Picking The Rhythm Economically

author: guitar/bass95 date: 07/17/2012 category: guitar techniques
rating: 8 / votes: 1 
Picking The Rhythm Economically
First of all, I wanna say that this is my first lesson here. I've been wanting to write a lesson for a while now, but I really couldn't think of a fresh topic that hasn't been overused a hundred times. So finally, I decided to write about guitar techniques. But not leads, not about guitar solos, not about some bizarre techniques you can use to spice up your improvisation. This lesson will not show you how to blaze sweep picking at 300 bpm or teach you eight finger tapping, instead in this lesson we talk about rhythm techniques and the economy of picking motion. So, I'm going to talk about picking. This lesson is not for fingerpickers, you'll only find this useful if you use a plectrum. Or, as it's commonly known, a pick. And this is not a lesson for absolute beginners, basic skills at alternate picking are required. First things first, lets do some warm-up first. We'll only be doing picking hand warm-up for now, you'll have to check other lessons for fretting hand warm-ups. But since I'm not putting up any technical fretting, you have no need to warm that hand up for this lesson. To start warming up your picking hand, start downpicking the low E-string. Only use your wrist, wrist movement is the most economic way of fast picking, and it would be useful to start practicing it now if you haven't already. Try to make as small movements as possible. Start downpicking on a slow pace, try to stay in time and acknowledge any uncomfort and tension with your picking hand. If you feel comfy enough, slowly start speeding up. Slowly increase your pace, and if you start getting tense, stop at that speed for a while and try to make everything feel comfortable. Speed up, little by little, until you have reached your maximum downpicking speed. Now, keep picking, until you get too tired to keep downpicking. After that, rest for a while, and repeat the warm-up with both uppicking and alternate picking. After the warm-up, if you feel tired, rest your hand a bit. You can also repeat the process with other strings too, if you want to warm-up more. Now, when practicing any fast riffs, try to use alternate picking whenever you can. After a while, your muscle memory will get accustomed to it, and you'll be able to play with a lot more speed and with more accuracy. For our first example, here is a gallop loosely based on the intro of the song "Backbone" from Gojira.
e-------------------------------------------------------------------------
B-------------------------------------------------------------------------
G-------------------------------------------------------------------------
D-------------------------------------------------------------------------
A-------------------------------------------------------------------------
E-0-0-0---0-0-0---0-0-0---0-0-0---2-2-2---3-3-3---2-2-2---3-3-3-----------
This is pretty basic three note burst gallop. I chose this because this has more depth to it than just 000-000-000-000-000-000 riffs, and because it incorporates the most common kind of gallop used, the three note gallop. Just start the first burst with a downpick, and alternate pick the notes, down-up-down. Now, you have to start the second cluster with an uppick, so you'll pick the next burst up-down-up. Don't care about the speed at this point, just pay attention to accuracy. Now, this probably feels really awkward, just make sure that you alternate between down-up-down and up-down-up bursts, so you'll constantly alternate pick. This is crucial, as you'll soon find out. Next, we'll take a simple, open string riff that mixes gallops and tremolo picking. This is a riff based on the intro of Slayers "Chemical Warfare". I'm not sure if this is the actual picking pattern in the song, but I'll use it anyway.
