Understanding Wrist Movement

The wrist is one of the most important joints in your picking mechanic toolbox. It’s incredibly powerful and also deceptively tricky to understand. Let’s get that under control:

Crosspicking With The Wrist

Demystifying a powerful and deceptively simple arpeggio playing technique


Key Concepts

This recent subscriber broadcast on playing three-string roll patterns contains so much of our latest and clearest understanding of hand and arm movements, arm setup, and pick grip that we’ve made it a suggested watch for new subscribers.

We start with forearm setup. Your arm position controls the orientation of every hand and finger movement you make, so it’s critical to understand how this works. You’ll learn about the two bones in the forearm, and how their names are used to describe wrist movements. Specifically, we show you how to use the ski slope test to achieve the two fundamental forearm orientations that all guitarists use.

Understanding wrist movements can be tricky. The wrist is capable of 360 degrees of movement, and most people mix and match different wrist motions completely subconsciously. But using our clock face approach to wrist movement, it becomes super simple to understand which type of wrist movement you’re making, even when you can’t tell by feel. As simple as the clock face concept is, it took us years to work this out. It has been hugely helpful in identifying specifically what the wrist is doing even when it is combined with other picking motions.

Along the way, we cover pick grip fundamentals, like the pressed grip, and how it is used to control pickslanting and edge picking. In other words, pickslanting, edge picking, and picking motion are all different things, and this talk will help you learn to control them independently.

Some of this terminology might sound overly technical at first, but you’re going to use these concepts so often that eventually they’ll become second nature. More importantly, when you’re done with this, you’re going to be able to look down at your arm and hand and determine precisely what position they are in, and what movements they are making. And that knowledge is going to make it much more straightforward to learn the movements you want, and to make sure you’re doing them correctly.


Forearm setup:

  • Identify the two bones in your forearm
  • Describe forearm supination
  • Describe forearm pronation
  • In playing position, use the ski slope test to determine if your picking arm is supinated or pronated

Wrist motion:

  • Describe wrist deviation
  • Describe wrist flexion and extension
  • In standard clock face position, make a 12 o’clock wrist movement
  • In standard clock face position, make a 6 o’clock wrist movement
  • In standard clock face position, make a 9 o’clock wrist movement
  • In standard clock face position, make a 3 o’clock wrist movement
  • In standard clock face position, make a dart-thrower movement
  • In standard clock face position, make a reverse dart-thrower movement

Pick grip:

  • Demonstrate a pressed pick grip
  • Demonstrate a non-pressed pick grip
  • While in playing position, change the pickslant and degree of edge picking by switching from a pressed to a non-pressed grip