Wrist Picking Critique

What I would like help with:

In this video I am alternate picking a simple phrase at 150 bpm, 4 notes to the click. I am attempting to use a wrist motion. When I watch the video it looks like I am picking mostly from the wrist. However, I seem to be noticing elbow motion just starting to kick in a little. It doesn’t look like pure elbow motion to me. It looks like the elbow wants to kick in, but only a small amount of movement is coming from the elbow joint. Do you agree with this assessment?

I will say that as I increase the tempo, when I go above 165 bpm, the motion morphs into what looks like pure elbow with no motion coming from the wrist. So I am wondering if the particular wrist motion I am using only works up to about 160 bpm, and then after that the motion naturally becomes elbow flexion/extension. What are your thoughts here?

Lastly, feel free to make critiques on other aspects of my playing. Anything helps. Thank you for your time. Happy Picking!


Here is a video where I play the phrase at 130 bpm, 140 bpm, 150 bpm, and 160 bpm. There are two clips for each tempo. One with a straight shot camera view and one with a magnet camera view. The 160 bpm clips are clearly elbow from what I can tell. What do you think of the other 3 tempos?

Definitely see elbow involvement here.

On the magnet perspective, it looks like you’re set up for USX, but after picking the first note you change to DSX. Do you feel yourself doing that? It would be interesting if you re-recorded this at a slightly lower speed, maybe 140 or even 130 BPM, to see if you would maintain the USX angle.

By the way I bring this up because I feel DSX is more prone to elbow motions.



Yes I absolutely feel myself switching to DSX. I don’t know why I start with USX. Maybe it’s just a habit. Also it might just be some kind of starting hand position reference.

When I play even slower than this tempo, I generally maintain the DSX orientation while I’m picking the phrase. It’s just probably a lot more wrist than elbow.

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To me, this looks like you’re using quite a bit of elbow actually. I don’t think it’s elbow-only, but your wrist isn’t doing a particularly large range of motion either.

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Okay, right on. Thank you for your feedback @Shredd

So then my next question is would it be possible to pick at high speeds with the wrist, using my current form? Will I need to adjust my form to pick quickly with my wrist, or could I practice enough with my current form to speed up a wrist mechanic?

Another thing to note is that when I play slower than in the video above, I believe I use a 9 to 3 wrist deviation motion most of the time. Maybe this specific wrist motion works best for slow or medium tempos?

I think this is all dependent on the person. I don’t think there’s inherently any issues with your form but only time will tell if you can get a comfortable speed with it.

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Are you talking about the form you start with, or the one you switch to when you start going fast? I’m not experienced enough with a good wrist-only motion to really evaluate that side of things. However when you speed up, you pronate your arm a bit (around the 0:07 mark). So like @Pepepicks66 pointed out, you initially set up into a form that could do USX, but then change into another one once you start playing. The latter looks like the beginnings of an elbow DSX.

Edit: Just to clarify, as far as I know, it is also possible to do wrist-only DSX from that first form you’ve got.

You can probably work up some speed as a motion becomes more and more familiar to you, but it shouldn’t be slow or tense to begin with. It’s generally advised not to try to choose and work up a certain motion, but instead try them all and let the motion choose you. If you say that increasing the tempo past like 165 makes your elbow start doing the work, I think that’s a promising indication.

You can still learn other motions later and you’ll have the added advantage of already knowing how easy it feels to go fast, when it’s done correctly.


Okay cool. Thank you for your responses @Pepepicks66 and @Shredd

If anyone has time, another thing I would like some feedback on is my pick grip. In fact, when I was recording this video, I was originally intending to get help with my pick grip. It was only after I recorded the video, when I saw the elbow involvement that I switched my topic idea.

Basically, I am wondering if I have too much pick exposure. I don’t see much exposure when I go to the second form in the video. However, for the first form, you can definitely notice some exposure. Would you classify the exposure as a large amount, small amount, or somewhere in between? Would it be worth trying to adjust the amount of pick exposure I’m using? Maybe that’s why I can’t seem to speed up my wrist mechanic.

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I think you have pretty ideal pick exposure for DSX. It looks like much when you’re holding the pick perpendicular to the face of the guitar, but as you angle towards your thumb, you can see how that angle decreases, making the pick exposure pretty ideal. I would bet that if you were to choke up more on the pick, you’d be missing some notes. Also, you’re pretty much as DSX “angled” as possible, since the side of your thumb is rubbing on the A string the entire time. If you were to lessen this angle, maybe you could choke up a little on the pick to compensate (and potentially feel more natural for you).


