Using the Pickslanting Primer

The Pickslanting Primer is our instructional overview of common pickslanting playing styles. It’s like a survey course of famous picking techniques, covering the likes of Yngwie Malmsteen, Eric Johnson, John McLaughlin, and more:

Pickslanting Primer

Learn the pickslanting techniques of Yngwie Malmsteen, Eric Johnson, John McLaughlin, Michael Angelo Batio, and more


Key Concepts

The Pickslanting Primer is an overview of the most common picking styles in use among the kind of players we grew up listening to. It was intended to provide examples of the “big three” categories of picking techniques that we uncovered in our original investigations. Specifically, it addresses downward pickslanting, upward pickslanting, and two-way pickslanting.

Like language, when it comes to learning mechanics, you gotta start somewhere, and often that starting point can feel a little bit like painting by numbers. Some of the phrases we cover here, like the famous Yngwie Malmsteen six-note pattern, are simple repeating mechanical units:

Single String - Six-Note Pattern

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Some of these stock phrases may seem overly simplistic or mechanical, but that’s ok as an introduction. What we’re trying to do is get you comfortable with playing anything with fluidity and accuracy. For a lot of players who never learned what it feels like to move as fast as they can move, with both hands locked in dead synchronization, and no wrong notes, that’s a pretty big step!

The next thing we do is try to get that same level of accuracy happening while moving from one string to another. It turns out that there’s a bit of a trick to this. In order to avoid hitting other strings, the pick actually has to go up in the air, over the top of the strings, in order to stay clear. We call this escaping the strings, and the simple mechanical phrases that we cover in the Primer are specifically designed to do this cleanly.

A great example of a simple escape pattern is John McLaughlin’s famous four-note pattern. It’s a downstroke-escape lick, meaning that the downstrokes are the ones that do the actual string switching. Here’s what that looks like:

Four-Note Pattern Asc

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The Pickslanting Primer does not strictly specify which picking motion you should use for the examples we cover. Instead, for example, in the Yngwie Malmsteen section, you can use any downward pickslanting motion you want. Likewise, in the John McLauglin section, you can use any upward pickslanting motion you want.

So how do you know which motion to use?

For that, you can refer to two introductory mechanics lessons in this guide. Our best advice is to test all the available techniques with an open mind, and choose whichever one is working best. If the motion that works best is one of the downward pickslantion motions, we recommend starting with the Yngwie or Eric Johnson sections of the Primer:

Yngwie Malmsteen


Eric Johnson


Instead, if you have better initial results with an upward pickslanting motion like elbow motion, have a look at the Ardeshir Farah and John McLaughlin sections:

Strunz & Farah


John McLaughlin


We only recommend moving on to the two-way pickslanting section of the Primer after you’ve put in some time with one of the one-way sections listed above.

Keep in mind that the motion that works best for you might not even be the one you want to use long-term. That’s ok. Again, try to keep an open mind here. Your main goal is to become fluid and synchronized with any picking technique to start with. Learning what it feels like to have dead-on high speed synchronization and perfectly accurate string changes is like a passport to learning other motions over time. You must establish this passport first, and your fastest route to doing so is by using whichever motion is working best right now.


  • Demo the motions in the introductory picking motion broadcast, using the instructions in this guide
  • Choose whichever motion is fastest and smoothest
  • Watch the section of the Pickslanting Primer that matches the motion you chose
  • Attempt single-string hand synchronization with any introductory Primer phrase