Tapping into my knocking skills

Sorry for the bad pun.

I’m trying to figure out how the knocking/tapping on a tabletop motion actually translates into picking, and I just seem to be missing the point somehow.

I think I have pretty average knocking ability, so I should be able to get this…

I’ve filmed myself, starting from tapping on the pickup, and then rotating my hand down while at lease TRYING to maintain the same motion (whether or not I’ve actually succeeded).
At no point however, do I ever feel like my hand is remotely in a position where I could even reach the strings, let alone pick them.

Then I tried my best guess at what I think the motion should be while actually picking.
Am I close? I don’t think it’s the same motion as tapping, but does it seem like a viable motion at least? I tried to vary it a little bit, while staying in the same ballpark, so maybe there’s some point at which it’s closest to being ok?

Here’s what’s really confusing me:
When knocking/tapping etc., my thumb is moving in a side-to-side motion, in relation to my thumbnail. But when picking (regardless of hand position) I’m pretty sure that my thumb needs to be moving in an up-and-down motion (or forward-backward position, depending on how you want to describe it)…or another way to say it would be the same motion that a normal person might press an elevator button --and then release it-- using their thumb. Hopefully that’s clear what I mean.

So what am I missing here?

And just so it’s mentioned…I know that my pickup is really close to the strings. I’m sort of using it like the Floyd Rose “speed guide” to regulate my pick depth. But I also play other guitars that are not set up this way – the results and issues and confusion are the same.

I’m a native English speaker, so if my question here is not clearly explained, I really have no excuse…sorry. But my perplexion is genuine.

Thanks in advance for any advice!

1 Like

Hey @spork99 ! As far as I understand, it’s very hard to have a knowcking-like picking motion with the pick grip and hand position that you are showing here.

If you really like the feeling of the knocking motion, then you can try the Steve-Morse style 3-finger grip with the supinated forearm. In that setup, the picking motion can be very close to 12-6 (using the clock face analogy).

Beyond that, do you already have a picking motion which you can use to tremolo pick fast? If so, let us take a look! In general we found that it is much easier to start with a working motion — whatever that may be — than to “intellectually construct” a picking motion out of the theoretical principles.

Hey @Tommo !

Yeah, I totally understand why you always advise people to use what’s working, rather than deciding ahead of time what type of picker you want to be.
I’m pretty sure I’m a DSX picker naturally, and tend to use elbow the most. I’m totally cool with being that guy.

I was curious though because in the recent Rick Hollis interview @Troy mentions that he can do really fast upstrokes if he starts with tapping on the body and then rotates it into a picking position. So if I understood correctly, the tap on the body became the upstroke!
Just wondering what that felt like but I couldn’t really make it work…no biggie though.

I do have a bit of a lingering fascination with USX, partly because I can’t for the life of me figure out how to really do it.
So there’s a little bit of an ego/challenge aspect I’ll admit…but I know that part is not so important.
But the other reason I can’t seem to let it go is that my muting really sucks and I feel like the types of motion I use don’t really lend themselves to muting so much.
And by muting, I mean of course muting unused strings so my playing sounds cleaner…
but also I want to be able to play fast muted passages, such as like what Al DiMeola does, or pretty much any Scorpions-era 80’s hard rock lead guitar solo.

My pronated setup keeps the fleshy part of my hand’s pinky side pretty far from the strings. I can use it for slow-picked muting, but once I start really moving my hand it just lifts up.
I like the sound of the pinky heel muting the strings…it sounds to me exactly like what I want to copy. So I use a pretty heavily supinated position for general riffing and whatever less-challenging lead playing I do.

But since I can’t pick very fast that way, I’ve learned to use a pronated setup (thanks CTC!), at least when I’m sitting on the couch noodling.
Anyway, I can’t figure out how to mute while pronated…or using the other form I dabble in, which is where I anchor my fingers on the body and stand my hand kinda taller, swinging my pick like a pendulum…sort of a cross between MAB and Gypsy picking?
I also have a little bit of a twitchy EVH wrist rotation thing that I fool around with. It’s pretty fast but doesn’t have any anchoring so it doesn’t feel very controllable at all.

