wonder if you tried the 4+4+1 in reverse (from D string down to low E), whether you it would mitigate that and maintain a straight line. Might be interesting…