String skipping DSX lick - falls apart on me if I co much faster than this

I’ve had the realization that part of my picking accuracy lagging where I want it to be is actually due to fretting hand timing and particularly ascending, where I tend to rush a little bit. This is particularly true on string changes I guess where I tend to group sort of like -1-2-3-- (next string) ----1-2-3 a little rather than like 1–2–3-- (change) 1–2–3 (exaggerating a little, and likely with super confusing notation).

So, one way I thought might be fun to combat that, is to come up with some patterns that REALLY stress my ability to be rhythmic while moving from string to string, idea being more “normal” patterns will feel easy by comparison. I always liked the sound of this as a descending motif in Technical Difficulties so I figured I’d turn it into a DSX string skipping picking drill, though I’ve also been practicing this legato.

Basically, on the G string, 9-10-12, jump to the high E fr 8-10-12, then loop bacl down 12-10-8 etc etc etc. Then take that “shape,” and walk it up and back down the C Major scale.

This is about as fast as I can play this before things start to fall apart.

This isn’t very close to my single string trem picking speed limit, which says pretty bluntly raw pick speed isn’t the limiting factor. Two obvious culprits are 1) the string skip - you’re coming off a downstroke (good!) but basically need to overshoot the high E and then catch it with an upstroke. That’s a pretty “big” movement, and while big motions aren’t necessarily bad, I think the change in size could potentially be causing rhythmic issues at speed…? Also, while it’s not too bad here, at higher speeds fretting accuracy does become more of a problem, from a mix of just remembering what notes I want, and then the uneven grouping thing starts to be a problem.

Posting mostly for

  1. accountability - I hope to have a faster update in a few weeks, and
  2. Because while starting with speed is kind of the mantra here, I think this is already at a fast enough clip that the mechanic is clearly capable of playing fast. And I wonder if just getting a 6/8 drum beat going and gradually working up the tempo might actually be a pretty effective way of tightening up the groove and getting my fretting hand up to smooth speed here.

Anyway, thanks for listening to me think out loud!

(this is a Strat into a Mark V at basically SRV-plays-the-blues level of gain - more gain might help (though, come with its own muting issues), but I also think this is something that I SHOULD be able to play faster than this with a fairly clean tone. Besides I love how this amp sounds with singlecoils at this level of saturation, the guitar soudns huge and it sounds smaller as I turn up the gain).

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Just playing through that, it’s deceptively hard just because of the repeated notes on the top and bottom. I think that’s a hand sync brain teaser and that may slow us down just due to the start/stop nature of it.

some ways you could test that theory out (as well as your guess about the occasional “big” movements throwing things off) is to take the Shawn Lane approach and do a non-musical version to see if that’s speed limited. Start with adjacent strings, something like this that you can loop, but we have intentional 1-fret shifts so you aren’t really “hanging” on a note:


If that checks out, add a skip:


It’s new to me, but I think I can do that a little faster than I can play the exact pattern you were playing. The right hand is mechanically identical

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Like Joe I also noticed the repeated notes. Are they intentional or not?

Yeah the repeated notes are definitly intentional, sorry if that wasn’t clear - it allows the pattern to be straight DSX:


That, basically, as a loop, but shifting the whole thing a scale degree in one direction or the other for each variation. It gives you three notes on the first string, six notes on the second, start with a downstroke and every string change falls on a downstroke. It’s just the Gilbert 6s picking pattern, really, but in a different form.

I can try it with a repeated fingering to see if that’s a factor - likewise, not doing it as a loop but instead repeating the ascending part - 8-10-12-8-10-12 and then doubling the 9-10-12 on the second string seems like it would be fruitful practice here too to simplify the fretting hand a little.

ok, starting with the simplified version, no string skip.


