What is this picking motion?

Hi all,

Just curious about what could be the picking motion from Bernth here? He has really nice close up footage and specially at the fastest speeds it possible to see more of the forearm.

I think there is some wrist flexion all along but is this pure wrist motion? In my case when I flex the wrist I end adding some amount of forearm rotation.


I definitely see his elbow moving on each pick stroke. If you watch from ~1:36, mute the volume to prevent distractions, and put the player at 25% speed it’s obvious there is elbow. BUT it’s probably like Andy Wood where he’s always using his wrist, it’s just that the elbow motion creeps in at the fastest speeds. I do not see any forearm rotation. Since he’s got tons o tats, we can focus on the one in the middle of his forearm. I never see it ‘wiggle’ like we’d see if there was rotation. It just stays in the same windshield wiper path due to the elbow joint. He must have some helper motion happening, unless he’s swiping. killer playing, whatever the “nerdy stuff” is going on :slight_smile:

Looks like mostly wrist, and what I call spastic forearm/elbow. I would say the majority of the speed is coming from that spastic elbow/forearm. I would even go as far as to say the forearm/elbow gets engaged somewhat for everybody once you are hitting speeds 200bpm and faster regardless of what you primarily use for speeds below that threshold. It may be unavoidable.

Right. Elbow/forearm is definitely there. He actually explains it in some other video, so the elbow is engage but keeping the wrist loose to allow string changes (still no idea how is this done as the moment I engage the elbow my wrist freezes lol). I am still curious about the flexed wrist and how he manage specially the downstroke escapes. Perhaps a small wrist extension movement?? I think you can see that extension movement at the end of each speed recording, of course over exaggerated but clearly escaping/ending after a downstroke above the plane of the strings.

Elbow motion escapes after downstrokes naturally.

You can see downward pickslanting with DSX. This all adds up to that wrist and forearm elbow movement. They both kind of work symbiotically where the forearm and elbow motion is more of a flexing twitch, and the wrist moves. This keeps the wrist loose enough to move like that. In this case the elbow/forearm is the smaller more controlled of the motions and the wrist is the larger of the two.

It’s hard for me to really explain how this is done, or how to do this, because it’s really based on feel. It’s not a ridged up and down jerky forearm movement some may be used to, it’s more of a flexing.

Just curious when you guys say ‘forearm’, are you talking about the elbow joint moving (which makes the forearm move back and forth like a windshield wiper) or the ulna/radius rotating? Typically on here when we talk about joint motions ‘forearm’ is always in the context of a ‘rotational’ movement. I don’t see any of that happening at his fastest speeds.


And if you keep your eye on this tattoo, you won’t notice any of the wiggling that would be present in a rotational mechanic


So are you suggesting DSX via elbow motion and USX via the loose wrist motion?

Agree! I am at a very early stage of USX via wrist motion but specially when playing 2 NPS licks I keep feeling I am doing some sort of forearm rotation too.

Very short footage here of the forearm and perhaps could be a different picking motion than the super fast speed but when I see this I get the impression of some sort of forearm rotation.

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Gotcha, yeah that looks like a totally different motion to me than that fast 300bpm video you posted. I’ve been working on a forearm rotational mechanic for a while. The reason I actually wanted to try that for USX as opposed to the wrist option is I just find my elbow wanting to get involved any time I play anything fast with wrist. As we know that hampers any attempts at USX, without something else in the mix. Trying something totally different than what isn’t working (in my case, USX with wrist) is recommended on here a lot. It’s been helpful for me because i think in general I have poor sensory perception. Trying extremes like ONLY elbow or a rotational mechanic that is almost entirely forearm with no wrist helps me zero in on feeling the subtleties.

In this particular context I’m talking about flexing/squeezing of the brachioradialis not simply just moving the elbow back and forth on the elbow joint like a hinge or pure rotational forearm movement. Engaging this muscle will give a visual appearance to both wrist and elbow “shake”.

There are more muscles in the forearm that can do other things than just rotational movement, so I think it’s a little misguided to speak in absolutes like that.

Cool, thanks for the explanation.

To expand a little you can even feel it a little in both heads of the biceps.

Some great eagle eye members here! I wasn’t able to spot all the details. Interesting to know about various muscles kicking in at higher tempos

Troy talks about that muscle in the elbow chapter of the motion testing area

It’s interesting because it’s described as being used to kick things into these higher gears.

