USX Technique Feedback

Hey guys,

I’m new to the forum and the pickslanting primer. I just startet working on my technique and uploaded a short clip of my two-week-journey.

I am trying to use the Upstroke-Escape-technique with the 6-note-per-string pattern. While I think I already made progress in speed and accuracy my right hand looks odd compared to Troy’s setup. Sometimes I feel like I cannot mute the lower strings, but then again it feels comfortable while moving up and down.

I would appreciate it a lot if you could give me feedback on these first steps and let me know what you think.

Greetings from germany,
Paddy

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TschuB!

Thanks for posting this. The form you’re using here is more similar to what Gypsy jazz players use. I like this form, and I also use it — often on acoustic, like this:

It’s not wrong, it’s just a different style. Technically the motion is a combination of elbow, forearm, and wrist. It doesn’t give you muting so you are correct about that. If you play with a high gain amp and you want muting for noise control, then you probaly don’t want to use this motion.

One option is to do the USX motion from the Primer. If you’ve already done that, one thing I can see in this clip that you can fix is that you are using a flexed wrist. That’s why you can’t touch the strings and have muting, i.e. because you have an air gap under your arm. Here’s our brief mechanics lesson on different wrist terms, and what having a “flexed” wrist means:

Instead, for the wrist USX technique, you want a straight wrist — no flexion or extension. This allows the hand and arm to lay flat on the guitar. When you do this, the heel of your palm will physically touch the lower strings and stop them from making sound. If your palm heel is not touching some part of the strings, position your arm so that it does. Here’s the checklist again:

Try changing the form to a straight (non-flexed) wrist and try step 6 again. You want the motion to look like it does in the video lesson at 5:35. It doesnt have to be super fast. You just have to do it a couple times first. Then when you have that, you can move to the speed test.

Let us know if this helps.

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Thank you for your quick answer! I will try this and make another clip when I feel more comfortable with the non-flexed wrist.

Hey, so I made another clip showing more angles of my practice. I am trying not to flex while doing the USX Motion.

I feel like it’s hard to move when the palm under my thumb touches the strings. I also think it is hard to keep the pick motion (about 10° to the plane of strings) when my whole hand rests on the string - it always wants to flex to go in and out in a straight line.
It also looks to me if as I am using my whole arm to strengthen the motion (which is not what we want here, is it?)
Another point that came to my mind: Could it be that the shape of my guitar (MM JP6) and my arm-approach favors flexing? When I lay my arm naturally on my guitar while sitting, it is in flexed position.

I hope I can express myself clearly enough for you guys. Thank you in advance!

Yes, totally! I’m just noticing this, and I didn’t notice this before — apologies.

What do you call the Strat-style body shaping up in the forearm area? It’s not a belly cut, that’s the contour on the back right? Let’s just call this the forearm contour. Yours appears pretty angled, like maybe 45 degrees or something. If you rest flat on that, your arm is essentially pointing away from the guitar body. There is no way to reach the strings without flexing the wrist.

The other variable I can see is the arm supination. You can see how much more of the underside of the arm is visible in the “down the strings” shots than would be typical for the grip you’re using here, at least on a slab-style body. It’s worth noting that the Mustang I use in the first couple of Primer wrist motion chapters has a forearm contour, just not as angled as yours. So some amount of this can still work without altering the form what we’re describing in the lessons. Is there some way you can turn the forearm so the radius moves closer to the surface of the body contour? And does this reduce ths wrist flex at all?

All that being said, this clip sounds kind of fine. Can you do this faster while maintaining some smoothness? What if you do just this motion on a single string with the same repeating pattern, not going anywhere, how much faster can you do that?

I don’t want to say outright that what you’re doing is wrong, because there are relatively few actual “wrong” things we all do. Instead, the bigger problem is sorting through the confusion and variables of the many ways that do work, figuring out which phrases they’re best suited for, and providing simple instructions for how to do them.

Did a little more experimenting on this, and I can totally reproduce this issue. It’s because your elbow is behind the guitar body. This happens for you because of the contour, but I can get a similar effect on mandolin because the body is small. If you have the elbow behind the body, then you really have noice but to come around the side, with a supinated arm, and flexed wrist. This gives you the “Gypsy-style” form you’re using here.

