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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. 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!

  4. Avatar for Troy Troy says:

    Excellent, glad to hear it. This section will getting significant updates in the coming weeks to fill in some obvious gaps, but we’ll definitely maintain the focus on “hands-on, do this” type instruction, with some basic explanations of why these things are the way they are.

  5. Avatar for Troy Troy says:

    Mike Stern is a pretty textbook example of a wrist player, so I would say “completely different” is probably an overstatement. i.e. His motion and the ones we’re teaching here are all stilll wrist joint motions. Mike’s is just closer to deviation.

    Eric Johnson’s motion is further afield since he’s got that finger component which shows up to varying degrees depending on the phrase and the strings he’s playing on. Contrast Eric’s technique with Joe Bonamassa’s — Joe looks much more like a typical wrist player, with the whole hand moving back and forth.

    The degree to which any of this really matters from a practical learning perspective depends on what your current technique looks like. If your technique looks a like lot Eric’s, including the finger action, then you’ll probably have a harder time leraning to turn that off and become a “wrist-only” player.

    However if your technique looks like Mike’s, there’s a lot less retraining, or perhaps even almost none. You’re still doing what feels like a “sideways” hand motion, just with a slightly different arm position. As an example, almost everyone who has some wrist skill with an index grip and flatter arm position, and then tries the three-finger grip, can do it nearly right away, often without even being conscious of doing anything different.

    This is due to “motor equivalence”, the ability to get roughly the same outcome using slightly different groups of muscles just by changigng your body position. Otherwise, every single skill you know, like lifting a glass of water, would need to be relearned based on small differences in body position. While some amount of new learning is necessary when this happens, it’s not like learning the skill from scratch again.

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