Translating table tapping speed to tremolo

Since the table tapping tests have worked out so well in uncovering the the built-in speed we all have, the next step is making sure everyone can experience that speed on an actual guitar. Easier said than done! When you’re trying to translate a new motion to the guitar, and you feel the pick on the string, it’s almost like a force field that scrambles your brain where you can’t do the motion any more.

Here’s a hack we came up with which in theory would work for any of the wrist motion tests:

The idea here is that by ignoring the presence of the string and just focusing on the familiar feeling of tapping on the phone, you can bypass the brain scramble. When you move closer and eventually contact the string, you can still feel the string contact pretty clearly. So the hope is there is still some learing here, i.e. it’s not like training wheels where the wheels do all the balancing for you and you don’t learn anything.

Anybody wants to try this, give it a shot and let us know if it works!


Hi @Troy, I gave this a shot, and have a short variation, maybe it will be useful. Rather than laying the guitar down with the phone perpendicular, I held the guitar body normally (seated, acoustic), held the phone flat against the guitar body with the long edge running parallel to the strings. A brief video:

The benefit is that the position matches the actual hand playing position. Cheers! jz

Follow-up edit: I’ve been moving the phone closer to the string and angling it more so that my pick hits it, as well as passes through the string. One thing I notice with this – first impression only – is that it encourages me to really pick “through” the string, and hit the phone, rather than just pick the string, rather like gypsy style rest stroke technique .

I also notice that my wrist-deviation-only picking really sucks – my hand bounces up and down a lot – but that’s a different story.

Thanks for trying this!

The reason I’m doing it flat on my lap is to simulate the tabletop tests, which are motions that we chose because of their similarity to everyday hand and arm motions. The guess is that people will find this easier to do than the same motions done with a more typical guitar playing posture. Ideally we want to see the motions done correctly and as smoothly as possible before moving to a guitar, even if that means doing them on a table.

Using your test as an example of this, the wrist motion is incorrect, as you pointed out. Have you tried the EVH motion test on a table and is it any smoother or faster for you?

If you can do this correctly and smoothly, I think that’s an argument in favor of starting out with “laptop guitar” posture to give yourself the strongest possible tactile feedback of what that smoothness and correctness feels like on an instrument.

The forearm test looks pretty decent here, considering how unusal that motion is for most people. We included that in our table tests, but I didn’t really expect lots of people would excel at it, because it seems to be more specialized. Is this motion any smoother or faster for you if you do it flat on your lap?

Thanks @Troy, I’ve checked that out just now. Various observations below!

  • “similarity to everyday hand and arm motions.” - good point, it starts them from a good point of reference. Also, not dealing with the destabilizing pull of gravity lets ppl focus on the side-to-side relaxation. My variant still seems useful, but as a diagnostic I agree the flat guitar is better.
  • EVH motion test: yes, it’s much better, thank you! I’d seen the video but not tried it, as I find holding the pick w/ middle finger awkward … but I tried it with a pen and with a pick, and can hit about 200 bpm with a small effort. Need to keep loosening up.
  • Re the rotational motion: “Is this motion any smoother or faster for you if you do it flat on your lap?” - Not really, but it’s hard to say. The rotational motion is the same, however, positioning the arm so the hand is flat on the table slightly rotates the forearm already, so the rotation isn’t happening in the same position, if that makes sense (rather, the axis along which the rotation happens is already slightly torqued). fyi – I’m working on gypsy jazz technique, but also have some classical single-note things I’d like to explore. I only play acoustic, so I felt that a rotational style would give me the best options in terms of crosspicking, gypsy, and non-shred patterns. :slight_smile:

Possible area for more exploration:

One thing I liked about the “phone on the vertical guitar” variant is that as I started to actually pick the string, moving the phone closer to the string, I still focused on really contacting the phone, rather than playing the string – picking the string was the byproduct of the quality of motion. My instinct here, hypothesis for more experimentation, is that focusing too much on the string tightens me up, b/c the string is a small point, it’s too much of a target to focus on. By focusing on the tap of the phone, I had to widen my pick swing, loosen the hand and wrist, and play through the string, so I was thinking more about the quality of the swing itself.

Maybe someone else might chime in on the above thoughts.

Cheers Troy! jz

Forearm rotation is almost always USX and that appears to be the case the way you’re doing it here as well. So 1nps arpeggio type stuff (“crosspicking”) is not possible with this motion.

Gypsy technique is more similar to what you’re doing here although in reality a mix of forearm and wrist and not just pure forearm. But it’s in the ballpark so this motion is a better starting point for Gypsy than for classical.

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Here’s an update. For whatever reason, the phone tapping has become super easy over the last week, to the point where I can now do 240 for 5 bars or more with almost no feeling of tiring right up until the end. 250 is generally doable for fewer bars. And just on a lark I turned on the metronome and was able to do 270 yesterday for what feels like a realistic 1-2 bars. These are obviously stupid, stupid speeds, bordering on hyperpicking speeds.

This doesn’t feel hyper or vibrational, and I can’t actually do hyperpicking elbow technique. It feels like typical wrist motion, just very fast, and minus any feeling of tiring out or tension. In fact earlier in the week I was getting tension all over in the traps, delts, lats, tris, you name it. As the week has gone one, with a few minutes here and there of trying to do this, I’ve started to be able to do it without firing the other muscles and tensing up all over. Based on what this feels like, I now think I was “doing” that tension, by trying to learn to move just the hand and accidentally activating everything near it. I’ve used the analogy of learning to raise one eyebrow before, and accidentally moving your whole face at first. That’s what this feels like.

