Tommo's ascending troubles, feedback welcome!


Hey codecrackers!

One of the hardest things for me is to play 3nps ascending scales. My preferred method for this is two-way pickslanting with primary UWPS orientation. While the descending portion feels nice, I always find the ascending one very tiring and often unreliable. I wonder if this is due to some string tracking problem, or to my rotation into dwps being too late or too forceful.

Here is a (raw!) video where I attempt to ascending and then descend an extremely original composition (the A major scale). The two directions may look and sound similar but I can assure you I can feel a huge difference

And here is a rather lame attempt at the last lick from the erotomania solo, I suffer mostly in the “ascending inside” string changes, probably for similar reasons. But I also inserted a bunch of extra mistakes for your amusement :slight_smile:

PS: these are reasonably “average” takes for my standards, although the ascending scale can sometimes be much worse. I’m reasonably happy with the speed but would like to reach a higher level of reliability and relaxation.

Adapting twps to play dwps licks
Post some good advice/information you've gotten around here

This all looks and sounds great to me! You probably knew we would say that, which is why you mentioned the appearance and sound being different than the feel. I hear you on that - been there, done that. I remember watching some old practice footage and thinking, hey that looks really good. And the the younger me, on video, stops playing and goes “that sucked!” Hilarious. This is the challenge of the last mile.

Point being, you obviously have a handle on the way this is supposed to work, and you’re now at the level of polishing the feel. And those types of issues aren’t always easy to see on video, even when you are the person in the video.

One I have done is constantly shuffle the deck to see what happens when I change something, trying to find a way that is easier or more comfortable. In other words, take some part of your technique which you consider finished, and un-finish it. Things you can change:

pick grip
pick type
amount of edge picking
edge picking method (fingers / wrist deviation offset)
approach angle arm to strings
primary up vs primary down
muting / unmuted
picking motion (wrist, elbow, forearm rotation)

It’s ok if some of these changes feel terrible. That’s the point. Get out of the comfort zone and see what happens. Maybe you’ll find another way you like better. And sometimes, when you get back in the comfort zone, things just feel different and you don’t know why. Obviously something changed, but when you get to the last mile, those change can be so small that they become harder to identify, i.e. except by small changes in feel.

Shuffle the deck!


I think I’m the polar opposite. I’m dwps dominant on the pick hand and the descending lines aren’t as smoothly picked as ascending. Practicing that type of stuff over metronome or drum machine has tightened it up for me


Thanks @troy, I feel very motivated now! In a recent job interview I claimed that I often try to go out of my comfort zone, so I really have no excuses now :wink:

I will start by trying a primary dwps setup, which I introduced fairly recently in my playing and feels less “finished”, I will make a video about that when I get a firmer grip on it. I do have a question about your primary DWPS setup: do you swipe systematically un the outside E string - A string change (e.g. C# to D on the ascending 3nps A major scale)?
I find that there is not too much room for rotation on the low strings with my primary down thingy (I’m copying here a pic I posted in another topic):

@Hanky_Pooh, what range of practice tempos / routines did you find beneficial to clean up your descending scales? I think maybe sometimes I’m too impatient to practice the higher speeds

PS: I am clearly the worst at using a camera in this forum :smiley:


I just started practicing this way this year. I had no interest in this when I was younger. I pick the fastest speed, or a speed, on the metronome or drum machine that I can play to without screwing up, or missing notes. This is tightening the playing up.

You can do this method to Ascend and descend your scales. As you get better you can notch the tempo up to push yourself.

When I started playing it was without Tempo and I would run 3 Note per string scales and just play them as fast as I could at any given point… Speeding up and slowing slow to accommodate my ability. When you play like this you can develop bad habits. I started going legato in certain descending lines for example… because that’s what it took to make it just as fast as my ascending. I didn’t want to put the work in and practice to a Beat.


So… I shuffled the deck :wink: Thanks a lot @Troy and many others around here for the useful discussions and suggestions.

I started with some primary dwps practice that felt a bit awkward, a bit of swiping here and there and many random variations. I think my ascending scales are finally starting to come togeter \m/

What I realised is this: I was always convinced that I was a primary UWPS (elbow) player, and that the only other alternative was to try primary down. However the reality seems more complex! It seems my hand / arm actually prefers to do this, possibly because of anchoring:

  • Primary DWPS on the low strings (I think mainly forearm rotation)
  • Neutral / UWPS-ish on the middle strings (wrist deviation + elbow)
  • UWPS on the high strings (wrist + elbow)
  • rest strokes whenever possible (hence dwps on low and uwps on high strings)

This is an example of an ascending scale that finally feels a bit easier / more consistent than before. It may still sound similar to the previous examples, but I can assure you in this case it feels tighter and more repeatable. Hopefully it’ll get better as I fully internalise the new mechanics:

I think the main think I learned is that I don’t need to choose primary up or down all the time, I can change it based on the strings and my anchoring / rest stroking preferences!

PS: I am away from home and this is a friend’s guitar with 9s strings. I have 10s on my guitars, hopefully I won’t feel a huge difference when I’m back :thinking:


Shred on, man. Sounds good. :guitar:


You sound fast and clean to me man!


Good job ! Your playing sounds great !

