Pick slanting chat

Hi all,

As a matter of interest/ comparison - and I suppose mostly aimed at more advancing players, who likely do a fair bit of lead/ single note playing - I’m wondering what others’ default or natural alt picking motion is.
I’m thinking about guys like @twistor59 @Jeff , @mathsjunky , @kasper etc, and of course, the official guides etc. Are you more comfortable with the pick slanted more downwards, (so an upstroke escape) or pick slanted more upwards (downstroke escape)? Equal?

Or, do you not even think about/ never really pursued it separately etc ?

In real playing situations of course, it often requires both at times, depending on the string changes; and I’m finding as time goes on, my motion change is becoming more subtle, and less conscious outside of practice; but interested in people’s default, and how/if it informs your playing. After several months working on alt picking etc, I appear to be naturally more comfortable with the upslant pick, but downslant seems to be more common.

Now, I’m not a Troy Grady fanboy or anything like that , as I reckon he goes way over the top OCD style.

Just interested to know how/where you guys sit, or if you even think about it.

Cheers, Shane


Any kind of fast lead I’m only using the vert tip of the plec anyhow, slanted down some but I don’t change for up picking.

Might be garbage tier technique though…

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I’m mostly using Dunlop 2mm Big stubby picks now, I used to use Jazz II’s but find the Big stubbies easier to handle and can use them for strumming OK. I don’t really find any problems with alternate picking for me it comes from wrist movement so there is a slight angle each way which helps prevent “digging in” plus the Big stubbies are radius edges.

Why only for fast lead? I assumed others, like me, use this shallow pick depth at any speed ; only changing the pick depth to vary the dynamics.

So, at increasingly faster speeds, don’t you take a speed hit when you have to jump up a string after a downstroke?

Cheers, Shane

Not exactly sure what you mean here. I’m assuming you mean you naturally employ slanting both ways, depending on the piece; which is necessary. So you dont really feel more comfortable one way or the other? One way to find out is tremolo pick, and see which way you naturally go without thinking about it.

Cheers, Shane

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When I alternate pick it’s always been a “twist from the wrist” movement rather than up/down so there is a very small angle of attack caused by that type of movement, the fact that the pick has a small radius of all around the tip of the pick naturally makes it more pronounced unless you’re “digging in”. So yes I’ve always played this way. Just out of interest I consciously tried the up/down route and found it more difficult to control, but that could have been due to my lack of familiarity.

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Hi Shane -

My natural motion is upward escape when I’m concentrating on it. If I don’t then there’s a real risk I slip into string hopping. Getting to a more consistent in/out alternate pick & upward escape is a goal for this year. For some reason (presumably wrist position) I find it easier on the bass strings than treble, where I’m much more likely to revert to hopping - sadly this is where most of my lead work resides of course!

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So, when changing down a string after a downstroke, you’d be ‘trapped’ somewhat between strings. I suppose it depends on the lick whether you’d downpick that next string, or alternatively, change to an upslant motion on that last pick to escape downwards before changing strings. Thats what I’m finding myself starting to do more naturally. Although, there’s times where I can see some bouncing or arc-like movement, which to me, is inefficient. ( My wife gets a bit worried at times with me at the screen looking at video of myself all the time :nerd_face:).

This topic doesnt really translate that well to the written word. If a few of us sat around with our guitars, it’d be a quick 5-10 minute conversation.
I suppose my whole ‘angle’ on this topic, is to eventually ingrain an efficient, solid and consistent picking motion; a ‘palette’ of alt/ economy/ hybrid etc, so it eventually becomes as unconscious as strumming.
To accomplish that, my view is I have to bring it very much to the conscious level, and analyse/ focus on it, refine it etc, which is why I pursued this picking course. I know its working pretty well for me so far , but always interested in how others approach these things.
Thanks for the input Paul.

Cheers, Shane

Here’s something that you will find interesting and useful!

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Correct, I tend to let it figure itself out naturally, but on occasion I need to stop and really think about the action for a particular lick or phrase.

Yes, I’ve seen this talented lass. Incredible accuracy at that speed, and with all that cross-picking. I suppose all that bluegrass playin for 2 plus decades has paid off. On first glance it looks inefficient, but its obviously not for her :nerd_face:. You can see that basic alt picking in/ out at the base of it all

Cheers, Shane

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Hi Shane, funny you should ask - yes this has been occupying me quite a lot recently!

I’m a “double escape alternate” picker (that means both nostrils, left then right, and repeat :rofl:)
So if I’m playing a 3NPS ascending scale. I’d start with a downslanted pick and do a down up down, then on the next string, switch to upslanted pick, and do up down up etc. So, constantly swapping between up and downslanting on string changes for this example. I find doing this and strict alternate picking more natural than economy picking.

