Swiping and Self-Worth or: Becomig a "real" (?) guitar player

Hi everyone.

I´ve been struggling with what I would call philosophical or psychological ramifications of picking. I feel like giving up on guitar because I don´t know if I will ever be able to play fast the “right” way, which to me means playing fast without swiping.

I know that my biggest influence on guitar, Paul Gilbert, hits two strings at a time sometimes. There are players who consciously implement swiping into their playing, like Strunz and Farah or Joscho Stephan. Rusty Cooley´s pick kind of goes all over the place when he goes into hyper mode.
Also, there is no way of knowing whether one is swiping or not after you reach a certain speed since there is neither auditory nor physical feedback. Players who THINK they play without swiping might actually be swiping without knowing it. I guess there are even more reasons why one shouldn´t care too much about swiping if the playing sounds clean.

That being said, for some reason I can´t get used to the idea that there might be players out there who DO manage to play super fast without swiping (which neither the respective players nor I can really know)
while I struggle with playing at high speeds. I feel like I might stay an inferior guitar player for the rest of my life while other guitar players manage to reach heights that are not allowed for me to reach. I guess it boils down to a question of competence and self-worth. By the way, my main concern are licks that involve one note per string string changes, e.g. decending fours or the famous Paul Gilbert sixes lick.

One factor that adds to my problem is that you can´t really know whether you are swiping or not unless you record a close up of your playing. I had conversations with a couple of guitar players that told me to “just keep practicing and don´t worry so much about technique.” That was before we had this concept of swiping. I am pretty sure these guitar players I have talked to were actually swipers themselves…

I hope this post wasn´t too awkward. I would like to hear your take on this.

Best regards,


  1. I hear you!
  2. This can lead you down a dangerous path of paralysing perfectionism.

I think at some point we have to accept the limitations of our instrument. I became pretty good at listening to guitar in recent years, and I can hear tiny “mistakes” in published records by greats such as YJM, Vinnie Moore, John Petrucci, Paul Gilbert, you name it!

If you are curious, in some cases I can even give you timestamps like “at 2:03 he doesn’t mute the open E string and it rings out for a fraction of a second”.

Despite this, I still greatly enjoy these records and am so glad that these artists did not wait to have 100% clean takes* before sharing their music with the world (*=which by the way is impossible).

Also: when your left hand muting is tight, and when you are playing past a certain speed, you can think that the swipey noise will simply combine with your pick attack, and can even make your lick sound more aggressive. So it’s not always a “bad” thing.

Finally, let’s talk about editing — because it’s totally unfair to compare one’s “live” playing with a produced record. But don;'t take my word for it, let’s hear it from Dean Lamb of Archspire:


If it’s good enough for god-tier alternate pickers like Paul Gilbert and MAB (the list goes on and on) it’s good enough for me!

Personally I really like the sound of swiping, when done cleanly it really adds to the sound of the pick attack and I think it makes phrases sound faster when compared to my inside picking phrases played at the same tempo

Then what’s the problem? “If it sounds good, it’s good”!

In my opinion, swiping is a just another part of guitar playing technique like hybrid picking, sweeping etc.

If you really want to avoid swiping you COULD switch to economy picking and mix in some SWYBRYD so you can still play all your favourite alternate picked licks but I think you’re probably just being too hard on yourself :slight_smile:


Ever heard the phrase analysis paralyses? If you get stuck analysing something that can’t be heard or felt, you won’t progress.

I’m not sure why it matters to you, but this is more of a psychological issue than a physical one.
Accidental swiping will happen at times, I doubt there is a player out there who never does this. If you can’t hear it or feel it, it makes no difference.

Systematic swiping is a perfectly legit way to tackle phrases that would otherwise be near impossible or take up way too much practice time. Time that could be used to learn new phrases, write music, practice improv etc etc


When I was a teenager, I was always upset that I couldn’t get the Gilbert lick to “snarl” the way it does when Paul plays it.


@Dairwolf you definitely win the CtC-Best-Friday-Thread-Click-Bait-Title award! You got my attention anyway :slight_smile:

Seriously though, I wouldn’t think about swiping as in it makes someone less of a player. It’s an engineering solution. All instruments have their own little extra noises, even among the cleanest players. And in many cases, like you’ve pointed out, many times we can’t hear it.

I was also thinking about strummed octaves…they’ve always got the muted string in the middle. No one seems to care about that and indicate we should pluck them instead just to avoid the dead note in the middle (that we can’t even really hear either).

Play the music in the way that’s easiest for you and still sounds professionally acceptable. That way you have more time to focus on expression and individuality. After all, that’s what most of our heroes have done :slight_smile:


Short answer: Play single escape lines. There is no issue with swiping and you can play at any speed you want.

