Test Drive Your Motions! Pickslanting Primer Update

I resubscribed (again!) and, for me, the explanations of picking motions are clearer using the table as an example. It made everything much easier to understand.

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@Troy this is fantastic work, well done. Extremely clear and inspiring.

I have gone over all the chapters and just tested myself with all the motions. Most are topping out consistently at 210 BPM. However, at that poiint I’m also noticing my shoulder tensing up…

Attempting the ‘Hyper Picking’ technique, almost immediately my wrist, elbow and shoulder lock up with tension. Not in any way that feels healthy either! My question would be how to progress with any of these motions when shoulder tension appears to be a main underlying occurrence?

Amazing work with the new chapters and thank you for everything you’re doing.

I’m honored to be a part of this update! I think it’s awesome that the CtC team continues to enhance and improve the content. And this update is fantastic. The fact you have broken down the motion tests into something that a viewer can immediately do while watching the video (no guitar needed) is incredibly powerful.

I watched the new content and was super impressed (Tommo’s wife’s results were shocking to me). I’m looking forward to going back and trying each test!

I think you got the cutoff point right for this section. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed in the technical details. I know I did (and do). I re-watched the Primer several times before I realized: studying every detail in every section of the Primer wasn’t efficient. I just needed to put pick to string and NOT over-think it. The phrase “tool around with it” is used often in the Primer and man - that cannot be overemphasized.

I think the simplicity of these new tests will be enable them to be powerful because you can’t really over think it. Tap your hand on the table. Scribble with a pen. Can you do it? Great, you’re on your way…simple.

I do think a future update should focus on the next step after getting the basic motions working. You talk about control and slowing a working motion down just enough to start doing something with it. I think that topic deserves further attention. I suspect that could be challenging though. Hand sync could be a whole separate primer!

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Yes, for sure we will include more stuff on what to actuall do once the hands are moving. Hand synchronization itself is a relatively simple topic, especially if you’re a rock player, and don’t mind playing repeating single-string patterns like the Yngwie stuff.

Thanks for doing the case studies! Great footage, and we have at least one individual on here whose feedback resonated with your story in particular.

That would be great! I enjoyed your recent addition to the primer very much and it’s fascinating to see, how fast we actually are without guitar and pick. Editing and everything is absolutely on point, too.

I also noticed that more and more “YouTube-players” or online guitar teachers seem to implement the CtC-findings in their lessons (for example the great Ben Eller, Justin Hombach and one or two random ads for lessons in social media). That’s what made me think: wow, Troy offering more “traditional” lessons to songs or solos but building on all the material here would be terrific. A detailed lesson on Technical Difficulties (or for example, more modern, Teemu’s Winter Madness) in the CtC framework taught by our favorite shred nerd, I’d definitely pay some extra cash for that. :100:

I don’t anticipate doing lessons on entire “famous” songs or solos. What we did in the seminars is pretty close though, where we pick out specific phrases here and there from players like Yngwie to explain how certain techniques work. To my mind there is no need to go through an entire song or solo note for note once you get the concepts with a few representative examples. “Teach a man to fish…” kind of thing.

What I was referring to here is doing more instructional stuff on the general process for playing coordinated left and right hand phrases, no matter what the phrase is. The general concept of starting out fast and slowing down gradually, is the same. But it’s always helpful to show examples so people understand very clearly how to implement it.

On the song front, @Tommo is working on more seminar material that will include a number of awesome songs he wrote in an '80s metal style that are tailored for specific picking motions. We need more musical material that someone who is learning motions can play all the way through, where we know for sure that every lick will work with certain motions with no extra tailoring. This way you can play songs instead of exercises, which is always more fun and to our mind, a better learning opportunity. We’ll be filming that over the first half of this year and we’ll let y’all know when it’s ready to roll.


We’ve been answering YouTube comments on the Van Halen video, and a surprising number of them seem to think we’re talking about the rotational forearm motion, and somehow getting it wrong. Things you don’t even think about addressing until you’ve already uploaded the video. A 20-second sequence showing the two motions and stating clearly which one we’re teaching and why, would have been easy to add.

Another comment is that the “air” demonstrations of the motions are forced because my arm position isn’t really horizontal, so the “1:00” motion I’m making isn’t the real 1:00 motion, just one I’m choosing to aribtrarily look like 1:00. That may be, it’s just rough approximation to get the concept across. Was anybody really confused by this?

One way to address this, which didn’t occur to us until after we were done editing, is to simply rotate the video of the pen scribbling until the arm is horizontal. That makes it pretty clear I think. Here’s what that would look like:

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Thanks for the reply. Yesterday I rewatched the first Teemu-interview and there you already pointed out that your goal is more to create “textbook-/reference-material” for guitar teachers who then can use the findings in their teaching. Makes sense to me and I didn’t expect CtC to become another lick library (although you’d do stellar job).
I’m a Tommo-fan since his Dream Theater and Paul Gilbert covers, so count me in for his songs.


That is MUCH clearer, @Troy. I already had a grasp of this but this visual requires no imagination and I think someone trying to learn the clock concept would get this immediately.

