Trying out TWPS again. Am I exaggerating the motion?

I’m fed up with not being able to pick all notes in a descending three note per string scale. I have been using the Yngwie USX style and can almost comfortable play most things ascending with sweeps or the occasional swiping on alternate picking stuff. But the descending alternate stuff I have not been able to solve yet without going for pull off escapes.

Having now met and played with one of my heroes Rob Marcello (check him out on YT, he is superhuman) and witnessing true virtuosity on close hand, I’m now encouraged to learn to pick everything with alternate picking.

But there seem to be a long time since the term TWPS (two way pick slanting) was implemented here on CtC and now I don’t know what the consensus is around playing with mixed escapes. Having been around since the very start of CtC I was bread on the idea of slanting and that I think have affected how I try to play these things.

So here is an example of me trying to play a descending scale with mixed escapes but as you can see it’s very much a slanting change as well. Is this too much motion? Problem is I can’t seem to get a smooth but firm attack on both string changes without altering the slant to this degree. How have you solved this?

You can see that I mix the TWPS (or what do we call this nowadays?) with my pure usx motion to be sure they integrate well.


I just watched couple of his videos but doesn’t look like he picked everything? Did he share any insights into alternate picking?

No he plays a lot of licks that combine picking with legato and sweeping, much like PG and other heroes from the 80-ies, but he seem to have no problem executing almost anything “picky” in the 80-ies shred style flawlessly on demand. I big part of that is incredible left hand control. When I got the chance to look up close on his picking, my best guess was that he has some sort of double escape motion since there isn’t much of a change in motion or slant no matter what string changes he does. The motions are so small that it’s really hard to see. I would love to put a magnet on him.

Like many great players Rob isn’t very aware of how his mechanics work. I guess he is a natural that just figured it out somehow.

I think your core motion is a rotation plus reverse dart thrower blend. This is a very capable movement pattern and it forms the basis of my mixed escape picking technique.

I think the issue you’re having with your form is that you’re supinated by default, biasing your form towards the upstroke escape.

I discussed this form in a recent video I made, you might find it helpful


I’m in a similar boat at the moment, I recently developed an USX wrist-forearm blended motion that I’m really happy with but I’m quite inefficient when I try a mixed escape line. If it’s a longer lick with one problem note I can just swipe it with a little thumb motion and it will be fine but anything more and there is a breakdown of speed which ruins the flow of the lick.

I have a theory that DSX wrist handles mixed escapes a lot more naturally. I experimented with it for a while and though I don’t think I achieved a completely correct motion, due to the shallow escape of the pick using a helper motion for USX was really easy. With USX wrist-forearm your escape tends to be much less shallow so it feels like you are more locked into one type of escape.

Can’t verify this yet as my DSX wrist is a work in progress but definitely feels that way. Rob’s technique looks very similar to Andy Wood’s to me so I wonder if that is the case? Happy to be proven wrong as then I won’t have to learn another motion and can stick to wrist-forearm :grin:

(Also this isn’t a dig at USX wrist-forearm I think it has different strengths, potentially more stamina but again can’t verify this as it’s the only motion I know, it just seems this way)

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Wow, great explanation here!

What do you think makes the most sense to tackle this kind of problem from an USX wrist-forearm approach?

Do you switch to a double escape for the one pickstroke that doesn’t fit into USX? Or switch to DSX (mixed escape)? Or just play it all with double escapes?

Also you can use forearm rotation with DSX? I’ve completely missed that if that’s the case

Thanks guys for your help!

Yes I think that is just right! So it’s two different joint motions although I think my USX rotation is getting more help from the wrist the slower I play.

Yes, I think I use a very steep supination to really force the upstroke escape and make sure my hand doesn’t accidentally adds some DSX wrist motion. I have had that problem before and I guess that is because the USX motion is “new” and isn’t really burnt in. I started using rotation after the age of 30 and although it’s close to 10 years since that, I sometimes loose the connection to the right motion.

One more thing about this, I can do the DSX part of this playing keeping more of the supination but then I don’t get the same nice and secure attack on the string. The pick can kind of get “fish hooked” because of a bad angle to the string and my thumb might accidentally dampen the string as well.

This was a little bit too much information for my por brain. But generally I’m not sure a double escape motion would work for me. I want both the speed and the “security” that a single escape motion gives. But maybe that’s just stubbornness. :slight_smile: To me double escape just feels a lot different than single escape and doesn’t have the shreddy feel. But maybe that is because I’ve yet to find a working double escape motion.

Cool! Would be interesting to see in a video.

That should be true but I’m hesitant to work on a whole new motion for all playing. Also I think it’s a big ask to find a solid double escape motion with the same speed and accuracy. Maybe I’m wrong about that but it has taken me a long time to feel comfortable enough to pull some of these USX lines off live with the single escape motion. If it took ten years of practice for this, how long would it take to get to the same level with a double escape motion with lot less inherent stability? I’m sorry for sounding harsh and I don’t want to be discouraging to anyone but that’s what my gut tells me. Nevertheless I think you really should pursue the motion for yourself! :slight_smile:

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Tom rules. Just saying. Cool thread guys.