There is no motion I can do on a guitar that goes anywhere near this speed, and believe me, I’ve tried on and off over the years. I don’t think I’m fooling myself here either, since I can do it dead to a metronome for bars at a time. And just to be clear, I didn’t inch up to this by slowly raising the metronome. I just noticed that I would have these random moments of suddenly being able to hit these very fast speeds, some with less tension than others, before fatigue set it in.

t could be that there’s another level of speed here that I and perhaps other players have, and just haven’t ever learned to tap into (pun intended) because we only ever practiced on a guitar, using whatever incorrect form or muscle activation we learned. That would be very exciting stuff.

I’ll keep tooling around with this to see if I can get the motions to work on the guitar itself with this laptop phone hack. Here’s a quick stab at this yesterday around 240 with and without a metronome:

The thing that excites me about this is the random way I start moving when I get near the string and everything feels weird. It looks like a lot like Kim’s tremolo case study. Meaning, it looks a lot like what beginners do when they learn a new skill. Which suggests that this is indeed a new thing I’ve never done before, and that would explain why I’ve never had this kind of speed prior.

Anyone else with low 200bpm max speeds wants to try this, and see if you unlock anything, that would be cool.


One more thing I’ll add, is that as I’ve been experimenting with this, one type of randomness I noticed I have a tendency to do is make circular motions. i.e. downpicking type motions. In this clip above, you’ll see I accidentally do the all-upstrokes version of that motion around 240bpm. It’s not any more difficult or tiring than just moving back and forth — in fact without the string present I often can’t even tell when I’m doing it. And for whatever reason I notice the upstroke one is the version I tend to luck into.

I’m fairly certain at this point that getting good at the downstrokes thing is similar to unlocking these faster wrist speeds, where you accidentally do it very fast, possibly with tension, and learn to shut off the competing muscles over time as you memorize the motion. But the speed, or some variant of it, is likely to be there from the beginning.


Ha this was really fun to watch (not saying this because he pays me!).

I suspect this will turn from fun to scary very soon…


I’ve just tried this,got to 210 before it was faltering a bit.
Is it a good idea to focus on single string tremolo?to get it to a nice fast smooth speed I’m happy with,and maybe some single string licks?
Then move on to the main goal of speed across the strings.
Think I’ve settled on a wrist motion to start off with.
Oh,and with or without a metronone?

Had anybody made good progress starting of with single string speed,then moving it across the strings?

In general, or specifically with this tapping test? I’m :100:% sure I started with single string speed and went from there.

It’s looking like you’re exposing a good amount of the index-finger-side of the pick in order to tap your phone with the pick. If that’s not how you normally hold the pick, wouldn’t that makes the “translation” faulty to a degree?

210 with this test,then pretty much similar to what Troy got in his demos of the rest of the motion tests,maybe 10 bpm lower.
Just found that wrist motion seems to feel most comfortable at the minute,so think I’ll go with that and single string stuff as a start.

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That’s the grip I actually use most often. You’re probably just not used to seeing it from the other side.

That said I’m not sure how important the grip is. I switched to trailing edge three-finger grip (ie Shawn Lane style) and I can still do it. In fact I did that almost as a joke to see if I could do all upstrokes thrash, with the correct pickslant for upstrokes, and it actually worked. I can do upstrokes with no phone now at 250-260 on the actual string. So I was like, ok! Let’s keep doing that.

We’ll see how it goes but I think the name of the game here is experiment relentlessly.

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I could see the trailing edge grip being “better” for the test since it seems it shouldn’t have any fingers in the way.

Could you do the test by just “omitting” the index finger altogether? Just press your pick against the thumb, tap again the phone with your other fingers on the opposite side?

Sorry for the confusion. Three-finger trailing edge the way I do it completely surrounds the pick, so I can’t tap on the phone directly with the pick like the index grip. But I don’t think that matters, you could still tap on the phone, you’d just hit it with your fingers. That’s what I was doing on a table leg before I got the idea to just use the phone on the guitar. When I switched to middle finger grip I had already ditched the phone a minute earlier so I’m just doing it on the guitar now.

Not sure what you mean about omitting the index finger. I think you should just use whatever grip you would use for real playing. So it feels as familiar as possible.

@Troy I was assuming you had to hit the phone with the pick. If that’s not the case then I was just confused, sorry!

The test is just to use the phone as a something to tap on, so it feels like our table tapping tests. More than that I haven’t thought about it. I don’t see why it would matter what part of your hand hits the phone so long as you can feel it or hear it.

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Ok another attempt. In the earlier test, I was accidentally doing all upstrokes. So taking the hint, I started trying to do it deliberately, along with trying to get pure alternate. In order to get the attack and pickslant correct for the DSX alternate motion, which is what this is (1:00 wrist motion), I switched to three-finger trailing edge for the upward pickslant. Very quickly upon trying this, I noticed I no longer needed to tap on the phone to trigger the motion:

The first couple attempts are trying to do alternate. Before we turned on the camera I had it perfect for a couple of bars at this 250 tempo. When we started filming, very hit or miss. But the first couple of attempts I almost get it. You can hear the potential. It’s f*ckin’ fast and violent.

Some of these attemps are all-upstroke sort of by accident in trying to do alternate. At the end I deliberately try to do all-upstroke and get it cleanly a couple of times.

They’re slightly different motions, and I’m starting to differentiate by feel. The way it’s clicking, I think I’ll get this and be able to switch between them at will.


When I try to transition from table to guitar, it seems like the strings are tripping me up and throwing the motion off. I was wondering if maybe placing a small piece of cardboard or notebook or something over the guitar body/strings would help with this transistion? Can’t test this myself at the moment, just throwing out some (ghetto) ideas.