SRV and Others Speed Picking

I’m wondering if anyone could break down the way guys like SRV, John Mayer, Philip Sayce and others play their speed runs. It looks to me like even when they’re picking fast lines, they’re like swiping over multiple strings. It’s almost like they are doing small strums over two to three strings at a time and muting what they don’t want to ring out. However, you don’t hear it that way. It actually sounds very surgical. Are they two way pickslanters? One way? Crosspickers? It’s really hard to tell by watching them. I think it’s interesting because playing say scuttle buttin up to speed with pure alternate picking is no easy task.


Post a specific example with a clear view of the picking hand and we’ll take a look! Otherwise, I think you can imagine, there are a thousand answers to this question.


Funny, love him and grew up with his music, and this is the first time I looked at his picking hand.
Here’s a clip with at least some closer shots:

Seems to me he has a huge arsenal on motions, my impression is there’s no tendency for one specific style he just picks what is needed.
The whole thing looks quite impressive to me, seems he can stop the huge driving strumming motions at any string to play scales - and singlestring playing looks surpringsly efficient.
He’s famous for hitting all six string but playing single notes, so I’m sure he has all the muting in place, but I’d say the crystal clear lines are picked crystal clear.
I’m pretty sure that there’s also some hybrid parts.

I think John and Philip have a little more concept in their technique but imo playing their songs note for note is more an exercise. That music lives from the wide range of techniques they have, or more the resulting sounds, so to bring that on stage it’d make sense to convert that to the personal range - which doesn’t mean it gets worse or better, just it needs to be personal.


Or even Sayce here. Obviously disregard the chicken picking because he does throw that in there. It’s just like this whole style in general I don’t know how they do it.

Or for that matter, how the hell does Bonamassa pick and the Eric Johnson stuff with alternate picking as well as he does. There are a lot of blues dudes who are a force to be reckoned with:


I don’t see much alternate picking in the the Sayce clip. Seems it’s all either pick with hammers and pulls, a bit of sweeping-especially descending-or hybrid when it comes to rapidly go back and forth between two strings. Cool clip, though. I dig his playing.

Although I’m not familiar with the other guitarists besides SRV you mentioned, I’m very familiar with SRV and saw him play a concert in Tampa on his last tour. SRV wasn’t known as a “speed picker” although he was capable of playing moderately fast licks… He was better known for his incredible vibrato. If the CTC team where to research any one specific technique of his, I would hope it would be the way he created the motion for his incredible vibrato. If it’s speed picking you’re interested in, there are literally hunreds of famous guitarists who have superior ability to play fast.

True but if you break down the bpm of some of his fastest licks they’re sometimes in the 210’s and with 1 to 2 note per string runs that’s impressive. These cats aren’t known as speed pickers and they really aren’t but the whole style and way they do it with phrasing and finesse is why you still have guys today playing a strat in guitar center and cannot help but play Hendrix

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Here is some pretty clear 2WPS from Joe at 1:19.

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I guess this kind of playing is not possible with just dwps. Bummer hahaha. I wonder if Troy could get joe on here. He seems like a cool dude who would be open to stuff like this. Him, Dweezil and Jimmy Herring need to get on CtC. That’s the all star lineup I’d love to see. Oz Noy was incredible also.

I think you may be confusing musical style with mechanics. I’m not really knowledgeable about blues as a style but I get that these players are usually mentioned together. But there is no single mechanical “style” at play here. These players are all doing a variety of different things, and as we’ve seen many times, this is par for the course. I would agree with this:

Your best bet is to pick a specific movement and look at it. There are only so many variables and if you look at the path the pick is traveling, you should be able to parse out what joints need to move to achieve that.


I agree, but from watching guys like John Frusciante, Hendrix, SRV and the like, I do notice when they’re hitting those picked fast blues lines (you know the ones I’m talking about) they all seem to be doing a similar thing. And their picking hand almost looks like it’s strumming the B G and E string really fast. This is different from the way someone like EJ does it where every not is precisely picked and there are not many rakes and things of that nature.

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Really? SRV played 16th notes in the 210bpm tempo? I had no idea he was that fast and I’ve got most of his albums. I would have thought his fastest stuff would have been more like in the 170s and not 210s!