Longer answer: You have no choice in the matter. Even if you want to play lines where swiping might happen, there is only one way your motor system works. It works by fixing mistakes until you can no longer hear them or feel them, until your playing sounds and feels perfect. You do not go super slow and get every note right and memorize “perfect” motions, because you don’t know what the perfect motions are, and those slow motions are only a crude guess. Instead, you go fast to try and discover the truly correct motions, even if they’re a little sloppy at first. Then you go a little slower while making general form changes until the line sounds even better. You bounce back and forth between these tempos many times finding and fixing as many mistakes as you can, through form changes. Eventually you learn to memorize the form that creates the sonically perfect result, by feel, until you can do it almost every time. Then the phrase is “learned”.

This method doesn’t change if you choose care about swiping or not care about swiping. I want to be very clear about this. The person who wants to be “real” as you call it, will still do exactly this. Because this is just how the motor system works.

As a general comment, I just want to say that what you’re describing isn’t what I’d call philosophical. It’s psychological, and based in a mindset of insecurity and fear, and not confidence, fun, and fearlessness. A fearful mindset will keep you from following the methodology outlined above, which, ironically, is the fastest way to become “perfect”, even by your definition of it.

Edit: In re-reading I don’t mean to belittle here, so apologies! I’m just suggesting that psyching yourself up to not worry about mistakes is, ironically, the fastest way to fix them. Hearing the errors is how your motor system learns.

And once again, single escape lines. If you sleep on them, you’re ignoring a huge part of guitar vocabulary. They are not “less” than odd numbered patterns like the Paul Gilbert lick. The player who can’t do even-numbered patterns with Gypsy-level accuracy is “less”. Install that in your brain if you must.


I was thinking about strumming too, and also the rest stroke. I’m always plowing straight into the higher string. If I wasn’t muting it with my left hand, you’d probably hear it.

Yes Sir, you do hear me. No denying here on my part.

Honestly, I am very curious. If you can hear these kind o things by ear, I am jealous of you. Maybe you could send me some examples via PM?

Thank you for this recommendation, that was uplifting. I´d like to know in more detail what kind of “fixes” he is talking about. The general idea of the video was helpful to me.

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Man, I always thought MAB´s picking was THE prove that it´s possible. That video you linked there soothes my soul, not in a derogatory way towards MAB, but in a relieving way.

My problem is this: let´s assume it WAS possible to play at very high speeds without swiping. In this logic, not being able to play fast without swiping would equal to being an inferior guitar player compared to other guitar players. I don´t think I´d be appropriate if I went to college and cheated my way to graduation while everyone else around me studies hard and actually aquires the skills that are necessary in order to graduate.

I believe my logic is flawed somewhere and I am still trying to find out where exactly.

THAT is definetely true and I´m working on it.


For decades I’ve been aware of the sausage making process that is music production. I embrace it. I have no problems consuming it or producing it. Most people sound better than they are. And to Dean’s point, audio/video editing takes a good deal of skill

What then do we make of a monster like this where there is clearly no editing??? (And he’s not even playing a guitar that he’s familiar with!!!)

Perfect, no. Inhuman still? Yeah :slight_smile:

And to keep it on topic, there is probably some swiping in there

:metal: :metal: :metal:

To me the flaw is in the premise. Swiping is not cheating. It’s a brilliant engineering solution.


I think your expectations Re: “necessary skills” are incorrect :slight_smile:
As far as I understand, the necessary skills for a musician are to sound good, have good timing, good phrasing, good note choices, being able to listen to other musician in the band, grooving with them, etc.

If every guitar graduation involved filming the player’s right hand close-up, then analysing it in slow-motion to make sure they never hit the wrong string… I fear we would have no guitar college graduates :slight_smile:


Just for fun: John Williams does a classical version of “swiping” here at about 2:08 — can you hear it? I also think some of the initial tremolo notes are chocked, he kinda takes a few secs to get into it. I am not sure I would call this a bad performance though, considering the fact that I end up in tears every time I listen to it!

Edit: @joebegly there is definitely a ton of swiping noise in that Rusty clip. And /or in some cases he lets the opens strings ring for an instant by imperfect muting. But that just means he is human! This performance is outstanding in the big picture. This is just the way a (great) guitar player sounds when playing live.


lol Definitely! I meant more like, the number of ‘humans’ that can play like that is pretty low. Fortunately, and thanks in large to CtC, that number is sure to grow!

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The flaw seem to be that you are not thinking, does it SOUND good? FEEL good? You are wanting to get out a magnifying glass to SEE If it sounds absolutely PERFECT.

This is a danger to your progress. Trust me, I’ve been there, for many years. An obsession that stunted any progress and the longer I allowed myself to think this way, the more problems I created.