I’m sure that I’m blushing.

It’s a very capable movement pattern, and since the muscles involved in reverse dart-thrower have secondary function in rotation, they complement each other naturally. It has served me very well, and I think Paul Gilbert and Anton Oparin use the same core movement pattern.

Just making sure I’ve read this right, you’ve been doing this movement for nearly 10 years, but you still think of it as “new” and you sometimes lose your connection to it? That is very suspect to me.

Could you provide video of this? This could just be a matter of the direction of your pick point, degree of edge picking or your contact points with the guitar, but I’d have to see it to be sure.

That video might have been a bit dense, but don’t sell yourself short. There’s nothing wrong with your brain and you can learn any picking form you want to. I must stress aswell that this rotation+RDT blend is a different animal to the wrist based double-escape forms.

This form doesn’t lack for speed, it’s the same movement you’re already using to play fast now. However, the capability to escape in both directions definitely comes at the cost of some greater demand for accuracy.

Thank you, glad to help.

Mostly, when I’m playing in this style I try to stay relatively neutral (double escaping), but I naturally “lean” into a little more pronation or supination when I speed up if the line is mostly single escape.

Sure can, but the degree of rotation can be very subtle. It’s very possible that the rotation I perceive when I lean into pronation (DSX) with this form is mostly incidental rotation as a result of the secondary action of the RDT muscles. However, I definitely perceive there to some rotation.

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Kind of a weird question here but would you fare well playing EJ lines with this style of double escape or do You think you’d be better off just doing a more solid USX/supinated form and doing strategic legato when needed? I know technically a double escape can play most lines since of the escape in both directions but im curious to see what your train of thought is when approaching really specific material IF a solid double escape motion could work for everything. Sorry if that’s confusing but just a random question while I’m at work reading all of this!

Cool, I wouldn’t have guessed those guys used so much rotation in their core motion. But I’m no expert. Could you post a video where you use this motion in some high speed shreddy stuff? It would be great to see that same movement done by someone else. And you have a great way of explaining (even if I sometimes have a hard time following everything) in a scientific way.

Yes it’s very discouraging to not be able to totally rely on that motion although so much time has passed. I think it has to do with both learning at older age and the fact that the motion itself is so relaxed, that when hitting the stage and adrenalin and tension creeps in, the body goes back to what it instinctively has done in the past.

Yes all those things are affecting the situation. It simply doesn’t sound as good and it’s far less accurate since the margin of error is smaller. My body can’t distinguish the two motions as well. I guess that sounding bad also adds to stress which actually creates more tension.

Here is a quick video of this. First is one way USX, then one way DSX, finally some horrible attempts at TWPS. You can tell I haven’t practiced this much.

I know Troy has largely abandoned TWPS as first explained. My understanding of why he did this is:

  • In attempts to get it, many were “flip-flopping” too much and causing more trouble than good
  • His understanding of wrist motion changed and he saw that players like Andy Wood were able to escape in both directions with basically no slant at all.
  • A general shift in focus to pick trajectory and joint motion instead of slant, as the slant was often just a side effect of an efficient motion, not the cause of the efficient motion

Check this out:

Even if this is now called “mixed escape” he is very efficiently changing slants. It works and sounds awesome. That looks like what I see you attempting to do. I’d say work on a slightly more neutral setup maybe? And just keep at it.

BTW, off topic, but you have my favorite ever USX form :slight_smile: It’s just beautiful. It was a huge reason I went down a USX detour a few years ago. Most of the views on the video you posted on here demonstrating how you do your technique are probably from me lol!

Yes that was very smooth but still kind of big changes in hand position for the different string changes. Cool to see! Thanks!

Yes I kind of feel that the hand naturally adjusts towards less supination the more I work on it. So I think you’re right.

Oh wow, thanks man! I’m very happy to have found out about rotation since it’s so much less work than wrist DSX in the video above. But like I said earlier, it’s not completely permanent yet. How is your USX going? :slight_smile:

Thanks for asking! It’s going pretty well. I can use on EJ phrases and also the 3nps ‘patterns’ (but obviously playing an even number of notes per string) I’m familiar with. I do sometimes experience what you’ve said where it will turn into a different motion if I’m not paying attention. Then the escape stops and it becomes more trapped. It’s definitely getting better though. A lot of last year I took (another!) detour and worked on a DBX motion, but since last week I got the EJ bug again and dusted off the USX and it’s working pretty well. Maybe someday I’ll take Troy’s excellent advice and stop messing with all these motions and just stick to the stuff I’m best at lol! I just seem to have more enjoyment improving at stuff that I can’t yet do. At least I’m having fun!

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I’m curious to know that if you developed a very strong reliable 2WPS motion, would you use that for something like EJ stuff? Or would you just revert back to strict USX for it?

