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Thread: Crosspicking

  1. #1

    Default Crosspicking

    Just a quick background on my skill level. Been playing at mandolin on and off for several years. I can chord the basic g, c, d, and some minor chords, play a few fiddle tunes if they're not too fast, and know a few scales. So in essence I'm not a mandolin player, just play one a little. I also play rhythm guitar ok. Now my question about cross picking. There are a lot of YouTube videos and banjo Ben that shows the technique, but they fly and make it seem so effortless and I'm really starting to feel like I may never be able to cross pick. I practice sloooowly, and then pick up some speed. I'm ok as long as I can concentrate, down, up, up, down, up, up.....but the first time I try to finger a string on left hand, it all gets shot to $/);!!! How long did it take some of you to actually play cross picking style. Wondering if I should just throw in the towel cause my brain just don't work that way.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Crosspicking

    Crosspicking is an incredibly hard thing to do fast and well, I don't think you should throw in the towel this soon but rather adjust your expectation of how long it will take you to get comfortable with the technique and build speed.

    Check out Jordan Ramsey...he's been studying the Jessie McReynolds style for sometime now, I was at ROW Camp with him last year and he talked about how long it has taken him to get comfortable with the technique and that he's got almost 100 tunes under his belt and still works hard at it.
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    Default Re: Crosspicking

    It's a process and I, too, struggle with it. Start with the down-up motion on adjacent open strings, very slowly. Then try fretting one string through 4 fingers, do-re-mi-fa, then repeat with fretting the other string. In each case play the other string open. Use a metronome to gradually help you recognize progress as you speed it up. When you get fast enough to lose control back off and slow down.

  5. #4

    Default Re: Crosspicking

    In my opinion, this is an intermediate to advanced skill from what I can tell. It requires the proper picking direction but also knowledge of the double stops up the neck that will make it work for various melodies. Otherwise when you pick the three strings you might not be the chord or key you need. Not sure Im explaining well. Not something to give up on. Just something to work on. Like many things not as easy as it looks. I have been working with a while and I'm only at a beginning stage. I was not sure what goes wrong for you to comment on how to fix but just wanted to offer some encouragement.

  6. #5
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Crosspicking

    Quote Originally Posted by irokcj5 View Post
    How long did it take some of you to actually play cross picking style.

    I have gone through two or three bouts of learning it all over again. First time it took about a month or maybe 6 weeks. Shorter subsequently.

    I get into it, practice it all the time for a while, and then, since it doesn't get used much in my playing, the technique just rusts away.

    I think the best thing would be to have a reason to crosspick. To be performing or jamming regularly with crosspicking, so that any progress made stays put.

    Wondering if I should just throw in the towel cause my brain just don't work that way.
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    Default Re: Crosspicking

    I have been cross picking for years, when started trying I had been playing for years. As has been said I think you need to know the fretboard pretty well so double stops within the chords come natural. Then you need to get the sound of the rhythm in your head. I remember sitting in front of a reel to reel recorder ( a lot of you have never seen one ) and recording the "roll" of cross picking without changing the notes for the length of a reel ( about 1/2 hour ) then listening back to see if I was ever getting the sound right. After several session I was getting the roll then the work of making it fit the melody I was playing. I don't play a banjo but I suspect that it is a lot like that.

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    Default Re: Crosspicking

    I'm on-again off-again with mandolin, too, so can relate to your situation. From your description of your knowledge (the "basic g, c, d and some minor chords"), I would think you'd be better off focusing on the foundations of mandolin playing. Learn more chords, in open and closed forms. Learn the various movable three-finger forms for major, minor, dominant 7's, diminished and augmented - the three-finger forms can be great fun and can help you really learn the fretboard. As others have said, learn to use double stops, if you aren't already good at throwing them into your playing. Double-stops will immediately give you lots of fun flavors to add to your playing, whether soloing or in accompaniment, and they'll be important when and if you really get into cross-picking. Don't hesitate to experiment with cross-picking, of course, but put most of your focus into strong foundation. Hang in there!
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  10. #8

    Default Re: Crosspicking

    Thanks for all the good advice! At least I feel better that it's not easy��. Some excellent ideas on what to work on. Guess I've been lost on what to work on. I'm tired of fiddle tunes and don't have anyone to play music with, so i find myself just floundering on my own with no direction. I'll back up and work on the building blocks you all suggested. Thanks again

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    Default Re: Crosspicking

    Don't know where you are but you need to find someone to pic with.find a jam set in back of you have to find another picker you can get with once a week or once a month but pick with someone. You'll find advancement is easier of you do.