When I use the pronated form, I do some muting with the side of my thumb…but when playing fast, I feel like it just makes more noise rubbing across the low strings than anything else.

This is what I think anyway…but I’m really actually here to get others’ opinions!

Here are a dozen clips. Hope it’s not too many. They’re all pretty short.

Most of these I’m wearing my guitar considerably higher that I would for a normal gig where I’m more concerned about appearance. I think it brings the guitar closer to where it would be when I’m sitting on the couch.
I kept switching picks to try and mitigate all the scraping sounds I produce, and also I played around with my pick angle a bit…turning it more flat along the strings sounds cleaner and feels more clicky like I like, but edge picking seems to be what I end up with most of the ways I set myself up.
If I could hold the guitar with my arm practically parallel to the strings I believe I can do some pretty decent picking but that’s not really a position that I can get myself into naturally.

Also, I really feel like I always need to pick as close to the bridge as possible or else the strings are just way too loosey-goosey.
Ok I’ll shut up now.











For these last two, I lowered my guitar strap quite a bit and I’m sort of balancing the guitar against my thigh with the neck up in the air…very “rockstar” pose, which I’m totally comfortable doing if that’s what it’s gonna take. It somehow gets my hand & arm into a more comfortable position to do these motions.


12 this one is like above but I added my middle finger pressing against my index finger for more support

Hi! I haven’t watched the videos, I’ll leave that for Tommo. But as to the tapping, I mean, actually tapping, i.e. using a very similar form you would use when tapping on a table where you come down almost veritcally, and tapping as fast as you can. Have you taken the eighth note table tapping tests? What were your numerical metronome results? My guess is that most people can do that 220bpm or more, so that’s the ballpark you’re looking for. Athletically videogame-y fast is what you’re looking for.

Obviously, doing that on a guitar, you will not be able to use a typical pick grip because you’ll be coming down more vertically toward the guitar. You will need to turn the pick so that it hits the string perpendicular to its motion. Here’s one method I came up with using an EVH type arm position. This is the one I was doing in the talk with Rick:

And here’s the inverse arm position, where you anchor on the thumb:

Note that the pick must be turned in both cases so that it is more or less perpendicular to the way it is moving, i.e. so you hit the string the same in both directions, with no garage spikes.

Whether or not you decide to play this way, trying to get these motions is a good learning experience because it will teach you what truly easy wrist motion feels like. Right away, you will know if you’re working too hard or not with your other motions, and this is valuable feedback when knowing if you’re doing them right.

Yes, with the tabletop test I get something around 220 as well.

Those 2 grips you demonstrated above are really interesting. They seem to be kind of an upside down trailing edge type of motion, like you’re almost “sawing” across the strings…at least it looks that way a little. And that’s interesting to me because when I “saw”, the pick doesn’t tend to get caught on the string as much as with regular picking, yet it grabs the string enough to distinctly sound the note…vs when I use too much edge picking and the pick sometimes slides too easily off the string and I get almost no sound. And with sawing, also the pickstroke doesn’t really get trapped as much, on either the upstroke or downstroke…regardless of which way I’m slanting etc.
Maybe I should saw more!

In your first example above-- it’s somehow like you’re picking with the back of the pick instead of the front of the pick… I don’t know exactly how to explain that better, but it’s like if you were holding a pencil in the normal way and then just rotated your hand back and wrote with the eraser instead! Why not?

I’m excited to see what you guys think of my clips. Somehow it took me a year to feel ready to post anything, but I do really want to see if anything I’m doing seems worthwhile of keeping (or ditching).

No worries! It’s not easy to put yourself out there, but good that you did :slight_smile:

I just had a brief look at the clips.

Big picture-wise, I think most of these could be workable motions. I think it’s up to you to decide the one (or two, or three!) that feels best and start using it to make some music! You seem well prepared on the general CTC concepts, so you should be able to determine what escape each motion makes and what licks go well with that.

Some general comments that came to me after looking at the videos:

  • pay attention / try to avoid the “garage spikes” problem, where the pick grabs thre string too much on either the up or dowstroke. Probably the easiest way to mitigate this is to add a little extra edge picking, and/or to experiment with different grips until you have a pickslant that’s compatible with the motion.

