Hands Of Steel II

author: JL_Shredder date: 01/05/2011 category: correct practice
rating: 9.1 / votes: 21 
Hello my fellow shredders! It's been a while since the first lesson was written, and the response I received was overwhelmingly positive. Because of that, I'd like to begin this lesson with an apology. I have been away from UG for some time due to work, college, and other issues. Sorry to keep you waiting, but the second lesson is finally here! This lesson is very basic in nature, but anyone from the beginner to the seasoned shredder can benefit from working on the basics. No matter how good you are, there is always room for improvement, even in the basics. The last lesson focused mainly on the left hand, and building finger strength and muscle memory. It makes sense then, to do a lesson focused on the hand that most guitarists tend to forget: The picking hand! It is very easy to get caught up in the glory of fretting hand acrobatics and completely forget about your picking hand. As guitarists, we need to build strength, speed, and coordination in both of our hands, not just one. This lesson is designed to do specifically that, but before we get to the exercises, I'd like to restate a few key points from the first lesson.
  • Play every note clearly and evenly. Don't cheat yourself by playing sloppy or uneven notes, because it will just lead to problems further down the road.
  • It helps to have regular practice every day. I'd reccomend at least 30 minutes a day, though more is usually better.
  • Relax! Excessive tension can cause discomfort, repetitive strain injuries, and it can greatly limit your playing ability. I'd also reccomend that you stretch before practice to prevent injury. Now let's get to it! The first exercise is made up of 4 picking patterns that are very common in most styles of music, especially metal. Part 1 is played in 8th notes using downstrokes. Part 2 is the same, but with all upstrokes.
    e|---------------------------------|
    B|---------------------------------|
    G|---------------------------------|
    D|---------------------------------|
    A|---------------------------------|
    E|-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-|
    Part three is played in 16th notes using alternate picking. (Down, Up, Down, Up, etc)
    e|----------------------------------------------------------------|
    B|----------------------------------------------------------------|
    G|----------------------------------------------------------------|
    D|----------------------------------------------------------------|
    A|----------------------------------------------------------------|
    E|-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0|
    Part four is played using two 16th notes and one 8th note. The picking pattern is down, up, down, but you could also try playing it up, down, up just to build more dexterity.
    e|--------------------------------------------------------|
    B|--------------------------------------------------------|
    G|--------------------------------------------------------|
    D|--------------------------------------------------------|
    A|--------------------------------------------------------|
    E|-0-0-0--0-0-0--0-0-0--0-0-0--0-0-0--0-0-0--0-0-0--0-0-0-|
    To play this exercise, combine parts 1-4, and play them back to back without stopping. You can also play them in different orders to mix it up a bit. Try this on all 6 strings. You could even play the different parts on different strings for a bit of a challenge. The next exercise really helps with alternate picking and involves just one note. Pick any note and pick it as fast as you can without getting sloppy. Now, slowly decrease your speed until you are picking very slowly. Then, slowly increase your speed making sure that your picking technique stays the same. Then, just keep repeating it. You could also try this using only downstrokes or upstrokes.
    Ex.2)
         Max    slow down        Low       speed up       Max                  
          |-----------------------|------------------------|  
    e|----------------------------------------------------------------------|
    B|----------------------------------------------------------------------|
    G|----7-----------------------------------------------------------------|
    D|----------------------------------------------------------------------|
    A|----------------------------------------------------------------------|
    E|----------------------------------------------------------------------|
    So, we've covered basic picking patterns, but what about economy picking and sweep picking? There are times when using strict alternate picking just doesn't make sense. If you're playing 3 notes per string, or playing single notes on adjacent strings, strict alternate picking becomes very awkward. Let's take a look at 2 methods which help remedy this problem. Economy Picking: The basic principle here is to use the least amount of motion possible to play whatever it is that you're playing. Let's say that you're playing three notes per string as shown in example 4. If you were using strict alternate picking, the first 3 notes would be played down, up, down. No problem there. But the 4th note is on the A string, so you'd have to cross over the string and play it with an upstroke......AWKWARD! This is where economy picking comes in. To better economize your picking, play the first notes as usual (Down, Up, Down). Since you used a downstroke on the 3rd note, your hand is already heading towards the A string, so it makes sense to play the fourth note with a downstroke. The same goes for crossing over to the D string, and all of the others. So, what I want you to do is play example 4 using strict alternate picking, and then try it with economy picking. Which do you find easier?
