Struggling with picking primer wrist motion UPX

Hey guys, first post, very excited to have this forum to discuss picking! I’ve been playing 25yrs, so there’s have some technique I’m trying to unlearn. Main issue is I rely mostly on elbow movement when picking fast, and this creates problems when trying to palm mute. So as I’m starting out with the picking primer section, I’m really struggling with wrist motion only. It’s like my wrist feels locked up and doesn’t want to move, way too much tension. So I’m really struggling with the ability to get the basic single string picking at 150-160bpm. Any thoughts on what I’m doing wrong, or maybe its just a matter of doing it for more days to get my wrist used to to the motion, before the tensions gone?

Here’s a link that shows my issue:

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I can tell you right now that I think you need to start with a more ulnar deviated “center” for your range of motion. @Troy mentions this somewhere in the video and when I made this adjustment to my own playing it freed things up significantly. Actually one of the best visualization cues he used was in the forearm rotation video, not the wrist, where he describes wrist picking and moving towards the control knobs as opposed to parallel to the pickups.

Also, remember the clock face idea. The wrist does not need to be all straight lines and even angles. I think you would do better to rest your arm on the guitar, and let your wrist sit more naturally. I can tell you’re trying to “hold” yourself in a certain form, and that is the worst thing you can do when trying to develop good movement, precisely because you are over-controlling and restricting your muscles.

I’d really suggest to find a “hand model” so to speak, a wrist player who you think you can get your hand to look like and see if you can mimic how their hand looks when picking.

Also, your elbow picking is legit! There is nothing wrong about that. Don’t throw that technique away, you can totally rip with that.


Thanks! Appreciate the comments. I watched that video again after I posted and can see what you mean. For some reason getting my wrist more ulnar deviated feels so unnatural. Will keep working at it.

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You might want to try forearm rotation instead if that’s the case. You might actually have an easier time with that.

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In your case I believe the heavy trigger grip is inhibiting this. Your grip will tighten the same muscles you need to relax for effective wrist picking. I’m not saying wrist picking can’t be done with a trigger grip but I believe it is detrimental to learning wrist picking in your case. Try relaxing the trigger grip by opening your index finger more so the part of your index finger on the underside of the pick is closer to the end of the finger instead of closer to the knuckle. It will feel odd at first with the grip you are used to but you will find the wrist picking will be easier. You may find the angle of the pick to the strings will change when you do this. Experiment with allowing the pick to move freely across the strings and the amount of tension you hold the pick with. Effective wrist picking uses a lot less pick grip strength than I think you are using with the elbow picking w/ trigger grip.
Edited to also note I am a wrist picker and my grip utilizes the pad of my index finger (and the pad of my middle finger) - not the side of the finger. The issue I run into with a trigger grip/using the side of my finger is the pick is then angled way too much to the strings and would need one of John Taylor’s twisty pick things to correct. Good luck!


Interesting thoughts, I will try. Funny enough, when I use the middle finger (and partial index finger) pad grip, my hand/wrist/forearm is quite relaxed. It’s a very natural grip for me. I find using this I tend to do more the forearm rotation method, then wrist rotation. It actually feels good overall, but my concern trying to really rely on it is that I lose the picking intensity I have for things like metal rhythm riffs.

Right. If I just hold the pick in the air and fan the pick up and down, that’s more of a forearm rotation. To achieve wrist picking from there, you want to bring the wrist in toward the guitar and lock it there. It’s the same muscle movement if you place your hand/palm down on a table - then lift your hand about an inch off the table, keeping your wrist on the table. Now on guitar, instead of lifting your hand up, keep your hand where it is and move your wrist inward instead. That will tame the forearm rotation and you should be able to wrist pick from there.

Hi! Thanks for posting. And sorry for the confusion. In the Pickslanting Primer, we didn’t mean to imply you’re supposed to use wrist motion. We have sections in there on wrist-forearm and elbow motion too. And specifically, what you’re doing in this clip is textbook elbow motion in the style of Vinnie Moore and @Bill_hall, and it looks great. Here’s Bill:

You’ll notice the same radial wrist offset when Bill clicks into high gear. Vinnie More also does the same thing, as does John Taylor and lots of other great players. We did an interview with Bill last year which we’re woefully behind on editing, but the idea was specifically to shed more light on how using elbow as your core motion works.

In elbow land, with the form and motion you’re using, technically this usually results in a downstroke escape motion, where downstrokes are going up in the air. This works for any phrase where the downstroke is the final note on the string. And obviously not all phrases fit that. But great elbow players appear to use a variety of other tools, like little bits of wrist and forearm motion for specific moments in certain phrases, and also sometimes swiping, where you allow the pick to hit the unplayed string during a string change. Most of this is done subconsciously. They player is trying to be clean and get things to where they sound smooth and free of stray noise. If you get to that point, and it sounds good, then it is good.

In short I’m a fan of elbow technique and yours looks fine. Since it’s already working really well, I’d try and work on some phrases with it to expand your palette of what you can do with it. DSX type lines are a good starting point.

No problem in trying out other techniques while you’re at it. If you choose to go that route, I’d experiment by trying different grips and motions, and not wasting time on trying to apply the old-fashioned “drills and exercises” approach to anything that is slow and awkard. Instead, just try something else.

But again, since you have a motion which is already working this well, your best bang for the buck is going to be using it across a wide range of things.

Edit: Just as a request, if you can supply commentary in text form in your posts, that would be great. Much easier to scan, quote, and reply that way, and keeps the videos shorter, just a couple playing examples, 30 seconds tops, get in / get out. No big deal this time, and thanks for posting.

Thanks for the comments Troy, and have to say as a first timer here, love what you’ve done and great forum too!

