Two-way slanting practice strategy idea - gradually decreasing number of notes between slants?

Was wondering if this has been discussed before:

I’m at a place where I’m fairly ok/confident in both upstroke escape stuff and downstroke escape stuff, but I’m not terrific at switching between them. However I can ‘switch slants’ while playing fast lines if there is an adequate # of notes on a string before the slant has to change.

I’ve come up with some exercises/sequences that have, for example, stuff like 9 notes on one string then 11 notes on another, then back to the beginning, with alternate picking, so the ‘slants’ change within the exercise. Then the # of notes per string gradually decrease in various ways, 9&11, 9&9, 7&9, 7&7, 5&7, 5&5, etc etc. It’s a fun math problem and I’m exploring it with some success but I know that I can get a little lost in the deep end with an idea without maybe seeing theoretical limitations from the start of it, and I haven’t delved into this stuff in as much detail as many of you have.

I was curious if anybody else has toyed with this at all? Obviously the “proof will be in the pudding” but maybe there are variables in this that I hadn’t considered, or it’s simply been discussed before as either a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ strategy.


Here’s a draft of what I’m talking about - I happened to have been working on some bluegrass stuff so I was using open position material roughly in that style.

thing Estner.pdf (339.1 KB)

Hey Jake! Logically I understand what you’re saying. If I can just learn to switch picking motions more frequently by making the sections shorter, then I can eventually switch instantaneously. Except if you’re thinking about doing jazz and bluegrass type lines that mix 1, 2, and 3 notes per string in random ways, that’s not really what’s happening. The motion you need for those kinds of lines is qualitatively different.

Take this Andy Wood clip for example:

Watch the first arpeggio part of this in slow motion. Once the phrase gets down to only 1 or 2 notes per string like this, you’re not even making single escape motions any more. You’re making a mix of single and double escape motions. In other words, the pick sometimes goes below the strings and traps, but also just as often does the semicircular motion and never traps. Now look at the joint motions. Sometimes Andy’s forearm moves. But other times, only his hand (i.e. the wrist) moves. It’s complicated.

The exact sequence of all this joint motion is totally memorized because Andy has worked on these 212 type sequences until they were smooth. Where he ends up is idiosyncratic on a pattern by pattern basis. You can’t get there by playing longer sequences that involve only simpler motions that occasionally switch. Speaking from experience, those types of lines don’t feel anything like doing this more complicated mixed escape type playing. Instead, I think you’re best off starting with the lines in question.

Rather than speak in abstractions, I think the best thing to do is actually choose a mixed escape phrase like this that you want to play, film it up close, and see what the resulting motion looks like. You will probably see a mix of various motion types like what Andy is doing that you didn’t necessarily know you were making or plan to make. That’s fine, that’s where it starts. You can refine from there by requesting smoothness and accuracy from your hands and trying different things until you get there. This is particular true for you, again, because you’re an advanced player and already know what it feels like when things click and feel smooth versus tensiony or sloppy.


Thanks Troy! I wanted to play around with some stuff before responding so that I could reply with something slightly less hypothetical/theoretical than I might have otherwise.

What you’re talking about is exactly why I’m excited to get the magnet - really curious to take a real look at what the hell is going on exactly and play with things on a much more granular and detailed level.

I didn’t have hopes of this being a direct line to eventually doing 1-note-per-string/double escape kind of things; for me, two-way slanting lines have not been very accessible even though I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with lines that are all up-escape or all down-escape. So I’ve been curious to bridge the gap for a while.

I’ve been playing around with ideas in my first post and also took a couple lessons with Jake Workman, and also have been working with some Normal Blake and Tony Rice transcriptions I’ve done. I’ve definitely seen big improvements in my ability to play quick things that require ‘slant switches,’ which is exciting. It’s definitely been about noticing little extra things I do that make it harder, and isolating what is that I already can do and doing gradual increases of difficulty from there.

It’s not so much ‘practicing’ the passages in the PDF but more so observing what happens as the switches happen more frequently…there are a lot of little things that have been helpful.

For further work on a double escape motion, I think the magnet is going to be super helpful.

Edited to add: a similar nerdy thing I’ve been goofing around with is a randomization tool that spits out random #s of notes per string, and I can toggle the parameters a bit to have more or less of something (Eg more ascending motion than descending, more occurrences of 3 notes on a string than another number, etc) and that’s been kind of interesting as a means of playing stuff and seeing what is difficult and what is not

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I know this isn’t much and it’s 8 seconds long, but this is waaaay more than I could do (with alternate picking and two-way slanting) even just 3 or so months ago:

2 on one string, 5 on the other:

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More updates if anybody cares: I’ve been REALLY geeking out about this stuff, mainly as procrastination when I probably should be doing other things. But - BUT! I have now been able to play things that have really jumbled up my right hand for years, and I’m pretty excited about that. 3NPS used to be a joke, but it’s getting much easier. Here is a quick line mixing 3 and 4 notes per string:

slowed down:

I know it’s not much, but like I said in the previous post, I could not do anything like this until recently.

And I’ve been starting to put some little bits of 1 note per string in the mix with some success.

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These look great. The only thing I’d suggest is that when you get to stuff where you have bits of 1nps in there, you’re better off not doing the arm flip flop, and just keeping the arm stationary.

This includes fairly commonplace stuff like what @Tommo calls “Jimmy Page triplets”, or maybe “Mr. Crowley triplets”. We don’t really think of those lines as “1nps” type lines, but there are spots in there where you have to back and forth between two strings a few times with only one note on each of them. And with the technique you’re using here, you’re going to have to keep flip-flopping the arm to get that. It works, but then you’re basically becoming Jimmy Herring with his arm wiggle technique, but only for that one little moment in the line. And this can feel a little dramatic, because you’re basically switching to a whole new picking motion then switching back.

Instead, if you can just try the same lines without moving the arm, and just moving the hand, see if you can find a way to make that feel smooth. Eventually when you get to the back and forth type lines, especially with 1nps, it might feel a little smoother because you don’t have to change up your motion to a different technique. You can just keep moving the hand.

This is great Troy, thank you. Been playing around with your advice here, and watching more slow mo clips of myself and I think I see the ‘flop’ you’re referring to. The best way I can wrap my head around this right now is to target either the ‘top’ or the ‘bottom’ of the string depending on which stroke I’m hitting it with (eg downstroke on a string means I have to get the tip of the pick on the ‘top’ of the string, the side closer to the ceiling) and like you were saying on instagram to not think of it so much as a pick slant or a different angle that I have to be at for each type of escape. I think I’m starting to have some success with that…it’s kind of like making what’s comfortable, in my case more dramatic slants, smaller and smaller until it’s not quite there anymore. I’m finding subtle things like how I’m holding the guitar, or how much edge picking to use, to be making a difference.