    Ex.4)
    e|------------------------------------1-2-3-|
    B|-----------------------------1-2-3--------|
    G|----------------------1-2-3---------------|
    D|---------------1-2-3----------------------|
    A|--------1-2-3-----------------------------|
    E|-1-2-3------------------------------------|
    The same principle applies to this next example. You've played example 4, and now it's time to descend. To descend, you'd start with an upstroke, so the pattern on the 1st string would be Up, Down, Up. Once again, follow the motion of your pick to the B string and play the same Up, Down, Up pattern.
    Ex.5)
    e|-3-2-1------------------------------------|
    B|--------3-2-1-----------------------------|
    G|---------------3-2-1----------------------|
    D|----------------------3-2-1---------------|
    A|-----------------------------3-2-1--------|
    E|------------------------------------3-2-1-|
    Sweep Picking: Sweep picking follows the same principal as economy picking. If you're playing single notes across adjacent strings as in example 6, alternate picking would be even more awkward. However, if we follow the motion of our pick again, it would make sense to play this with all downstrokes. When we're descending the pattern as in example 7, it would make sense to use all upstrokes. When practicing sweep picking, make sure that you are using a fluid motion and that the notes are not ringing together.
    Ex.6)
    e|----------4------|    
    B|-------3---------|
    G|----2------------|
    D|-1---------------|
    A|-----------------|
    E|-----------------|
     
    Ex.7)
    e|-4---------------|
    B|----3------------|
    G|-------2---------|
    D|----------1------|
    A|-----------------|
    E|-----------------|
    So, economy picking and sweep picking both work towards the same goal. When speed is your goal, economy of motion gives you a big advantage. However, different picking patterns produce different sounds, so don't forget to experiment with different patterns to achieve the exact sound that you're looking for. It also helps to practice any exercise with different picking patterns. While some picking patterns may not be the most economical way to play an exercise, they can really help you become a better picker. Remember the exercises I gave you in the first lesson? Go back and try those with all the picking patterns that you learned here. Also, be sure to experiment and try any different patterns that you can think of. Really twist your brain and challenge yourself. Now, I'm going to share with you 2 more exercises that have really helped my picking over the years. I'm not going to specify any picking patterns here, because the key is experimentation and finding what works best for you and what gives you a challenge. Both of these use 16th notes.
    Ex.8)
    e|-----------10-12-13-----13-12-10--------|
    B|-10-12-13------------9------------13-12-|
    G|----------------------------------------| Repeat as many times as you want.
    D|----------------------------------------|
    A|----------------------------------------|   
    E|----------------------------------------|
    Example 9 has a bit of a stretch in it.
    Ex.9)
    e|-----------10------------15-12-10-------|
    B|-10-12-13------13-12-10------------13-12|
    G|----------------------------------------| Repeat as many times as you want.
    D|----------------------------------------| 
    A|----------------------------------------|
    E|----------------------------------------|
    These exercises also sound really good together. What I like to do is play example 8 twice, then play example 9 twice and repeat the whole thing. That's it for lesson II. Now that we've learned the basic techniques and built up our fretting and picking hands, it's time to learn how to shred! Hands of Steel II will focus on scales, scale patterns, and sequencing those scales. It will also focus on learning the positions of all of the notes on the fretboard. I will probably be posting it in February. Until then, ROCK ON!
  • More JL_Shredder lessons:
    + Hands Of Steel III: Mastering Scales. Part I Correct Practice 10/05/2011
    + Hands Of Steel Tips Correct Practice 03/18/2011
    + Hands Of Steel I Correct Practice 10/06/2008
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