You’ll love this, I’m based in Denver and I actually just took lessons from John Taylor for about 6 months last year. Ironically, he never pushed me for elbow picking, he was just a fan of whatever worked and sounded clean, figure it out yourself! It’s only recently I’ve realized that I’m so comfortable with elbow picking and it is just more natural and fast for me.

But here’s my major problem with it: palm muting! I can keep the elbow picking at a reasonably small amount of movement, but my palm is still moving around too much on the strings to really effectively palm mute, especially playing metal riffs on the low E and A strings. It doesn’t sound horrible, but it’s definitely not clean enough. And if I’m not playing really fast, I actually struggle using the elbow technique. (If I remember right, I believe John was actually quite good at playing metal rhythms or slower speeds with more wrist/rotation movement, and then forearm rotation for blast speed lines.)

So all that to say, do you have any recommendations or know of any players that use forearm rotation and can do palm mutimg too? Or any thoughts on what movements I could work on to add in to compliment the forearm rotation and possibly address these issues (palm muting and playing slower)?

And one other comment that may be relevant, as far as how I orient my arm and hand: The other technique I use for very fast lines is the gypsy method (which I saw you did a video on), much like Zakk Wyldes technique. That also comes naturally, but of course is pretty useless for palm muting.

As a sidenote, do you have a clue why elbow techniques are so often dismissed around the internet, by teachers, by (unconsciously elbow using or at least engaging!) players?

Always come this stereotypes: 1. It’s too tiring 2. It makes tennis elbow in the long run 3. Good players use wrist 4. Motions are too big 5. It’s uncoordinated etc. etc.

Who started this (probably unanswerable)? Did you hear those assertions in the 80s? Some of those stereotypes have been disproved by CTC. But the myth is still around despite the most obvious players like Vinnie Moore, Jeff Hannemann or Brendon Small and many many more old and new players. Why is this continued? What’s wrong about it and what’s maybe true?
I’m asking for a friend…

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I think you mean elbow right? Because if you’re asking about forearm and muting, all the lessons we’ve put up recently describe how to do this in great detail, with an entire chapter on muting. It’s similar to what John Taylor does when he’s doing more riff-oriented lines:

But if you mean, do I know people who do elbow and get muting, i.e. because that’s what you’re saying you have trouble with, yes, Brendon Small does this. The song “Icarus 666” from the second Galaktikon album is all elbow with muting for the super fast stuff that starts about 15 seconds in:

He plays this in our upcoming interview so you’ll get some nice closeup shots of what he’s doing. We’re editing this now, so here’s a still image:

You can see that he doesn’t do the radial form. He’s straight to very slightly ulnar. In fact you can see that when he does a strum, he maintains the anchor point and goes totally ulnar:

When he’s alternate picking at slower speeds using wrist motion, he doesn’t go this far ulnar, because he’s just picking on a single string. Instead he starts out like the top picture and just goes a small amount ulnar at the bottom of his downstroke.

Maybe try copying his form and anchor points and see if you can get the muting you need.

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This is exactly what I am trying to do at the moment. I find my wrist still wants to bend downwards to make the gyspy picking form. Anybody ever got over this? Any recommendations on how to practice for someone who can not pick from the wrist?

Right now I am trying to practice with a metronome at slow speed, forcing my wrist to stay in the position you describe, and increasing the speed bit by bit. Forcing my hand to stay like this creates tension in my arm/forearm though, well I’m not sure if it’s tension or fatigue since I am trying to use new muscles to pick. It’s so monotonous trying to practice this, I feel like I am hesitating all the time instead of playing.

Sorry yes, meant elbow not forearm!

I cringe a little bit when i see words used like that, “forcing to stay in the position” etc.
The wrist inward movement I described can help get the motion down for some but it’s definitely not something that’s intended to be forced. I used the term “lock it there” which was probably a bad choice of words as well.
Is your picking motion on single string playing the bouncy kind? - the double escape motions that have been mentioned on the site? If so, that may help explain what you are experiencing. I’d think those motions would use more forearm rotation and be sort of counter to what one may be trying to achieve with single string wrist tremolo. Somewhere on the site Troy has the best video I’ve seen to show examples of these motions.
Learning to make different pick grips and picking styles work will do wonders for your playing even if you tend to favor only one method. New ones should feel funny but not feel forced or have a lot of tension.
One other thing I wanted to add that may help - for wrist picking, think of your thumb and fingers following the perimeter of a small section of a circle that is within the same plane of the strings. For forearm rotation, I would think of that circle being perpendicular to the strings instead.

I don’t think it’s bouncy but it’s very possible that is it. As for forcing my hand to stay in position, you’re right locking it is a better description. It feels forced when I try to speed up, but I know I shouldn’t be doing that :slight_smile: Thanks for the tips!

Troy had suggested a while back that I post a video, I will do that in a new post as to not hijack this tread. Every time I think of doing it I get overwhelmed by all the issues/points I want to cover (finger movement, arm movement, tension, muting, USX, etc.) and I end up forgetting about it!

I am the exact same. I can easily do what you’re talking about putting my wrist on table, lifting it off slightly, then do wrist rotation. But for some reason when I try on a guitar, it’s like my whole wrist area seizes up and I can only play at ridiculously slow speeds, like we’re talking tension with 8th notes at 60bpm. I can not figure it out.

And unfortunately while I can pick really fast (200bpm+) with elbow motion and a locked wrist, this just doesn’t work for me when trying to palm mute metal riffs, and doesn’t work at all at slower speeds, my elbow technique really works at high speeds.

Yes, I guess the issue is I can kinda palm mute when playing at high speeds. But when I slow down, I can’t get away with elbow picking technique anymore, I need to switch to more wrist rotation, which I guess you’re saying Brendan Smalls does. Don’t know, I just fall apart when I try that switch.

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