Still trying to figure out what's going on with my picking mechanic - odd swooping motion (EDIT - crosspicking progress thread)


#1

I’ve spent the last few weeks going through the Volcano seminar, playing what I can, and practicing the rest, and then last night took a look at the Eric Johnson seminar, which is probably a little closer to where I fall stylistically. Today, I thought I’d take another close up look at my picking hand technique to see how/if things looked any different to me. Unfortunately my fretting hand was kind of worthless today for some reason, so these clips aren’t really all that fast - sadly, close to as fast as I can pick them at the moment, but my fretting hand was faling off before my picking one on the pentatonic stuff, so I guess that buys me some time to work on the picking while I get my fretting hand back up to speed, lol.

Anyway, having spent a lot more time looking at Troy’s and Yngwie’s picking hands up close for the last couple weeks, one thing immediately jumped out at me today - my picking mechanic has an odd swooping curve to it that I’m not seeing in Yngwie’s or Troy’s clips - their pick follows a very linear, slashing trajectory, down and into the strings on a downstroke, and then back up and above on an upstroke. Mine seems to be curving, and in a few cases looks like it’s coming out above the strings on downstrokes as well (see 0:08-010 in the second iPhone video, where it appears rather like the pick is passing over the TOP of the subsequent string on upstrokes, without brushing into it). Two videos:

Shot with my camera, moves in and out of focus a little but a better view of my whole hand and bottom of my forearm:

Separate performance, similar tempo, with a flexible phone tripod wrapped around my upper horn to hold my phone in place (ish):

I’m of a couple minds of this - theoretically, if I could learn to consistently arc over the top of the strings on downstrokes as well as upstrokes, that would seem to be an incredibly versatile picking mechanic, and while I don’t have the best handle on how exactly this is happening I suspect this is more or less what you guys are talking about with crosspicking and if I could figure out the mechanic and bring it out a little more prominently, this would give me a lot of flexiibility. On the other, I’m not playing especially fast here, and as I’d alluded earlier, I’m not capable of playing this pentatonic pattern much faster than this at present. It seems plausible that part of the issue is that I’m making excess motions, less in magnitude than in direction, that I don’t technically need, and if accuracy is a concern of mine then a straighter, more slashing linear pickstroke seems like it would be a lot less error prone, and as an added benefit I see no real reason why you couldn’t pull off DWPS with a pretty heavy, aggressive picking hand, which I think there’s some strong tonal reasons for wanting to do.

Idunno… I guess, is my understanding of what I’m seeing here more or less right? If so, is this something I should be cultivating, or is this a habit I should be trying to break?

EDIT - other thing I’ll add is near ads I can tell, my picking motion is being driven less by forearm rotation than it is some form of wrist deviation. Watching myself play at various speeds and watching the mechanics video you guys did recently, it looks like theres maybe a little bit of supination going on during upstrokes to help lift the pick over the plane of the strings, but the primary mechanic is deviation, probably mostly ulnar deviation on downstrokes, and then simply returning to neutral on upstrokes.


#2

You also have a significant wrist extension movement at the bottom of your downstroke. That, combined with how flat against the guitar body your forearm is, is resulting in a movement that looks a lot like the wrist-based Crosspicking demo thread @Troy posted recently.

It might be worth experimenting with crosspicking while this movement is coming so naturally to you.

If/when you decide you want to enable a more “linear” dwps movement, try altering your arm position with the forearm rotated more outward (supination direction). If you wanted to go for a gypsy-style dwps with more of a forearm rotation component, do that same arm position change and add some flex to your “default” wrist position.


#3

Huh, good eye - I missed that, but you’re right, watching my hand as I pick it look like as the wrist deviates downwards, it’s also extending upwards, pulling away from the plane of the strings, which is probably where the weird arc I was seeing was coming from.

Well, I guess I’ll give the crosspicking stuff a go, that video Troy did and then some of the Andy Wood stuff, I guess…


#4

You know, you may be on to something, @Frylock - I’m not NEARLY at Troy’s speed, but some of the crosspicking-y stuff seems to be coming easier than I would have expected, and while I don’t think I quite have that rotational mechanic down, it seems like something that COULD work…

EDIT - one hour later:

A bit sloppy, and I’m not even really trying to capture the movement of the pick here since I’m still sort of trying to figure out how this SHOULD feel, but this is significantly faster than I would have expected to be able to do this. Interesting…


#5

That’s correct, and it is crosspicking. It is a combination of wrist deviation and forearm rotation. It’s pretty similar to what Andy is doing here:

The wrist deviation component of this is happening at all times. The forearm component only happens in the upper half of the movement. This is similar to what a lot of downward pickslanting players do when they say they do “forearm rotation”, but when you look at it, they’re really blending forearm and wrist. The difference in your case and Andy’s case, is that you’re just not as supinated, so the semicircle has a chance to escape the strings at both ends of the pickstroke.