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Ah! I think I might have glossed over the elbow section, I must give it a look!

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Since I don’t know much about this muscle (other than I remember hearing you can do ‘hammer curls’ to train it, long ago when I cared about exercise lol) I looked it up. Each of these links explains the function of the brachioradialis and has some cool info on it.

Brachioradialis - Physiopedia.

It was interesting to read that the brachioradialis acts more as a pronator than a supinator. This jives with the whole DSX implications of elbow based movements too, as we often see DSX players more pronated than neutral or supinated. That’s not to say it can’t do supination too, just interesting because of certain trends we see of players that have a primary elbow based motion.

I don’t think I’m ‘misguided’ by saying the elbow can only move back and forth like a windshield wiper and that the forearm (bones involved) can only rotate. This really is all those 2 joints do and it’s what Troy trains us to watch for when identifying picking motions.

While the muscles of the forearm themselves are obviously quite complex, we have to remember that in the context of picking, it’s the joint motions that move our picks in a given trajectory. The elbow joint can only flex/extend. The forearm (bones) can only supinate/pronate. The brachioradialis apparently assists with those 2 things, and other muscles can too. I take your point that getting those joints to do what they do can be achieved many different ways, and that’s where the various muscles come into play. Thanks for pointing it out, because it’s good to be aware of those things. Everybody’s ‘body’ is different and knowing more options may help some folks in certain ways they weren’t aware of.

So back to Bernth - his elbow joint is flexing/extending. His forearm does not appear to rotate (though he is using his forearm muscles to help with his elbow motion). His wrist is likely doing something to assist with the mixed escape he’s doing, unless there is swiping present. I really can’t spot the details and I’m not as experienced in identifying the complexities of the wrist.

The takeaway for me is, if you want to play at speeds like this, the elbow is very well going to be involved, even if you are a wrist player. Keeping that wrist loose (which is hard!) seems necessary too.


That’s the exact point! It’s more than just what the movement at the joint is. These things can be quite a bit more complex in terms of the exact muscles involved and to which degree they are and when. I don’t really find it all too useful to speak in broad terms of wrist elbow forearm etc. for this reason, or in terms of the joint so much, because that doesn’t describe a full picture of what’s going on, or which muscles you should feel activate. To some degree some aspect of two or more joint movements are likely used to varying degrees.

Let’s even take your weight training analogy. Someone can tell you to use a certain joint movement to move the dumb bell, but without telling you what your working or where to feel that pump, your a bit lost, and it’s a guessing game. Somebody then says hey move this joint, angle the dumb bell like so, and focus on the long head of the bicep, now you have a more complete picture of what to aim for.

I agree at the fast speeds thing. I think at a certain tempo, it’s really unavoidable to engage at least just a little bit of elbow. You see even the players well know for small movements and wrist predominant movement like Yngwie do it.

One thing to point out though, the misguided comment was about forearm muscles and muscles in general, not elbow joint movement. Muscles in the forearm (which is not a joint) don’t just activate to produce rotation.

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I think the reason a lot of us around do this is due to the ‘critique’ aspect of the site. We see lots of people with and obvious joint movement that doesn’t pair with the string changes.

But yeah, we all have varying levels of sensory perception. If someone tries to change things and involve some other motion, I guess the next question is “how do I make that motion happen”, which will start with some muscles.

And it all starts getting really blurry when there is some mixed escaped happening as that’s usually more of a complex set of coordinated motions. I think that’s why a lot of times it recommended to just play fast and see what happens. Clean it up from there. I’m sure that’s what happened in Bernth’s case with the fast 300bpm run. He’s clearly using a different motion to play at the top speeds than what happened at the slower speeds. I’ve read similar things from John Taylor, where he talks about what motion is needed at various tempos.

Right, he even has a video where he explains if he uses slanting / escaping motions and goes over a broad speed spectrum. At the higher speeds he actually says he is not escaping anymore in one direction (I think in the USX) as he seems to be a primary DSX player. Also makes a remark then in the importance of proper fretting hand muting to avoid noise.

Regarding the more complex movements for high speed involving both wrist and forearm I am still far from having the proper proprioception/mechanics to do it. I guess at this point starts more a trail and error process to understand what works for me.

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