If you get the elbow in front of the body, or at least closer to the plane of the body, you’ll get the straight wrist geometry we’re looking for, with less arm supination. Then the wrist can move without the whole arm needing to rotate via the forearm.

Try some experimentation with this and see if you can find a comfortable spot with the elbow more parallel to the body. It should be doable. Let us know how you make out.

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I tried lowering my approach-angle so I don’t use as much of the forearm-contour as before if that makes sense. The Elbow is not as angled to the body now. Let me know if this looks better. I would say that it feels alright.

In this clip I used slow motion for every part. From what i can see I would say that I don’t play just with the wrist but also by moving my forearm. That’s not what we want, right?
Does the pathway of the pick look alright to you?
I must also say that aside from the muting-problem I can play a lot faster when playing “freely” in that gipsy-style though that may be because it is a habit I had for a long time versus a new moveset I just get to know.

Thanks a million for your time, Troy!

Edit: I made another Clip that shows that I’m using my forearm to go to faster speed. I somehow seem to be unable to move my wrist without the support of the forearm.

Thanks for the updates here. Again, if it’s working, it’s working, so whatever this motion is, it’s a motion you can do, and it sounds clean for upstroke escape phrases. There are motions I can do where I’m not even totally sure what joints are moving. But I can do them on command and I know which phrase types (USX, DSX, etc.) they work for. So that make them useful. In your case, you can think of this entire form — the grip, arm placement, motion, and pickstroke type — as one “technique” you now have which you can use. And that’s no small achievement. I’d take this and see what you can do with it musically.

Now that we have that out of the way…

As far as needing elbow joint motion for “support”, my guess is that’s probably not the case. I don’t really see any deviation motion at all in these two clips once you get moving. From the face-on clip we can see you’ve still got the elbow behind the guitar, and the wrist flexed. So I think it’s more likely a form issue, at least to start with.

If you still want to experiment with wrist motion, let’s try another way. Point your arm out in front of you and verify that the forearm and wrist are completely straight, with no flexion-extension and no deviation. Now, without changing that straightness, place the pick on the string you want to play so that the palm heels rest lightly on the strings/bridge.

When you do this, don’t disrupt the straightness of the wrist. Don’t flex, and don’t deviate. Make believe you are wearing a cast on your arm and the only thing you can do is rest the palm on the strings with everything else totally straight. Don’t worry whether or not your forearm contacts the guitar at all. We’re looking for wrist straightness and nothing else. Let’s just verify anatomically that you are capable of a straight forearm-wrist alignment, with the hand resting on the strings in a playing position.

Can you do it, and what does it look like? Where does this place the arm and elbow?

Thank you, I will treat it like this. But I want to get down the other one too!

I did what you said and it looks like this:

There is a lot of space in between the body and my arm, but it looks straight.

The JP6 is my main live-guitar, but I could also change the Guitar to a strat type with less forarm-contour, if it helps get the “right”/desired motion going.

Edit: I tried using this exact position for the motion and tried to only use wrist-deviation.

Tell me how it looks to you. I was thinking of moving my computer-mouse (on the mousepad) left and right while my arm is completely straight and standing still on the table. It feels a little arkward, but not bad and I was able to do it at that speed immediately.

Thanks for doing this! The form in the still images is perfect. Isn’t the JP6 John Petrucci’s guitar? He’s a wrist player. At least on Rock Discipline which is the Petrucci I’m most familiar with. For example in this clip here, I think what we’re seeing is a USX motion:

We don’t have any good “down the strings” shots on RD. But it looks like USX to me. And it looks like he’s mostly avoiding the contour. He might be using some of it, and he might have a slight wrist flex, but if it’s there it’s mild. Have you seen him play your model with the more angular contour? How much of the contour does he use? My guess is he’d have to avoid it or we’d be seeing a similar setup to yours with a more pronounced flexion form.

In the new clip, the motion looks essentially the same to me. At slower speeds it appears to be double escape, and faster it looks like (mostly?) elbow. So for whatever reason you haven’t tapped into the feeling of the wrist moving by itself.

