The least helpful motion: Double Trap

Hey there,
I’m Steffen (48) from Germany. I’ve played the guitar for 35 years, but I have always struggled with my right hand. Only last year did I discover Troy’s work and I realized I was a serious case of string hopper. So I got me the Pickslanting Primer, which actually changed everything for me… for the better! Thanks Troy, you’re a hero, and I mean it!!!
Now I am still trying to figure out a couple of things, but my primary motions are either roughly 2 to 8 (with a little pronation, which - by the way - doesn’t seem to be ideal when playing low strings on a Gibson LP [high bridge!]), or roughly 1 to 7 (with a lot of supination and a middle finger grip). For some lines the former is better, for others the latter. I’m still experimenting, but one thing is for sure: My picking improved so much during the last couple of months, I can hardly believe it!

Now, to be a bit more versatile I’d like to be able to learn a decent USX technique. And here I seem to be hitting a wall. The downstroke (when doing a tremolo on one string) feels natural, the stroke comes to a rest on the adjacent string, so far, so good. But the upstroke is a mess. I can’t get into the escape zone,I have a clear tendency to get stuck in the other trapped zone. So it’s the very opposite of DBX, it’s double trapped picking, which is not really helpful. It is as if my downstroke moves towards the 2 (my hand is clearly supinated), but the upstroke towards 6 or something like that. I’ve tried out various pick grips, but the results seem all to be the same.
So, first of all I would like to know if anyone out there faces the same problem. If so, it would be some kind of consolation :slight_smile: :slightly_smiling_face:
And of course, if someone has an idea how to tackle the problem, that would be nice, too!

Greetings to all you nice people out there!

Maybe you’re mixing in elbow?

Post a video.
Best would be magnet view. Second best:

(“down the strings” would be the most helpful probably, but maybe film both perspectives?)

Try what @kbr suggests and post video.

I will, as soon as I have figured out how to post a video here…

The second vid is in slo-mo. Here just skip the first 13 seconds. It took me some time to concentrate on not playing DSX (which seems to be me my primary thing).

If you’re a DSX player why not improve that (as it works) and then add USX later? There are much more qualified people than me to advise you in that regard, but it’s great that you have posted some video.

As I said, I’d like to be more versatile, that’s all. That’s why I’d like to learn USX, too.

As I suspected, you’re doing elbow, it’s obvious from the video.
Eliminate the elbow component and you should get a nice USX.

1 Like

Thanks kbr! I will try that!

1 Like

Hey - great videos! Yeah, your playing looks a bit like mine did/does - I have an elbow motion that I basically tried to do USX stuff with before I knew what was what. I believe that doing that led to a kind of tension where I would subconsciously apply pressure with my picking hand into the strings; the result being entrapment (even on pickstrokes that should escape). Elbow is much, much better once you realize that DSX is the escape for that motion. Sweeping, swiping, legato and hybrid nicking can all help to create a pretty diverse vocabulary, but I could see why you might want to develop something a bit different; it’s nice to have something that’s a bit more obviously flexible I think…

Troy and Tommo can help with this,

Hey there,
It’s reassuring to know that one’s own bad habits are not peculiar, but in a way universal. And it’s even better to know that habits can be broken.
Until now I wasn’t aware that there’s a large amount of elbow motion in what I am doíng. When I worked through the Pickslanting Primer and did the DSX tutorial, I realised quickly that this seemed to work for me quite well. Since then I thought I relied on wrist motion only, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. To be honest, I didn’t really see it even when I watched the videos I posted. Now that this was brought up here I can see it clearly. Fascinating!
Thanks for your help! I really appreciate that!

1 Like

Yeah, I didn’t realize i was an elbow guy either, didn’t realize I was swiping, didn’t realize I was trapping motions, stringhopping etc etc. It’s kind of an ongoing process to decide what direction I want to go, but understanding what it is that I do is the biggest thing. And from there, maybe you might want to just take a run at developing elbow and DSX - take it to extremes. It doesn’t suck, it’s just a different playbook is all.

@TomGilroy was instrumental in helping me realize that I had a disgusting amount of background tension - he’s got some great strategies for dealing with that if you think that’s an issue. Troy and Tommo were instrumental in helping me see a bunch of other stuff also. Lots of information available here.

I have been playing for a long time, and really - trying to force USX type moves when I’m DSX? (hahaha For decades!) Probably the reason for the background tension and the trapped escapes, etc.

At the end of it all, the notes don’t care how they get played just as long as they sound awesome!

1 Like

Right, so you can’t do DSX perfectly just yet (according to what you write, above?), but you’re already learning USX? Is it wise to spread yourself so thin vs. getting one thing perfected and then adding something else? I’m not qualified to answer my own question, but it’s worth asking.

1 Like

Depends on what you consider as perfection. I’m quite happy with my DSX progress. I can play a couple of 16th runs at 150 bpm or so and 2 nps pentatonic licks at 130 bpm. This is not really fast, but that’s ok with me, considering the actually small amount of time that I spent on those lines. And to be honest, any 200 + x bpm speed guitar solos would be completely misplaced in my band anyway.

Apart from that, USX simply interests me, so that’s why I’d like to dig into that field. And since I came across the things that Troy found out and layed out for us mere mortals, I’m quite confident that I haven’t reached the end of what I can do technically.

Am I spreading myself thin? Maybe. Who knows? Time will tell.

But thanks for your input!

1 Like

I don’t know why people here have the approach “do whatever works for you”, what’s wrong in having a goal motion that you want to achieve, and aiming your experiments and practice on achieving that?

Besides, perhaps learning different motions develops your brain more broadly, giving it generally better understanding on how the different muscles trigger the different motions (how they feel etc.), and those things reinforce each other. Same principle applies to practicing different licks in general, people say that you shouldn’t hyper-focus on practicing a single lick, but try to learn a broader spectrum. Why wouldn’t this apply to learning different motions too?

Now, for learning pure wrist or wrist-forearm. Some ideas that may be helpful for avoiding elbow:

  • practice with a sleeveless shirt so you can see your naked upper limb. Initially you can use sight to distinguish when you’re performing elbow motion vs when you’re not. Then you should focus on how it feels when you’re doing it vs how it feels when you’re not. So you should be able to distinguish by feel at some point, not by sight. Be mindful of what triggers it
  • try learning USX motion first on the B string – the thinnest string where you can still do the rest stroke on a higher string (E). I think that the main reason why elbow wants to come in is when you have trouble going through the string. Then it’s intuitive and natural to engage a stronger/larger muscle (bicep / tricep) to force yourself through. This becomes less of a problem the thinner the string is. Once you know how to disengage the elbow and do pure wrist (or wrist-forearm) USX motion, then move to thicker strings.
  • try focusing on your bridge anchor point (where you rest the palm of your hand), perhaps pushing a little bit more on it, to prevent it from shifting (it shifts when you do elbow motion)
  • put your guitar flat on your legs when you’re sitting, then it simply becomes impossible to play with the elbow (because elbow motion then moves your arm straight into the guitar)
1 Like

Thanks for your recommendations! I will give them a try!

I think learning is great, but do you think it should be one or multiple techniques at a time? The danger with multiple is that one might end up with nothing that works really well.