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-------------
There are eight simple, even notes played first, and then there comes three 3-and-1 note gallops before the riff starts over again. The good thing here is that if you alternate pick the beginning of the riff, you'll start the gallops with a downpick. Then you should be able to play the single note between the bursts with an uppick, and start each burst with a downpick again. And this is the reason why I said that it's crucial to alternate pick between the gallops. If you just result to downpick the first notes from the individual bursts, you'll get a reflex of starting with a downpick after each pause in the gallop. And this is where you hit a wall. If you practice like this, you'll probably try to downpick even the single notes between the bursts. And at higher tempos, this is simply impossible. Your gallop will not sound like a gallop anymore, it will sound like sloppy, out-of-time alternate picking. And that's because you'll have to skip the string with the uppick to downpick the note after the small pause, and at higher speeds, you will hit the string while trying to skip it, and you'll result in filling the pauses with picked notes, resulting in bad tremolo picking. And that's why you'll have to make the uppick hit deliberately. This way you don't have to worry about skipping the string, you can pick away without having to worry about accidental picks. I realized this when I was trying to learn the intro of "Bleed" by Meshuggah. Here is the picking pattern on a six string, bit shorter and modified:
e--------------------------------------------------------------------------
B--------------------------------------------------------------------------
G--------------------------------------------------------------------------
D--------------------------------------------------------------------------
A--------------------------------------------------------------------------
E-0-0-0--0--0-0-0--0--0-0-0--0--0-0-0--0--1-1-1--1--2-2-2--2--2-2-2--2-----
I personally found this impossible when trying to play it d-u-d-d-d-u-d-d-d-u-d-d-d-u- and so on, altough this is what feels the most comfortable. I kept hitting the string when trying to skip it with an uppick, and it resulted in alternate picking, not a gallop. And note, this is played fast. really fast. But if you truly play each and every note by alternate picking, without trying to downpick the lone notes in between the bursts, this can be played on high speeds. Now, lets take a look at another bit more complicated way of rhythm picking. Picking notes from two strings one after another. I don't know an exact name for this kind of picking, so please point it out if you do know it. I think I've seen someone refer to it as "cross picking" but I'm not sure about this. So, here's something that's based on the intro of "Take This Life" by In Flames:
e---------------------------------------------------------------------------
B---------------------------------------------------------------------------
G---------------------------------------------------------------------------
D---------------------------------------------------------------------------
A---5---5---5---5---5---5---5---5---5---4---4---4---4---4---4---3---3-------
E-0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0-----
If you'll try to downpick this all, you'll develop a tendonitis faster than you get to say "gallop". Instead, you'll have to alternate pick it. But how? I can't tell you. Because this is about what feels the best for you. There are two ways to do this. "Inward picking" and "Outward picking". By Inward picking, I mean that you pick the E string with a downpick and the A string with an uppick, so that you always pick towards the center of the two stings. Ouward picking then of course means that you pick the E string with an uppick and the A string with a downpick. This will porbably feel more awkward than the Inward picking, but in the end it's more economic, since you have to make smaller movements. I would recommend outward picking since it adds to economy of motion and will benefit your uppicking, but some people just might find it easier to play it by Inward picking, and I am not here to tell them they're wrong. But there is a reason why this is more comfortable with Inward picking: Because you start the riff with a downpick. Lets have another example here, this time from "Hypnotize" by System Of A Down:
e-------------------------------------------------------------------------
B-1---1---3---3---3---3---4---4---3---3---1---1---0---0-------------------
G---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0-----------------
D-------------------------------------------------------------------------
A-------------------------------------------------------------------------
E-------------------------------------------------------------------------
This time, I'm sure that you'll find it more comfortable with outward picking. If you pick the B string first with a downpick and then the G string with an uppick, you are "outwatd picking", but still starting with a downpick. Now try to start the "Take This Life" riff by first downpicking the 5th fret on the A string, thus outward picking but this time, starting the riff with an downpick. Suddenly feels more comfy, huh? And now we get to a point that I've been trying to prove with this lesson. Any rhytm part, any gallop or complex picking pattern will always feel more comfortable when starting the riff with a downpick. The first picking motion actually affects the feel of the whole riff. At least for me, there might be someone who thinks that this isn't true, but I am a very average guitarist, and I think that this applies to most of the other guitarists out there. And now we get to the final exercise of this lesson: Try to play every riff in this lesson by starting with an uppick. This will probably feel really awkward at the start, but it will benefit your economy of motion a great deal, and truly make your up- and downpicks equal, and in the end it will benefit every aspect of your picking. I hope that this was a decent lesson, this is my first lesson ever, and I just hope that it would help some beginning or maybe even advanced players out there. I am ready for harsh criticism, no reason to soften the blow for me, if you want to complain or correct some facts here, feel free to do so. If you think this was decent, I might write some more lessons here as well. Until the possible next time, rock on.
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