I really want to improve my alternate picking (speed, technique, etc.) but it feels like I am not doing it right. I am playing some exercises but don't know if i am playing them so that it benefits me. When it comes to practicing I don't know a good solid way of improving. At what speed should I start playing the exercise? How long should I play an exercise for? When should I bump up the speed of the metronome and by how much? These are the questions I keep wanting the answers for but can't seem to find them. Some suggestions for exercises would also be appreciated. Any other tips about improving alternate picking would be great to know. I want a nice solid way of improving.
Last edited by 11b3827 at Jan 5, 2017,
1. At what speed should I start playing the exercise?
Whatever speed you are comfortable with, and a speed that you can play it repetitively, perfectly and cleanly.

2. How long should I play an exercise for?
It depends on what you are using the exercises for, and which world of guitar you're from. A lot of people - myself included - tend to mostly just use exercises to warm up. The procedure of developing our skills comes from learning songs and making our own music and trying different things. But there's also a lot of people who do use exercises simply for the development of skills. Naturally, this also can depend of how long you've been playing. If you're just starting out, you have to start somewhere, and exercises are great for getting used to the instrument and used to certain techniques. Anywho, back on topic.
When I was first starting out, I would play the same couple exercises for hours on end. I was also unemployed at the time, so a 16-hour practice session was not unheard of. But really, any amount of time will be beneficial. How long you play something is up to you. Maybe you want to just warm up, in which case 5-10 minutes is enough. Or maybe you want to try to reach a target tempo or something. It's all your choice.

When should I bump up the speed of the metronome and by how much?
For when to bump it up, I'll point you back to my answer for the first question: When it's comfortable, and you can play it repetitively, perfectly and cleanly. For how much, there's no exact amount as it varies from one person to the next. But generally, I'd say somewhere between 3 and 8 BPM.

I would also suggest you check out John Petrucci's Rock Discipline DVD. It's available in its entirety on Youtube. In particular, skip to 16:50 in this video and give that exercise a try:

I can't think of any exercise that was more helpful for me when I was working on my alternate picking.
Quote by Geldin
Junior's usually at least a little terse, but he knows his stuff. I've always read his posts in a grouchy grandfather voice, a grouchy grandfather with a huge stiffy for alternate picking.
Besides that, he's right this time. As usual.
Last edited by Junior#1 at Jan 6, 2017,
I have been using a couple of these drills to good affect.......that chromatic hand drill while I'm watch videos or otherwise screwing around (as much as I hate it) is beating my hands back into sync pretty quickly.

I hadn't played electric in a few years, so my hands are all out of whack.

Practice time varies player to player, blowing up your wrists/forearms doesn't really buy you anything if you aren't getting paid so take your time with it.
If you're having trouble with alternate picking when switching strings, this is the video for you.

Also, check out Grady's cracking the code documentary. His Steve Morse, Mike Miller, Carl Miner, Strunz & Farah, and Albert Lee interviews are also great. Nobody has gone into picking technique as in depth as Troy Grady.
Last edited by Phallic Tractor at Jan 7, 2017,