What do we know about the astonishing chops of Stephen Taranto?

Hi everyone. If you haven’t heard of him, I’d like to bring to your attention this young player Stephen Taranto. I believe he play(s)(ed) in a band called the Helix Nebula

Here is a clip from his instagram: Login • Instagram

Now, his chops are just completely ridiculous. As far as I can tell he is on “both sides of the strings” in the 2 way pickstroke escape sense, and at ludicrous speeds. He is also nailing his sweep picking, and occasionally seems to economise his picking.
So as far as I can tell he is mixing it all together, but then also writing and performing insanely sophisticated passages with his chops.

I was hoping to start a little conversation about his picking technique and what we might learn from it.

Here is his instagram profile where he posts his videos, for your consumption: Login • Instagram

Specific things I’ve noticed:

  • At a “quick” pace I can see him making a fairly overt fore arm roll to change his pick slant. An example is this video: Login • Instagram
  • He seems to play with the wrist + elbow and fairly loose anchoring. What would some similar players be? Paul Gilbert…?
  • String skipping at speed, not sure how he is doing it? Login • Instagram

I’m not a huge CTG analysis guru so I’ll leave this alien in your capable hands :stuck_out_tongue:


Dweezil Zappa, Rick Graham and Jeff Loomis are following him on Insta!! :open_mouth: This guy is good.

1 Like
1 Like

My best bet here is uwps + swiping. The high note is heavily accented, which would help further to hide the muted string noise. I know swiping has a mixed reputation so don’t get me wrong, I still think the playing is mind blowing! I just think this is what may be happening mechanically - or at least this is what I would probably use to play these phrases :slight_smile:

I know swiping has a mixed reputation so don’t get me wrong, I still think the playing is mind blowing!

I personally have no problem with swiping (if that is what he is doing). We’re musicians not robots :stuck_out_tongue:
To be clear, I suppose you’re saying that the high note (the accented one) is followed by a scrape to perform the next downstroke on the lowest string used in the phrase? (and, conversely, the string skip which preceeds the high note escapes via a downstroke with the UWPs?)

Yeah that’s exactly my guess! The “scrape” would blend in with the accent and perhaps even reinforce it, a bit like the rake is used in blues soloing.

1 Like

I did check quickly that string skip lick … isn’t that mostly a series of PG lick with the string skip i.e. d-u-d (skip) -u- ? I don’t understand the ‘need’ of swipe here… It really is strange to me because that lick, even if I want to swipe it, I just can’t. Now I can’t play that as fast as he plays it (like 16th triplets in the 130ish, my guess), but it’s just because I reach my max speed before that, and for me there’s no reason to swipe (or rake) the strings.

Interesting :slight_smile: for me it’s the opposite: in the 130ish tempos, my picking trajectory gets too flat to avoid the swipe. But as I said I think this is just my guess. I think I can hear some of the swipes especially in the slowed-down version that he plays in the second half - but perhaps I’m ust hearing what I want to hear :smiley:

It really is strange to me because that lick, even if I want to swipe it, I just can’t.

I know what you mean. But to me it seems unlikely that you could somehow double escape that lick at this speed (not saying it’s impossible, but the string swiping thought seems quite plausible in retrospect)

A lot of guitar movements are actually really hard if they’re not your thing. E.g, I’ve been trying for months to implement basic forearm rotated DWPs. I’m appalling slow at it, but my main style of wrist deviation is fairly quick: https://www.instagram.com/p/BZu18SnHRfR/

Damn bro you’re good!

I’m not sure about that. Actually I don’t really know what the motion is when I do the PG lick, whether it is really double-escape or something else. I know it HAS to be double-escape to avoid swiping but it might be a little different than a typical crosspicking arc. Tbh I don’t know … Now note that I can’t play that stuff faster than around 16th triplets 120bpm. I rarely play that fast no matter what. I can push it around that without the timing falls apart at string crossing. But again: on single string I can’t play really faster than that, so it’s kind of a non issue for me.

In a nutshell it might be simply that I don’t play fast enough for that swipe to happen and/or the timing goes wrong. To be clear I have nothing against swiping, and for sure I would prefer that to bad timing. But strangely I can’t fathom how to swipe that stuff even if I wanted to.

1 Like

You pretty much captured my whole approach to swiping in this sentence. I could have avoided my 200 posts on the subject and written that instead :joy:

Just to put some pressure on myself I’ll try to magnet-film a similar string-skipping sequence in the next few days to demonstrate my approach. Not sure I can hit 130bpm and stay clean but I’ll try.

PPS: actually the most comfy way for me to play these “spread gilberts” is probably to hybrid pick the high note. It doesn’t feel so good to me when the strings are adjacent, because things get a bit too crowded in the right hand, but with a 3+ strings range it feels good.

1 Like

Some nice angles of Stephen’s picking hand here -

Here’s tab of the beginning of the aforementioned Instagram lick (quarter note = 135 bpm).

Personally, I start the lick with an upstroke. Everything is alternate picked. I do DWPS on the lower string and play the single note on the higher string with a downstroke (I then slant upwards to escape).

I don’t understand the picking involved in your explanation of how Stephen plays it. Could you clarify or rephrase ? Thanks in advance :slight_smile:

Sidenote: what an incredible player ! His EP Permanence contains a lot of picking challenges.

1 Like

All I know is that this dude is f*cking insane. Unapproachable stuff, I can only watch in awe.


This guy’s left hand work is unreal. I don’t understand how he manages to play with those stretches and not develop some sort of hand injury.

edit; Nevermind, I’ve read some stuff suggesting some of his stuff might be frauded. Idk what to think

He’s 100% legit. Think that he’s just unreal. That whole witch hunt is getting out of hand, because of 1-2 instagram players. Stephen is an incredible hard working man, it’s not fair to throw accusations like that around.


If he’s faking he’s done a brilliant job of including fake string/pick noise and remembering to fake some occasional notes that don’t land 100%.


I’m not accusing him of anything, I said “Idk what to think” based on what I’ve read.

What did you read? I’ll be honest, I’m a little skeptical. I’m not super plugged in to what the kids listen to on the 'Gramz these days, but a round of posts over the last few days on social media guitar fakery by Jared Dines, Jack Gardiner, and Levi Clay have sort of pointed out that a lot of this stuff looks and sounds, as the kids say, “sus”.

Specifically, a lot of these internet-famous players have a weirdly computerized, almost sequencer-like vibe that I have not ever heard from a live player sitting in front of me. And I have sat in front of Martin Miller, Molly Tuttle, Andy Wood, and so on. This clip for example:

The tone of the pitches themselves is so strangely unguitaristic that it almost sounds like a synth track overlaid on top of acoustic picking string noise.

Just shooting from the hip here. I’m totally willing to be wrong. We’re always looking for more amazing players to meet with and learn from.