Thank you for this update. I imagine fielding all the comments is a bit exhausting and frustrating especially after doing all the work to make the content!

I think this overall addition to the primer is extremely valuable.

Ok someone help me out here. I have a comment thread on the YT video with a commenter who suggests something is wrong with the demonstration of the motion. Which is fine! I’m plenty open to understanding when I’m wrong. But at this point after several rounds of back and forth, I honestly can’t tell what the concern is.

At first, I assumed he wasn’t getting the concept of wrist motion versus arm motion, i.e. the motion I’m doing in the air is the same wrist joint motion, just with a different arm position. Then I thought he was suggesting that I was altering the wrist motion itself from the table to the air. Which is completely possible — probable, even. I may very well be a little off in the air without a table to rest on. But it’s the concept that counts. Based on his subsequent responses, I’ve now flip-flopped between these two possibilties and can’t really tell. Is there a third possibility I’m missing?

I can’t figure how to link to the comment thread itself, but it’s the user “Gavin Snyder”.

To be clear, this is not an issue of being defensive or trying to win an argument, we’re always interested when we’re missing some obvious point and getting something wrong. So just trying to make sure that’s not the case.

Read it and saw what he’s referencing; I don’t think he understands / notices the angle of your hand on the table. He says something to the tune of “you could in theory hit 1:00 but not 7:00, since the table would get in the way… This is 3:00 to 9:00 motion” He’s envisioning the “clock” to be aligned to the table, not your wrist.

The only way I could envision to make this clearer (with your video aesthetics) would be to overlay the “clock” on a paused still of your hand flat against the table, then as you turn your hand to perform the motion, do another still with a video animation showing the clock rotating to remain aligned with your wrist.

Gotcha — thanks for taking a look. If I’m right and he’s just misunderstanding, then I’m out of ways to explain this one in words. True, maybe an animated clock that tracked the arm would be useful.

More generally, you are correct that it is hard to see the rotation of the arm against the table, and to know how much it’s rotated, from the audience camera. One thing I thought of for future demonstrations would be something like a straw or small wood stirrer like you get in a cafe, that I could stick right on the forearm itself, pointing to 12 o’clock. This way when the arm turns, it would be super easy to see the indicator no longer pointing straight up.


I suppose the pandemic precludes a sabbatical at Kamar-Taj for now.

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This was good stuff. Now I know why I haven’t been able to get any faster and it’s kinda depressing, especially if guitar players typically perform better on these tests than on actual guitar (so my actual max guitar speed is even lower). I always knew people are different and genetics play a big part on how we perform in physical activities, but seeing it this concretely was still a sort of a shock.

Is there a poll of the speeds people are testing for the different motions? (Maybe it already exists but I couldn’t find it.)

EDIT: asked my wife to do these and she has no problem going 20% faster than I am. I had always admired her skill to whip cream, which I wasn’t able to do without cramping up… this made her more sympathetic for me hating to do it though so guess I’ll have an excuse from now on… :slight_smile:

There are genetics in everything of course. We did a poll years ago where people self reported 180 as the average picking speed. It’s what I would have guessed at the time so it did not surprise me.

However we now know that there is lots of stringhopping and other inefficiency out there. Many people are doing things wrong, and those wrong things are not always obvious. What percentage of people do picking motions 100% efficiently with zero room for improvement? I now think that number is on the low side.

It’s even hard to design a clear test. I got one set of results when filming, and dramatically different results on some types of tapping in recent weeks after experimentation. If it can be non-obvious to me that I’m doing something less than optimally then it’s gotta be non obvious to lots of people.

What numbers did you get and on which tests?

So I FINALLY got a chance to watch this (I guess, finally made time to watch it, rather), and this was excellent. Really, two big takeaways for me here:

  1. A little to my surprise, I was getting similar tempos as you on all of these motions, whereas I expected my primary technique (basically an Al DiMiola style wriast deviation/“scratching a lottery ticket” motion) to have a clear edge. That’s interesting to me.

  2. The metaphors and tests you used here actually were quite helpful while playing - I have a feeling my actual mechanic isn’t perfectly efficient (though with no real basis, it’s not like I’m feeling a ton of tension while playing, and I should probably try to get some updated slo-mo footage butI suspect there’s a little more of a curve going on in my upstroke, which may not matter I suppose) but I could definiely feel a difference in my playing when I consciously thought about a “scratching back and forth” movement. Time will tell ifg it’s faster or more efficient, I guess. and, I’ve always strugged with escaped upstrokes - I have that rotational thing to pull them off on occasion in a two way escaped run, but straight USX felt weird to me and i always seemed to be arcing my pickstroke to pull away from the guitar on downstrokes. turns out, Get my arm into the right orientation and go after it with a forearm movement, and suddenly I’m doing it if not cleanly, then at least correctly. Cool.

2.a) I guess - I also seem like when I really push tremolo speed, to start to get some sort of a forearm rotation thing going. Again, I’ll need to shoot some footage of that, maybe later today when the light’s a little better in my room here.

Anyway, this is kind of an insanely helpful series of videos, considering this was a whole line of research, I guess, that even five or six years ago just wasn’t being talked about. Thanks!