Thinking I missed a step somewhere…

So, there I am, playing through the Desert Rose solo, as I often do, and I got to the lick at 2:23. Now, I don’t have too many of the faster licks up to speed in this song, but this particular one, this particular time, made me try a couple of ideas.

First, I went to the fast lick a bit earlier, at 2:00 and it went much better. Then I did the one at 2:13, which is almost a full bar longer, and it was fine as well. So, I kept trying the 2:23 lick and caught on that since, depending on how you play it, it’s 2nps ascending, which is the hardest thing for me to do. I tried different fingerings, specifically where I could do 2 sweeps instead, and it goes better but it doesn’t address the actual problem.

Then, I figured, 92bpm 32nd notes… How fast is that, really….

The answer, for me, well, there’s a few. At my most comfortable tremolo picking, cake. At a strictly UPS where the goal is to go as fast as I can, not bad but I’d like it to feel less tense. At the most comfortable UPS motion… honestly… almost impossible. I can occasionally get 2nps at that speed but I have to be fully warmed up and tap into that “thing” where you play better than you usually do and don’t know why.

And that’s where I’m thinking something is off. Considering how fast I can pick when it the most comfortable, shouldn’t I be able to at least approach that since the adjustments are ostensibly tiny? Is it possible I’m over adjusting? That’s not to mention the differences in my ascending vs descending. I suppose it’s possible that UPS just ain’t for me, but man, I hope not….

This is where seeing what you are trying to play is what we’d need to give a good recommendation. Eric’s stuff is sometimes impossible (note for note) if the fretting hand isn’t done correctly. Obviously the picking motion has to be the “right one” but his fretboard layout and finger choice is also critical.

Also, you keep saying “UPS”. I think I know what you mean there but I could be wrong. That could mean “upward pick slanting” and trying his patterns, as played, are going to be an exercise in frustration if you have an upward slant as that is typically paired with a motion that escapes on the downstrokes. Still, that is older terminology as Troy focuses less on slant and more on escape these days. The old way of describing what Eric does is DWPS (downward pickslanting) but now it’s referred to as USX (upstroke escape) because that better describes what’s happening. So I am not sure if your “UPS” is indicating slant or escape and that could be part of the problem.

Big picture is to play Eric’s stuff you are going to need a motion that escapes on upstrokes. This motion has to be paired with a string tracking technique that is capable of switching strings very frequently. Can you play a simple pentatonic lick that just features 2 notes on the B string followed by 2 notes on the g string, over and over at the tempo of desert rose? Something like the fast lick in the first verse of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’? If that’s a trainwreck…what happens if you play it starting on an upstroke? That would tell us a key piece of info about your motion.

As always, every suggestion could be the wrong suggestion without actually seeing a video of your playing. Hope that helps and good luck!

Crap, you’re right. I mixed up the terms for slant and the escape lol but I am using the one I should be using. Learning that might have been the biggest eye opener I’ve experienced in playing since… Figuring out the difference between the neck pick up and the bridge. FTLoG always sounded weird until I, without realizing it, played the intro on the neck pickup. [Insert Tim&Eric Mindblown gif here] I was 14 and just getting started. I had no clue, lol

But, I think I might have “pinpoined” my issue. You mentioned “tracking” and I think that’s what it is. I played that Journey lick (coincidental my first favorite band when I was a kid, Slayer took that spot shortly after) and my default is D,U then U,D, basically sweeping both ways. I guess that’s pure economy picking? It’s the same way I would typically do Wylde’ian licks. When I play it D,U then D,U, my adjustments are made with my wrist or with my thumb/finger grip. I used to alternate pick using my thumb/finger only (at least I think I did) and there’s no wrist or forearm movement that I can see when I do it now.

My tracking is often weird in that it’s different and I can’t really tell what I use and when. Sometimes it’s in the wrist, sometimes the thumb/finger and sometimes it’s full arm. Same depending on how many strings are used. There’s even the “Shirt Factor” where if I’m wearing a long sleeve, my full arm will move, but if I’m wearing a short sleeve, it might stick so I lift it off and the only part of my right arm that’s touching the guitar is my pinky as a anchor. Not at top speeds though, but still pretty fast.

