I've started paying attention to my picking technique and I've noticed that when I am alternate picking I am not taking into account the rhythm groupings, note lengths or rests in songs I play.

I have added down and upstrokes to an example of a Rock School Grade 5 piece to show how I alternate pick.

Am I correct in thinking that I'm actually doing it wrong and it should actually be played as I've drawn below?

Any insight would be greatly appreciated!!
Personally, I think you're slightly over thinking things a little bit really. I've always understood alternate picking as straight up and down alternating strokes. I'm not so sure it really matters as long as you're nailing the actual rhythm of the phrase and it's comfortable. Just find out which one feels natural to you and go with that one.
The first example is correct, if you want to use strict alternate picking. But on this sort of riff, it will sound and feel too regimented.

tempo, sound (e.g. chugging, damped ..) and feel collectively dicate what's needed picking-wise. I wouldn't recommend sticking with one approach for everything.

You're 2nd example sounds and feels better. Personally, I'd play this using nearly all down strokes, apart from the last 1/16th of the 2nd beat

Alternate picking is really more use when you're playing fast lines (personally I use economy picking, though I hate the sound of every note being picked, other than for effect).

Your point on it sounding too regimented was perfect; I couldn't see a reason to not just play 'up-down-up-down' so improving the feel is a great excuse to mix it up.

So for this particular phrase a 16th note strumming pattern with a lot more downbeats would solve that as you described...

Just to clarify then, if there were no double-stops in that phrase would playing it with my original picking pattern be more applicable?
Last edited by Sebsterlars at Jan 1, 2017,
Sebsterlars Yes, your last example has more feel to it. Music usually has much more life when there's contrast, blended with not over-using the contrast. So, for example, strict alternate picking at even volume, even just one note, is continually switching between two (slightly) different sounds. Continuous contrast. As its overused, the contrast becomes lost. On the other hand, all down strokes or all up strokes at the same volume has no contrast. So, by injecting the opposite now and again, a contrast really stands out. The placing in time when you do this, and how long you hold the note for, makes a huge difference as well.

Think how you have a conversation with your mates ... imagine you all spoke completely in monotone, no emotion, etc. Not inspiring. But normally, we're changing the pitch and strength of our voice, without thinking about it ... and the conversation comes to life. So it is with music.

Have a think how many different things you can do to provide contrast in a riff. I can't recommend enough deliberately practicing this, as well as just letting go when you're playing, and see what happens.

To your second point, no ... double stops or not don't really affect the feel you want. It really is all down to the sound you want to produce, and you feeling relaxed, enjoying yourself, and not stressing over precisely how something should be executed mechanically.

But that's not to say you shouldn't work on accurate technique. However, music and feel come a strong first. The most important technique needed is playing in time. Hope this helps.
The 2nd on is correct for strict alt picking. The up or down is based on where you are in relation to the beat. "strict" doesn't mean literally changing direction with every stroke. It means designating up/down strokes based on where the note is in relation to the beat, and always downpicking on the beat (or every other beat with triplet rhythms).

You can break down each beat into down and upstrokes:

1 2
d d

1 + 2
d u d

1 e a 2 e a (triplet)
d u d u d u

1 e + a 2
d u d u d

Less strict alt picking would probably have you downstroking on some of those syncopated accents, depending what style you're playing. I feel strict alt picking isn't the best approach to chordal playing, but it's a good habit in lead lines. It's especially useful for uptempo music where you really don't want to get stuck in an impractical strumming/picking pattern. You won't use it strictly all the time, but the whole idea is behind the technique is rhythmic accenture and consistency, because it's extremely valuable to develop the downbeat instinct with your technique.
Last edited by cdgraves at Jan 2, 2017,