All The Aspects Of Picking. Part 2

This elaborates on economy picking and provides some examples to clarify what it exactly is.

Ultimate Guitar
If you didn't yet read the first lesson please do so before moving on to this one. There was a great response from the first lesson on picking and technique, so I decided to submit part II and elaborate somewhat on the economy side of things. I have gotten countless e-mails asking about the specifics of economy picking and some people seemed a little confused. Economy picking has one simple rule: When you move to a new string ALWAYS pick "into" or twards the string (if your moving to a string closer to the floor pick down. If your moving to a string closer to your face or the sky, then pick up) this goes for adjacent strings as well as skipping strings. So, economy picking is basically just a rule that whenever you move to a new string while playing anything, you pick in the direction of that new string instead of going under the string and picking up, or instead of going over the string and picking down. This way it uses the kenetic energy already established with the last picking motion used. In other words, it saves time and energy, which means faster playing with less effort, physical effort that is. It does require a lot of mental work to get used to this type of picking. Here is an example to make sure everyone gets it right this time. I feel bad for not explaining it in more detail on the last lesson: d= downpick to the ground u= uppick to the sky If you were to play this using alternate picking the ups and down picks would work this way if you started on a downstroke...
  d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d
Now I will underline where you are wasting energy by moving around the string just to keep with the alternate picking pattern.
  d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d
Now I will write the down and up strokes how they would be for economy picking and underline the spots where picking will be easier and faster than economy (based on the laws of physics, which seem to superseed the laws of "but this cool guitarist does it this way" etc).
  d u d d u d d u d d u d d u d d u d u d u u d u u d u u d u u d u
  - - - - - - - - - - * - - - - - - - -
In this one above I marked off with an * where there is wasted motion, because of the ammount of notes on this string. But that could easily be fixed by placing the note that is causing the problem on the next string and only having 2 notes on the high e string, or simply add a note so it's 4 notes, like this:
  d u d d u d d u d d u d d u d d u d u u d u u d u u d u u d u u d u
  - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Now every underlined note is economical and uses the least posible energy and time while playing, hence making it faster because an object in motion tends to stay in motion, also the shortest distance is a straight line, etc. So I hope those examples help you out if not here is one last version in short:
|------3| |------3|
|3-5-7--| |3-5-7--|
 d u d u   d u d d
And for all the wise asses who say "but that's only starting on a downstroke," ok then here it is starting on an upstroke:
|------3| |----2-3|
|3-5-7--| |3-5----|
 u d u d   u d d u
See how there is always a way to make it economical. The trouble with economy is that a lot of players starting out on it usually play a little loose time wise on the string changes or with a picking that's either too loud or too soft. So make sure to pay good attention to the tempo and dynamics of your string changes in economy. The exercises you used for alternate picking can and should be repracticed using economy. I suggest practicing alternate picking even if your planning on using strictly economy picking like myself. By practicing alternate still, you are actually making yourself work harder, so when you do play economy it will be that much easier on you (and faster). Here are some more licks/exercises to work on for your economy picking, remember to do them as alternate picking too. This is all economy picking friendly. Starts off in major and decends with some scale alterations:


This one is harmonic minor based:

This is actually the blues scale, however it is played in such a way to make it sound a little odd. The rolling of the fretting fingers is tough to get perfect but will help you out with sweep arpeggios later on:
This is a Wholetone scale pattern:

This is E-blues based:

All of these licks/ideas can be played with strict economy picking and can be brought up to a very fast speed with work. OK, that seems like enough of stuff to ponder and work out to. The next lesson will deal with strengthning your fretting hand. I know that has nothing to do with your picking. Wrong! It has everything to do with it, because if you can't fret the notes on the string you activate when picking, then nothing happens, or crap happens, so next time look out for the killer fretting hand exercises! I will probably just call it All The Aspects of Picking. Part 3, but who knows. I like the sound of the killer exercises from hell sort of thing. Until next time. Good luck, and keep up the good hard work!

15 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I'm a little disappointed, because after your first lesson i expected a really clear explanation on economy picking in this one, with clear and useful exercises, both of which i didn't get in your first lesson. Your explanation is clear but your exercises aren't really good; you underlined the wrong notes, your right hand fingerings (u-d-etc) weren't correct, ... I'm really sorry to see this, because i was expecting a lot more after your incredibly good first lesson! I based my own economy picking lesson on that lesson, and i'm sorry to say that i think my lesson is definitely better than this one of yours.. Still, don't stop posting more lessons! ZeG Note: For those who want to see my lesson:
    i have to say that when i found the first lesson i was amazed at how easy it was for me literally, within minutes, to play faster and more fluid. i still need a ton of help with my actual finger speed as i know what i want to play, but my fingers wont play it fast enough. all in all, you seriously opened what i feel a new door for me in terms of picking. thanks a ton. ill wait for more lessons.
    oklahoma pie
    i think it was a fine lesson, not too much jargon. just plain and simple. thanks alot
    Really good lesson. I finally understand it. Your exercises are a little difficult, but thats to be expected. Thanks a lot for this lesson.
    I keep picking the wrong strings or the strings by the string i have to pick, what should i do can you help me?????
    That's cool jimmy good lesson, i like to build up the speed slowly, its quite hard training my hand to do the picking and not my arm!
    I dont play on using economy picking nor practicing it, I actually used it before I learned to alternate pick, but i didnt know i was doing it. I just never thought alternate picking meant strictly. So i learned alternate and thats fast enough. But this lesson is very good with alot of examples/exercises. The underlines and *'s are in the wrong spots though.
    I incorporate alternate and economy depending on what I'm doing. As far as the upstrokes, I find it a lot easier to quickly skip the string and pick down (a lesson learned in 'string skipping') than it is to pull up again, hitting the string.