  1. My coordination on single-string repeated stuff like this really is only fair. I’m not sure how to improve that beyond just doing a whole lot of this; for context here I’ve spent most of my time as a guitarist just leaning on legato and not really picking much of anything so even trem picking like this hasn’t been something I do much.
  2. Starting with trem picking, then directionally playing 3nps on a single string… and then preserving the direction but jumping up and down in 6-note groupings… it’s weirtd that my fretting hand absolutely falls APART when I start changing strings, but if I dont start with a chunk of repeated 1-2-3-1-2-3 stuff on a single string, oddly it goes much better.
  3. (edit) I can also feel my fretting hand, pinkie in particular, lagging in the 3-2-1-3-2-1 motif, going from the B to the E. Not the other way around, and not 1-2-3-1-2-3.
  4. I’m also bobbing because I’m tapping my foot in time. :rofl:
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Do you want to pick every note? Some strategic legato to give your picking hand time to move could make this a lot easier. Or you could try swybrid which is good for string skipping.

As a musical motif? I mean if I had to go up on stage and play this tomorrow, I’d almost certainly do it almost all legato. Pick the first note on each string, pick the repeated note at the top mostly just to get it to sound twice, etc. Especially with another day or two getting the fingering under my belt (which helped with the picking as well - I’ll of course have to make up a few similar motifs and start practicing those as well) I can rip through this legato well enough.

As a practice exercise, albeit one that still sounds musical? This is a single-escaped run, and one that favors my neutral escape. I shouldn’t need a legato "escape hatch’ type note here or there to simplify the picking, it’s simply a matter of can I play 3nps DSX runs with a skipped string in the middle or not. And there’s no reason, in theory, why I shouldn’t be able to do this, at these sorts of tempos.

2 conflicting strategies I’ve noticed that can be helpful in this type of string skipping pattern (regarding the feeling a “bigger movement”)

  • Use more of the elbow/shoulder for the tracking, sort of like a big robot arm in a factory. This way your wrist oscillation of the pick strokes can stay fairly consistent and you shouldn’t feel the skip very much since the elbow/shoulder will be taking care of that. OR;

  • Position yourself more neutrally over the B string. Like if you were tremolo-ing on the B string, you’d reach just a tad up to access the G and just a tad down to access the E, but you’d be pretty near to both of them.

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@drewguitar haven’t seen anyone post about it, but I think your forearm angle might be too perpendicular to the strings, making string skipping pretty difficult I would think. Unless you have the ability to play equally well at different wrist deviation angles and use your wrist for string tracking, you’d have to rely on “pushing” your forearm down / up for string tracking.

The riff you’re playing reminded me of this, which shows how I’m doing similar string tracking:

Also playing with a single coil (humbucker shape) through a Mark series!


Could you elaborate on this a little? like, rotationally, or relative to the, oh, neck axis of the guitar? I’m guessing the latter, and that what you’re describing by “pushing” is basically sliding my arm away from and towards the strings, or up and down along the face of the guitar. I can try a different arm angle relative to the plane of the strings, I guess, but just sitting here that feels kinda weird.

And yeah, very similar to the Erotomania lick - drop the doubled notes at the top and bottom and you’re there. Working towards that pattern next, I wanted to keep this single escaped for simplicity for starters!

Yup, that’s it!

It would likely require a combination of height of the guitar body relative to your torso, and plane of the guitar body relative to your torso.

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I’ve already got this guitar towards the top of what feels comfortable, especially if I also want to play bluesy stuff in the 3rd-5th fret area, but I’ll experiment a bit.

In other news, part of the reason the transition from the G string/9th position to the E string/8th feels a little sluggish is, evidently, I can play 3-2-1-3-2-1 pulloffs materially faster than 1-2-3-1-2-3 hit-ons (in whatever finger combinations happen to be appropriate for given intervals, this seems to be true in all permutations. Odd. I’ll practice ascending hitons a bunch and see if I can close that gap.

@Drew Hey man, sounds great! I was playing your lick and kind of noticed that there seems to be a bit of tension there when you play; I personally have a tendency to kind of press my picking hand into the strings (not sure why, but I do!) and it’s a real source of background tension which can be a huge limiting factor on my tempos. I’m not saying you do this, but it’s worthwhile taking a look at whether there’s any tension there! lol In my opinion anyways! Good luck!

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It’s actually a super nice lick imo. From what I can tell there are 2 double notes - one at the top of the lick and one at the bottom of the lick where you start again?

