Top Speed for DBX picking

Hi All,
I wanted to give the DBX motion a try, as I find the articulation possibilities it opens up really, really attractive. I’m thinking both ‘banjo rolls’ á la Molly Tutton / Andy Wood and Tumeni arpeggios or Albert Lee’s inspiring vocabulary…

I think this is the least developed in the whole “cracking the code materials”, and it’s - I think - for good reason as DBX is far more complex than any of the single slant techniques to ‘crack’.

Also, it inherently is less efficient in pure speed terms, meaning that none of the peak speed picking phrases we hear from the masters are performed with this technique.

So, I find it useful to leverage on your knowledge and try to find out: what are the breakneck speeds in this realm? I have in mind that 16th notes @150 bpm would be a very respectable achievement, if not top-notch already.
Do you have different numbers in mind? Maybe some links to examples too?

Thanks a lot!

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Molly Tuttle’s “White Freightliner” is around 140 BPM. I think that’s a useful reference.

There’s relevant info in this thread:

I think @Troy could pick all his recent forum replies on this topic and collect it in one article, even if it has to be titled “DBX - what we know so far” :slight_smile: There are many gems scattered around the forum.


I transcribed Troy shredding some arpeggios, and at some points there are 1nps passages as 16ths at 180 for a full measure (measure 5)

I think there’s also a clip of Martin Miller playing the Glass Prison arpeggios somewhere around that tempo…when he was like 16 or something lol


I didn’t know this soundslice thing… Looks pretty interesting!
In fact, I looped a small section of measure 5 you refer to above:

If you have it down to 1/4 speed and looping, do you think that’s pure alternate?
I seem to spot some sweep in there in going from the G to the B string?
And maybe also in the D to A switch in the first part of the arpeggio?

Anyhow, that’s pretty amazing! A new bar (too high I’m afraid :sweat_smile:


(I think the B and D of the G-B-D section of the arpeggio are swept):

Giving it a quick second look, it seems to all be alternating, but:
A. even if a couple notes in there are swept, there’s still enough alt picking in there to ‘prove the point’
B. @Troy could likely verify
but the “A” is more important - that simply put, yes, it’s possible to do 1NPS stuff ‘fast’ if we’re thinking of fast as >150 16ths

Edit: giving it a few more looks, feeling pretty confident about that being all alternating

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I’m not articulating my thoughts properly.
There clearly (well, for me at least) is a trade-off between articulation of the phrase and its execution speed. A roll across 3 strings, which constantly switches bottom up with a larger swing, is more difficult (‘articulated’) than an arpeggio executed down-up-down, because the jumps there are more contained. A roll across 4 strings is even more complicated.

If you mute the notes you’re playing, that’s another factor that can help ease up the movement and allow greater speeds. But it’s not what I’m after. To be honest, I’m not even sure what I’m looking for here :sweat_smile:

Maybe something along the lines: max speed for pieces like the articulation level is that of Country chops / Albert Lee level. Say: tumeni notes level or above. I see that’s 104 bpm sextuplets, so that fits the 150 bpm 16ths and it’s rather impressive… Much faster than that, with that level of intricacy, I’m not sure I’ve seen it yet.

Thanks for the pointer anyhow, it’s good stuff.
Is Troy’s run an excerpt from a larger ‘1nps shred pamphlet’ where I can maybe dig deeper?


No worries, I get it - these are tough things to put into words. But unfortunately…I still don’t know what you are asking! Or if you are just making a comment.

There clearly (well, for me at least) is a trade-off between articulation of the phrase and its execution speed. A roll across 3 strings, which constantly switches bottom up with a larger swing, is more difficult (‘articulated’) than an arpeggio executed down-up-down, because the jumps there are more contained. A roll across 4 strings is even more complicated.

I’d say for ease of communication, let’s find a different word than ‘articulated’ - reason being that I don’t think alt picking is ‘more’ articulated it’s just different than other approaches. For example listen to Gambale or Holdsworth, they sound completely different than Steve Morse or Doc Watson, and there mgiht be things about their articulation that one listener might like more or like less, but it’s not objectively ‘more articulated’ imo.

I’d argue that the alt picking approaches are

  • easier to have dynamic control over each note
  • easier to be rhythmically ‘accurate’ in the metronomic sense

But neither of those things are necessarily better. There are plenty of styles where the musical message is conveyed beautifully without being as accurate as a metronome. The ‘automatic dynamics’ of some approaches like legato mixed with sweep (meaning the layout of the phrases on the guitar tend to make the player want to accent certain notes above others) are sometimes musically desirable as they can automatically import texture, dynamics, and variety into the playing rather the machine gun thing.

But of course, you can work on dynamics and rhythmic flexibility with alt picking, and you can work on articulation elements with other picking approaches (I’ve spent a good amount of time on dynamics within ‘economy’ picking’.

So I don’t the differences between pure alt and other approaches are so black and white - a lot of things are, imo, more an issue of historically what players have chosen to do with the different approaches.

To be honest, I’m not even sure what I’m looking for here :sweat_smile:

It would probably help me personally to know if you are

  • trying to get an answer to a question out of intellectual curiosity
  • trying to understand something in order to choose a practice path (if it’s this one, what is the musical goal?)
  • just making comments on alt picking in interest of discussion

Is Troy’s run an excerpt from a larger ‘1nps shred pamphlet’ where I can maybe dig deeper?

No - however there was a 2 hr live vid posted in I think june 2018 where he goes through the right hand approach in a lot of detail. Very ‘instructive’ as opposed to observational.


