Escape Motion Reference

Escape motion is a type of picking motion that moves away from the body of the guitar along a diagonal or semicircular motion path. This allows the pick to break free from in between the strings and escape, avoiding the surrounding strings, and making clean string changes possible.

Prior to Cracking The Code, it was not widely known that different joint motions might require different sequences of pickstrokes to maintain clean string changes, and avoid awkwardness and errors. The technical explanation for this phenomenon, and advice for what to do about it, were simply not part of mainstream guitar teaching. The specific terminology we created to describe it — including the phrase “escape motion” itself — didn’t exist yet. Our classic interviews with picking pioneers like Michael Angelo Batio, Steve Morse, and Albert Lee were the first systematic attempts to directly film players to understand and categorize the different motions they make. For more background, you can read about that history here.

The good news is that most joint motions used in picking technique already possess some type of escape. For many players, this amounts to a freebie that can be unlocked simply by becoming more aware of the type of escape motion you already use.

In the next sections we’ll take a look at how escape motions work, which kinds are available, and which players use them.

The Problem of String Switching

Picking across the strings is one of the most fundamental challenges in guitar


Escape Motion Concepts

Understanding the mechanics of string switching


USX Motion

In the motion of Yngwie, Benson, Johnson, and Django, upstrokes do the string switching


DSX Motion

Al DiMeola, Andy Wood, and Michael Angelo Batio's motion for downstroke string changes


DBX Motion

Powering the two-directional string changes of Morse, Miller, Grier, and Tuttle


Trapped Motion

The pickstroke of sweeping and swiping