  12. #10

    Default Re: Crosspicking

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandoplumb View Post
    Don't know where you are but you need to find someone to pic with.find a jam set in back of you have to find another picker you can get with once a week or once a month but pick with someone. You'll find advancement is easier of you do.
    Agree completely. Anyone near Lafayette, Louisiana��

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    Default Re: Crosspicking

    Crosspicking is hard imo. Give it a small part of your daily practice and a couple years to get up to speed

    I found I could first get cross picking up to speed over chords (no melody)in moderate tempo songs and that is good exercise if you are playing with others.

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    Default Re: Crosspicking

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Wilson View Post
    I found I could first get cross picking up to speed over chords (no melody)in moderate tempo songs and that is good exercise if you are playing with others.
    You got to this before I did, but I don't think it's possible to overestimate how effective this can be if you're playing accompaniment and use this sparingly. Most of my playing is in a church setting, and on a lot of our songs, doing this on one verse out of 3 or 4 really adds something. Any more and it would feel like overkill.

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    Default Re: Crosspicking

    i spoke with Andy Statman last week (he who wrote the rare and amazing book that covers every aspect of Jesse's playing... also a master of his cross picking and split string style) and he told me the reason Jesse got branded as a "stylist" of sorts was because of the difficulty involved in mastering this style. a whole different way of approaching the mandolin for sure...

  16. #14

    Default Re: Crosspicking

    I think Jesse McReynolds was always recognized as a brilliant and very versatile innovator. I don't think he ever got "branded" (does that mean labelled, in a negative way?) as a stylist by anyone. I am curious what Andy Statman is referring to, there.

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    Default Re: Crosspicking

    Yes it is difficult. I can do some stuff slowly and will never be close to Jesse. But, it is fun to throw in some cross pickin' on some slow tunes.

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    Default Re: Crosspicking

    [QUote
    Jeroen;1545984]I think Jesse McReynolds was always recognized as a brilliant and very versatile innovator. I don't think he ever got "branded" (does that mean labelled, in a negative way?) as a stylist by anyone. I am curious what Andy Statman is referring to, there.[/QUOTE]

    I don't see anything negative about branded or stylist. I agree with the statement. You can count on one hand the real stylist in
    any music. Most great mandolin players in the last 50 years have built on those before that is their style developed from those that
    came before. Who before McRenoylds was splitting strings or playing a roll with a flat pic. Geroge Shufler on guitar similar I don't
    Know who was first, but regardless he was first on mandolin. As someone who does my own version of cross picking on guitar and
    mandolin I can say it's different when you only have four "strings" to work with. We give Scruggs credit for the roll on the banjo
    when he really wasn't the first but I've never heard of anyone doing cross picking on mandolin before McRenoylds so why not "brand" him a "stylist"

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    Registered User Glassweb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Crosspicking

    i've been called a "stylist" with my playing and i took it as a compliment! better a stylist than a "stylus" - a little, pointy-headed thing that gets stuck in one groove and keeps going around in circles...

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  22. #18

    Default Re: Crosspicking

    I just bought a copy of Andy Statman's long out of print book that details Jesse's playing. I've been crosspicking for close to a year now and I have the basic d-u-u-d-u-u-d-u roll down but I find that when I try to push the tempo I get to a point where everything falls apart and tension builds up in my right arm. Right now I use the same right hand posture that I use for normal melody playing which is a semi closed hand with no fingers touching the top of the mando.

    In Andy's book he talks about how Jesse adapted his right hand specifically for crosspicking by anchoring his pinky and playing with more thumb and first finger action. Have any of you had success with crosspicking up to speed without using Jesse's specific technique? From looking at players who are deep into this style like Jordan Ramsey, he is using Jesse's right hand technique. I'm questioning whether it's really worth it to make such a drastic right hand change since I'm concerned that other aspects of my playing would suffer as a result.

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    Default Re: Crosspicking

    maybe you can have both techniques without causing problems

  24. #20
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    Default Re: Crosspicking

    Quote Originally Posted by Billslovin View Post
    I just bought a copy of Andy Statman's long out of print book that details Jesse's playing. I've been crosspicking for close to a year now and I have the basic d-u-u-d-u-u-d-u roll down but I find that when I try to push the tempo I get to a point where everything falls apart and tension builds up in my right arm. Right now I use the same right hand posture that I use for normal melody playing which is a semi closed hand with no fingers touching the top of the mando.