I can’t play it fast - but can play it at medium ish tempo.

Don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t be able to clean this up and get it up to speed with practice.

I think this would be a great candidate for trying to play it at 1/2 or 3/4 speed to get it humming?

EDIT - also my brain likes to chunk it - 1 2 3 1 2 3 stop 3 2 1 3 2 1 stop 1 2 3 1 2 3 stop 3 2 1 3 2 1 etc

  • then I try and put em together!
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Did not have time yet to watch all the vids and responses, but I had this (fairly generic) advice in mind that I forgot to write on here:

The key idea is to disentangle the picking / fretting / hand sync aspects of the problem. So you could for example start by identifying a fretting pattern that you can pick with good hand sync and good speed on a single string. Then, use this nicely synced pattern to create a 2-string lick in a similar style as your original one. Then, introduce the string skip.

Finally, I think this could potentially be a nice case study to inform future lessons, so if you feel like opening a TC platform critique on this, it would be great — obviously this Forum TC can still stay open in parallel, and you can use it to share updates & get additional advice from the community :slight_smile:


Tommo - I’d be happy to. Got a call in 9 minutes I have to hop on, so this is super quick… but basically I share your phlosophy and have been tackling it along those lines.

  1. isolate the skip as a factor, do this on adjacent strings - honestly, improving that was an objective here anyway, and it’s already getting cleaner. The position shift from 9 to 8 in the initial form is a slight lag.
  2. it appears possibly, to be a slight lag, because if I do a single string as a pure legato hit on, oddly the hammers are slower than the pulloffs. Not sure how to improve that aside from just a lot of "as fast as I can 8h10h12p8h10h12 stuff
  3. I know start slow and slowly increase speed isn’t reallt rhe CtC way… but I’ve proved the picking side of this works, and at least a little bit of the issue is i sometimes get finger tied. So I think I’ll do some medium tempo drum loop practice and gradually work up the tempo to iron out the fretting hand side.
  4. once I get this up to speed, dropping the repeated notes and making it a 10-note loop rather than a 12 also sounds pretty cool, and requires some escaped upstrokes as well; that’s up next.

Thanks- part of the idea here was to find an exercise that both 1) sounded musical, so my wife wouldnt hate me and i could potentially use it in a playing situation, and 2) would get me thinking more about different intervalic patterns while soloing anyway, even at slower tempo, and get me thinking in scale “shapes” with some more unusual intervalic jump possibilities.

So, I’m not convinced it’s this. Watched a few Paul Gilbert videos this AM before work, as some of his runs (and in particular parts of Technical Difficulties) pose a lot of the same tracking challenges, and his arm angle isn’t perceptibly more gentle than mine yet he makes it work. Unlessthere’s something I’m missing… I’ll say it’s an interesting theory, though, because historically string tracking has always been something I struggle with on runs spanning 3-4+ strings…

Your hands look pretty big, so maybe this isn’t an issue, but I’d posit that PG’s enormous mitts probably have something to do with both his tracking and how he gets a very supinated arm position with an RDT motion.

You look like you have some elbow in there: is this a conscious part of the motion or just something that happens?


Very much something that just happens. Is this in the picking itself or in the string-tracking?

Ok, I evidently didn’t watch the picking test video while logged in so I have to go watch that again before I can open a TC, for the time being two more videos, problem solving a little.

  1. 8h10h12 and 12p10p8 legato repeats, low and high strings. This may be/probably is normal, but there’s a lot more tension in my arm in the lower strings and there while the pulloffs arent expecially clean (low gain, though that shouldn’t be an excuse) I can still pull off faster than I can hit on, and more rhythmically to my ears as well.

  2. initial lick, but on adjascent strings without the skip. While it cleans up a little bit when I go back to it towards the end, the version with 9h10h12 on both strings is perceptively tighter than when I reach back to the 8th fret.

I’ll get these into a TC in a little bit, as well.

EDIT - ok, @tommo, do your worst!

Can this be seen by everyone on the forum? If so I may just post future updates here.