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Pickslanting Primer Update! Getting Started With Super-Efficient Wrist Picking Motion

By February 12, 2023 February 21st, 2023 News

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.

WRIST DEVIATION: Common, yes — but not ideal

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.

Check out the new Primer motion tutorials right here!

Top Comments

  1. Avatar for Troy Troy says:

    New update to the Primer, relevant to the interests of all the wrist-experimenters on here. Of which I know there are a bunch! If you try any of this, and have feedback, we’d like to hear it. If you would like personalized feedback, feel free to make a Critique on the platform as well.

    This series completely replaces the old one, so you will notice there is no mention of Molly Tuttle or dart-thrower motions of the non-reversed variety. We’ll be adding that back, not to worry.

    I was (am still) pretty sick when I filmed this — nothing serious, just a head cold. I just barely made it while croaking out the last words of the last lesson. Hopefully it’s not too distracting. There are a few other odds and ends missing from this sequence, but I need to emerge from phlegm-land first.

  2. Truly an excellent update, and you’re a trooper for filming it while under the weather! I’m going to tell everyone I use ergonomic mouse motion picking now.

  3. Avatar for Troy Troy says:

    Shhhh — don’t reveal all our tricks!

    We’ll be updating this material regularly with a few things we left out due to my voice giving out, but the goal is to keep it as hands-on as the current tips.

  4. I’ve been out of the loop for a few months, but I watched the entirety of the update and I think it’s the best pedagogy I’ve seen from CTC so far. Great stuff!

  5. Avatar for Troy Troy says:

    If you’re asking because you want to try it, these two lessons are pretty comprehensive in explaining what it is and what the overall form looks like:

    The reference section includes overviews of each joint motion and which escapes they can do:

    Most experienced players have one joint motion they use for everything. And very often, this joint motion does one escape and that’s it. It’s relatively uncommon to see players who access different escapes by switching their core picking motion in mid-phrase to some other technique. That’s why we don’t really discuss this as a path to follow.

    More generally, we’ve learned from teaching that just having any joint motion you can do really well at tremolo speed is a significant achievement. So that’s the focus of the motion tutorials. By the time you get to the escape motion portion of the Primer you hopefully already have some smooth joint motion happening. It’s going to have some escape, and those are the lines you’re going to be playing from that point on. The purpose of the escape motion section is simply to explain very generally why escape motion affects string switching, since this is not addressed yet at that point.

    In future updates we’ll add sections explaining string switching more directly. And in those sections we’ll address the fact that not all players will be able to play all lines, based on the motion they know how to do. For now, we use the reference section for that teaching — and of course, Technique Critique.

    The next Primer update will focus on chunking and picking-fretting synchronization, all on a single string. So this won’t relate to escape motion at all. This new section will slide in after the motion tutorials, so that players can get those motions working with two hands, while addressing common pitfalls related to feeling like one hand can’t keep up with the other.

Continue the discussion at The Cracking the Code Forum

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