Whatever the case may be he was an absolutely great player and I feel so fortunate to have seen SRV on hs final tour at The Tampa Sundome in the fall of 1989 with Jeff Beck as the opening act. In one of life’s cruel ironies, SRV talked to us at length during a break between songs about his addiction and said he was finally clean and sober for the first time in his life since about 12 years old! He said he had finally learned what the most important thing in life is, and that’s love, he said. “It’s the love you have for your family and friends, that’s the real deal folks.”

I’m pretty sure we were all thinking "This is great! Now we’re assured that this incredibly talented man will be a part of our lives for many, many years to come.

Then a few months later I got into my car in the University parking lot and turned on the radio as I was about to pull out of my parking spot and head to my next class. The horrible news came across the radio that a helicopter containing SRV cafter he was leaving a concert he had played with Eric Clapton had crashed and Stevie Ray had died. I didn’t pull out of the parking spot. I opened up the glove compartment of my Honda Civic and pulled out a pair of sunglasses to put on as tears began to run down my face… I sat there and listened to one of his songs they had put on - I think “Walkin’ The Tightrope” but I don’t recall for sure. After about 10 minutes or so I had regained my composure enough to drive but the world was never quite the same again.

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Again, there are thousand ways to play a pentatonic scale and we’ve covered a lot of them, so I’m not really sure what you’re referring to. If a person looks like they are strumming then maybe they are! I’ve looked at Bonamassa once or twice and I’ve seen two-way pickslanting licks and crosspicking licks. I can’t lump any of it into a single category.

It sounds like you’ve got something specific in mind. Find a clip of a particular movement and we’ll take a look.

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Yeah it’s not common and it’s not in studio recordings but live he sometimes ripped through licks. I believe, and I could be wrong, but one of his fastest live licks came out of nowhere during the El Mocombo show I believe and I think it was something like 208-210bpm.

It’s hard to find a clean visual example @Troy but something like this classic type lick is what I mean:

As The Guy From Germany aluded, SRV is known for using rakes a lot, as part of what made his sound so explosive - he’d only fret one note, but mute the notes around it abd basically strum through them to get this huge, exaggerated pick attack. That’s probably what you’re seeing.

Also, I’ve read he held his picks backwards and picked with the fat, flat part, rather than the pointed tip, but I’ve never seen good enough video of his picking hand up close to confirm that.

Guy’s a monster, though, and blisteringly fast - I think the BPM metrics matter less than the absolute blur of notes he could produce for effect. Tremendous, tremendous player.

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Haha, seems we’re still at that genius thing.
So what you describe is what we’d need to do to copy him, but do we still need to do that?
I think we now can - and again thanks to you - split technique from music. If I have TWPS and crosspicking in my toolbox (which I don’t have yet) there’s no need to care about their solution, we already know how to do that technically,
What’s left is figuring out if the notes we play are what we want musically.
To me that’s the point where talent or genius hops in. I think those guys (including all of your interviews) are indisputable genius, not for figuring out the technique, but for using it in a way thats creates personality.

I can’t spot the point where personality blends to inaccuracy, but I think we don’t need thousands of clones of the great players, therefor at some point it’s probably just ok to say I don’t wanna do it that way.
Understanding what they do seems to be a good idea always though.

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Link didn’t work earlier. Here’s another semi example

I read once that when Stevie ray vaughn used the fat edge of his picks,he destroyed hisss pick playing real fast speeds. I wonder how can some one rip there pick guard off ther guitar? Just by playing at that speed? I bet he broke a ton of strings that way also. Oh yah,b.b. King broke a string on his guitar,and still kept playing.while he replaced his broken string.

Just found this one:

There are some nice closeups on his picking, quality is bad though.

So now I’d say he uses DWPS, which’d be no surprise. just makes sense for pentatonic playing.

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The way he bows his wrist and anchors fingers on the pickguard at some points screams DWPS, but it’s also cool the way he mixes in some stuff for dynamics that’s less straightforward. I think on some rakes and stuff he orients the pick neutral or even upward while using a “downward-picked” downstroke movement while sweeping/raking in order to “harden” the pick/string contact and make the notes sound brighter. Not that nobody else has ever done this, and it’s very common for blues players to do it on single notes, but just an interesting thing to notice.

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