Thoughts on Friedman's interview


I admire Friedman’s commitment to music and why he doesn’t care about technique, but after all it’s an overly simplistic approach…so I think Troy did a good job with all his investigations. It has been done for the piano, the violin, the classical guitar, why not for electric guitar


I think Marty has become tired of people asking him about technique, because of his unconventional hand position.

Also, I remember him saying in interviews “I never practice scales or arpeggios”. Which technically is correct. He never PRACTICES, but he makes music. But still, it’s confusing when you put it that way.

Bottom line, I’m glad Troy got him to do an interview, although Marty didn’t completely understand what Troy meant by “pick being trapped” and stuff like that.

I hope that in an eventual second interview he can play the solos from Rust in Peace with the magnet, because on the one hand he dislikes talking about technique (cause he associates it with being questioned about his “weird” right hand position) but he loves talking about the stuff he wrote and how he plays it, which in the end comes down to discussing the technical aspects as well as compositional aspects of his playing.


I personally really enjoyed his interview. Even though Marty may have not totally got the whole technique side of things, he was very open about it and came across very well. I enjoyed his discussions about composing and getting the right tone out of his playing etc.

As a side note, this is a great (VERY in depth) look at the theoretical side of one of Marty’s songs. It’s a great watch!


Troy should have, in a polite way, given Marty a lick that could only be played with 2wps and told Marty he had to alternate pick it all and let Marty figure out the limitations right there on camera. Then given him a similar lick that was possible through dwps alone and asked why he thinks he could play that and not the other lick?


Have you noticed how when picking, say, the B string with an upstroke and then playing the next note on the G string with a downstroke, he lifts the picks way, way above the G string to make sure he doesn’t hit it on the way over the string but to me it looks like wasted motion slowing him down as well as a lot of strain on the picking hand. What do you think? I’d especially like to hear from @Troy


This is common and not wasteful or stressful. Supinated flexed players get a lot of height on the pick. Players like Joscho Stephan go just as high as Marty, at blazing speeds and with absolute relaxation. Note also that for highly supinated players, almost the entire pickstroke is above the string, thanks to the rest stroke. It simply cannot go any lower. @Frylock explained this very well on another thread recently. The pickstroke may be larger in some cases - but it also appears larger than it really is because you’re seeing more of it in the air.

Here’s a still frame from updated Pickslanting Primer material we are working on. Marty on the left, Joscho on the right. Marty is essentially using a Gypsy setup to play metal.


“This is common and not wasteful or stressful.”

I said it seemed like wasted motion. The more I think about it, that is not merely my personal opinion; it is objective fact. Here’s why: Let’s take the well known Paul Gilbert pattern from “Frenzy” where he plays frets 3, then 5 then 7 on the low E string. Then he plays fret 3 on the A string, fret 7 on the low E fret 5 on the low E and then starts the lick over, repeating as many times as he wants. Suppose Marty Friedman were to play this lick and after the upstroke on the 3rd fret of the A string, he clears the low E string by a whole inch in order to make sure he doesn’t accidentally hit the string while he’s attempting to cross over it so he can then play the 7th fret on the low E string with a downstroke. Is that clear so far? OK.

Now, suppose instead of clearing the low E string by an inch, he were to only clear it by a quarter of an inch. That would still sound just as clean since he would still entirely clear the low E string. However, rather than lift the pick a whole inch above the string, he would use only 25% of that effort to clear the string by one quarter of an inch. Lifting that pick 3 quarters of an inch further than that necessitates lifting the pick 4 times further than if he were to clear the string by only one fourth of an inch!

Clearly that is wasted option and wasted energy. The fact that he’s able to get away with moving the pick 4 times further (in this hypothetical example) than he were to just lift the pick a quarter of an inch above the low E string while crossing over it and still play relatively fast proves nothing… By lifting the pick the bare minimum necessary amount to clear the string he would use less motion which means he would be using less energy, thereby decreasing the stress on the muscles, tendons, etc that are involved in performing that motion. Furthermore, by achieving the string cross with a quarter inch of clearance instead of a whole inch of clearance means he wouldn’t have to move the pick as fast as he otherwise would, since he’s required to move the pick less distance!

