All The Aspects Of Picking. Part1

This is my method for developing your picking in all picking styles and is a great warmup exercise and will motivate you with the extra speed edge you need to break the plateu.

Ultimate Guitar
All The Aspects Of Picking. Part1
This is a lesson in picking for everyone. About picking and the various methods, and how to master yours. First about me. I have learned every method of picking and took a while on each. First all downstrokes, then alternate picking then half economy (alternate up, and economy back down and the opposite), and full economy. A very important thing is to only use strict style of whichever you are attempting to master. I would recommend learning it in the order I have.

Also, my technique was first wrist motion, then I went to only thumb and index motion, then fooled with "bad thechnique" of elbow picking, which actually turned out very fast and accurate once used without tension. I use a relaxed arm. It's a very refined motion from the relaxed but controlled elbow, wrist, and thumb. Remember that the relaxation of the muscles and slow programming is the key factor. It begins in your shoulder mentally focus on the shoulder and relax it, then the rest will follow. always keep this in check.

Now that we have covered my own history and physical aspects. Time for an exercise I made to utilise all picking styles because even if your strict economy like me practicing the other styles will keep you fresh and fast. Things people say about economy picking and then my thoughts:

01. It's sloppy and sounds "uneven" when changing strings - this is because they did not master economy yet.
02. It sounds like legato - this is because they don't accent notes properly.
03. I feel like I'm learning guitar all over again - don't be a wuss! Do you want to pick fast with little effort yes/no.
04. My guitar hero dosn't use it and he/she/it is real fast - they could be even faster and tendonitis free with economy.
05. It takes too long to learn - good things come to those who wait/even better things to ones who work hard at it and never cheat.
06. Economy is only faster on odd number per string runs (1, 3, 5, 7) - you can convert even runs to odd number per string ones easily if you wanted. Also why not have that extra speed and ease?

OK. When I first learned economy it took me about 6 months to play it on autopilot. And another 3 to be able to play anything faster than alternate with it. Somthing made me tell myself I'm gonna really be serious and only do this picking till I get it. It was the best decision I've made. I will never forget my late grandfather hearing me practice and saying "He sounds like a goddamn machine in there."

Exercise 1

This is one large exersise set, they all follow the same 5 picking styles. Do each picking style once then goto the next left hand fingering and repeat the pick styles in this order:

1. All downstrokes.
2. Alternate picking starting on a downstroke for each string.
3. All upstrokes.
4. Altternate picking starting on an upstroke for each string.
5. Full on economy. Picking into each string never around.

Some players will be asking "why do all downstrokes(#1) or all up-strokes(#3)? I never use just one, it's a beginners way, ect." Well. Using logic and basic math you will see that your maximum picking speed potential will be only twice the speed of your slowest motion, be it your up or your down stroke. This sounds confusing at first, so here is an example: lets pretend we really suck and we can pick 4 notes per second clean and even with all downsrtokes. But we can only pick 3 notes per second using all upstrokes. Well, our max speed with alternate is going to be no more than 6 notes per second. You take the lower number and double it. If you don't understand this concept here is another way to see it.

Your a lumberjack and you have to cut down a tree. You use an axe alone. It's slow and painfull after long hours. You see another lumberjack with a 2 man saw. You think: "wow if we both worked together we could kill this tree even faster." When you both work together with the 2 man saw the fastest you can murder the poor defensless tree as a team will not be only dependant of your own speed. But of the weaker or slower of you and your lumberjack pal. If he is slower, it will slow you down too or else your gonna saw that tree wrong and jam the saw. So in this analagy, you with an axe is all down or all up strokes, the double man saw represents alternate picking and your the (downstroke), the other lumberjack is the (up-stroke). If you still don't understand I don't know what to tell you. E-mail me or somthin'.

Little known facts: Paul Gilbert used only UPstrokes for his first 2 years playing. I'm pretty sure this gave him a massive advantage speed wise when he went to alternate picking. Almost all players have a weaker upstroke than down. Eric Johnson uses all upstrokes for certain things for its tonal quality. Playing nothing but upstrokes and only using your ring and pinkey finger will surely make you feel like peeing yourself.

Back to the warmup/exercise.
I usually do it as part of my warmup at 120 bpm 16ths, the ones you will have trouble with (all upstrokes usually). Do as triplets (3 picks per beat) untill you get it then quads once your used to it. Smooth not jumpy do at 4 picks per beat. This should help you play whatever style you like. I belive economy is the superior style. This is after extensive experience with all styles. There are of course exceptions (rhythm parts/strum patterns).

Remember to do all 5 picking variations perfectly before moving onto the next finger combination:

1. All downstrokes.
2. Alternate picking starting on a downstroke for each string.
3. All upstrokes.
4. Altternate picking starting on an upstroke for each string.
5. Full on economy. Picking into each string never around.