Not sure if that’s a question for me or qwertygitar, but I have thought about this honestly. The other thing I’m working on along the DBX (crosspicking) stuff is the more versatile Wood/Oparin motion that can be used for scalar playing as well. If I had that going as well as someone like Andy Wood, I think I’d probably just use that motion for almost everything. He sounds pretty convincing on EJ phrases. The only thing I don’t hear him do is the DDU economy stuff but I’m sure that’s a choice he’s made. You can still do that motion from him posture.

Oh, I saw your question earlier but thought it was meant for Tom. (Maybe it still is.) But I’ll answer it anyway. :slight_smile:

No, EJ stuff is so perfectly fleshed out via the one way USX playing style. I love to play licks in that style and it’s one more of those things that Troy really helped open up a new world through. Pentatonics was always awkward before, but adding in sweeps helps with speed and fluidity and creates a flow that is unique and feels great to play.

You clearly can do similar things with 2WPS though, just look at Joe Bonamassa, but I can’t see any big benefits. Now the 2WPS motion for me is at the moment only to be able to pick all the notes of a descending 3nps scale. I have tried it with ascending scales in the past but that feels a bit more awkward than just staying in USX and use swiping instead.

What are your thoughts about USX vs 2WPS for pentatonics?

I might have a chance later in the week. I’m busy at the moment grading of end of semester exams. I’m sure I can demonstrate a couple of outside Gilberts or something without much difficulty.

This seems really discordant to me. I feel there must be something, somewhere in your playing which is incongruous with this movement and which interrupts your ability to perform it on command. Something which is affecting your sensitivity to haptic feedback and causing your mind-muscle connection to fail.

I don’t believe that age is the issue. I learned how to do the Shawn Lane style dart-thrower USX form in my 30s; I’ve only been doing it for about two years, and I don’t experience any lack of connection to the movement. Most of my students are older than me, and they successfully learn and execute efficient picking mechanics in fairly short periods of time.

Tension absolutely affects haptic perception though, so that could very well be the root of the issue.

Does this movement feel powerful to you, with a high dynamic range? If so, does it feel effortless when you create power? In a lesson earlier this week I was demonstrating developing power with my picking hand and I hit the string so hard it got caught under the lip of my neck humbucker, while remaining loose and maintaining my time feel.

I think single-escape mechanics generally allow for much wider tolerances than mixed-escape, I definitely feel that more accuracy is required.

As for your form in particular though, I think you need to learn to lean into pronation more to create a stable DSX form with this movement. Trying to maintain your tactile reference with your fingers under the strings or bridge pickup is probably impeding you from pronating enough.

I don’t know if @carranoj25 directed this question to me or not, but I’ll weigh in.

EJ’s playing is the primary reason I began to transition away from the mixed escape form I developed as a teenager. The mixed escape form has a lot of pick attack, very reminiscent of Gilbert/Oparin. It’s absolutely possible to used mixed escape mechanics to pick EJ’s lines, but it’s much more demanding than imitating Erics form and playing with USX, and it just doesn’t capture the EJ vibe the same way. I could never get past the feeling that I was trying to fit a square peg into around hole. EJ’s influence in my playing began to manifest much more strongly when I learned to imitate his form.

I don’t really do much of the “alternate pick everything” approach any more, but I still know it and I can still do a lot of it.

Interestingly, I’ve never really developed a pure DSX vocabulary, like the Frank Gambale DSX with upstroke sweeping stuff. I have the mixed escape alternate picking and crosspicking, swybrid (two-way economy), and some DSX plus hybrid picking stuff, all coming from a similar form. Very little in the way of pure DSX vocabularly though, even though the fundamental movement pattern is well developed.

I love Frank Gambale’s playing though, so maybe that’s the next thing I’ll focus on now that I have a handle on the Eric Johnson and Shawn Lane USX systems. Maybe I won’t bother and I’ll be satisfied with what I already have, or maybe I’ll finally learn how to do tapping, which I am hilariously terrible at.

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I generally agree but as like someone mentioned above with the DDU phrases, I think I generally do USX but DDU is difficult for me. I execute DUU soooo much better and I’m not sure why; I think it’s just easier for my wrist or forearm to flick back for an inside pick lol.

Yes that would be really cool! Also if you could play a descending scale, preferably over all six strings if possible. That’s the one big challenge I would like to learn.

Well it’s hard to say if there is a causality but I do have a kidney decease that causes my potassium levels to be high, which in turn affects muscles to loose some control. Since I started doing dialysis a few months ago things might be slightly better but it’s hard to say if it is only in my mind.

But i would say that technical stuff have always been hard to pull off live because of stress and a will to perform perfectly. It doesn’t really matter what picking strategy I have been using so I think it’s more of a mental disorder than a physical one.

Well it’s cool to hear about older people learning stuff. Very encouraging!

Yes when I feel in control of the motion it feels very powerful yet relaxed. But it is a loose kind of motion which means that it is harder to control timing wise than wrist, which feels more controlled and stiff. It is actually easier to max out on the rotation speed than it is to play medium speed. I have worked quite much on feeling loose but powerful even at slower tempos and i feel like at that tempo the wrist is activated and added to the rotation. I don’t know if this is normal…

Thanks for taking the time!