By moving the pick less distance not only could he move the pick less rapidly than he otherwise would have to to execute the lick in the same amount of time, he also would have the option of moving the pick equally rapidly with the result of executing the lick in less time than he originally could! All this is achieved by elimitating the excess wasted motion of clearing the string by more than is necessary.


This is a common misconception, but it is not true. Small movements do not enable speed, it’s the other way around: speed causes the movement to get smaller. Specifically, it’s the rapid switching of direction of the pick’s movement at a rate that gradually overtakes the pick’s velocity, which causes the picking movement to get smaller. Learning to play fast is learning to switch rapidly between downstroke and upstroke, i.e. turn on the downstroke muscles, turn off the upstroke muscles, and vice versa. The massive forearm flex the @milehighshred has to supply is actually to keep the picking movement from getting too small. He’s switching so fast, the pick won’t have enough time to get across the string without serious arm power behind it.

Economy of motion is not the way of rapid picking. It’s rapid switching, and adding in more power, not less.


“Small movements do not enable speed, it’s the other way around: speed causes the movement to get smaller. Specifically, it’s the rapid switching of direction of the pick’s movement at a rate that gradually overtakes the pick’s velocity, which causes the picking movement to get smaller.”

If you believe speed causes the movements to get smaller just take a look at Zakk Wylde playing the guitar. No matter how fast he goes, his movements are huge; there is a tremendous amount of wasted motion in his playing. The strings are only about four tenths of an inch apart but just look at the distance his picking hand moves. The only reason he’s able to pick at 13 notes per second, which is reasonably fast but far from Yngwie or Batio level speeds, is that despite the tremendous amount of excess motion he makes compared to what is necessary to execute the licks he plays, is because his picking hand is moving very fast. No matter how fast he tries to play, his picking movements don’t get economical…

Maybe we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this subject so I’ll just conclude this post with the following: Suppose you assign a variable of A for the speed of the picking hand. A = speed picking hand is moving in inches per second and B = the distance the picking hand has to move. Time required to play the two notes is A divided by B. If Marty Friedman is clearing the string by an inch when he could be clearing it by one eighth of an inch, then the amount of time required to play 2 notes when clearing the string by a whole inch instead of an eighth of an inch is A divided by B which means it takes 8 times longer to play the two notes when the distance moved is 8 times greater than what it is when the distance is only 1/8 of an inch. Furthermore, if clearing the string by one inch isn’t wasted motion even though it could be cleared by far less, then how about clearing the string by 2 inches? That wouldn’t be wasted motion either? How about clearing the string by 3 inches? Is there any excess amount of motion used to clear the string which you would consider “wasted motion”? :slight_smile:


No. Think about this logically. You can only do two things to a guitar pick. Push it in one direction, or push it in another. The movement size results from the time you spend moving in one direction before you change directions. In other words, movement size is not something you control directly.

How would you even alter your movement size? Well, only one of two ways. Push less hard. Or switch directions faster. Only one of these will make you go faster, and it’s not pushing less hard.


It’s tricky thinking about this, because if you exaggerate the clearing distance, theoretically it would take away from the speed, IF the velocity of the pick remains the same.

Imagine one player tremolo picking with a given average pick velocity of let’s say 3 kilometers per hour and a string clearance of 2mm.

Imagine another guitarist with the same pick velocity, but a string clearance of 200mm.

It would be like comparing a very fast pendulum to a slower one. Or a bird flapping it’s wings very fast to one that is flapping slower.

In my mind the plectrum would travel a distance that is 100x greater, with the same speed, so the result should be less notes per second.

I’m I correct in this, or do I make a thinking error?


It sounds right me. He’d only be playing 1% as many notes as the guy with the 2mm string clearance as long as the pick velocity is the same for both players.