There are 12 finger combinations. I feel this helps withbordom and also makes sure all your fingers work in sync with your picking. 







Stop thinking about the lumberjacks and that poor tree!

these last few may seem tough on your left hand if your pinkey sucks.




Done! Good job! Hope your hands feel really good now, they should be ready for speed drills.

Here are some for fun.
First do them with alternate picking. Then using strict Economy picking like me. Start real slow, then get it up to about 17 picks a second clean and accurate always.

Beginner advanced

a little more advanced

I use my wrist motion to skip strings. Like on the last exercise. It's a flicking like motion. Don't forget to also practise these with a palm mute as well. Keep a chart of your current bpm on all exercises you do and don't cheat!

Write a goal tempo and next to it put your current tempo. Buy a stylus pick and use nothing but it for practice. Download "weird metronome" from download. com and use it for all your lessons. Practice what you suck at the most in your technique. Do all the 3 note per string modes go up one and down the next so its always odd numbers per string. Remember not to abuse speed once you attain it, the rate at which you present notes to the listner is a huge part of music. Fast isn't better and slow isn't better than fast. They are just 2 different things. Use it wisely.

I developed these exercises while practicing with my drummer while he was doing rudaments. It is way harder than it looks. I use Economy picking but these will work you out on alternate as well. Play these with a metronome at a slow speed and gradually work them up one at a time to your desired speed. The goal is to be able to play them all back to back without 1 mistake at your desired tempo. It seems like it's more mind work than your usuall speed drills. The odd note groupings are killer for getting both hands working as one machine!

||-----15--------------|| ||--15-----------------||
||o-12----------------o|| ||o-------------12-12-o||
||--------------14-14--|| ||--------14-14--------||
||--------12-12--------|| ||-----12--------------||
||o-------------------o|| ||o-------------------o||
||---------------------|| ||---------------------||

||--------------15-15--|| ||--------15-15--------||
||o-------12-12-------o|| ||o----12-------------o||
||-----14--------------|| ||--14-----------------||
||--12-----------------|| ||--------------12-12--||
||o-------------------o|| ||o-------------------o||
||---------------------|| ||---------------------||

||--15-----------------|| ||-----15--------------||
||o----12-------------o|| ||o-------12-12-------o||
||--------14-14--------|| ||--------------14-14--||
||--------------12-12--|| ||--12-----------------||
||o-------------------o|| ||o-------------------o||
||---------------------|| ||---------------------||

||--------15-15--------|| ||--------------15-15--||
||o-------------12-12-o|| ||o-12----------------o||
||--14-----------------|| ||-----14--------------||
||-----12--------------|| ||--------12-12--------||
||o-------------------o|| ||o-------------------o||
||---------------------|| ||---------------------||

These are very annoying and cause pain to the mind! Because they are so hard to play fast and clean back to back or even alone. Once you get those above here is a basic Parradiddle lick for string skipping, easier rhythm feel but hard stretch and skips:



then their reverse



I hope you like these exercises for your picking and mental calibration. I have other lessons and videos on my website There is nothing better than meeting your goal so keep it within reach on these tough picking patterns. Also, if you start getting dizzy from these, play them in a different scale than Eminor, it's good practice to do that anyway.

