When I "go for it" I revert to elbow/DSX - how to avoid?

With elbow motion I can pick pretty fast (for me). But it’s DSX and I really want to crack USX.

When I go for it I automatically seem to revert to elbow motion which is naturally a downstroke escape motion for me.

Is there a way I can train myself to use USX at a decent/high speed?

Is the rest stroke trick the thing to do?

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Haven’t seen it recommended here, but an idea:

Alternate pick at a speed that you feel a strong and relaxed USX / wrist motion (I’m assuming you’re wanting wrist). slowly ramp up speed without stopping until you start to feel the transition to DSX elbow. Note this speed, turn on a metronome at a slightly slower speed and hang out there with as much USX wrist as you can while feeling comfortable. Try to slowly ramp up the metronome as you feel better.


great idea I’ll give this a go

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I like @Pepepicks66’s idea.

The only things I can think to add are below. This is a tough one I think, ie it will take imagination attention and perseverance. You have to avoid your reflex actions, stop established nerves from firing, and start new ones. Hmm. See if anything here resonates:

  • do what @Pepepicks66 says. :slight_smile:
  • avoid any usual licks. They may be associated too much with the old reflexes.
  • maybe avoid the left hand entirely, so you can focus only on the right hand. Eg, just hold a chord shape with the left hand, and pick 6nps or whatever, muting as needed. Ie don’t move the fretting hand fingers, except to stop notes from ringing. Maybe this will let you focus on picking more, and if you’re not fretting notes then your brain is doing less and so can concentrate on what you’re trying to do.
  • the instant you feel your old pattern kicking in, stop!
  • do what @Pepepicks66 says.

Try them out in short practice sessions, a few short session a day. And give the other picking style a rest completely if you can, while you’re trying to sort out this new method.

Damn it’s easy giving suggestions. Take everything as an idea only, experiment and keep us updated! Cheers, jz


There are many great ideas here, but I’ll bet that your idea will help a lot. A rest stroke is great because you can set the metronome for any speed, come in fast, and stop in a very efficient way. In fact, stopping against a string seems to be a faster/better way to stop than using muscular force; indeed, I’m starting to increasingly think of this analogy, where the aircraft is the guitar pick, and the arresting cable is that guitar string:

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@kgk giving me slight flashbacks to deployment with that video there lol.


When I’m working on playing fast, a lot of it has to do with organizing my reflexes and the energy I put into things. I’m trying to move really really fast but with minimal effort, because I really don’t need much effort to move the lick through the string. This is why I really like the “twitch” idea for upstrokes, and same for downstrokes.

I feel that rest strokes give me a clear reference point for my conscious mind to aim at, and there is something about the resting that lets me loosen up a bit more and try a bit less. By “try” I mean that laboured forced effortful picking that’s full of tension and nonsense. :upside_down_face:

This is an interesting thread to follow. I’ve been struggling with whether or not I should double down on my instinctive elbow DSX at fast speeds, or try to really develop a wrist-based approach (not necessarily USX because it seems that even my default wrist-based movement is DSX as well).

For the past week, I’ve decided to double-down on the elbow motion and just try to go as fast as possible with either 4 or 6 note per string patterns moving up and down the strings. I do feel I’ve developed more facility with very fast semi-nonsense chromatic phrases moving across 3 or 4 strings up and down using this elbow DSX method.

When I do this for an extended period though there is a definite tension that creeps in as I’m sure others have noted as well in their elbow-based movements; nonetheless, when I “let loose” the elbow is always there, so I’m going to just keep trying to develop facility with that before anything else.

I’ll see if I can upload some video of this soon in a separate thread for critique.

In any case, will definitely be following this thread.


Adding my .02. I signed up two years ago and have spent that entire time trying to convert from elbow to wrist. I’ve made tremendous progress and feel much more rounded as a player because of it. I still can’t pick as fast with wrist, so I started to analyze what was going on in relation to others.