One thing, we think this motion needs to happen on the ulnar side of the joint. In other words, pickstroke starts out straight, then does the downstroke, and finishes with ulnar offset. Can’t really tell if that’s happening here, but when you do this motion slowly at the beginning of the clip, it looks like your upstrokes are going radial. See if you can start with the pick in the air and a straight wrist, not the pick on the string with a straight wrist. Maybe that’s the difference. When the pick is on the string, the wrist should already be slightly ulnar because you’re basically halfway through the motion at that point.

Also have you tried downstroke rest strokes with this? What about the DSX version with upstroke rest strokes? Can you do this with a big picking motion, and a downstroke (or upstroke for DSX) rest stroke, using the speed I do at 5:35 of the USX chapter? If you can use this new setup, and get that far, let’s take a look at that. It should look totally correct at least at that speed to start with.

Re: the arm technique, main concern there is that I think it should be faster. How much faster can you go with that? Does it feel smooth? If it is indeed a USX motion then you may be doing something similar to what Zakk Wylde does. I have a technique like this, and we don’t really know what it is, but it’s my fastest motion:

Technically we don’t think the elbow can do USX, and we definitely see the elbow moving here, so this would have to be some kind of blend. Again, not sure. But it doesn’t really matter what it is so long as we know what escape it is, and we have instructions for teaching it. At the moment we don’t have those instructions, because I don’t really know what to tell someone to do to replicate this. But if you film what you’re doing more closely, and it’s USX, then you may be doing something similar.

First of all: Thank you for your seemingly endless patience with my struggle!

I tried both in this new clip:

I see my forearm kind of trembling when I go faster, but it doesn’t feel like I’m using it to do the motion. Is that what we want?
When I go faster, the ulnar-offset gets lower. Is that to be avoided or necessary to keep the movements small? I am reststroking at any time in the clip.

I can go much faster when I use my arm consciously. I was trying to avoid that. It feels smooth with the right amount of edge picking, otherwise the pick gets kind of stuck.

This is great! This is wrist motion, and everything looks right on target here. Only comment is that you don’t have to make the forearm adjustment to do DSX. You’re using the pronated form. This works, and players do use it, either as a default motion from which to execute DSX or double-escape motions (Molly Tuttle, David Grier, Oz Noy), or as an option during descending sweeping (Gambale, Oz Noy). But you can also keep the same lightly supinated arm position you’re using for USX and just make a wirst motion that goes diagonal, up and out of the strings. The ability to do that is really where the value of wrist motion comes in, i.e. switching between escape types on pure alternate lines with little / no arm or grip change drama.

So where do you go from here? Anywhere you want! You now have an arm technique, and a family of wrist techniques. Think of it like having a good start with several foreign languages. It’s a little confusing at first, but over time you’ll get better at recognizing what each one feels like, and better at turning them on and off at will without interference from each other. This typically pays dividends in terms of comfort and speed. You might be able to go faster now, but not totally without interference of other motions or a feeling of awkwardness. With enough experimentation, you’ll notice when some tiny form adjustment causes the remaining awkwardness (like the “trembling” you’re mentioning) to go away, and then the next time you pick up the guitar you’ll be more likely to replicate that smoother form. That’s the long tail here — smoothness, consistency, and accuracy.

I will say it’s pretty weird that the guitar is essentially missing an entire chunk for you to rest your arm on. Have we figured out how Petrucci actually plays this?

Nice work with all this.

Thank you for all your help, Troy! :blush:
I am now trying to practise a bit and build speed with the 6nps pattern. I will post my progress and feelings with the new motion in a few days.

Hey,

I made another Clip to show my progress (I hope there is progress :smiley: )

One thing I noticed for sure is that I am much more aware of my form as I am playing and I often correct or change the form while playing to see if I can get more comfortable or accurate with small adjustments.

I also moved along to the Eric Johnson Stuff. I will say that I like these cascading pentatonic scales very much as they can also be used right from the start in other things I already play.
I also watched the Strunz and Farah and McLaughlin Clips. These helped me to understand the concepts of USX and DSX motions even better in theory. I think I should have binge-watched the episodes before going into practise to have a better overview of the concepts.

Thanks for doing this! What you’re saying about becoming more aware of form is totally true. That’s what the “long tail” feels like. It’s not about nailing it perfectly correctly from day one and doing it a million times to make it permanent. It’s about doing things a little wrong and misshapen, and gradually becoming more aware of that, and more smooth and consistent, over time. Nice work here.