150 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    also.. I didnt name it finger picking.. someone changed this.. and didnt include my name as the author.. wtf? lol
    ROBOT Thanks for the great article and twist96, Thanks for the clearance in economy picking. In this case if you are using alternate picking then it will only be like downpicking or up picking but like twist96 suggested if you add one more note per string then you will get a better view of economy picking.
    sorry about that.. the talk about Eminor was meant for the set of exercises above the last parradiddle one. also.. if you wanted to get technical.. Dorian is a minor scale.. so is Phrygian and Aeolin. however I know you were saying natural i will stop being a dork.. sorry about the mixup. by bad.
    is ecomnoy picking where you tilt your pick a little so that it slides off the string? if so, then i've been using this technique for a while and didnt know what it was =)
    man, that was really good work... it helped me a lot... keep on going, man
    Just to say...this MAY have gotten to the root of my picking problem. It's so obvious, but I never considered the upstroke to be a technique worth knowing...even though it effectively constitutes HALF of my alternate picking technique. When I tried to do ups only, surprise surprise; I sucked. I'm gunna work at this one as much as I can. Great lesson *thumbs up*
    Dude, Good artical but. Just review you comment on 17 picks a second sounds a bit to much. It meas you play at 1020 bmp. Don't want to spoil you parade but just never hear of anybody that fast!
    Also, my technique was first wrist motion, then I went to only thumb and index motion, then fooled with "bad thechnique" of elbow picking, which actually turned out very fast and accurate once used without tension. I use a relaxed arm. It's a very refined motion from the relaxed but controlled elbow, wrist, and thumb. Remember that the relaxation of the muscles and slow programming is the key factor. It begins in your shoulder mentally focus on the shoulder and relax it, then the rest will follow. always keep this in check.
    I've have asked a good deal of guitarists (both professional and just guys in bands), music instructors, teachers etc. and most of them do say that elbow picking in the long term even when you relax your elbow has a much higher risk of leading to serious problems than wrist picking, also I was told thumb and index motion in't too healthy for the fingers either, although nobody said it could cause serious injuries... Does anybody have an opinion about this? Doctors and such could give extremely helpfull advice here
    um with the examples when you go up to lighter strings do you play all down strokes like twist96 said or do u play upstroke-downstroke until you get to high e where its down-up. and the opposite for on the way down? also should changing between strings be done just from the wrist???? ty
    thx man, i just relized that i cant even pick all the upstroke notes, i guess thats why my alternate isnt very fast. thx again.
    Wow, nice lesson, man. But I would like to know, how hard and how long am I supposed to play those exercises till I can be really good at picking downstroke>upstroke and I can do that really fast ?
    I'm training for three days amd I can see lot of progress comparing with my alternate before I started to train
    really good lesson, thanks a lot for the help ^_^ seriously, helped me like hell
    awesome lesson dude, i think i was one of the few that understood the economy picking principle first time round, and this is by far the longest lesson i'v seen but all worth it, helped me a bunch. keep on rockin!
    man i just keep coming back to this lesson cuz i just love it!.it reminds me that i could be a better guitarist.
    Dude, you have a way of explaining things. You put some things out there that normal people wouldnt even think of. This is a 10 lesson if I have ever seen one.
    dude, those r cool excersises. they helped me alot, even though i can economy pick, those warmup's r good for ur pinky.
    Learning acoustic and hope these will help.Exercises look nice so ill give it a try
    poor defenless tree...murder.... WHAT? ...I like the rainforest but PLEASE keep to guitar lessons...
    Umm...there is one flaw with this lesson. Economy picking means you force your picking stroke to go up/down going lower/higher string respectively, right? Well, in your lesson, for the beginning practices, you give two notes per string...but think about it. (Bear with me here) Start with low E, Fret 5. To go to A, Fret 5, I'll need to do a downstroke on E6, right? So, I'll do an upstroke on E5. Then, E6, downstroke, and that flows me nicely to A5. To get to D5 from A6, I'll need to do a downstroke..but wait! I've done a downstroke already to get to A5! That means I'll have to do downstrokes all the way...but that's about as good as as doing ALL downstrokes. Economy is supposed to be a COMBINATION of Strumming and Alternate. What the author simply needs to do is add three notes per string odd number, so you'll have the final stroke on that string going in the correct direction WITH alteration included (on the second note). I.E, instead of A5: DOWN A6: DOWN You could have: A4: DOWN A6: UP A7: DOWN So you'll include the Alteration aspect. Suffice to say, it is a nice toturial, but in my practice, I added the extra note per string. I hope you understood the concept of what I'm pointing out.
    Great lesson! But there's only one thing I didn't get. Do you use an index/thumb picking motion or an elbow motion? thx again Robot! :cheers:
    Mr. Kill
    man greeat lesson thanx!! and as the guys exapained i think what i use is economy picking.. and ur right its much faster once u get used to it.. thanks again
    I STILL DONT UNDERSTAND WHATS ECONOMY PICKING.....but tnx!!! for the lesson!!! hehehe!!! pls... email me at and give me some advice about ECONOMY PICKING.....tnx in advance!!!
    javascript:insComm(106) quote
    This lesson's perfect for everybody who's not sure what economy picking actually is.. I made it, and I agree with robot (author of this lesson) that it's the best picking technique. So check out my lesson too! ZeG
    thanks..most of my picking is economy anyways...but some of these tips should help out with my accurracy.
    I dont get it.. its impossible to economy pick this riff |-----5-6-----| |-----5-6-----5-6-----| |-----5-6-----5-6-----| |-----5-6-----5-6-----| |-----5-6-----5-6-----| |-5-6-----5-6----| How are you supposed to economy pick this? No notes just fall into each other, you HAVE to alternate pick..
    man.... ive been economy picking this whole time never knew it! good excersize for you pinky though!
    Good stuff, but can you go in depth a bit more into what economy picking is? Everyone just refers to it as economy, what the heck is it?
    I didn't realize how much my ring finger and pinky sucked when working in sync. Now I know what to work on. Thanks
    Good lesson definetly, this must'ave been copied off of some some 'cos it can't be this good