To EJ, or not to EJ?

I have been working on my alternate picking with ‘mixed’ escapes (what was known as 2WPS) for a while now and I’m making progress toward my goals, but wondered whether I should dedicate any time at all to developing a DWPS approach? Is there any real benefit? I love the sound of EJ pentatonics and I definitely think that the mechanics he uses creates that vibe (and a very elegant system), but I find it extremely difficult to incorporate the economy/sweeps into scale lines and the go back into alternate picking, because I automatically go into ‘sweep’ mode and use my arm more than my wrist. Obviously a lot of work required!

Just wondering if anyone has had a similar experience?

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I think of everything like languages. I’m really good at English but I’m wondering if there is any real benefit to learning Spanish? Well, if you like the sound of Spanish!

USX as a family is probably my most reliable picking style. I can do this kind of stuff all day long with a very high hit rate, very few errors, take after take after take:

I’m sure you can find crack pure alternate pickers who do this without the downstroke sweeping but why bother. When I want to play these kinds of lines, I use one-way economy. Either with or without the Gypsy flex, wrist or wrist-forearm, it’s all mostly the same to me at this point.


That’s because you are a picking animal!

Legend has it that my pick is still flying after my last attempt at DWPS economy! I almost took my wife’s eye out!

All jokes aside and keeping the analogies in tact - I feel like I haven’t quite graduated in English class, and I’m hopless at Spanish. So, all I have is Spanglish! Haha.

The main technical issue (other than a stuttering picking motion) is that I seem to either pick everything on a string or legato everything (picking 1st note if left-hand hammer not possible). Mixing it up is such a struggle and my timing goes way off. But players like EJ and EVH get the best of both worlds and it sounds ace. I suppose, if I sort that out (regardless of what picking I use) that will set me up to explore a bit more…

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I am in the middle of this. Yeah, it’s a lot of work, but to me it’s worth it. I love Troy’s language analogy. If ‘whatever the hell I’ve been doing’ is English, and ‘the EJ system’ is Spanish:

CtC has shown me that I was speaking English, without even getting the full benefits of it since I didn’t know certain things. It’s given me the tools to see I can easily learn Spanish. I like the way Spanish sounds way better and it actually seems like once I learn it fluently I’ll be able to express myself even better and more effortlessly. To me it’s a no-brainer.

I guess for you @PickingApprentice just determine the return on investment. Troy and many others have mentioned that Joe Bonamassa plays a lot of things that sound like EJ…he doesn’t pick like EJ though. So you could probably leverage your double escape stuff and apply it to the proper pentatonic patterns and get what you’re after without having to overhaul your slant/escape system.

EDIT: @PickingApprentice I submitted this right after your last post. Totally see your point about the similar analogy of speaking English and trying to learn Spanish. We’re coming at this from 2 slightly different perspectives, which is cool. I think, unless you really want to learn USX, you’d possibly benefit more from just trying to play some Bonamassa type lines. Your call. If you’re interested in trying some new stuff though, I’d be more than happy to post a list of licks that I thought made me start moving in the right direction in the USX realm. I’m no Troy, but I went from not know what USX was, to being able to loop 2NPS pentatonics 16ths at 150-160bpm (on GOOD days haha). I joined in mid January I think and that’s when I started trying USX. I’m not where I want to be yet but I feel I’ve made decent progress.


Hi @joebegly, thanks for the reply - I’m always appreciative of anyone’s insight matey and would be interested in watching your journey too (great job on your progress!). Licks would be good to look at and compare approaches.

As you and Troy have both put - I need to learn enough ‘Spanish’ to see if it I like it enough to get a degree in it! :grin:

I can play pentatonics with DWPS with even number of notes per string ok around 150 bpm (16ths) but the escape hatch pull offs and hammers can throw me off and the economy sweeps are far from perfect.

For a bit more backstory/clarification (yawn!);
I haven’t done great deal of work on pentatonics with 2WPS/DBX as I have with 3NPS scales (which are coming along nicely). For some reason, penatonics offer a slightly more awkward feel for 2WPS , to me anyways. I suspect that it is because a) you can get locked into your non-primary/ weaker escape motion for a lot longer at a time and of course when there are quick shifts between escape types. Hence the question, would the EJ approach for pentatonics only be of use, due to its efficiency?