  • sometimes the notes sound very short, as if the flesh of your thumb/index may be blocking the note right after it gets picked. Pay attention to that and… try to not do it :slight_smile: You can expose more pick if necessary

  • seems like you always have the metronome on. Try also some practice without the metronome, just generally trying to play fast and paying attention to how things feel and sound.

Hope that helps and let me know if you have any specific questions. Looking forward to an update!

There’s no metronome in any of my clips. In fact, I never ever use a metronome for practicing. I mean really never. I did fire one up the other day for the tabletop test but aside from that I’m just not that interested in what my speed is numerically…I just want to be able to play smoothly and cleanly at a reasonable clip.

Was it my rock-solid timing…or maybe my overly-chirpy pick attack?

I do think maybe I pick a bit too hard, but I like the percussive sound-- so if that’s holding me back then that’s something else I’ve gotta figure out :man_shrugging:t2:

1 Like

Haha oops sorry, I heard it wrong! Then you have very convincing picking accents and timing :slight_smile:

I don’t think you pick too hard, I also like the sound of aggressive picking. I think the only small problem I noticed in some of the clips (attack wise), was that the pick seemed to get a little stuck on some pickstrokes. In other clips you had more balance and smoothness for both up and downstrokes.

Do you also feel like some of these modes are smoother than others, in the sense that it feels equally easy to move the pick across the string in both directions?

One thing I’m kind of unsure about from your original post is more the purpose or goal behind it. More so are you just trying to incorporate a new motion, (knocking in this case) or just trying to use a new tool to play more fluidly in general (thinking a knocking motion may be the ticket there?)

Another way to put it - what’s your ultimate destination? If the motions you use now feel comfortable to you, and say your goal is just trying to become a more fluid player, trying to completely change the way you play may be counterproductive in some ways, and you may be better off working with what you have first, and what feels best to you, and not really worry about which motion is better for _____ right now, unless there is one lick you really want to learn that is only possible with_____motion

Now a couple of things I see in your videos that may help:

You seem to play with a lot more motion and force than I think you need to. Part of that could be that you are playing relatively quietly or under amplified, so you may be hitting the strings harder just to hear them. That may also be why Tommo thought you had a click on. Playing with more force can cause your whole body to tense more, which isn’t conducive for the long haul, and just makes things harder all around. Try easing up a little on each stroke and concentrate on limiting your range of motion over the strings a little. Not a lot, just a bit. Don’t travel any longer distances than you have to in order to make each note sound, yet impactful enough for them to be intelligible. It’s a fine balance.

Another thing you may want to try, especially with some of your hand positions I notice you use more, is a pick with a pointier tip, but somewhat beveled edge. That also may help get a more pronounced attack without having to pick as hard.

1 Like

Yeah…so I guess I’m always open to the idea that I might someday find a better way.
It’s not that I’m not opposed to the DSX motion which seems to be most natural for me…

This. I’d like to be able to play fast muted lines…maybe like Al DiMeola for example. I know he does it with DSX but for I can’t really get it to work. When I place my hand supinated, resting the side of my pinky on the strings, that just feels so comfortable and natural. I use that for most of my “non-shredding” kind of playing, which is mostly what I do anyway. And the muting is super easy. But this position doesn’t allow me to pick very fast at all, without getting bouncy and inefficient.
So then when I want to tremolo pick, or play other speedy stuff, then I switch to the more pronated position that’s in my clips. And honestly I can probably already do that as fast as I need…I mean, my left hand can’t really keep up most of the time so I’d probably do well to work on my hand synch etc. before I worry too much about picking any faster. BUT even when I get things going pretty fast and accurate, I still get a lot of sloppy noise because I can’t mute well…and also I get noise from my thumb rubbing over the lower strings. It’s kinda shameful!

I keep going through all the great CTC content and usually if there’s something I want to try–well, I just try it. But when @Troy mentioned that he was able to adapt the tabletapping motion into picking, I was just stumped because I couldn’t see a way to do it. He was kind enough to clear that up in his examples above…and I probably would never have figured that out on my own…as those motions are pretty weird and unconventional looking. But I get the point.

