Trick notation and modifiers

Trick Notation

Penspinners have adopted a common method of describing tricks for the sake of brevity and convenience. Numbers represent fingers and the spaces between them, aka. “finger slots”. Though more advanced notation elements exist, here you can see the basic ones:

finger slots

In order to describe a trick, we use its name as well as the starting and ending finger slots. For example, the sonic which starts between the middle and ring finger and ends between the middle and index finger is notated as Sonic 23-12. 

Combos are commonly notated as tricks linked together by arrows, for example Sonic 34-23 -> Sonic 23-12.

Trick Modifiers

Almost every trick can be modified to some extent, and some of these modifications can be described by a keyword or combination thereof. Here are the most important ones.

  • Normal vs. Reverse – describes the direction of the motion of the pen, where normal (obviously) is the direction of the original variation
  • Inverse – the trick is performed on the opposite side of the hand, arm, etc
  • Counter – the first half of the trick is executed in the normal direction and the other in reverse, or vice versa
  • Continuous – the trick is executed multiple times without interruption
  • Fingerless – the trick is done without pushing the pen with fingers, but purely with wrist and hand movements

Multiple Modifiers – Example

In many cases it is possible to stack modifiers. Below is a simple example of the most common ones, reverse and inverse, as well as their conjunction.



If you have read this article already, you should recognize at least the first trick in the video, the sonic. The rest of the tricks are its variations and the breakdown of the whole minicombo is as follows:

Sonic 23-12 -> Sonic Reverse 12-23 -> Inverse Sonic 23-12 -> Inverse Sonic Reverse 12-23

The second trick is just the normal sonic performed in the other direction. The third trick is slightly more tricky. It is the basic sonic performed on the opposite side of the hand. Lastly, inverse sonic reverse is the inverse sonic performed in the other direction.

As you can see, modifiers and their combinations aren’t usually a big deal, though grasping the notation for more complicated tricks can be difficult at times.