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Also, I was a studio assistant and engineer for many years. I’ve sat in on sessions with some veteran producers. Editing is the norm now. Especially in many genres of metal. In fact, I’ve not sat in on a session that didn’t have any editing.
In the end, it doesn’t matter. It’s for people to listen to and enjoy. I’d argue that many of the edits were unnecessary, but again, makes no difference to anyone.

There is no need to wonder about this. Swiping is a non-issue in single escape picking styles. You can watch live footage of John McLaughlin, Eric Johnson, George Benson, Yngwie, etc. and never hear or see swiping. It has nothing to do with speed. You’re not more likely to swipe in these picking styles just because you’re going fast.

Not only that, but at the “very fast” speeds you’re talking about, the only continuous motions we are even aware of that exist are single escape motions. Can you pick fast on a single string? If so, you are already doing single escape motion. So you are already almost there. All you have to do is write or play lines that fit that motion.

More generally, you have to resist the urge to classify different picking styles as better or worse than each other. An original idea that sounds good is an original idea that sounds good. If you lined up every cool thing in the universe that could be played on a guitar, a certain percentage of those would be single escape. They wouldn’t sound any worse just because the picking motion is simple.

If you haven’t seen this, I’ll leave you with one amazing example of the power of single escape picking. This is Bernardo De Pace, mandolin virtuoso from the early 20th century who plays primarily classical music. This is a section from a vaudville-style performance that was filmed in a a rare example of sync sound from that era. After ten-minutes of non-stop blazing tremolo, he launches into this single-note lead section in the last minute which will melt your face. It wasn’t until I transcribed it that I realized it was almost entirely upstroke escape. All even numbers of notes per string, possibly with downstroke sweeping. Gypsy style, just on mandolin.

If the ideas are good, even an expert will not immediatley be able to tell what technique was used to play it, nor will they care even if they can tell. They’ll be too busy enjoying the music. Here’s the link:


What if the assigment is to play ascending sixes using Gypsy motion and swiping, like Joscho is doing in this clip. It’s not academic. There are valid reasons to assign this, because it’s a useful skill to have, as Joscho demonstrates:

And what if you can only play the phrase with mixed escape and no swiping. Do you get a failing grade on the project? It’s a crazy thought, but if the big schools ever start teaching mechanics, this could actually happen.

In fact, there are lots of amazing players who would probably fail this test. Anyone who doesn’t have USX motion would fail it. McLaughlin, for example. Even Andy Wood, who does not appear to have any kind of continuous USX in his toolbox.

My partner is a pretty good mixed escape mandolin player, but does not do continuous USX. Her fast motion is all elbow / wrist DSX, similar to Andy. There was a mando piece with fast double-picked notes across strings, DU on every string. She was having trouble with her usual approach so I showed her Gypsy form and she tooled around with it for a bit. I could see the gears turning. She’s great at physical learning and I’m sure she would get it eventually if it really mattered to her. But it really is a whole different skill, like another language, and not obviously inferior in any way once you realize that not everyone — even experts — can do it.


Would “playing single escape lines” mean that I always end a phrase on an escape motion? And when you say “swiping is not an issue”, do you mean it happens only on one of the two picking motions (eg on the DS with DWPS) or that it doesn´t happen at all, so that line are organized in way that eg with DWPS, there are no DS string changes? Not trying to troll here, just trying to understand what you are saying.

Yes, I agree. I see myself in your statement. I don´t take offense to this. I didn´t sense any malice in this, just some truth(s) that I think I need to hear that nudge me in the right direction psychologically.

No understatement here… WOW.

Correct, swiping doesn’t happen in single escape styles because the phrases are designed to change strings during the escape. You ignore all other phrases. And the escape is built into the motion and never changes. So you don’t generally “fail” to escape.

It sounds like you have internalized “swiping” to mean any kind of picking error, but that’s not really the case. It’s a specific type of picking error that only happens in very specific circumstances.

More generally, I think people get hung up on this concept because we tell them it can be invisible, like some kind of demon that comes for you at night. This is what suggests to me that the focus on this particular subject is arbitrary, and comes from a psychological perspective more so than a real one.

I think much more productive for you would be to focus on things that are practical:

  1. Have you taken our table tapping tests, so you have a general idea that your picking speed is normal?
  2. Do you have a fast picking motion yet you can use for tremolo?
  3. Which joint motion is it?
  4. Have you determined which escape it is?
  5. Can you play simple synchronized repeating patterns on a single string (yngwie sixes, for example)?
  6. Can you play those patterns across the strings using the escape (Pop Tarts lick, Gilbert sixes, etc.)?


This is the checklist. It’s not really worth worrying about other things until you actually experience them as problems.

Let us know where you are in the checklist and we can help you play awesome stuff you will be proud of and excited by. You will stop worrying about other stuff.