I agree with this. Both points-- I do almost all my “speed training” unplugged, and I’m realizing now that it’s probably holding me back.

You might be a genius! This is actually a really great piece of advice that has helped me and I wanna go into some detail in case it helps anyone else…
The dilemmas that I keep coming up against on my journey are:

I’ll often find a comfortable hand position but I’m unable to move it fast enough.

So then I’ll find a position that facilitates some decent speed but then I can’t get the pick angle correct. Either it gets stuck in one direction (or both)…or I can’t get it close enough to touch the strings…

Or I find a great position that moves well, but I use too much edge picking and can’t do it any other way. This is exactly what has been happening lately—I’ve got this steep-ish edge picking angle and I was moving my hand quickly and smoothly through the strings but getting almost no sound!
Because the pick was just sliding off the strings.

I’m a long-time user of the big 346 Fender-type picks, which work great for me for aggressive rock rhythm playing etc. But they weren’t helping me any in the speed department so I’ve been messing around with smaller shapes. The Dunlop Flow shape was actually pretty helpful with the “pick getting stuck on the string” issue. But I was still having the “not getting any sound” issue-- and I have to say that switching to a pointy beveled pick absolutely took care of that problem!

So thanks again @Fossegrim because this was a pretty major discovery!

The very last clip I posted (#12) is actually my newest discovery. I guess it’s kind of a wrist rotation…at least that’s what it feels like…but what makes it unique is that my middle finger is pressing against my index finger in a interesting way—the fingertip is pressing flat on my index fingernail. I don’t know if it’s giving me extra clamping pressure on the pick, or just more stability while I’m whipping the hand to and fro…but something about it feels kinda good.

I think in clips #7 & #8 I’ve got my hand resting on the body behind the bridge (which I guess you can only do on a Fender-type bridge) and what I like about this is it allows my pick to get closer to the strings than if my hand was resting on the strings. I can also kinda use this position with the Gibson combination bridge/tailpiece wraparound thing. Definitely doesn’t work with a Floyd Rose!

I mentioned above that I’m frustrated by my inability to pick and mute at the same time.
Even simple stuff gives me more of a challenge than it should. An example of this would be muted 16th notes on a single note on a single string…think “Eye Of The Tiger” for example.
This seems like a very basic rudimentary skill that every rock guitarist should have in their toolbox, but for some reason I’m terrible at it. So what I do instead of the normal way is I play that in sort of a strumming motion across like 3 strings… but I just use left hand muting on the adjacent strings. I guess it works ok in the context of a live mix…but I know that it’s not really what it should be.

@spork99 I have a better idea now of what may help you get on the right path, but it may take me a couple of days or so to piece something together for you to try. I have to look through your videos again. I think part of it too though is your spreading your focus out a bit much right now, especially since you are still in the stages of figuring out a workable hand placement, and honestly the answer may be that you incorporate more than one depending on what you are doing at any given time. But I think what may be the best thing is that you pick what is the most important to you right now, whether that’s working on muted alternate picking lines, or something else entirely. There are also more recent threads too you should check out that may be very pertinent to your issue as well. If you really want to try for the USX three note per string stuff, we can maybe try to coach you through some hand positioning that may feel more comfortable to you, and some muting technique that’s goes with them, because regardless of what position you use, effective two hand muting is likely the most important technique you will ever learn.

@fossegrim If you’ve got an idea for me, I will definitely be excited to check out whatever you have to offer! I guess what’s most important to me is to improve my muting in general with higher picking speeds. I do like the fast muted alternate picking stuff like I mentioned before… but also just want to be better at the kind of muting that keeps your playing clean. I do a fine job of muting when playing at moderate tempos, i.e. regular classic rock etc. …so I do know what needs to happen; I just haven’t found a way to execute it while picking fast, hence my frustration.
More generally speaking, I just wanna improve my shredding chops by figuring out what I’m actually good at. I love Yngwie, Paul Gilbert, Al DiMeola…all very different style pickers, I know–but I’ll take whatever I can get. I’m not much of a metal guy beyond the 80’s but I’m equally impressed by the technique, so if I somehow discover at some point that I have a knack for it, I could definitely have fun with that too.