I followed a course called “Picking strategies part 1” on Guitar Interactive Magazine when I had a subscription (which I don’t have any more). The course concluded with a solo exercise which made you execute your preferred strategy on a solo which contained 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 note groupings! I was going to upload a video of it because it’s reasonably tuneful (surprisingly!) but it needs a bit more work. The teacher is Nick Jennison - he mentions some of the stuff in his shred primer live streams:

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BTW, I’d be up for this if we could find a time that worked

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Sure, me too. It would be nice to chat without the pressure of the OM! :rofl:

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I’m primarily a DPS player. But since I’ve been playing lead lines for so long, and since way before the Troy Grady stuff became a thing, it was never something I was conscious about. Looking at some of the videos I’ve recorded over the years I’m often surprised about how my right hand technique actually works. That being said, the Troy Grady stuff is super cool and it explains a lot of things. Since becoming aware of his findings I’ve sometimes been able to adjust my playing to more easily (or at least more consistently) execute certain fast licks.


hi all.
I followed this post with interest as I always feel my picking ( single note ) should, by now, be faster .
But no matter how hard I try or how slow I start , never more than about 60 pm with metronome. on scales.
After that …chaos.
I think I have reached my zenith as far as speed + accuracy goes.
After watching Molly I guess I’m going to be playing slow songs. :smile:
What a talent that lass has, and can sing as well.
good topic all.



Thanks for chiming in Phil. I’m somewhat similar to how you go about it, although I will use economy picking at times, depending on the run.
As I play alot of blues stuff with lots of bending, I much prefer hitting the larger bends (1-1.5) on the downstroke, so that’ll often inform surrounding motion in those sections.

Had a quick scan of the Nick Jennison video. Looks like something I might settle in and watch later. Chris Brooks, the teacher whose tuition I’m following in his books, has some similar solo exercises.
Chris is a ‘shredder’ as well, and a bit of a ‘metalhead’. And while I have no real aspirations of being either, the odd ( to me) note groupings, rhythms etc, forces me to play ‘uncomfortable’ stuff; which I think is great for learning.

Cheers, Shane

Thanks for your valued input Kasper.

Yeah, I’ve come across a couple of guitar legends who’ve replied,
“Picking technique? Never really thought about it. I just do what feels natural”.

And I suppose that’s it. It has to be somewhat natural and comfortable first, then perhaps refine it as one moves forward, if need be.

Cheers Shane

Cheers, Shane

Hey Mike,

Thanks for dropping in.

Yeah I’ve had somewhat similar thoughts at times about speed. Not that I want to play super fast period, but I want to be able to play fast and fluently when required.
I think for older learners, and returners, there are most likely more physical limitations against reaching the blistering speeds that youngsters are able to develop relatively quickly.
Ah well…at least we have our wisdom :nerd_face:

Cheers, Shane

I use DWPS (DownWard Pick Slanting) most of the time. My picking technique is basically DWPS and economy picking when I can. Pick rotate/UWPS (UpWard Pick Slanting)/alternate when I must. Pure alternate picking is very hard to do at higher speeds. One of the greatest pure alternate pickers is Al Di Meola. And yet he even admits that sometimes he uses economy picking because pure alternate picking is not fast enough!

Example 1. The opening two bars of Black Night by Deep Purple. It’s a very simple with an even number of notes prior to the string change. So it can easily play it with all DWPS or UWPS.

Slow with exaggerated technique. Once with DWPS once with UWPS. Notice how easy the string change is. That’s because I’m changing after an even number of notes

Fast. It’s basically just tremolo picking with a quick string change.
Example 2. The next four bars of Black Night. It’s complicated because you’re often changing strings after playing an odd number of notes (i.e. the string hopping problem as described by Troy Grady comes into play). This means either economy picking or pick rotation will be required. It’s fairly easy for beginners because it’s quite slow. You can play ANYTHING with pure alternate picking if it’s played slowly enough. When they try to speed up beginners can get into trouble unless they have a technique that combats this string hopping problem. If you’re going to alternate pick this at speed you will need to learn how do do a pick rotation. I prefer economy picking if possible. Here I use a combination of economy picking and pick rotation leading to a change to UWPS

Slow and exaggerated.
bn2slow (2)

Fast. It’s not simple. I’m playing the notes as fast as I can.
Example 3. The Major scale in A

Amaj scale ascending. I’ve tried to show the string hopping problem that occurs when using alternate picking. Hopefully you can see where I get stuck. I mucked up the last two notes though. I economy picked them. Force of habit.

This problem is easily overcome by way of DWPS + economy picking.

Example3b. Descending A major scale using DWPS. It doesn’t work. I have exaggerated the string hopping problem to make it easier to understand.
amajdescendprob (3)

Example 3c. Overcoming the above problem by switching to UWPS.
Now I can put all the parts together. Look for the pick rotation and transition to UWPS.

If you watch this video by Troy Grady it encompasses the technique I described above.

I probably should have just posted the video link!

When picking you you always be using some sort of pick slanting. Whenever you change strings after playing an even number of notes it’s simple. You’ll be above the plane of the strings and can move freely to the next string. The problem arises when you change strings after playing an odd number of notes. Your pick will be buried beneath the string plane. There are a number of ways to overcome this.

Malmsteen does it by “cheating”. He uses a pull of when necessary to avoid getting stuck.

Eric johnson (and malmsteen) construct there lines so that string changes only occur after an even number of notes to avoid the problem.

Batio and Di Meola are just insanely good at pure alternate picking.

Pure alternate picking is hard. Alternate picking the major scal e is horrible. It’s so much easier using economy picking. The transition between DWPS and UWPS becomes easier with practice, obviously.

Edit: After looking at those gifs I admit they look a bit fake. I used the GIF conversion option in Microsoft’s clipchamp program. So take some of them with a grain of salt. I suspect the GIF conversion has played a part. At any rate the ideas are sound.

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