Hey all, I've been playing guitar for almost three years now and have only recently begun to take practicing and studying seriously.

I'm a left handed player who plays right handed guitars, and I've noticed that if either of my hands are slacking when playing a piece on guitar, it's almost always my right. I think that it never developed the same type of dexterity that I have with my left, so solid and clean picking is tough for me. I've been trying to find things to practice to help my dexterity, clean-ness and smoothness become stronger, but it's really tough.

I was wondering if anyone had anything I could incorporate into my practicing to help me? This has really been frustrating me because I want to be able to pick things but I mess up so often I want to just break my guitar.
Do you fingerpick or do you use a pick.

There are lots of exercises you can do. Work on patterns and practice them to a metronome.

With a pick start with one string using strict alternate picking. (Down up down up).

It is the timing that is important. Start slow keep steady and increase the tempo one or two notches at a time. When you reach a speed that causes you to miss notes or play sloppy slow down 20bpm's and work up again.

When you have worked up a good consistent alternate picking speed on one string.

When you can play alternate picking at a decent speed on one string introduce a second string.

There are two basic mechanics when changing strings with alternate picking - inside picking and outside picking. That's where you want to start then vary the patterns so that you try to combine these mechanics into the same exercises. Each time you achieve a satisfactory level increase the come up with a new pattern or increase the complexity somehow.

Here's some examples. d=downpick u=up pick (in case it wasn't obvious).

d---d---d---d---|  - Inside picking

--u---u---u---u-| - outside picking

Some combinations and variations.






These are just a handful of ideas you might want to work on. Then use your imagination to come up with more or introduce a third string or whatever.

Use your knowledge of scales and imagination to come up with something interesting to do with your left hand while practicing this right hand stuff.

But try to keep your hands working well together.

Also don't neglect your rhythm work. Chords and double stops are important. And try to come up with some exercises that focus on those things. Keep on a clean sound and really listen to what you're playing. Metronome, Metronome, Metronome.
^ great suggestions. The only thing I'd add is to practice patterns that you would normally start on a down stroke with an upstroke as well. I still have a little trouble starting a faster run with an upstroke with the same confidence I would with a downstroke, so this is definately something I wish I'd started practicing earlier. Also if you are playing something that has an even number of notes on each string, then you get a great workout for your outside string crossing, since every string cross is an outside cross.
When you've done a number of the example picking patterns 20tigers gave you, if you are looking for something harder, start introducing some patterns that have string skipping. This is a tricky skill that very few people can do as easily as they can cross to adjacent strings, so it's a good one to start spending some time on after a while.
+1 to 20Tigers

Those exercises (your combinations and variations) have probably helped my alternate picking more than just about anything. In fact, I did them a bit earlier today. I use the specific examples in Troy Stetina's "Speed Mechanics" on page 24, but that's the essence of it.

The rest of his advice is excellent too, IMO.