Sweet, thanks. I’ll have to give that a shot.

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I also see the elbow motion like the others. I don’t think it’s a problem if it gives you results and if it is comfortable. In fact, a lot of “primary DSX” wrist players (including me!) tend to introduce some elbow as they speed up.

Why are you worrying about pick grip? Again the only important thing is the combination of results + comfort. I am not sure if the grip itself can affect the speed of wrist motion, but it’s certainly worth trying how it feels like with different grips. We often recommend the 3-finger grip to people, in order to explore something different. You could give that a shot.

Re: wrist speed itself, have you done the guitar-less speed tests already? If so, what tempos did you get?

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Hello @tommo

Thank you for your reply! Much appreciated.

I went ahead and filmed a quick video of me performing the motion tests. I added another test for the 3 o’clock motion which wasn’t in the Primer. Basically what I did was get rid of the forearm supination so the wrist could move from 9 to 3 o’clock. There is no tapping feedback, as I am simply performing the motion, sliding the pick across the table. I wanted to add this test because I believe this is the wrist motion I use when I play at around 140 bpm.

Also, I went ahead and edited my first post in this topic to include a video of me playing the phrase from the first video at 4 different tempos to see if we can observe some wrist picking motions in my playing.

Re: pick grip, I’m not overly concerned about my grip. I just noticed a fair amount of exposure in the video. I was just curious if I could improve the efficiency of my picking by using a little less pick exposure. Overall I’m pretty comfortable with my current grip, but I’m also willing to experiment with other grips.

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@CalvinScarified the tempo at the 2:04 minute mark of your second video was prominent wrist, didn’t see much forearm.

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Hey @CalvinScarified thanks for the update!

The motion tests are a bit on the short side, but they give the impression that you can do the wrist motion correctly at fast enough tempos. In some examples I suspect I see a little elbow movement, but again it’s hard to tell because the examples are too short. An in any case I’d say this looks mostly wrist.

Re: guitar video I agree with you and @Pepepicks66 that you start with mostly wrist and then there’s more and more elbow as the speed goes up. I guess this is the way you learned to pick and it’s totally fine! I think my technique works similarly, and same goes for many great players like Vinnie Moore.

Comparing this with the speed tests my guess is you probably haven’t learned how to do “pure wrist” motions on the guitar. If you wanted to give those a try, I’d recommend using a setup that is very different from your current one, so you have fewer chances to go back to your habits. For example, we often recommend the 3 finger grip to experience something different and hopefully find new motions.

For the future, even if I know it’s a pain of a pain, I’d suggest to make many short videos — one per example — instead of a single long one. This way it will be easier to reference and go back and forth between examples.



Okay cool. Interesting that there is some wrist movement involved for that tempo, as that was the same tempo I was playing at in the first video where I was picking with elbow motion. I’m wondering if there is a range of tempos where I have access to both wrist and elbow mechanics. Maybe the distinction between the two can even blur at times?


Thank you for your reply and for watching my videos. Do you think I am executing the motion tests correctly? I know the examples are short but from what you can tell, does it look like I’m on the right track? If I wish to try testing my motions again another time, do I need to make any adjustments?

Lastly, what are your thoughts about the possibility of speeding motions up? If my motion tests are a little on the slow side, could I speed them up with practice? Likewise can motions I use for playing guitar speed up over time? I know it might be better to “start with speed”, but maybe the speed one starts with has the capacity to increase. What is your take here? Thank you for your time.

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Again the examples were a bit too short, but they looked correct for what I could see. In some examples there may have been, dunno, 90% wrist and 10% elbow, but in the bigger picture that does not matter.

The speeds you have here were totally workable, even assuming something like a 10% speed drop when translating to guitar, it would give you a wrist picking speed in the ballpark of 170bpm 16th notes. Then you can always introduce the elbow when you want to go above that speed. Many wrist players do introduce some elbow for an extra gear, and you already have that so it seems all good.

Re: increasing speed, we really don’t know. What we know for sure is that a motion should be fast from day 1, or you can toss it. Were you maxing out in these motion tests?

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I would say in terms of smoothness, the tempos in the motion test video I made were about right. When I tried the tests again today, I was able to go a little faster than in my video, but not by a whole lot. The exception to this would be pure elbow motion, where I got up to about 220 bpm today for the motion test.

I am still curious to see if I can increase my speeds with practice. Maybe it would be worth practicing the motion tests every once in a while to see if my speeds increase? I guess that might be the only way to find out if motion speed can increase over time.

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