Stubbornness has cost me 3 years

3 years ago I posted my first clip of a really cool DSX tremolo on 1 string. It was fast, smooth, and felt like a dream. @Troy told me that basically, the next steps were:

  1. Synchronization of both hands on 1 string
  2. Get going with lots of DSX lines. If the lines I wanted to play involved USX changes, then just mod them (legato/changing the lick to fit DSX).

However in my stubbornness, and because I want to play bluegrass, I told myself that I needed to learn crosspicking, or at least some helper motion/TWPS/DBX. So I have spent three years taking online lessons from pros who can do all these motions, trying to at least learn TWPS with a helper motion.

It has not worked. 3 years later, whilst I should be a boss at DSX bluegrass playing, I cannot play more than a few notes without getting stuck at a USX change. I think I have wasted this time by not taking Troy’s advice.

On Saturday I basically gave up, and thought, "you know what, Bryan Sutton has a whole set of tabs that show his DSX playing with modded lines (hammer-ons, pull-offs etc). And no-one is going to argue with him that he doesn’t pick every note or play songs the way that might not suit him.

So i’ve started to learn some of his songs, and already it’s much better. I can do some lines super fast and they sound great, and they feel great too! Also in the last few days I saw @adamprzezdziecki 's amazing post on playing lines starting with an upstroke (My guide to playing cascading pentatonics with DSX motion), which showed me that I don’t need to stick to all the rules of starting on a downstroke and alternate picking. Also I have learnt about this thing called the “rest stroke”, which is really helping me with timing and clarity of notes. If a bit of economy picking is good enough for Eric Johnson et all, then who am I to argue with that?

Anyway I am just posting this to process really. Has anybody else made a similar mistake/gone down a similar rabbit hole of trying to learn all the motions at once and struggling?

I am finally going to just do what Troy said and get going with DSX as much as possible.

All I want to be able to do is play these bluegrass fiddle tunes at a good tempo for my family and friends, and I’m pretty sure none of them are going to say
“that was ok but it’s a real shame you needed to use a hammer on there. You should really be alternate picking everything”
“why didn’t you play that line with an odd number of notes on the g-string, you’ve ruined the whole song!”
“You didn’t play it right, that line started on an upstroke when you should have started it on a downstroke”

It feels like a lot of the great players out there (and on here) actually have a core motion which they squeeze as much as possible out of, and then over time they learn more motions, and it seems that they learn them sub-consciously, rather than practising them for years on end. Certainly for me, trying to “learn” lots of motions, or even 2 has not worked at all. I can basically only do 1 motion (DSX), but I can do it really well, so why not just squeeze every last drop out of it as I can?

Is anybody else in the same boat, or been here?


Thanks for posting this. I’m not in the same boat, but I’m really frustrated with my right hand now. It’s like I’ve never touched the instrument and I have no idea if I’m going down the right path. Seeing your post will help me pay attention to advice I receive, when I receive it.

Thank you for posting

No problem!

Man I am so frustrated and annoyed with myself that I once I got a picking motion that worked I didn’t listen to advice from Troy Grady himself to just use that and trust him that eventually, subconsciously the other motions would happen. And actually they are. I can do some USX changes on the g,b and e strings. But I should also be able to blaze up and down DSX bluegrass all day, but I have neglected that and learnt almost nothing.

Even when Troy interviews people, they also say “Just find a motion and start making music”. So why did I think I knew better, my own hubris I guess!

Anyway glad it helped, onwards and upwards for me! What stage are you at right now?


I hear you! It’s almost like we should be listening to the virtuosi, since they’re probably on that level for a reason :slight_smile:

I’m at the stage where I think I have a motion, but I’m not sure. The problem for me is that there are things that are a part of my repertoire (things I wrote) that I need to be able to play, which require cross picking / string jumps, so it appears that I need to learn a few different motions. Up to this point it’s always been luck and force of will that got the things done, but when it came to improvising I would inevitably crash into a wall, which derails a group when they’re paying close attention. It doesn’t help that I find guitar to be an incredibly uncomfortable instrument to play.

Edit: this is where things are for me -

The Rachmaninoff excerpt, both live and sitting in my house are probably the ones that show where I was. At this point I can’t even play a scale.

Don’t worry about that, I think it’s well documented on here that most players don’t play scales up and down in order like the old piano practice routine. There is a video I think of Troy asking Albert Lee to play one and he was hopeless!!


What guitars do you play it you dont mind me asking?