But all of that goes out the window when it comes to 2nps, and especially ascending. I’m about 50/50 descending at high speeds, but like 0.1/99.9 ascending. That means it has to be tracking, right? If I were to film a clip, what should it have so I can figure out why it’s causing so much trouble for me?

That said, I’m 95% convinced that the lick at 2:23 is played with 2 sweeps like this:

Ha, same here. I always played that type of thing, and the Zakk Wylde ascending pentatonic thing in No More Tears with economy. I did not have a USX motion so I stood no chance.

Can you do this at substantial speeds? Like, 16ths at 180bpm? If so, awesome! If not…there’s no way you’ll magically be able to play across 5 and even 6 strings like Eric does.

I’ll refer you to the experts. You’ve got a membership so you’re entitled to Technique Critiques from Troy or Tommo. That’s here assuming you’re logged in on the “main site”:

What they are going to want from you is

  • A video of a tremolo with the same motion you need to play EJ’s licks. This will ensure your motion is capable of escaping after upstrokes, if it’s not, then you need to find a motion that does.
  • A video of you playing a 2nps phrase demonstrating the problem
  • I know you’re a very advanced player, so maybe even something else you’re very comfortable with at similar speeds that are not EJ. Just to give them a baseline of your skill level. They always want to help people get “something going fast” so they have a reference point of what fast and smooth and easy feels like. Supplying a video already showcasing this will make the process go more quickly.

Have you seen this?

That will have some general guidelines on tracking.

I’m not sure if I hear that slide at all. I hear it more like this, and it feels easier to play and seems more “Eric-y” when I do the first part like this:

  D  D  U  D  U  D  D  U

Remember, he’s a pentatonic player. Any of his stuff, when I try it, I like to start with the most “normal” approach first. The above is essentially an Ab major pentatonic (or the second “mode” of F minor pentatonic, since that’s what the tune is written in). While he definitely does some 3 string sweeps, it’s more common to see the “little” sweeps like I’ve tabbed out. So again, I like to start with what I know I’ve seen him do and work from there. It’s like I mentioned in the other post - if you’re not fingering things like he is, these licks sometimes become nearly impossible.

Just went back and listened to that solo, and goddamn Zakk is such a beast. I hadn’t listened to him since back in that time, but with the aggressive and fast penta stuff, he’s the first name that comes to mind. He’s more of a point of reference for me than anything else now. But I think I need to revisit some of that stuff! I was a huge fan back in the day.

I can do those 16ths at 180 sometimes. Another one of those “well warmed and tapped in” things. It can get a little sloppy, so I’m certainly not “there” yet. I lost a lot of that speed during my 15 year hiatus. But I do find it easier to do the 6note descending pattern thing across all the strings at that speed than just 2 strings.

I’ll definitely jump on that video thing. I came here to get help with CoD at ACL and need to travel around a bit more, hahaha

That slide is where the 5% of “maybe not” comes from. I do agree that it’s not as Eric’y to do that, but that particular lick’s texture makes me think it is. It just has that swoop tone that makes me think sweep. Could just be the neck PU, perhaps? He also has huge hands so he wouldn’t need to slide. I do it with the slide because I’m missing a chunk off of the tip of my middle finger and don’t really have a choice. It’s another reason I’m trying to get good at doing some things as your version of the lick.

What’s driving me crazy about this particular lick is that it’s the only one in that solo that truly feels impossible for me. I can play all of the non-fast parts of that solo up to speed, most of them at least 70%, sometimes 80. But that one is stuck at 50 and I end up doing an upsweep back to the G-string in the note that immediately follows your version at anything beyond that speed. It has my 2 biggest problem areas in a row and from the start. 2nps and ascending lol. The other fast licks have one of those “resetters” that I find very helpful.

1 Like