As far as the motion, this looks more similar to what you started with. I still see the slightly flexed setup and elbow motion. The clip from about a week ago is your best “wrist motion” attempt. Is that bad? No, you just have two potential motions you can work on. The one you’re doing here is working for USX / DWPS lines and it sounds good. Feeding it with variety like you’re doing is the right way to make that smoother and more consistent over time. We’ve seen some killer live clips of Zakk Wylde and the guy has built an entire career on a motion that looks pretty similar to what you’re doing here. He gets plenty of speed and arguably even more importantly plenty of reliability and accuracy from that motion. That’s one of the nice things about a single-escape playing style.

If you want to do McLaughlin type lines then you’re into DSX. Have you tried any of those patterns yet? Elbow can be used for DSX, and so can wrist. Give some of those a shot and see if you can make them work.

Hey,

I’m still working on my wrist motion. I recorded myself using both my JP6 and my Strat (without the extreme forearm contour) while practicing.

I am new to analyzing, but I think I am still playing with some amout of forearm with the JP6. Can this be related to the fact that my arm has no connection/anchor to the guitar body? I think it looks much better with my strat as I can rest my arm on the guitar-body. What do you say?

For both motions I can say that they feel like I am only moving my wrist, but the video tells me otherwise. Do you have any tips for “fixing” my forearm so the movement only comes from wrist deviation? Apart from that I feel that I can change strings easily, what would be the reason for USX, right?

When you say “forearm” I think you mean elbow - because that’s what it looks like is moving here. I really don’t see any turning movement of the forearm. There is a subtlety that elbow joint motion technically should not be capable of USX motion, just because of the way it moves. However we could be wrong on that. I myself do a motion which looks like elbow motion but plays USX lines. It’s a mystery!

Regardless, your “elbow” motion is working. There’s no real reason to shut it off since it’s playing the lines you want. If, however, as a kind of side hobby, you want to figure out and solve the wrist motion way so that you have two motions you can realy on, you can totally do that. It may take some time. The key is here:

You can see it. And you can see that it flip flops. The attempt that starts around 30 seconds, for example, looks a little more wrist than the ones before it. There’s still elbow, but there’s also more obvious wrist motion. This is how you identify — first, by noticing. I don’t think there’s a way you can “turn off” an unwanted motion. Instead, I think what we do is learn to recognize the desired motion by feel. Over time, the feeling of recognition becomes stronger until you can turn it on by will, without looking, and know it is correct.

So, visual feedback is one way. When you notice that an attempt produces the result you want, see if you can identify something about that attempt that felt different from the others, and then see if you can reproduce it, again, by feel. The attempt at about 1:30, on the Strat, looks the closest of all of these. This is in fact very close. So you’re there. You can do it. You can’t just 100% identify when you are doing it and when you are not.

Observe, feel, and reproduce. Think of this as repeated attempts, in a somewhat casual/experimental way, for not super long periods of time in any one sitting. It’s like trying to do a skateboard trick, and not like “practice” in any standard sense of the term. You can experiment with different speeds, making exaggerated versions of the motion, using rest strokes, and so on. You can also experiment with different grips which I highly recommend doing as per Ch2. These different grips and arm positions basically give you another shot at identifying the feel of correctness. For whatever reason, you may discover that some of them, even weird ones like three-finger or middle-finger grips, produce the result easily whereas trigger grips don’t. It’s unpredictable, and a feel thing.

Either way you’re going to end up with two techniques you can use when you want them. It may take some time but you will learn to separate them eventually if you put in enough random experimentation.

Thanks for posting and keep us… posted!

Edit:

That was just an experiment. I didn’t mean that you should actually play that way with only a bridge anchor and no arm contact. If it feels comfortable then ok, but I would imagine it doesn’t, and your arm or shoulder might get tired. Either find another way of anchoring on that guitar (attach an arm rest?) or just use that guitar for elbow or other techniques. Or watch some Petrucci videos and see how he does it. Does he have a higher approach angle?

Point of comparison, here’s John playing the JP6. Some great shots in here where you can see straight down his arm and see how straight it is. The poster frame on this video alone is showing us that angle:

This may have something to do with height or arm size, but it looks like he’s able to get the straight geometry and still rest on the body. How is his anchor setup different from yours? Just as a comparison, how tall are you and how tall is John?