String Tracking methods

So I have three ways of string tracking, and I’m not sure which one is best for me in the long run. Was wondering what you guys would recommend. First off, I have the technique where my hand largely stays in the same plays and just plays at different angles:

This is probably the most firm anchor, but it can be very tough to really hit the lowest strings properly.

The second is one where I move the elbow to attack the strings at roughly the same angle:

This one feels the most logical but it actually feels the stiffest out of them all, and can be a real workout for my arm

The third… hard to explain, but I’m basically just following the natural clockwork movement of my arm, pivoting from the elbow.

This actually feels the most comfortable and natural… except it’s also the most messy, and since I’m not anchoring on the bridge, I now have to anchor a bit on the body, and this can cause my palm to accidentally hit the strings.

I’m aware the answer is always “whichever works for you” but is there a really good way I haven’t tried? Do you think one generally works best over the others?


I sometimes regret that we created the term “string tracking” because people seem to worry about it way more than they should. For most things, it’s practically impossible to separate string tracking motion from picking motion anyway, even if you wanted to.

Short story, for small string distances, like phrases that occur on two and three strings, just sit in one spot. For larger string distances, like 4-6, move to the new spot. And above all, try not to think too much about it!

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I hope i am not overthinking but like Suhrite i feel that stringtracking has a lot of influence on my playing:

There is a repertoire of fast runs i can perform reliably when i practice them in isolation. However, i will mess them up most of the time when i try to incorporate them in a riff. Starting runs at low strings during rythm playing doesnt cause any problems but switching into a 1 string run on the high e after playing, idk, powercords on the lower ones messes up my playing. I can think of no other reason than weird stringtracking causing this.

When i focus on moving the whole arm to the higher strings (as you do in the second video) the shifts seem to work better. So that might be an advantage of that specific string tracking method.

More natural learners might think of this consideration as overcomplicating the issue but when do i large jumps the way they seem intuitive i just end up in weird hand positions.

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I don’t necessarily think there is one answer for each player, especially if you mix things up in terms of mechanics - for example when comparing scalar 3nps (1WPS and 2WPS) and 1nps double escaped arpeggios. String tracking happens after more notes on the former thus can be more easily anticipated and can be done with small wrist switches (between 2 to 3 strings) and then a larger (arm) switch to get to the next set of strings. With the latter, the switching is more frequent where the small and large switches are kind of blended and more varied.

The again, maybe it should be the same and thats where I’m going wrong.

As @Troy states, we are probably overthinking it. What I do think is important (and something that I’n struggling with) is maintaining the ulner offset when tracking to new string sets - I don’t think I’m maintaining it on the 2 lowest strings. Which could be why the below happens

Switching between rhythm and lead back and forth is something a lot of players struggle with. In my experience it’s not so much the string tracking as it is the hand position on the bridge.

For example, let’s say I’m playing a funky rhythm, say a Em7 on the 7th fret, 16ths feel. Let’s say I want to play one bar of this and the next bar I want to play a lead phrase on the 12th fret and then back again to the rhythm.

I found it very difficult to do at first and it annoyed me because I couldn’t figure out why, since I could play both the rhythm as the lead parts well in isolation, but not in succession.

I found out that my right hand position was the main problem.

When I play funk rhythm, my hand sort of hovers over the strings, while when I’m playing lead I rest my hand on the bridge.

Switching between the two instantaneously took me a while to do seamlessly.

As far as string tracking goes, as long as you don’t apply too much force on your right hand when resting on the bridge and you make sure the pick angle is the same on every string, you will find that the string tracking goes automatically.

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Thanks for the advice!

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Sorry, old thread but I’m still struggling; no improvement at all in the last few months. If your hand is in the same place, how can the pick angle be the same on every string? I’ve tried using a bit of thumb movement to mitigate the problem a little bit, and it almost seems to work, but the thing is, naturally, the pick angle will be a little less straight once you hit the high strings. Andy Wood has a similar anchoring style to me, and the angle of the pick-string impact appears to change to him as well (though it’s clearly working better for him).

You may think that I’m overthinking but here’s the thing… I’ve tried not thinking about it. That didn’t work. That’s why I’m here.

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Your hand is NOT in the same place. You have to make sure the pick angle stays the same on each string. If you can do this with the minimal amount of string tracking, you’re fine. You rest your hand very lightly on the bridge and you imagine that your hand has a string attached to it, around your wrist. If you then play a scale and you descend towards the lower guitar strings , someone is pulling gently on the string that is attached to your wrist in an upwards direction, with the goal being keeping the pick angle the same on every string. We’re talking about a tracking distance between approx. 1-2 inches.

Does that make any sense?

Is the string pulled by the elbow then?

your whole wrist and forearm stay in exactly the same angle, your shoulder moves up.

I am also struggling somewhat with getting a consistent pick attack and smoothness when switching strings. I remember Troy discussing “compensating” the amount of edge picking by flexing and extending the thumb, but I have not been able to do so in a satisfactory manner. Furthermore, I have been experiencing some soreness in the far joint of the index finger which I’ve traced to sometimes using too much edge picking on the lower strings.

Recently, I realized that another approach to maintaining the same pick angle could be to rotate the shoulder, rather than rely so much on the elbow (the picking motion itself is still a wrist/forearm combination). This way, the pick sort of traces an arc where it is somewhat closer to the bridge pickup on the low E and closer to the neck pickup on the high E. I find that it is much easier to maintain the same pick angle this way, and some licks that have previously been hard for me are now smoother. I would be interested in knowing whether this works out for other people too.

I am also considering that in the long run, the most effective movement may involve various forms of “compensation” (such as finger, wrist and shoulder) in combination. Many of the pro’s seem to go more directly across the direction of the strings at a 90 degree angle when switching strings, and I don’t see how this can be done while maintaining the angle without some kind of compound motion.

Edited: typo

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I agree, and this is something that isn’t talked about too much here. I’ve watched rick graham do this as well, his tracking is very precise and ‘linear’ and works great.

Oddly though, Troy, this is something I DO struggle with a bit. It feels like my arm anchors into position and can move through a 3-string radius pretty easily, but then after that there comes a point where I have to un-anchor and shift. That process feels awkward and un-fluid to me.

Compounding matters, I play mostly seven string guitar, and do tend to do a lot of soloing in the lower strings, so I do need to do a fair amount of tracking. And it feels very awkward. It may just be a matter of time and practice - until fairly recently, I didn’t really have the picking chops to do longer picked runs anyway so I’d just lean on legato for longer runs. That’s changed, so now I have to adapt a bit and if I key into anything that helps then I’ll definitely be sharing it here.

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