I’m doubting that my usual 3NPS will deviate from strict alternate picking, it gives me the sound I’m after for a lot of things - but never say never!

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Same here!!! I’m finding some interesting stuff out about some of my weaknesses. I think a big problem, for me, is that my left hand was slower than I thought it was doing 2nps. Those frequent string changes were tripping me up. Troy mentioned his left hand can’t keep up with his right when doing the fast pentatonic licks and that barring helped. Fretting Hand Synchronization - anchored index finger? This of course only works if you’re playing part of the box that’s barre-able and this disclaimer is quite fairly presented by Troy. But that was a bit of a eureka moment for me in something that was holding me back.

For example, even if you’re just doing pull offs you could play this way faster with a barred index finger than you could if you lifted the index finger and re-planted when you switch strings:


I found this out when I was separating my hands. I was practicing string switching by just alternate picking muted strings like this:


I realized my right hand was able to go faster than my left and that was because I was not anchoring my index finger. This meant way more left hand movement that it could be. So I tried it with the barre and the speeds of the hands got closer to each other. So that outlines problem #1 for me, which was the hand synch.

The other thing I was (and still am some) struggling with is getting enough escape so that the string switch felt seamless. Don’t ask my why I even thought to try this…maybe it stemmed from separating the hands for some of the 1string sweeps. But I found this to be really helpful in getting the motion fast and smooth. If you do this right, you’ll sound like the pacman video game. It’s sort of like the sound that happens as you’re on a straight line eating lots of the dots.


For this, the picking is D D U D D U and you just repeat it as fast as you can. An accurate rhythmic notation would be 16th note sextuplets. It should be FAST too, like 16th note triplets at 140 -150 bpm. That sounds fast but it’s super easy…the motion your right hand makes feels like you’re just picking 8ths at that tempo. Because there’s a sweep, you get those extra couple notes in there. It trained my right hand to make just enough escape to always land right back where it needed to. That’s probably clear as mud, so here’s a demo. Excuse the mess in my basement please! I have a 4 yr old son.

As weird as this seems, you’d be surprised how quickly you can turn this into a move that EJ does all the time, at a pretty quick speed too!


Same picking there, D D U D D U throughout. It’s that tired old blues lick that most guitarist learn early on (but they probably hammer the notes on the b string)…we can use it as an EJ atom for single string sweeps though! As long as the left hand index stays planted, the speeds required of the left hand aren’t really that great. And we’ve already shown that the right hand movement at high speeds is no big deal due to the time the sweeps buy us. Without too much effort I’d think you could get this up to like 120 - 130 bmp 16th note triplets. That’s not as fast as some of the amazing players on this forum…but it ain’t slow! The important thing is that it sets the stage for the motions.

Sorry for the length of the post. If I had more time I would have made it shorter :slight_smile: But those concepts helped me get on what I feel is a path where the movements feel smooth. I am still cleaning stuff up, but the foundation is in place.

Thanks buddy, much appreciated. Lots to digest and try later on (when I get the kids to bed!). But as a quick response;

Interestingly enough, barring wasn’t great for me off the bat - massive tension! Replanting seemed fine, but I might work on trying to bar without the tension as I can see how it could be faster (especially at hyper speed) because you are not moving it.

What I’m getting from this thread is “stop bitching-start working!” And I love it!

Sure thing man! It’s possible if you’re quicker at re-planting than me, the barring may not be too much of an issue. Just wanted to catalog it because it was holding me back.

I thought of another run that helped it start to gel for me.


This is similar to this part of Trademark:

What’s cool about that is it fits into his model but for guys like us that have more 3nps experience, it will feel more familar! I didn’t put in pick instructions, but just start with a downstroke, don’t use slurs and do downward sweeps where required. Changing strings less often feels nice, but we get the occasional 1 string sweeps, which again help the whole ‘posture’ of the hand movements.

Good luck, hope it helps! I’m definitely no expert in this (yet) so I don’t want to be the blind leading the blind lol! Just mainly sharing what helped me as I’m pleased with the progress I’ve seen so far.

