Billy Zoom's Jet Set

Palm Mute/Downstroke


I was watching the new DVD of X: The Unheard Music last night, and although I knew that Billy played a lot of palm muted downstrokes, he makes it look really easy. :D That style of playing, which I first noticed when i saw Johnny Ramone's spring-loaded wrist, has always evaded me...I just can not play that FAST.

Is this a "practice slow and eventually it will come to you" type thing, or are there some tricks to playing those fast downstrokes like I've seen Billy and Johnny pull off?


Change your name to Mark Zoom and you'll be surprised how much faster you'll be able to do things.


Should i get a Vespa as well? :D


I'll consider it. :D


BTW, if anyone here hasn't seen that flick, it has some great Billy footage and some awesome Gretschiness...including Billy busting out some rad finger picking on a big ol Dyna-equipped 6120.


Or Billy playing the clarinet. Which I thought was cool.


Or Billy playing the clarinet. Which I thought was cool.

-- kuzinov

Or Billy playing the clarinet. :-) And Billy with a strat. And Billy with a Vespa.


Billy is the Swiss Army Knife of bandmembers.


I used to play in a punk influenced metal band, and we did a lot of fast downstroke stuff. I got together with the other guitarist a few weeks ago, and we couldn't even play the stuff anymore. It's amazing how fast that ability disappears when you don't use it.

I'm sure I could get back to speed if I practiced, it just takes some time.

I'll have to pick up that DVD, sounds cool.


yep, I can't play that fast anymore. and I cut my teeth on Ramones tunes. just start playing along and remember not to tense up. you'll end up popping a blood vessel if you stiffen up your arm and shoulder. LOL


Haha, yeah, tensing up is the big issue that I have. I get told I make some pretty cool faces while playing that kind of thing. :D


Billy's said just practice slow, get good at it, then speed it up.

Makes perfect sense to me.


Well, that makes sense for every other kinda technique...I just didn't know if there was something else i needed to be doing like doing wrist exercises or something. ;-)


Rule number one is to not strap on like a rockabilly cool cat but like a punk. ;)

Translation, your guitar has to be real low, as low as possible. If you can play low slung and relax, just start slow and steadily increase without tightening up. This was taught to me years ago by Mike Fox of Hemi/The Dwarves. He's got the second fastest downstroke I've ever seen. Johnny of course was the fastest.


Thanks, guitars are low, but not REALLY low.


Start slow. Let your wrist do the work, not your elbow. The trick is to find the rhythm and stay in that groove otherwise you cramp up.


My problem with low-slung guitars (other than looking like Slash) is an elongated torso and really long arms, and being 6'1. Haven't met a guitar strap yet that allows me to hang a guitar low enough to stretch the arm out. :D


Johnny rad. :(


I don't know how Johnny did it. He was an amazing guy in many respects. I wear my guitar high and I still have lots of nerve damage and wrist problems. Hanging the guitar low just exacerbates the carpel tunnel abuse. As far as I know, if it hurts a lot, you're doing it right. Hold your pick loose and don't pick hard. Try to keep your hand relaxed. The more you tense up, the more you cramp. Play short sets. BZ


It's funny how the most intense picking styles require relaxing your hand. I had a hell of a time doing that dick dale style tremolo picking until I realized i just had to relax my hand. I'm not sure if that's how Dick does it but it works for me.

As for downstrokes I use to be really good at it when it was all I knew but now I find it quite challenging so I guess it requires a lot of practice but not too much effort if that makes any sense. It does use different muscles than normal strumming for me anyway. More wrist less elbow.


Great tips, guys. I managed to add an extra few inches to the strap which dropped it down to Johnny height, and that's made it LOOK like it should. :D

And yeah, it doesn't feel that great...must be doing it right, then. :D


Lot's of good advice-

If I may add once more thing, I always find to really accelerate your speed a metronome helps alot.

Get really locked in with the rhythm at a slower speed- definitely the first step as mentioned above. Without being solidly locked in it's very hard to push your ability to faster heights.

Stay relaxed and in control, and gradually speed the metronome up. Occasionally set it just a little faster than you are capable of, have a dig, then take a rest and come back to it later. The slower speeds should feel easier in comparison to the 'faster than capable' speeds.

Also, analyse any reduce andy wasteful movement. A big problem is at slow speeds, smaller movements have less volume, but practice at slower speeds with smaller movements, keeping in mind that as you speed up you will increase picking volume out of shear velocity!

Whenever a student comes to me with a problem I wont give up till I've come up with a solution! Hence the detail :P


Reduce andy... dunno what happened there haha oh well...should say analyse and reduce any wasteful movement

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