This is a perfectly great way to do crosspicking and now that you are aware of it, you can certainly work on using it / keeping it. Awareness is a big, big chunk of the battle that will make a lot of things easier. You will feel the side to side movement of the wrist. You may or may not feel a little of the arm kicking in.

Again, the key here is not being so supinated. This will allow the semicircle to get above the strings on both downstrokes and upstrokes. Just get your forearm bones more or less parallel to the plane of the strings, and make this movement in as relaxed a way as possible and see what comes out. Try not to micromange it too much beyond that - you’re already doing it, so you just want to become more aware of it and expand its uses.

Nice work!


#6

I’d love to take credit for it, but really this isn’t anything I’ve consciously developed over the years. So, um, my sub-conscious says “you’re welcome,” I guess, lol.

I’ll spend some time trying to figure out the supination part of the movement and dig into the Andy Wood stuff over the next couple weeks, and see if I can bring this from something that works “well enough” to a clean, accurate, and precice mechanic.

In the meantime, just as DWPS lends itself to certain approaches, UWPS others, TWPS still others… do either you or Andy (or Steve Morse or any of the other cross pickers you’ve talked to) really get into things that crosspicking lends itself more naturally for? I mean, the single-note-per-string stuff is pretty clearly far easier with a crosspicking approach than anything else, so that’s a no brainer to focus on… But one of the reocurring themes of CtC is how a lot of the elite level pickers got there by focusing on the strengths of their technique, so I’d think a next step for me after I iron out some of the kinks are trying to figure out how I could best play to my strengths.

(The embarrassing part of all of this, of course, is the videos up top of are me TRYING to DWPS, haha)


#7

Well if you’re talking about alternate picking it’s more than “easier”, it’s only possible with a crosspicking approach. Unless you include stringhopping but we can argue that’s not really even alternate picking.

In general I wouldn’t try to overthink this. If this is how you already play, then there’s your answer. No need to fix what ain’t broke. As you point out very few of the great players really “planned” their techniques, they just stumbled across movements and used them for phrases where they seemed to work.

Just keep using the technique on as many different kinds of phrases as possible. If you find some phrase where it really feels easy, then do more of that. That pentatonic stuff sounds great - I’d definitely do more of that. If that means 2nps type lines are your jam, then write some more. Seventh chord arpeggios are great for 2nps type fingerings…


#8

Totally fair point. :+1: I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get there, after I smooth out the picking a bit - as is pretty obvious in that acoustic video, it’s hardly a very precise, controlled mechanic for me at this point.


#9

Be careful to compare apples with apples. Acoustic is a whole different animal mainly because of the boxy body shape. Your form there looks different. Instead I’m really looking at the first video on electric with the pentatonic lines — it sounds great and looks great, so the smoothness is already happening. It’s very similar to what Andy is doing in the clip I posted, so look at Andy’s form as a guide, i.e. where the forearm is mostly parallel to the strings, or close to it. That’s what will help the pickstroke escape at both ends.


#10

I will - thanks! Knowing what the technique SHOULD look like is a huge help, because I think it’s also clear that it’s something I’m not doing consistently in this clip (there’s a few points where I’m definitely burying my downstrokes even if the upstrokes are coming free - due to the nature of the pattern, though, it’s happening at points where that doesn’t really matter).


#11

That’s right! And that’s normal. It only matters when it matters. I guarantee you I’m not escaping all the time when I do this. But when I do 1nps lines I am because I have to.

I think people sometimes think, well, if I could do crosspicking, then I wouldn’t have to arrange my lines for complicated two-way pickslanting sequences where I only make some of the movements some of the time. But I’m pretty sure that’s just what happens naturally whether you like it or not. Andy’s particular cocktail of movements is pretty complicated but he has no perception of that - he just does whatever feels easy to him.

In your case if the line is clean then it is clean. I would only worry about burying some of those pickstrokes if it somehow affects what you’re doing musically. If not, then you’re good.


#12

Figured I may as well just bump this and turn it into a “progress” thread.

Shot this a little earlier today:

The camera is a little far off, but I guess it gives you a better shot of what my forearm is doing, which sure enough DOES look rather a lot like Andy Woods’ arm movement in that clip, with what looks like a little bit of a clockwise rotation on the upstroke to help the pick clear the plane of the strings in what’s otherwise a wrist deviation driven motion.

