Hey UG!

Yup - Slap here, still workin away at descending... as in:

1 note per tick
Picking each note


Technical question: When doing this at a very low speed, what EXACTLY are your fingers doing for this?

Example: 4 goes on the string, hit the note, now lift 4 and push down 3rd at the same time for the second note?

OR - if you were to play this would you push most of your fingers down (pre-strike) and then play, lifting one at a time (similar to pull offs)?

Reason I ask is these descending runs seem (to me) to sound horrible when I play them. I can barely hear muted sounds, sounds as though I'm hitting the string too early, or too late... but if I put 3 & 4 down at once, play and then lift the pinky and hit the second note it sounds fine....but I kinda suspect this to be cheating in a way..

Thanks for any input you guys/gals can offer!

Theres no cheating, as long as you manage to get it to sound good lol. At low speeds, you should push ur pinky on the 4th fret pick then release and then use ur ring finger for the 3rd pick and release and so on. That drill shouldnt really sound good at all lol, its just something to practice. It may also be fret buzz or you not pressing down hard enough next to the fret. If it seems hard try practicing the same pattern but higher up on the neck there the frets are closer together. aka 8765 untill you can move around better
I'm not sure what the official answer is, but what I would do is...

Hit 4, 3, 2, and then when I'm about to hit "1", I move my other fingers to the next string (starting with my pinky to hit the next 4)

If you're looking for advise, the best thing I can say is that just need to take it very slow. Don't try to play faster than you can. Make sure you're not sloppy. I never really thought about positions myself, because it just came to me. I think the best thing about guitar is that you can't "cheat" like you said, because eventually you're going to have to get faster, and you just won't be able to do this "3 and 4 down together" thing, and at that point you'll find the correct way by yourself. Hope I helped.
I wouldn't have your fingers already on the strings unless you are planning to do some legato (if that's what you want to do and it sounds good go for it). If i find something I can't do I like to know why I can't do it and try and improve it. I would place my 4th finger and pick the note then lift it up and place the 3rd and pick the note (it's tricky actually working out how you play when you have no guitar and are sitting in work ), start slow without tension and get it as clean and comfortable as possible before increasing the tempo.

Don't forget to mix up the pattern ie. 3241, 1324, 1423 etc. It will really help with your finger idependance ans strength and improve your overall picking accuracy.