We're supposed to be using different muscles for upstrokes and downstrokes?

I remember hearing this from Troy somewhere and I’m not sure I understand it. How I interpreted it was that we should be using two different movements – one for upstrokes and one for downstrokes. For example, you can use a wrist based motion for your downstroke and use more forearm for your upstroke.

Is this correct or am I totally off base here?

I don’t think I’ve heard anyone interpret it as two different motions. I would take it at face value: the muscles that produce a downstroke will not be the same ones that produce an upstroke.

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Oh man. I definitely read way too far into something that should have been pretty obvious. Oops.

I’m curious because I’ve noticed in my own playing that sometimes my upstrokes feel “lazy”, in the sense that I don’t really feel them.

It’s difficult to explain, but I mean that when I’m alternate picking, I feel the downstrokes, but the upstrokes sort of just come as a reflexive result of the downstroke motion. They just kind of happen and they don’t feel particularly controlled.

I noticed that sometimes when I really key in on this, I can change the upstroke motion a bit so that I do feel it and it becomes more controlled. I’m not entirely sure what I’m even doing from a mechanical standpoint, though.

My theory is that it depends on the resting position of your hand. For example, say you are a wrist deviation player, and you play with your wrist very deviated towards the pinky, so your hand is close to 45° in relation to your forearm. Keeping your wrist in this position might already require some muscle activity, and performing a downstroke even moreso. At this point your wrist might be close to the end range of motion for wrist deviation, so your upstroke might be more of a stretch reflex bringing it back to your resting position, as opposed to a more active role from the opposing muscle group.

Hopefully that made sense. None of this is from the CTC material, just my own personal take.

Ahhh yes, that makes total sense. I think that’s likely exactly the case here. I’m just not sure what to do to make the upstrokes feel more precise because when I allow them to be part of that automatic reflex, they never have the kind of control I’d like.

It’s funny because for years as a self taught beginner, I only ever up-stroked single not lines. I didn’t even realize alternate picking was a thing. So my upstrokes were way stronger as a result. Decade or two later it’s now the opposite.

Have you tried playing alternate picked phrases with the upstroke on the beat? I’d give that a shot — especially for phrases that don’t feel so good with downstroke on the beat. It may be that you can harness this past experience into something cool. Plus since 99% of players start everything with a downstroke, it may lead you to quite unique sounding lines

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