Zero-Degree Pickslanting

Zero-degree pickslanting is an orientation where the pick is held perpendicular to the plane of the strings, allowing for smooth attack during DBX and trapped picking motions.

An interesting application of the 90-degree rule occurs in the case of double escape motion. After all, this is a curved motion, so how do we know which pickslant matches with that? Here’s David Grier’s form for DBX wrist motion:

The difference between David’s DSX form and the DBX form we’re seeing here is easily apparent. Instead of an angled motion with an upward pickslant, double escape motion traces a shallow semicircle while the pick remains vertical with respect to the screen.

The physics-style explanation for this is that objects moving in a circle are constantly changing their direction. At any given moment, the object is actually moving in a straight line tangent to its circular path. So when the pick hits the string, it’s at the bottom of that semicircle, where the tangent line is the plane of the strings. Hence, perpendicular to the plane of the strings is the pickslant we want.

From our interviews with great double escape players, they do appear to use pickslants close to zero degrees. Here’s flat pick virtuoso Molly Tuttle’s pronated forearm setup and zero-degree pickslant:

By comparison, players who use an approach with a supinated forearm, like Olli Soikkeli and Andy Wood, can sometimes appear to have a very slight downward pickslant during DBX motion:

Andy’s downward pickslant, while still slight, is perhaps a tiny bit more visible than Olli’s in this particular snapshot. You’ll also note that compared to Molly and David, who use a primarily flat attack against the string, both Olli and Andy use edge picking, with Andy using more.

This very small amount of downward pickslanting appears to be mainly a consequence of the supinated forearm position these players use, and doesn’t seem to have much of an effect on pick attack one way or another, especially when techniques like edge picking and grip flop are used for smoothing. For practical purposes, we can consider Olli and Andy’s DBX pickslant approximately zero-degree.