The fact is, there are GREAT players that use elbow for fast playing. Vinnie Moore is the prime example, but Jason Becker, Jason Richardson, Rusty Cooley. If those guys can make it work, why am I fighting City Hall. The REAL piece that those guys have that I didn’t was the wrist motion for the slower speed stuff. (120-150 bpm 16th notes) When they pick a riff or a mid tempo solo, they almost always revert to a wrist motion, than lock in the elbow for the faster flurries.

In short, there is a time and place for it, so don’t abandon it completely.


One word of caution - don’t rely on rest stroking on the string positionally beneath the one you’re playing as an indicator that you are properly doing USX. I spent (wasted???) some time doing this. I was playing the infamous Petrucci chromatic exercise at 185 bpm.

But guess what? Troy and @tommo critiqued me and reminded me I was using elbow to drive the motion. I knew this but for some reason I thought it was ok. I may have conflated some things I read on here about Zakk Wylde making this work for him. There are nuances we don’t need that make what he does ‘work’ and make what I was doing ‘not work’. I like to think I was sort of an outlier or interesting case, because while my motion wasn’t the most efficient, it was decently fast and the playing was clean (on my good days). The problem was that I was working very hard to make this all happen. Playing fast should feel easy.

So, it was a detour, but I spent some time doing tremolo only with a more deliberate elbow mechanic and using rest strokes the DSX way (i.e. the pick rests on the string positionally above the one I’m picking). In short order I was doing tremolos at 225 bpm. I’m not proud of this at all or bragging, because we’ve learned that even inexperienced non-guitar-players can do this :slight_smile: The good thing that came from this is I finally felt what this ‘fast and smooth’ thing that everybody talks about it. I had a reference point. I could start applying this to wrist base DSX and forearm/wrist blend USX. I could tell right away when I wasn’t doing a motion correctly because I could compare the overall feeling to that 225 elbow tremolo.

Sorry for the TLDR nature of…probably everything I post on here. If I had more time I could make the posts shorter :slight_smile: Bottom line - rest stroke, yes. Just be certain the motion is correct. If you aren’t sure if the motion is correct, it probably isn’t.


Great points. We don’t have to pick just one :slight_smile: BUT, we probably should embrace our ‘best’ motion. After all, that’s what all these monsters did to be able to play the things they do that make us want to imitate them :slight_smile:

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I’ve been thinking about this today and whether or not its actually worth fighting against my elbow downstroke escape motion?

I start on an upstroke and get on really well with dsx. Compared to usx I’m nowhere near as fast so I’m thinking is it really worth fighting it?

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I wouldn’t stop using my elbow. I’ve found peace and keep butchering my guitar with my elbow motion :smiley:

Is there a particular reason you want to crack USX? e.g. you’d like to play Django or Eric Johnson or Yngwie licks?

In my experience, it was worth it. I’m pretty sure I started all trem picking with elbow DSX, eventually developing wrist USX when I started playing more complicated rhythms, but my “lead” playing would fluctuate between DSX / USX and elbow / wrist / fingers. Honestly it wasn’t until CTC that I got to the point that I realized USX (DBX) wrist / fingers is what I’m more fluid with. I can play way more complex things that way, and about last year I noticed elbow motions just weren’t sustainable (developed some gnarly trigger points).

Speaking of elbows, I am told that Jimi Bell basically went from zero to his maximum speed in about a year. Jimi auditioned for Ozzy in 1987, but came in as number two, next to Zakk Wylde.


I would say that is common for those that practice a lot. I’m not trying to denigrate any player, but if you picked up the guitar, intent on learning Yngwie in the 80’s (like me), my picking tremolo was as fast (or pretty darned close) as it was ever going to be by year 2 or 3. The last 30 years has just been trying to refine that, so that it’s clean from GO and phrasing.

I’m not sure why I ended on elbow technique, I think it’s similar to a kid behind a double kick drum set, that sit down and spaz out, trying to run as fast as they can, sometimes landing in time with some 32nd notes. That was me trying to play the Evil Eye interlude.