This is a pentatonic scale in D, 10th fret, straight up, reaching up to the 15th fret with my pinkie, and then descending back down. Getting the feel of the descending string changes, moving down to a new string on an upstroke, after a downstroke on the last string, initially felt a little odd, but is becoming more natural. So, I’m looking for new variations that feel odd to smooth out my picking stroke further - for example, staying in D, starting on the m3 on the 8th fret of the A string, then playing the 10th and 12th on the A string before ascending in the pentatonic box and ascending up to whatever point feels natural to loop this evenly - say, the G on the 12th fret of the G string, or the C on the 13th fret of the B - seems to be another odd combination, because to play it with pure alternate picking that means you’re ascending from a downstroke on one string to an upstroke on the one above it. Unintuitive, but with a clean enough double escape, it SHOULD be possible to do at speed.

I haven’t really tried to max this out yet, but this is pretty clean at 140bpm - it was cleaner until the red light came on, of course, lol. Of course, the guitar is neon red with green pickups, so I think that should count for at LEAST another 5bpm! :slight_smile:


#13

Hi Drew, its a really interesting thread going on here and I have found myself in the same position - stumbling across the fact that a curve is present. In my critique thread Crosspicking or string hopping?

I have dedicated a lot of time to 2WPS and then 2 weeks ago noticed the curve. I have since been experimenting with crosspicking and will post an update with my progress. It would be really interesting to compare notes! It now feels like trying to serve 2 masters, but think that having more than one mechanical choice is very advantageous!


#14

There’s some good discussion on that later on in this thread after your last post, where Troy argues they’re not necessarily entirely distinct as techniques.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around, well, the second half of that thread AND what exactly my hand is doing, but all I know is that since I’ve been focusing on trying to 'feel" what that crosspicking motion should feel like and then consciously bring it out in my playing, I’ve definitely seen my alternate picking get a lot smoother. And, after posting this last night, I cranked up the metronome to try to get a sense for how fast I COULD play that pentatonic scale run - things started to fal apart at 150bpm, but I felt like it was my fretting hand more than my picking hand holding me back, and with practice I’m sure I can get to there and possibly above. Being able to rip through pentatonic scales at 150-160bpm in 2nps patterns seems to me about as fast as I’d ever have musical need for, so I’d be pretty happy if I could get there.


#15

Ditto…

I managed 3nps at around the same, but I suspect that some swiping may be going on. I found that my conventional 2WPS was more bold in tone/attack than my crosspicking - maybe the extra rotation is causing me to hit the strings with more conviction (or maybe the are a few ‘air-hits’ going on when crosspicking and legato is sounding the notes more smoothly).

I’m not debating Troy’s expert opinion here, but personally I consider the 2 different as I am specifically approaching them differently (2WPS uses both slants, but with my crosspicking I am keeping a consistant DWPS- I understand that the slant is largely irrelevent with crosspicking, but it feels different). I have chosen to keep the DWPS for crosspicking to prove that I am actually doing the mechanic properly as opposed to a hybrid of 2WPS and crosspicking. It is also my primary pickslant so I thought it made sense in my brain.


#16

Try not to worry about the terminology here, it’s largely academic. What matters is that you understand the movements and how to make them. The crosspicking technique you have been working on is cool and as long as you can replicate it the same way from one day to the next then you can make it habitual.


#17

I know…but I can’t help it :wink: CTC has opened Pandora’s box and now we know too much! And we think too much! God I wish I awas a ‘natural’!

@Troy, given the above advice and that of other posts, please don’t kill me for asking the next question:
Given that pickslanting (as in the angle of pick, not the movement) is not/ is less relevent with regards to crosspicking, how come some licks seem easier to play with a certain pickslant or 2WPS- My ability to string track varies. Do you think that:
1, The act of using slanting the pick is influencing whether I am still actually doing the crosspicking? (my fault, not the slant’s😁)
2, The slant may be assisting the inclusion of swiping?
3, The 2WPS is what I am used to so I am relaxed and do it more automatically
4, I haven’t done it long enough to become proficient at the mechanic

My instinct is that all 3 are quite possible, especially No.4

I will do another video on my other post in the next day or so, probably more useful.

Thanks!


#18

I’m not really sure what you’re asking and these conversations quickly turn into word salad, especially if we’re not using the terms to mean the same things.

As usual, a video is worth a thousand words. If you’re having trouble playing something, post that example and we’ll take a look!


#19

Fair play, will do!

Great figure of speech!


#20

I experience the same.
My guess is that the you have less or more resistance depending if you slant directional or the oppsosite, therfor the same amount of force ends on different positions.
On top my experience is that due to (slightly) angling the wrist, and as a result the pick, the string resistance changes also with the strings.
My impression is that the hard part is not finding the best motion (which is hard enough) but finding a way to move the motion setup around while maintaning tone control ad accurate tracking.

If this doesn’t make sense or just got you wrong, take it as dressing on the salad :joy: