Cracking The Code players, we’ve rolled out an awesome update to our picking motion tutorials! Wrist technique is maybe the single most common picking motion in use across all plectrum instruments. But it is also one of the most complicated and misunderstood.
When you survey large numbers of players, as we have in conducting Technique Critiques, you find generally two camps: those who can only do wrist motion, and can’t do other motions, with the exception of a little elbow. And those who can do other motions like forearm, but not wrist. Very often, this second group can’t figure out how the first group manages to move only their hands and seemingly nothing else.
Our latest update to The Pickslanting Primer, our flagship picking motion tutorial, aims to help both camps.
The Deviation Trap
One of the wrist’s greatest strengths is its ability to move with 360 degrees of freedom. This is an advantage for picking technique because it allows the wrist to perform all types of escape motion. However this also makes the wrist tricky because not all these degrees of freedom are created equal.
When used for guitar picking, the wrist appears to move side to side in a motion that we call “deviation”. To achieve this sideways motion, the muscles of the wrist combine forces antagonistically to shunt the hand roughly orthogonally to the direction the muscles themselves are actually pulling.
Wrist deviation is a little like a sailboat tacking against the wind: the fact that it works at all is really cool, but it’s way more work than just moving in a straight line. The result is that deviation players may tire sooner and reach only lower speeds than players using another direction of wrist motion that doesn’t require the antagonistic co-contraction.
Darting Ahead — In Reverse
Our latest Primer update offers a way around the deviation trap. In these lessons, we focus on the “Reverse Dart Thrower” motion, an especially efficient type of wrist motion that allows you to play with less fatigue, and to achieve the kind of very high speeds that we used to think required special genetics. This motion is generally an improvement over common “deviation” motions that many wrist players use, and its general comfort can help non-wrist players learn the technique in the first place.
When you move the wrist along the Reverse Dart Thrower axis, you gain greater efficiency by avoiding the internal competition required by deviation. But also, critically, all the motions that are adjacent to the RDT axis, on either side, become available for efficient motion, allow greater access to different directions of escape motion. This enables classically tricky, mixed escape phrases like the deceptively complicated three-note-per-string scale, and also one-note-per-string arpeggio picking at higher speeds:
Inside The Update
The tips in this update are a direct result of research on efficient wrist motion that we’ve conducted over the last 5+ years, including interviews with experts at the University of North Carolina and the Hospital for Special Surgery here in New York. They’re also an outgrowth of tools we’ve developed for our own testing and teaching, like our battery of table-tap joint motion tests, which are a core diagnostic we use for Technique Critiques.
Topics covered in this update:
- Why some wrist motions are more efficient than others
- Matching your pick grip to your motion
- Selecting a “least-effort” range of motion
- Unlocking 200bpm+ wrist speed
- Troubleshooting fatigue and tension
- Choosing a picking style
- Pickslanting versus mixed escape picking styles
As with all Primer updates, this one is FREE for Primer purchasers, even if you bought it years ago. The more we learn, the more you’ll learn. That’s our mission, and our thanks to all the Cracking the Code players who’ve supported us over the years.