I have a Taylor acoustic, 310ce. It feels nice to play. I have 2 telecasters but I haven’t used them in a while as I’ve been trying to learn bluegrass guitar

Are you happy with the sound? A Taylor 300 series is on my wishlist. I haven’t played one since I was a teenager. I was immediately struck by just how easy it is to play. I remember liking the way it sounded, but my ears were not nearly as picky back then as they are now.

I have an awesome Martin D-35 from (I think) 1978 that my grandad left me. Sounds amazing. Plays…not so amazing. Martin got cocky in the 70’s and thought their necks were so good that they didn’t need truss rods. They were obviously wrong and since have returned to sanity, but that doesn’t help me much lol! The neck has just enough bow to make the action playable but I feel I have to work for it.

I’d love a Taylor if they sound comparable. I know it will be a different sound than Martin. I just mean if it’s comparable in sound from a quality perspective. I’ll of course test drive them myself, just curious what your take on their sound is. I should probably search YT. I’m sure someone has live demo’d a Taylor vs Martin

I love it. It plays really easily you are right, I never had an acoustic which was so easy to fret.

Sounds wise when I use the right pick attack it gets me that crisp loud bluegrass sounds so it’s perfect for my aspirations!

Im not a sound/tone expert but I can tel you that!!

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Yes. I took online lessons from a guitar instructor who has since become a controversial name in the guitar world.
He insisted on a rather unorthodox thumb muting technique combined with strict “directional picking”. Which is just economy picking really.

Anyway, as I had been struggling with economy picking for years prior, I figured someone who specialised in it would be a good idea… right…? Wrong!

It’s my own fault that I wasted years with him. I kept thinking surely this will work, I just need to keep doing what I’m told and I’ll get there…

Well, the thumb muting picking hand position coupled with strict economy picking left me in a position that I literally couldn’t play the simplest of things and it got worse and worse the longer I persisted with it.

It left me feeling completely defeated and I quit the lessons and guitar, as I couldn’t handle the idea of having to unlearn this thumb muting thing and start again from the ground up.

Let’s not even talk about the amount of money I paid to pretty much destroy my ability to play or even enjoy music anymore…

After some time I decided I missed guitar way too much and then stumbled upon CTC. Which thankfully has gotten me back to a place where I can enjoy playing again. Not fear having to make changes or learn new things and also knowing that there isn’t one way to do something, there are options.

Anyway, best to look at it in a positive light. You tried something, it didn’t work out, so you regroup and try something different!

Yep. We’re all in luck that we found a place that actually understands how to teach technique.

This sounds like it was Tom Hess.


Thank you, yea that’s how I feel ! Trying to stay positive.

Thank you for sharing that really helps me to know we’re all on a journey here full of bumps in the road but there is hope! How is your playing now do you feel much better and more fluid and confident?

I think you will find that a lot. Or more commonly someone will choose something that isn’t right for them because x player does it, or are under the impression that it’s the only way to do something they want to do.


Thanks. It’s actually a hard cycle to get out of, or for some reason you think that ‘this is the way to play it because X plays it this way’ I’m learning now that there are loads of ways to play the same stuff. And it send the best players know that

I still have a lot of work to do, but I’ve made a lot of progress and found a picking motion that works for me. Most importantly I can enjoy the guitar again.

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Thanks so much @superslip103 for this post! I can absolutely relate to this situation as I had naturally developed a comfortable DSX technique (along with one-way SWYBRID) and just let it sit as I obsessively and ineffectively pursued DBX. I too want to focus on bluegrass and be able to jam with fellow musicians. I mistakenly thought I’d have to master crosspicking for doing rolls, but I’m finally accepting the idea that throwing in some hammers/pulls and fingerpicked notes here and there is totally fine!

I have, in fact, started to build a reserve of rolls that are really easy to execute (at least for me) using two-string ascending and descending sweeps in combination with a plucked note. To get them to sound more even in articulation (as with a flatpick), I’m trying to use a little nail of the middle or ring finger. I’m also experimenting with Alaska fingerpicks on those fingers.

Coincidentally, I’ve also been looking at Bryan Sutton’s videos and tabs for inspiration. He’s a phenomenal player – who cares if he picks every note or not, right?!

Anyway, congrats on your progress! I’ll aim to contribute more to the forum with some postings of my own (aspiring to something like @adamprzezdziecki’s awesome video). Cheers, and thanks again for the post!

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Of course not, that’s what youtube is for. :wink:


It’s actually pretty awesome that you have a role model for making your motion work for the style you want to play. I know you regret not starting down that path sooner, but better now than another year from now, right?

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I know it is stupid right!