    In Andy's book he talks about how Jesse adapted his right hand specifically for crosspicking by anchoring his pinky and playing with more thumb and first finger action. Have any of you had success with crosspicking up to speed without using Jesse's specific technique? From looking at players who are deep into this style like Jordan Ramsey, he is using Jesse's right hand technique. I'm questioning whether it's really worth it to make such a drastic right hand change since I'm concerned that other aspects of my playing would suffer as a result.
    Hey Bill, although I was a pinky planter when I first started crosspicking, I've never used the circular index/thumb movement that Jesse uses. My pick grip has always been stationary with motion coming from either my forearm (with pinky planted) or wrist with no planting. Here's a comparison of my early technique vs my current technique.

    Early:


    Current:


    Now watch Jesse... he doesn't really "plant" as much as he just touches his pinky on the pickguard. His forearm is stationary, he's playing with a combination of wrist and finger movement:



    As far as speed, you just have to be consistent and patient. Jesse says in that book that it took him four or five years from when he started before he was using it on stage. Track your progress with a metronome.... find your "wall" in terms of relaxed speed. I.e. where can you control the roll, where is it too fast? Find the specific metronomic number where you start to break down and focus on relaxing in that zone until you can raise the bar. Rinse and repeat. Best of luck,
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  26. #21

    Default Re: Crosspicking

    I started a weekly challenge to improve my cross-picking - such as it is - and found the last week sounded pretty much like the first. JeffD's advice is good - instead of learning to cross-pick for its own sake, practice with a purpose in mind. Good luck.

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    Default Re: Crosspicking

    The real trick is to try McReynolds split string useage when cross picking! Now thats nuts! "when he's playing just using 1 string instead of using both strings to get the same note" KRAZY pickin right there. I seen him in 2005 at the Station Inn with Mac Wiseman and a few other pickers were there My Uncle Gene Johnson "who is a wicked player/tenor singer who for 30 years has been with Diamond Rio" turned to me with a grin and said did ya get all that! Yeh right Something I'll never forget.

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    Default Re: Crosspicking

    Quote Originally Posted by Jordan Ramsey View Post
    As far as speed, you just have to be consistent and patient. Jesse says in that book that it took him four or five years from when he started before he was using it on stage.
    Always good advice and perspective Jordan. Thx

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  32. #24
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    Default Re: Crosspicking

    I have my crosspicking down reasonably well. I don't consider myself an expert, I'm just saying what's helped me. As Yogi Berra would have said, "It's 90% mental. The other half is physical."

    • I learned by not concentrating so much on the the technique itself, but finding tunes I really liked with not-too-hard crosspicking parts in them and trying to re-create that sound. To me, that was more clarifying and motivating, than just sitting there doing DUU, apropos of nothing.
    • I changed my technique. My instructor taught me DUD for cross-picking and he does it really well that way. I found DUU to work better for me. If one way is giving you a hard time, try the other. They both work.
    • I envision DUU as an extension of DUD regular picking. It's just that the "U" goes twice the distance, so it's more like "DU-DU-" if that makes any sense.
    • I practice left and right hand separately. I start just arpeggiating chords with crosspicking and doing melody-and-chord with more conventional picking. Only when I have the left and the right down solid do I attempt doing both at the same time.

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  34. #25

    Default Re: Crosspicking

    All great suggestions, thanks Jordan for all your ideas and the videos. Thanks John for your thoughts.

    I'm going to stick with my current right hand technique for a while and focus on slowly working past that metronome setting where I'm right at my wall. In just the last couple of days I've moved up about 6 BPMs. Using muted strings and just working the right hand seems to be a good approach. Now I'm working on the pattern d-u-u-d-u-u-d-u-d-u-d-u-u which is what a lot of McReynold's tunes use. I'm guessing it's about forgetting to think about the pattern and having it become automatic for the hand so that my brain then has some room to think about the moves the left hand is going to have to make to actually play a tune.

    Regardless of how close I get to Jesse, Jordan, or any of you folks out there, this process is lots of fun and has given me a whole new perspective on what the right hand can do. I'll post a video of in a few days.

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