I totally understand wanting to have as much hand/wrist/arm relaxation as possible, I have the same problem. I’m a beginner (@hungryguitarstudent on Instagram) and I’m new to pick slanting (since 3 days ago). What dramatically alleviated hand/wrist tension issues in 2WPS for me was to start ascending runs with UWPS on an upstroke rather than on a downstroke. For me it felt way more natural and my hands/arms felt more relaxed.


Thank you! Actually my self-analysis above may be outdated, I think I didn’t have as much understanding of the CTC concepts back then (particularly about motion mechanics).

Interesting, it’s the same for me! When I start with an upstroke on the beat, my scale playing feels more natural for some reason. Only recently I started practicing this way, I should have done it before as it would have saved me hours of frustration!


I think starting on an upstroke ascending runs may be more natural because both the upstroke and the following downstroke (on adjacent strings, i.e. when switching strings) are inside the space between the two adjacent strings (not sure if I’m clear here). Starting on a downstroke such a run requires both the downstroke and the following upstroke (on adjacent strings, i.e. when switching strings) to occur outside the space between the two adjacent strings. It’s inside picking vs outside picking. Anyhow, that’s how I understand it :wink:

Did DWPS ascending runs on a downstroke ever become natural to you ? I’m still practicing them but they still don’t feel natural.


I wish I had your “troubles”


Thanks man, I realise this might look like false modesty, because those takes were actually quite good! But the main problem for me with ascending runs (starting with downstroke) is that they always felt like a lot of effort / not so reliable, and they often feel like I’m about to mess up, even though this may not come across in the video!

@eayottes I still feel that the upstroke-version is cleaner, but I’m not sure it has to do with inside/outside picking: 3nps scales across 6 strings contain both inside and outside picking sequences, regardless of the initial pickstroke!


I (and I’m sure many others here) would love to know your specific practice routine. What licks you startesnwoth and your logical progression to where you are at now.
I think what you are doing is amazing and I’d love to try to follow the same type of path you did to get where you are.

Maybe start the “Tommo Method” thread!!


I’ve noticed in my playing I’m using more force and digging harder in dwps version and probably have bigger slant angle too. My upwps has less powerfull hits and glides smoothly. Both ways are a must have… for me. Last five months I’m totally obsessed with 3nps/2wps. Once when you got 2wps OCD… there is no way out. :triumph:

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@tommo: I’m referring to pick placement when switching from adjacent strings. Inside picking meanin the pick is in the space between said adjacent strings when switching strings (outside picking is the negation of that definition).

If I recall correctly, Teemu Mantysaari mentions he also has trouble with outside picking while inside picking feels more natural to him, or something to that effect.

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That’s quite a flattering request :slight_smile: ! I’m unsure the progression was very “logical”, in the sense that I tried various routines and never felt that I found the perfect one. Let me also say that I’m not a professional musician and when I picked up the guitar again ~3y ago (after a long break) I decided to focus more on technique & playing covers (the “execution” side of things) as opposed to songwriting and improvisation (although I wrote a few short etudes, some of which I shared here) - so I am definitely neglecting some areas that a “pro” musician should work on.

Unfortunately I didn’t keep a precise diary over the years. But I remember what really helped me improve my scalar-licks playing soon after discovering CTC: I worked a lot on the songs “Morning Star” and “Never been to Barcelona” by Vinnie Moore - they contain a dozen of fast passages that I used to practice the various “pickslanting” concepts. There are some excellent youtube lessons on Morning Star, and I would be happy to share what I know about the Barcelona song if you and/or others are interested. I tried various strategies, like only practicing the hard bits, playing the songs start to finish several times, and creating (simple) backing tracks where all the “hard bits” are repeated 4 times. I practiced a variety of tempos (between 70% and 100% of the actual speed). For the record - I still find these songs hard to play :slight_smile:

I would also suggest the “chop builder” by Frank Gambale: this requires an initial period of memorization and “planning” of the picking patterns before it can be played along with Frank, but I think it’s worth it. I would also suggest to try all the exercises therein strting with both upstroke and downstroke.

PS: all these things require careful planning of the pickstrokes and movements, make sure you know your pickstrokes before you turn on the metronome / backing track!

These are the first things that come to mind, but I think we can figure out together what a good technique session should/could look like!

@eayottes I think I agree with your definition of inside/outside picking, but the problem is that in a 3nps scale you are going to encounter both situations, even if you start with upstroke (then the first string change would be inside, but the second one outside).


Thanks…I’ll check out Frank’s exercises. I can relate to your workingnon he technical aspect of your playing.
When I was in my more formative years, I often avoided the techniques/exercises that didn’t come easy to me and was more interested in learning how to play meaningless songs instead of working on the techniques I should have worked on
Fast forward to today and I now find myself taking the time to work on the things I needed to years ago.
It’s coming together but I can’t help but wonder where my playing might be today had I worked in the things I avoided years ago.

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Actually I think that learning songs can still be a very good way to improve your technique - if not the main way. Pick (or write!) songs that you like and that contain challenging (but not impossible :sweat_smile:) passages - these passages can become your technical exercises. This way you can make your technique sessions more musical and less boring!


Yes, I’ve since changed my view on learning songs/licks. In addition to them making great exercises, they can also serve as a springboard for our own ideas/licks.