A smaller distance of travel will take less time, but the speed will remain the same. I’m sure @Troy has explained in one of the CTC clips that economy of motion will only increase performance in terms of BPM by a fraction and I tend to agree. It will not take you from being slow to being fast. However, it may add the possibility of that extra few BPM on to the very top of your range. Large movements are not a waste for Marty - they are probably integral to his technique - he does not have complete muting ability due to his hand position so he really needs to ensure that his pick clears the string to prevent wrong notes ringing out (that he may find difficult to mute whilst continuously playing). Marty isnt the fastest guy around and he clearly puts his musical endeavours before his technique. I find the importance of keeping movements smaller is more greater in a 2WPS world as the movements (for me at least) are more complex. I cant get away with what I can with 1WPS. That being said, Im still working on it so I might be struggling with performing the mechanic smoothly and without tension, rather than the large movements being an issue themselves.


That’s not really what I’m saying here. I’m just saying, your movement size, whatever it is - big, small, or anywhere in between - is the result of your picking speed, not the cause of it. I get that players have this sensation that “movement size” is something they directly control when they try to play their fastest. And if it helps someone play better by thinking “small”, by all means, do it. Whatever works!

But when we want to move a joint back and forth quickly, we can only control two variables: how fast we can turn on and off the opposing muscles, and how hard we can push. The “size” of your movement is simply the result of the player doing those two things. Anything else is in our minds!


I think I’m with @Troy on this one. What matters is the high cyclic rate, which is caused by the rapid firing of the neurons which trigger the antagonistic muscle pairs. Small movements don’t increase the cyclic rate, it’s the increased cyclic rate which shortens the movements.

A smaller picking movement results in lower picking hand momentum, which can be insufficient to push through the string. This can be addressed to some degree by reducing pick depth, increased edge picking, etc. Eventually, it becomes necessary to increase the power behind the movement.

I also agree that with certain setups and motion mechanics, there is a point where the high cyclic rate results in insufficient range of motion, that is, the movement becomes too small to travel through through the string and allow it to ring out.

Elbow mechanics, as used by Rusty Cooley and @milehighshred, allow for such high picking speeds because:

  1. They are driven by large, powerful muscles.
  2. The length of the forearm magnifies a small angular change at the elbow joint into a sufficiently large picking movement.

I’ve made a case for why I believe Shawn Lane’s fastest picking to also be elbow driven before on this forum, and I stand by it.

Interestingly, @Roy_Marchbank’s picking motion is not an elbow motion. Instead, it seems to be driven by forearm rotation, with a flexed wrist to magnify the small rotational movement into a sufficiently large picking movement.


This is exactly it. I don’t even know how you would “make a small movement” if not for this.

Interesting, I haven’t really looked at it. Are you seeing actual forearm turning, or is it just a flexed wrist posture with maybe flexion / extension happening? I think a lot of people think they’re doing forearm when they see that big wrist bend, but in actuality it turns out to be wrist movement - or at least a mix of both.


Hi @Troy,

I’ve downloaded HiRes clips of Roy’s technique and I’ve watched the clips at different speeds in Transcribe!

I’m convinced that his picking is based on forearm rotation. In some clips, I can clearly see the radius side of this forearm moving toward and away from the guitars body without any noticeable movement of the ulnar side. To me, this strongly suggests rotation.

Sometimes, there seems to a flexion/extension component to his picking movement also. Other times, this component is not visible to me, if it’s still present at all.


Just took a quick look at one of those Rowan videos - there may be some forearm there, but I don’t think the path his pick is tracing can be produced by forearm rotation alone. It’s clearly doing a camera-facing semicircle, and forearm rotation doesn’t do that. So there must be a wrist or elbow component to this.

In general, sometimes the best approach isn’t to try and look for moving joints, it’s to look at the path the pick is traveling and ask what joints can produce that motion. Take another look when you get a chance and see what you think.


I loved the interview but there are still some mysteries that I wished had been solved, for example in the Symphony of Destruction solo towards the end he plays what sounds like (to my ears anyway) three descending 3 string G major arpeggios, right after he plays the a few ascending two string mini sweeps and right before the big blues lick finale. I can’t reconcile those arpeggios with his picking orientation because I can wrap my head around playing them without upward sweep picking. Am I hearing those arpeggios wrong or is there another way to perform them? When I do them I simply sweep up but it seems like that just isn’t in Marty’s wheelhouse at all


I wondered about the same bits :slight_smile:

Could it be that he is playing descending G major triads on 2 strings like this? (to be transposed to correct strings and octave)