@Troy I know you’re a busy man but if you’ve got a few minutes to read my wordy suggestions, please flag anything you think I’m wrong about or could send either @PickingApprentice or me down a bad path.

Hi @joebegly, I felt obliged to report back on how I got on as you have been super helpful in the above posts.

I started by trying to ‘make it happen’ , which would only yield super frustrating results! Lol, my whole arm was jerking around as usual! So I tried a different approach by playing alternate picked versions and visualised where the sweep would be whilst, but not actually executing it. After ‘meditating’ on that, suddenly my hand would do the sweep almost all by itself! Very surreal moment where the unconscious and concscious shared a little space in time!
After a while I could switch from alternate picking to the economy version. I found that I couldn’t get it faster than the alternate picking clean, because the sweep was poorly timed (and my alternate picking seemed quite good today! :grinning:), but you definitely get a sense of how fluid it can sound and that there is a robustness to it when you are in the zone.

I also suspect that I am not doing a truly 1WPS trapped mechanic. When I alternate pick the licks I will use mixed escapes/double escapes where there is 1 note on a string and I think I am applying that mechanic. I’m not bothered by this as long as things sound good!

It will take a long time to rearrange licks that are so burned into your DNA to make use of the system. But in the meantime, I’ll start adding the cascade licks to my practice…

I’ll try and get a video done as soon as I can, but it would be great to see your progress also @joebegly.

Many thanks!

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Cool man! I will try to get some videos up too. I should probably post them in the critique section to make sure even though I am progressing that I’m not doing anything that will hinder me. I have clearly been wrong before! Otherwise…I would not be here lol

Hey @PickingApprentice hope you’re doing well. I wanted to check in with you since I haven’t had the chance to post a video yet (work has been crazy). Something really strange happened to me the other night that I’d like to get a handle on firstly.

Just to recap in case you haven’t read any of my other rants, I’ve been overhauling my playing since I joined up in January. It’s been weird since I’ve been playing for over 25 years with an UWPS and either trapped escape or DSX. I realized the stuff I want to play is better suited for USX, so I’ve been working on that. Pretty tough to unlearn 25 years of habits but I’m happy so far because the results have been good.

So that’s the back story. The other night I was practicing some tremolo for a quick mental break from work and I stumbled on something that’s got a smoothness I don’t think I’ve ever felt. I found out that while I’ve been doing a decent job on pick trajectory, I’ve actually been doing a crap job on how much pick I’m allowing on the string. Not that there’s anything wrong with that in and of itself, but I was still having to fight the instrument…sort of just muscling through the resistance of too much pick catching the string. Getting just the necessary part of the pick tip on the string instantly changed this. It felt amazing! Once I got a handle on it I was going through some of these patterns even faster than what I’d been doing recently. Pretty cool!

So the bad news…I cannot do this on command yet. Sometimes, within a brief practice session I can’t even find it. It’s like that thing @Troy mentioned various times where you experience periods of randomness. I know what this is when I feel it but it takes awhile to dial it in. When I get it, good things happen. Almost like fighting with the string resistance was also tripping up my left hand, because it could feel what the right should have been doing. So I get better hand sync, better speed, even a smoother tone I think. I’m so psyched about this! I feel like I’m on the verge of a serious breakthrough.

I’ll try really hard to get a video up this weekend. I shouldn’t promise because I think I’ll be working most of the weekend. Either way, I doubt I’ll have this new more shallow attack as a rote movement by then, in which case you’ll see me work through the patterns with whatever I’d been doing.

That sounds really good- even though you can’t do it on command, the important thing you know what it feels when you get it. I’m sure it will be quicker and quicker to get and before long you will have it down cold!

My work has been crazy too, I’ll try and get the vids done… I can sweep up a bit better now, but the decending EJ atom needs a bit more drilling…

Yeah I am stoked!

I’ve seen other threads where people claim better speed ascending vs descending and vice versa. I’m more comfortable ascending because I feel like gravity helps me fall to the next string better. Maybe I’m not getting enough upwards escape or something.

I too find ascending easier. Probably just lack of playing and maybe some freting hand sync issues, I’m hoping that it will come together over the next week. I would love to reach a flawless cycling at about 170-180 bpm. I haven’t measured what I can do yet - going for smoothness first!

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