I think the second one is the closest. I want to gather a reference top speed for DBX. From what I’ve experienced in our interaction however, it looks like the ‘reference top speed for DBX’ concept is not crisp enough to be analyzed efficiently. My bad.

Based on your reply, I probably badly misled you when talking about ‘articulation’. It probably is because English is not my mother tongue, so I might have a few gaps here and there :wink:

Anyhow, that’s what I intend with ‘articulation’: it means complexity of the pattern, in a nutshell. It has nothing to do with the technique you choose to execute it, because each technique favors certain patterns and disfavors other, but generally speaking you can perform - with every technique - movements which can be ordered on a complexity line. Stupid example: if you tremolo one note, that’s the lowest you can go in terms of articulation.
If you keep jumping from string to string, without repeating the same jumps but going in a next-to-random pattern, that’s the other end of the ‘articulation spectrum’.
For tapping, a simple two-note tap, fixed position, would be the simplest, whereas 4 fingers Bach Fugue would be on the other end of the spectrum.

That’s why the ‘reference top speed for DBX’ concept is not crisp enough (or any other technique for that matter). Speed is dependent on articulation degree.

But nevermind, I found an answer which is satisfactory for now:
140-150 bpm 16th notes for patterns like banjo rolls and more complex

I just devoted around 1h to learning the notes of ‘tumeni notes’ and will use that piece to try and learn the ropes of DBX. It will also be my reference for ‘mastery’ of this technique, which is kinda of what my original target was.


@Troy seems to have a standard answer to these kinds of questions. It’s usually something to the effect of “We don’t know, but we have no indication of any particular speed limit.” With that in mind, I’ve not seen very much DBX playing at very much above 150bpm 16ths. So although it may be possible to perform DBX motions above 150bpm 16ths, it doesn’t seem to be super practical.

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This suits me :innocent:

I’m not convinced that different picking motions are really “far more complex” than any others from a learning perspective. I think the variation we see out there in the real world is almost entirely explained by the musical styles that players grow up in. If you’re a rock player and you start out with single string tremolo, and pattern-based single-escape scale phrases you learned on Intense Rock, guess what kind of picking motion you’re going to discover? Instead, when you look at players who grew up playing bluegrass, where they have to play tunes that aren’t all even numbers of notes per string, they seem much more likely to learn some kind of double escape technique.

Also, I really wouldn’t worry about “speed limits”. Understand, that “DBX motion” isn’t one thing, so there is no reason to assume that all DBX motions even work the same way anyway as far as the joints are concerned. When we look at players who you might think of as DBX players, they don’t appear to have any kind of hard speed limit. This example from our most recent interview, with Olli Soikkeli, is stupid fast:

I don’t know the tempo on this, but it’s probably at least 175-180 or so sixteenths at least. It’s not entirely DBX but there are definitely DBX pickstrokes in here at this speed, as you can see if you watch it in slow motion. So that’s another good point. Wrist technique is really a collection of motions that players like Olli mix and match at a level they can’t perceive. Don’t try to overthink that your technique is going to be one motion performed perfectly consistently all the time. It’s not. It’s all memorized based on the phrase you’re playing, which is why double escape isn’t really the “do everything” motion you think it is. Everything you play fast must be memorized ahead of time, even if you don’t percieve it that way, because as you can see, the motions aren’t always the same.

More generally, if someone wants to worry that this isn’t as fast as John Petrucci on Rock Discipline, I think that’s a pretty misplaced worry. If your speed ceiling is 180 or something as a jazz player, while playing the types of flowing bop phrases that Olli is playing here, I don’t think you’re going to experience too many creative obstacles. Same for Albert Lee, tons of stuff of him living comfortably in 150-170.

Just work from big picture to small: get your arm position and pick grip. Decide broadly on some kind joint motion, whether that’s elbow or forearm or wrist or some blend. Get it going fast and smooth. Work backwards from there. Don’t overthink things.


EDIT - Really, you had to go and update WHILE I WAS TYPING THIS TROY?! Way to make me irrelevant again! feel free to disregard everything since it’s probably been covered more better above.

{You can skip this}
It’s probably more instructive to go with “What do we actually know?” because I’ve definitely seen him reference examples of a ‘professional’ calibre player as a baseline of what is a known quantity. I think that’s all we can do in cases where you get a little bit into the weeds.

So finding examples of people playing at a certain tempo or complexity using the picking you’re looking for would be the best way to get into the ballpark of what can and is able to be done versus what would need either virtuoso type abilities to break new ground or being a literal alien with a different physiology.
{/told you so}

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This should be a pop-menu on this forum with an “I Understand” button every time you log in.

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And then once you’ve pressed it, another pop-up immediately going “You’re overthinking things again”

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if I say “I don’t think I’m overthinking” that’s kind of a catch-22 or what? :smile:

All good inputs, thanks Troy for your comment - I think I’m perfectly in line with what you say about using different strokes for different situations, kinda naturally, in the same phrase.
I tend to be very analytical and when I study a movement I like to practice it in isolation. Of course, if I get my hands onto a musical example which also offers that isolation, well that’s kind of perfect, isn’t it?
I do think that double escaping, i.e. making a circle with you pick, cannot reach the speed of single escape picking. But we don’t need to delve on this, time will tell, we’ll interact many more times and if I’m incorrect, it will show up.

For now I’ve dedicated another hour to ‘tumeni notes’… It’s a fantastic piece!
The left hand is giving me trouble as well, with that nasty thumb and weird (for my little hand) fingering…

But it’s a lot of fun and when I’ll get in the ballpark, I’ll ‘show and tell’ or ‘technique critique’ it and we’ll take it from there.

Thanks all for your valuable inputs!



I love this. Great coaching, Troy!