Hi all. Would appreciate some feedback on my technique if that’s ok?
Apologies for the poor videos - had to make do with holding my phone in one hand.
I’ve been studying all the videos, but in particular the USX one was really helpful and also the Wrist Motion Checklist was superb to follow - having the step by step guide on how to position everything was a great help.
The main thing I’ve had to get used to is holding the pick using the trigger grip. After years of playing with a pad to pad grip (which I realised was seriously holding me back from a speed perspective) it’s taken some getting used to - I’ve still not mastered the grip.
I can alternate pick sixteenth notes on a single open string at about 120 BPM using the techniques I’ve learned so far. Anything more than that at the minute I tense up a bit so need to work on that more. On some attempts I can actually do it relaxed at 150 BPM using bursts.
Anyway here are the videos - appreciate any feedback.
Hi! Thanks for filming. That closeup shot is great, how are you getting that in a Magnet-free world?
As @rko1985 suggests, the form looks fine. It’s not stringhopping, and the pick is moving along the right path i.e. upstroke escape. But it’s not fast, and that’s my main concern. If you tap on a table, you can probably do that way faster than you’re doing this. Generally, our experience here is that sitting around stuck at a slow speed for a length of time doesn’t automatically produce faster motion. It just makes the slower form permanent.
We don’t always know why someone feels speed-limited with a particular motion even when there doesn’t appear to be anything overtly “wrong” with the form. I think we’ll figure that out eventually. But for now, in cases like this my advice is always to just wing it and go as fast as you can without overthinking it. In other words, use whatever motion you need to use that goes fast. If you do that, can you go faster than this? What does the motion look like?
Also, there is no rule that you have to use this grip. I know I filmed those particular lessons that way, but that’s just to give people a starting point. I didn’t mean to imply that there is anything special about that grip as far as this motion is concerned. As far as I know, all grips work when paired with the correct arm position.
So as you experiment with the “winging it” method, please try other grips if you run out of things to change. Of course, you can also give the other motions in the Primer a shot, like elbow and forearm-wrist. But try not to bog down. Just go for it and let us know if you find anything that works faster.
Another thing you could try which has really helped me and that you see many players do playing with a USX motion is anchoring or placing some of the picking hand fingers on the body of the guitar. This could potentially help you smooth out the picking motion and making it feel more comfortable, as well as making it more consistent. It could also help you feel a bit more in control of the picking motion and better apply to the guitar as you’re having an additional physical connection point to the guitar. You could try anchoring only the pinky as EJ tends to do, the third and the fourth finger like Ardeshir Farah, or all of the other fingers like @Troy often does. This can be flexible though, e.g., EJ seems to switch between anchoring only the pinky and letting multiple of the picking hand fingers touch the guitar. Having some form of contact with the guitar with the excess fingers – whether light or more firm – could really help and is maybe something you could try experimenting with.
Did you take a look at these videos up close, and can you see which way the pick is moving in them? In other words, where is the pick when it starts the downstroke, and where is it when it ends the downstroke?
In a USX motion, the pick starts in the air above the strings and ends below the string height, in between two strings. In a DSX motion, the pick starts the downstroke below the string height, in between two strings, and ends above the string height, escaped. So which do you think you’re seeing in these clips? I’ll give you a second to re-watch them. Don’t read below!
Ha. This is of course not USX motion at all in these clips, but DSX motion. This should be super obvious when you watch this, only because of how different it looks from your first video. The motion path in your first clip was actually a textbook depiction of USX motion, with the pick moving on a diagonal, and tthe obvious downward pickslant that matches that. In the new clips, the diagonal is now reversed. It’s also much shallower, and closer to parallel with the strings. You’ll notice that your elbow is moving now, which it wasn’t before.
So what happened here is that by “wingning it”, you’re weren’t actually working on USX motion, you were learning a new motion entirely — elbow, which is working faster for you. So I think you should actually try to do elbow motion explicitly. You can use the form you have here if you like. Or you could try Brendon Small’s form or Bill Hall’s form, both of which you can see here:
Again, experimentation. We don’t always know why certain motions are faster immediately for certain people, but I try not to worry about that too much. Instead, I just zero in on whatever is working because I want the most progress I can get, right away. Again, speed is what we’re looking for here, and it seems to be unlocking as you figure out which joints you really want to move. Just go for it.
Let us know how you make out.
Oh, one more thing - when you post video links, don’t use the “link” button, just paste the youtube link on a line by itself. The forum will recognize that and embed the video for easy playability.
Do this test. Get a metronome and set it to 160bpm. Can you tap eighth notes (twice per click) on a table at this speed for two bars with just your wrist? How about 180? How about 200? Keep raising it and see how high you can go where you can tap for two bars.
The idea is that table tapping is roughly equivalent to a flexion-extension alternate picking motion at the same tempo. So if your tapping is not much faster than your playing, then ok, maybe your picking is where it needs to be. But if your tap is much faster, than you probably have some room left in your picking technique and you have to find a motion or form change that can do it. Since it’s already there in the tapping, it’s probably there already in your picking technique if you just do it correctly, or use a different motion that’s more similar to your tapping motion.
Sure, while you experiment, you can definitely incorporate the fretting hand. There’s no need to be super segregated with this. Who cares if it’s sloppy, you’re just trying to go fast at this point.
Yes that’s correct! But I mean two continuous bars, or 16 taps in a row. It’s somewhat arbitrary, but I’m just imagining how many continuously picked sixteenth notes someone would need to be able to play with a technique to feel like they had enough headroom there to reliabrly play real-world lines with that technique. And I came up with two bars. You could argue for more / less.
Either way, I think it’s clear you have about the same physical potential as I do with this test. I can sort of squeak out two bars at this tempo with flexion/extension tapping. Drop it to 240 I can probably do it more comfortably.
In actual playing probably 210 is a reasonable real-world maximum for me. But that’s probably with a slightly different motion. If I was using this exact motion, I’d expect the numbers to be pretty similar. I haven’t really worked on elbow so that might be faster, you never know.
Anyway, accounting for “drivetrain losses” I think you should easily be able to pick in the 200bpm range, give or take. So if something you’re experimenting with feels unnaturally slower than that or awkward in any way, that could be an indicator that something is up with technique itself.