Alernate Picking - The Foundations

author: .:eranu:. date: 10/13/2008 category: the basics
rating: 8.4 / votes: 10 
First of all we will start with simplest way to learn alternate picking as a beginner but I recomend you start here whatever level of player you are as most mistakes are made before any difficult paterns or speed are introduced. We will start by playing just a single note so as use the least amount of thought needed to play it so we can concentrate on the technique. All exercises MUST be played to a metronome. This excercise should be played at anywhere between 60-120bpm depending on how comfortable you are with the technique.
            E  E  E  E  E  E  E  E
high E ||:--0--0--0--0--0--0--0--0--:||
            D  U  D  U  D  U  D  U
Now look at exactly what your picking hand is doing. The pick should be parrelel to the strings, your hand just be rest on the guitar in some way (as a point of refernece and stability) either on the bridge, or you spare fingers against the body and only the wrist should be moving and the arm should stay motionless. But more important then any of these is that your hand position should be confortable. Now when you try to play this again it may feel slightly weird but after a while your playing will benefit, but if it feels uncomfortable or awkward on your wrist then you should change you hand position.This excercise should be played as many time as needed to make you feel completely confortable with the technique. Now we move on to the famous spider technique. This techniques is not only beneficial on the picking hand but also on the syncronisation of both hands together.
   S S S S ...
||---------------------------------|---------1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2---------|
||---------------------------------|-1-2-3-4-----------------5-4-3-2-|
||-------------------------1-2-3-4-|---------------------------------|
||-----------------1-2-3-4---------|---------------------------------|
||---------1-2-3-4-----------------|---------------------------------|
||-1-2-3-4-------------------------|---------------------------------|
   D U D U D U ...

 ---------------------------------|---------------------------------|
 ---------------------------------|---------------------------------|
 -5-4-3-2-------------------------|---------------------------------|
 ---------5-4-3-2-----------------|----------------- ETC... --------|
 -----------------5-4-3-2---------|---------3-4-5-6-----------------|
 -------------------------5-4-3-2-|-3-4-5-6-------------------------|
You should carry on this pattern right up to the 12th fret or as far as you want to go. This excercise is a bit tedius and is does not sound very musical but it is a very good excercise as a warm up and is very good at training the hands. Another thing that is left very unpracticed is the strength of the up stroke as this will be naturaly weaker so to overcome this I recomend that all of the excercises should be also done with the picking starting with an upstroke ( you D you D... aswell as D you D U... ). This is where we work on building up. First set the metronome between 60-80 bpm or at any tempo that you don't have to worry about your speed. Then Reapeat the pattern up to the 12th fret and then keep repeating until you can not only do it perfectly but until you no longer need to think about what your hands are doing. Once you get to this point only then should you increase the tempo by around 5 bpm increments. The key for speed is to keep technique constant and to keep the wrist completely relaxed. only increase tempo if you are confortable with the tempo you were on to to point of not needing to think. If you find yourself reaching a speed you can't get past up the tempo by 5 more than you can do perfectly then drop back 10 bpm and you should find that the tempo you found hard should now seem easier. This is the basic principal of alternate picking but I am goin to leave some variations on the spider pattern to prectice on to challenge your synchronisation and pick control further. Remember to start on both down strokes and upstrokes.
1.
||---------------------------------|-------------------------1-2-3-4-|
||---------------------------------|---------1-2-3-4-----------------|
||-------------------------1-2-3-4-|-----------------1-2-3-4---------|
||---------1-2-3-4-----------------|-1-2-3-4-------------------------|
||-----------------1-2-3-4---------|---------------------------------|
||-1-2-3-4-------------------------|---------------------------------|

 -5-4-3-2-------------------------|---------------------------------|
 -----------------5-4-3-2---------|---------------------------------|
 ---------5-4-3-2-----------------|-5-4-3-2-------------------------|
 -------------------------5-4-3-2-|-----------------5-4-3-2---------|ETC...
 ---------------------------------|---------5-4-3-2-----------------|
 ---------------------------------|-------------------------5-4-3-2-|

2.
||---------------------------------|-------------------------3-4-5-6-|
||---------------------------------|-----------------3-4-5-6---------|
||-------------------------1-2-3-4-|-5-4-3-2-3-4-5-6-----------------|
||-----------------1-2-3-4---------|---------------------------------|
||---------1-2-3-4-----------------|---------------------------------|
||-1-2-3-4-------------------------|---------------------------------|

 -7-6-5-4-------------------------|---------------------------------|
 ---------7-6-5-4-----------------|---------------------------------|
 -----------------7-6-5-4---------|---------------------------------|
 -------------------------7-6-5-4-|-3-4-5-6-5-4-3-2-----------------|ETC...
 ---------------------------------|-----------------5-4-3-2---------|
 ---------------------------------|-------------------------5-4-3-2-|

3.
||---------------------------------|---------2-3-4-1-4-5-2-3---------|
||---------------------------------|-1-2-3-4-----------------5-2-3-4-|
||-------------------------4-1-2-3-|---------------------------------|
||-----------------3-4-1-2---------|---------------------------------|
||---------2-3-4-1-----------------|---------------------------------|
||-1-2-3-4-------------------------|---------------------------------|

 ---------------------------------|---------------------------------|
 ---------------------------------|---------------------------------|
 -2-3-4-5-------------------------|---------------------------------|
 ---------3-4-5-2-----------------|----------------- ETC ...--------|
 -----------------4-5-2-3---------|---------4-5-6-3-----------------|
 -------------------------5-2-3-4-|-3-4-5-6-------------------------|
The third excercise really challenges the fretting hand a lot more and requires a lot more coordination to get up to speed. This concludes my first lesson on alternate picking. I will be doin future lessons on alternate picking and more about how it can be used most effectively in music and in scales rather than chromatic excercies so that your skill can be used usefully in evryday playing. I hope this has been usefull and I am very open to comments so that I can make my future lessons as usefull as possible.
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