USX Technique - Banging my Head

Been working on wrist picking on and off again for about a year now. Every time I think I’m close, I shoot some video of it with the guitar magnet and then just shake my head. Nope.

I don’t understand why, but I can’t seem to keep my hand flat against the strings on the upstroke. And I can’t seem to keep the pick buried in the strings (rest-stroke) for the downstroke. The pick just sort of skips off of the target string.

It’s immensely frustrating. I would appreciate any help you could offer. Thanks.

Single string:

4 Notes - 2 Notes per String:



Thanks for posting! What you’re doing here isn’t wrong, per se. It’s just a different motion. This is forearm rotation, and just given the way that works, you will indeed lift the thumb heel off the strings on the upstroke. That’s normal. In fact, if you look at my form in this clip, you’ll see I’m not even touching the strings at all on that side of my hand:

Here’s Doug Aldrich doing this, and his form looks pretty similar to yours:

So basically, there’s nothing wrong with this, and I played this way for literally decades until we started investigating other motions like the wrist stuff. The only concern would be if you can’t play the lines you want to play. Note that forearm motion like this is almost always USX-only, so to get the most out of this you want to make sure and play lines where the final note on the string is an upstroke.

If you do want to learn the wrist-only motions, that’s fine too, of course. One thing that can help is making sure you have no wrist flexion. That’s step 3 in the checklist, the overhead shot:

If you have a guitar with a forearm contour, and you use it, that can place your elbow behind the body. To reach the strings you need to flex the wrist, and there we are. Instead, start with a totally straight wrist and place the anchor points on the strings where want them, while maintaining that perfectly straight line from overhead / player perspective. Allow that straight line and anchor points to dictate where your arm goes, not the other way around.

When your wrist is straight it can be easier to think about moving the wrist without turning the whole arm around. The first step is seeing that it’s happening. The second is noticing by feel when it’s happening. The third step is figuring out how to move your wrist without the arm turning. It might be a little like learning to raise one eyebrow but once you learn to recognize the turning, you’ll be one step closer to learning to do it without that. It just takes a bunch of attempts.

Otherwise, stick with the forearm motion and tool around with it (sophisticated technical term, “tooling around”) to try and get it to go fast while maintaining smoothness. It’s a perfectly capable motion and your form here is close to the way great players do it.


Thankyou. I will work on this some more and report back.

Just out of curiosity, would it be constructive to try affixing the forearm to the body of the guitar, isolating it entirely from the wrist motion? Making it so that ONLY the wrist can move? Essentially removing it from the equation entirely?

The whole forearm? First of, that’s not really possible because there’s always some kind of space between your arm and the guitar if you’re anchored on the body and also up on the strings, just because they’re different heights. Second, this isn’t really going to stop if from moving, because you can place your arm flat on a desk and still roll it around. That’s just the way it works.

From the clip it looks like you have a forearm anchor on the body. That’s what I do in the “Primer Intro Lick” I linked to. That’s correct. What I am noticing now that you mention it is that the hand is coming entirely off the bridge in the second clip. That shouldn’t be happening.

In the Aldrich style, you use the forearm anchor on the body, like you have it, and you keep the right side of the hand on the bridge saddles so that the entire right side of the palm, from the pinky heel to where the pinky attaches, all of that contacts the strings. Check out the Intro Lick again and watch it in slow motion, and see if you can see the contact that I’m talking about on the pinky side of the hand. It’s very comfortable, you just rest there. That’s why this style is nice for certain kinds of lines that require muting because you can mute the actual notes you’re playing, and not just the unplayed noisy strings.

As a test, get into this position and see if you can do a single note on the G string. Don’t think about what part of your arm or hand is moving. Just leave them comfortably on those resting positions. And don’t move with so much force that you feel you need to move away from those resting positions. Now, visualize the pick going moving up and down in a motion that is approximately parallel with the pickups. Just move the pick that way in whatever way feels comfortable. Can you do this quickly, does it feel smooth, and can you get a little bit of muting while you do that? The muting is the test that you are maintaining your palm contact point.

That’s the Aldrich style, and since you are currently already set up that way you may as well try and make it work. For the wrist-only approach, you want the palm heels on the bridge strings, and the forearm anchor somewhere on the body. But you do not want the whole right side of the hand on the strings. And the motion is not parallel to the pickups any more, it’s making a semicircle like a windshield wiper, bending at the wrist joint.

But try to work out the Aldrich stuff first since you’re almost there already. See how you make out on the G string muted fluidity test.

Ok. Aldrich style. Straightened out my arm and tried resting my palm on the bridge strings… I think this is pretty close, no?