The neutral-pickslanted single-string tremolo is the most fundamental pre-requisite I teach for fast and impressive multi-string alternate picking. Getting this up to a fast tempo and high level of reliability is vital. Only once it is mastered can a student move on to pickslanting and multi-string picking. Forget unsightly, tense, and exhausting elbow spasm picking; It's as the saying goes: "It's all in the wrist"!
STEP 1: "Tabletop Test Tremolo"
The very first task is to experience exactly how the wrist yaw picking motion feels and to gauge how fast you can already do it:
- Lay your hand and arm on a desk/tabletop
- Keep your thenar and hypothenar in contact with the surface at all times (see hand image below for the palm anatomy I'm referring to)
- Twitch your hand side-to-side at the wrist as fast as you can (see animation GIF below)
- You may notice that the forearm moves side to side as well (It naturally does this sympathetically in response to wrist motion. This is fine! This is not elbow picking)
STEP 2: The "Hoisted Grip"
The "Hoisted Grip" will allow and encourage your hand to lay flat on the strings. Achieve it like so:
- Rest the pick on the first segment of the curled-in index finger
- Bring the thumb to meet it
STEP 3: The Tremolo
Begin picking a string (G-string as an example) as shown in the animation below:
- Yaw side-to-side at the wrist
- Bring the pick to rest up against the next higher and lower strings, like a wrestler bouncing off the ropes
- Do not allow the index finger or thumb to contact any of the strings at any point during this motion (see above)
These three tips will guarantee that you are indeed wrist yaw picking side-to-side with a neutral pickslant.
(NOTE: the resting up against the neighboring strings, AKA: "Rest Strokes", will naturally disappear as you speed up and your motions become smaller, but definitely do use them during the learning phase, these are your 'training wheels')
I imagine you are wondering what the purpose of this is?
Well, once the neutral-pickslanted tremolo has been established and developed to a fast tempo (150bpm to 200bpm 16th notes), you are then ready to move onto Downward pickslanting (DWPS)/Upward pickslanting (UWPS) and eventually 2-way pickslanting (both).
It will please you to know that the picking motion never changes - it's always this side to side wrist yaw you've developed.
In fact, the only difference between neutral pickslanting and DWPS/UWPS is the slight clockwise or counter-clockwise forearm twist respectively.
This is why I push students so hard to develop the neutral-pickslanted tremolo.
It is worth saying, that although this is the method I use and teach (and have come to recognize as the best and most effective), there are certainly other ways to pick! For instance, I used to use the Yngwie-style "Forearm Rotational" technique, and had huge success with it (apart from the fact it can't be used to play UWPS). While I urge you to implement the above technique, I more so urge you to find what works best for you as an individual.
If you want help with technique, join my Discord and get chatting with me and everyone else: