Alternate Picking Technique

How do players like Yngwie Malmsteen, Al Di Meola, Steve Morse and Paul Gilbert pick so quickly and cleanly? Hyper speed picking abilities are the product of a logical, pragmatic technical approach based on economy of movement-playing the most notes with the least amount of effort.

165
How do players like Yngwie Malmsteen, Al Di Meola, Steve Morseand Paul Gilbert pick so quickly and cleanly? Hyper speed picking abilities are the product of a logical, pragmatic technical approach based on economy of movement-playing the most notes with the least amount of effort. This primer will help you think in these terms. With this mind-set, you'll be able to build an arsenal of smooth, fast, picking licks that you can execute even on your worst day. To get started, grab a freshly-minted plectrum (pick) and hold it between your thumb and index finger with the pointed end facing the strings. Even though this standard grip seems the most logical way to hold the pick, some speed demons do it differently: Eddie Van Halen holds the pick between his thumb and middle finger; James Hetfield and Steve Morse use a three-fingered grip (thumb, middle and index); and Pat Metheny picks with the rounded side of the plectrum. If you play better using an unorthodox grip, go ahead-you can't argue with success. Now rest the heel of your palm on the strings in front of the bridge. This technique is called "palm muting". The more pressure you apply, the "chunkier" your sound will be. For lightning runs, a light pressure will allow the strings to ring, but will cut unwanted noise. Where you pick is also important: picking right in front of the bridge produces a trebly twang, whereas picking closer to the neck creates a softer, mellower tone. The angle at which you attack the strings also effects your sound. Holding the pick parallel to the strings and plucking produces the clearest attack. "Slicing" the string at an angle yields a less-defined attack. If you're sitting down, anchor your right forearm to the guitar's body for added control and stability. If you're standing up, the angle between your wrist and arm will depend on the length of your strap. Adjust your strap to where you're the most comfortable. Don't put the guitar lower than you can handle: no matter how cool you look walking out on stage with the guitar around you knees, the spell will be broken the moment you try to play something in that awkward position. You can also anchor your pinky on the pickguard to help maintain stability and provide your hand with a close point of reference. Experts disagree about the benefits of anchoring your hand in this way, so if it doesn't feel right, don't do it. Now that you've achieved the perfect picking posture, you're ready for the two basic alternate-picking moves" the upstroke and downstroke. The moves are easy, but getting them to flow quickly and smoothly is the trick to attaining warp speed. Some players favor the stiff-wrist approach, which restricts all movement to the elbow joint. The circular motion approach, employing only the thumb and index fingers, is another technique. But most players get the best results by initiating all movement in their wrist. Use the technique that feels the most natural to you and always remember to keep your wrist relaxed. If you feel any pain during a workout, stop immediately. Pain is your body's way of telling you that you're doing something wrong. Stop and rest. If the pain or soreness persists, see an orthopedic specialist to make sure you aren't developing tendinitis. The most effective alternate-picking exercises are short, repeating patterns that focus on one particular type of maneuver. Figure 1 is a good beginner-level exercise for developing a smooth coordinated tremolo picking technique. Practice this exercise at a moderate tempo (80-100 beats per minute) with a drum machine or metronome and try to keep the picking motion on an even, back and forth plane without leaping over the string. Relax your right hand as much as possible while gradually increasing speed. Watching your picking in a mirror is a bio-feedback technique that can really help you relax. Gradually increase the tempo as you get better. You're smokin' if you can perform this exercise at 160 beats per minute. Don't forget to always use a clean tone (no distortion).
h hammer on
p pull off
\ slide down / slide up
tr trill
u upstroke
d downstroke


Figure 1

  d  u  d  u  d etc
|-0--0--0--0--3--3--3--3--4--4--4--4--7--7--7--7-|-8--8--8--8--11--11--11--11
|------------------------------------------------|--------------------------
|------------------------------------------------|--------------------------
|------------------------------------------------|--------------------------
|------------------------------------------------|--------------------------
|------------------------------------------------|--------------------------


-12--12--12--12--15--15--15--15-|-16--16--16--16--15--15--15--15--12--12--12
--------------------------------|-------------------------------------------
--------------------------------|-------------------------------------------
--------------------------------|-------------------------------------------
--------------------------------|-------------------------------------------
--------------------------------|-------------------------------------------


-12--11--11--11--11-|-8--8--8--8--7--7--7--7--4--4--4--4--3--3--3--3------||
--------------------|-----------------------------------------------------||
--------------------|-----------------------------------------------------||
--------------------|-----------------------------------------------------||
--------------------|-----------------------------------------------------||
--------------------|-----------------------------------------------------||
Figures 2-4 are some cool, easy-to-execute, single string speed licks, designed to help improve your left/right hand synchronization. As you become familiar with each one's fingering pattern, try moving in onto another string. Every string feels different-not only are they different thicknesses, your pick attacks them at different angles. These kinds of licks are not only easy to pick at high speeds, they also sound (and look) impressive. Once you feel comforatble performing them quickly, you're ready for string-crossing.
Figure 2
  d u d u etc
|-4-3-2-1-5-4-3-2-6-5-4-3-5-4-3-2-|-6-5-4-3-7-6-5-4-8-7-6-5-7-6-5-4-|-8-7-6-
|---------------------------------|---------------------------------|-------
|---------------------------------|---------------------------------|-------
|---------------------------------|---------------------------------|-------
|---------------------------------|---------------------------------|-------
|---------------------------------|---------------------------------|-------
 

-5-9-8-7-6-10-9-8-7-9-8-7-6-|-10-9-8-7-11-10-9-8-12-11-10-9-11-10-9-8-||
----------------------------|-----------------------------------------||
----------------------------|-----------------------------------------||
----------------------------|-----------------------------------------||
----------------------------|-----------------------------------------||
----------------------------|-----------------------------------------||


Figure 3
  d u d u
|-0-1-3-4-1-3-4/6-3-4-6/7-4-6-7/9-|-6-7-9/10-7-9-10/12-9-10-12/13-10-12-13/-
|---------------------------------|-----------------------------------------
|---------------------------------|-----------------------------------------
|---------------------------------|-----------------------------------------
|---------------------------------|-----------------------------------------
|---------------------------------|-----------------------------------------


-15-|-15-13-12\10-13-12-10\9-12-10-9\7-10-9-7\6-|-9-7-6\4-7-6-4\3-6-4-3\1---
----|-------------------------------------------|---------------------------
----|-------------------------------------------|---------------------------
----|-------------------------------------------|---------------------------
----|-------------------------------------------|---------------------------
----|-------------------------------------------|---------------------------


-4-3-1-0-||
---------||
---------||
---------||
---------||
---------||


Figure 4
  d u d u etc
|-4-0-2-0-5-0-2-0-7-0-4-0-9-0-5-0-|-11-0-7-0-12-0-9-0-14-0-11-0-16-0-12-0-||
|---------------------------------|---------------------------------------||
|---------------------------------|---------------------------------------||
|---------------------------------|---------------------------------------||
|---------------------------------|---------------------------------------||
|---------------------------------|---------------------------------------||
All the previous exercises, involve picking on a single-string-a fairly simple technique to master. String crossing is substantially more complicated. The goal is to arrange all the string crosses so they feel natural and comfortable. The number of notes to be played on each string and the direction of your first picking stroke (up or down) determine how easy or difficult a pattern is to pick. With a bit of thoughtful experimentation, you'll be able to find those patterns that work well for fast alternate picking-and weed out those that don't. Figures 5A-C show three different ways to pick the same lick. The first way (fig 5A) is the most laborious for the right-hand-it requires the pick to make four awkward string crosses. Figure 5B shows a much smoother, easier way to pick the same run. Notice that there are only two string crosses. Figure 5C is the easiest. The E note moves over to the 3rd string and the whole pattern begins with a downstroke, enabling you to best accent the downbeats for a strong, forcefull attack.
Figure 5A (laborious)             Fig 5B  (easier)

|----------------------------||  |-------------------------||
|---------------8------------||  |-------5--6--8--6--5-----||
|-----7--9--10-----10--9--7--||  |-5--7-----------------7--||
|-10-------------------------||  |-------------------------||
|----------------------------||  |-------------------------||
|----------------------------||  |-------------------------||


Fig 5C (Easier)

|-------------------------||
|----------6--8--6--------||
|-5--7--9-----------9--7--||
|-------------------------||
|-------------------------||
|-------------------------||
The exercises in Figures 6-10 are designed to improve you string-crossing technique. Practice them with a metronome and concentrate on keeping your right hand as relaxed as possible while increasing speed gradually. Try your own variations on these exercises and incorporate them into your warm-up routine.
Figure 6

|-------------------------------------------------||
|-------------------------------------------------||
|-7--5--------7--5--------7--5--------7--5--------||
|-------7--5--------7--5--------7--5--------7--5--||
|-------------------------------------------------||
|-------------------------------------------------||


Figure 7

|-------------------------------------------------||
|-------------------------------------------------||
|----------5--7--5-----------------5--7--5--------||
|----5--7-----------7--5-----5--7-----------7--5--||
|-7-----------------------7-----------------------||
|-------------------------------------------------||


Figure 8

|------------------------------------------------------||
|--------------10-------------------------8------------||
|--------7--8------8--7-------------7--8-----8--7------||
|-7--10------------------10--7--10-----------------10--||
|------------------------------------------------------||
|------------------------------------------------------||


Figure 9

|-------------------------------------|------------------------------------|
|-------------------------------------|-------------------------5--8--5----|
|-------------------------------------|-------5--7--5-----5--7-----------7-|
|-------------------------5--7--5-----|-5--7-----------7-------------------|
|-------5--7--5-----5--7-----------7--|------------------------------------|
|-5--8-----------8--------------------|------------------------------------|


|-------5--8--5-----------5----------|------------------------------------|
|-5--8-----------8--5--8-----8--5----|-------5----------------------------|
|----------------------------------7-|-5--7-----7--5-----------5----------|
|------------------------------------|----------------7--5--7-----7--5----|
|------------------------------------|----------------------------------7-|
|------------------------------------|------------------------------------|


-------------------||
-------------------||
-------------------||
-------5-----------||
-5--7-----7--5-----||
----------------8--||


Figure 10

|------------------------------------------------|--------------------------
|------------------------------------------------|-------------5------------
|-------------------------------------5----------|-------5--7-----7--5------
|-------------5-----------------5--7-----7--5----|-5--7-----------------7---
|-------5--7-----7--5-----5--7-----------------7-|--------------------------
|-5--8-----------------8-------------------------|--------------------------


-------------5----------|-------5--8--5----------------------------------|
-------5--8-----8--5----|-5--8-----------8--5-----------5--8--5----------|
-5--7-----------------7-|----------------------7--5--7-----------7--5----|
------------------------|----------------------------------------------7-|
------------------------|------------------------------------------------|
------------------------|------------------------------------------------|


|------------------------------------------------||
|------------------------------------------------||
|-------5--7--5----------------------------------||
|-5--7-----------7--5-----------5--7--5----------||
|----------------------7--5--7-----------7--5----||
|----------------------------------------------8-||
Most teachers and method books instruct you to practice major, melodic- minor and harmonic-minor scales and their various modes in positions. Though this fingering approach may look like it makes the most sense, it often proves to be very awkward for fast, alternate picking-especially when descending. I've found that during the descent, most seven-note scales can be picked more smoothly and easily by employing an alternate left-hand fingering. Let's use the G major scale as an example. Figure 11 depicts its standard two-octave, fingering pattern. If you're like me, your picking hand probably gets tied up in knots when trying to quickly descend this pattern.
Figure 11
                                   -------------awkward------------------
|-----------------------------3-5-|-7-5-3---------------------------------||
|-------------------------5-7-----|-------7-5-----------------------------||
|-------------------4-5-7---------|-----------7-5-4-----------------------||
|-------------4-5-7---------------|-----------------7-5-4-----------------||
|-------3-5-7---------------------|-----------------------7-5-3-----------||
|-3-5-7---------------------------|-----------------------------7-5-3-----||
Instead of attempting to overcome this stubborn obstacle through dogged repetition-I'm sure you could think of better ways to spend your practice time try the fingering pattern in Figure 12. The ascending pattern is similar to that in Figure 11. The descending pattern, however, is quite different. Note the use of finger slides and position shifts. Even though this may seem, like an odd way to finger a scale, you'll find that it enables your right hand to maintain a smooth, alternate-picking motion without having to muscle across the strings.
Figure 12

|-------------------------------5-|-7-5------------------------------------|
|-------------------------5-7-8---|-----8-7--------------------------------|
|-------------------4-5-7---------|---------9-7-5\4------------------------|
|-------------4-5-7---------------|-----------------7-5--------------------|
|-------3-5-7---------------------|---------------------9-7-5\3------------|
|-3-5-7---------------------------|-----------------------------7-5-3------|
This same alternate-fingering approach can help you pick many other types of scales more quickly. Figure 13 is a chromatic scale pattern that uses finger slides on the 1st and 6th strings to maintain a smooth picking pattern. Note that the entire fingering pattern is shifted up one fret on the descent.
Figure 13

|----------------------------|-----------------4-5-6-7/|8-7-6-5-------------
|----------------------------|---------5-6-7-8---------|--------9-8-7-6-----
|----------------------------|-5-6-7-8-----------------|----------------9-8-
|--------------------6-7-8-9-|-------------------------|--------------------
|-----------7-8-9-10---------|-------------------------|--------------------
|-8-9-10-11------------------|-------------------------|--------------------


-----|---------------------------------||
-----|---------------------------------||
-7-6-|---------------------------------||
-----|-10-9-8-7------------------------||
-----|----------11-10-9-8--------------||
-----|--------------------12-11-10-9\8-||
By using quick position leaps, an impressive, three-and-one-half-octave chromatic scale becomes easy to finger and pick (Figure 14). Pay particular attention to the left-hand fingerings provided beneath the tablature.
Figure 14

|----------------------------------|----------------------------------------
|----------------------------------|----------------------------------------
|----------------------------------|---------------------10-11-12-13-14-15--
|----------------------------------|7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14--------------------
|-----------------4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11|----------------------------------------
|-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8------------------|----------------------------------------
  1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2  3  4 1 2 3 4   1  2  3  4  1  2  3  4  1  2
 
------|------------------------17-18-19-20-21-20-19-18|17-16-15-14----------
------|14-15-16-17-18-19-20-21------------------------|------------18-17-16-
-16-17|-----------------------------------------------|---------------------
------|-----------------------------------------------|---------------------
------|-----------------------------------------------|---------------------
------|-----------------------------------------------|---------------------
 3  4   1  2  3  4  1  2  3  4  1  2  3  4/ 4  3  2  1  4  3  2  1  4  3  2

---------------------------|----------------------------------|-------------
-15-14-13-12-11------------|----------------------------------|-------------
----------------14-13-12-11|10-9-8-7--------------------------|-------------
---------------------------|---------11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4--------|-------------
---------------------------|---------------------------8-7-6-5|4-3-2-1------
---------------------------|----------------------------------|--------5-4--
 1  4  3  2  1  4  3  2  1   4 3 2 1  4  3 2 1 4 3 2 1 4 3 2 1 4 3 2 1 4 3

--------||
--------||
--------||
--------||
--------||
-3-2\1--||

 2 1\1
Figure 15 is a two-and-one-half-octave, whole-tone scale pattern that ascends three-notes-per-string and descends, alternately, two-notes-per string and four-notes-per-string with finger slides.
Figure 15

|--------------------------------------11|13-11-----------------------------
|-----------------------------10-12-14---|------14-12-10\8------------------
|---------------------8-10-12------------|-----------------10-8-------------
|--------------7-9-11--------------------|----------------------11-9-7\5----
|-------6-8-10---------------------------|----------------------------------
|-5-7-9----------------------------------|----------------------------------


-----------||
-----------||
-----------||
-----------||
-8-6-------||
-----9-7-5-||
Figures 16 and 17 depict two easy-to-pick fingering patterns for the diminished scale (half-whole).
Figure 16

|-------------------------------3|5-3-------------------------------||
|-------------------------4-5-7--|----7-5---------------------------||
|-------------------3-5-6--------|--------8-6-5\3-------------------||
|-------------4-5-7--------------|----------------7-5---------------||
|-------4-6-7--------------------|--------------------9-7-6\4-------||
|-5-6-8--------------------------|----------------------------8-6-5-||


Figure 17

|-------------------------------------|------------11-12-14-12-11\9---------
|-------------------------------------|10-11-13/14------------------13-11---
|----------------------------8-9-11/12|-------------------------------------
|------------------7-8-10/11----------|-------------------------------------
|---------6-7-9/10--------------------|-------------------------------------
|-5-6-8/9-----------------------------|-------------------------------------


----------|---------------------------||
-10\8-----|---------------------------||
------11-9|8\6------------------------||
----------|----10-8-7\5---------------||
----------|-------------9-7-6\4-------||
----------|---------------------8-6-5-||
Figures 18-20 illustrate extended, four-note-per-string major, melodic-minor and harmonic-minor scale patterns arranged for fast alternate picking. Note that each scale pattern takes a different fretboard path coming down. Again, this is done for the sake of maintaining an easier, smoother string crossing pattern for the picking hand
Figure 18

|------------------------------------------|------------16-17-19-17-16\14---
|------------------------------------------|14-15-17/19---------------------
|-------------------------------11-13-14/16|--------------------------------
|--------------------9-11-12/14------------|--------------------------------
|----------7-9-11/12-----------------------|--------------------------------
|-5-7-9/10---------------------------------|--------------------------------


------------------|------------------------------||
-17-15-14\12------|------------------------------||
-------------14-13|11\9--------------------------||
------------------|-----12-11-9\7----------------||
------------------|---------------11-9-7\5-------||
------------------|------------------------9-7-5-||

Figure 19

|------------------------------------------|------------16-17-19-17-16\14---
|------------------------------------------|13-15-17/19---------------------
|-------------------------------11-13-14/16|--------------------------------
|--------------------9-10-12/14------------|--------------------------------
|----------7-9-11/12-----------------------|--------------------------------
|-5-7-8/10---------------------------------|--------------------------------


------------------|-------------------------------||
-17-15-13\12------|-------------------------------||
-------------14-13|11\9---------------------------||
------------------|-----12-10-9\7-----------------||
------------------|---------------11-9-7\5--------||
------------------|------------------------8-7-5--||


Figure 20

|------------------------------------------|------------16-17-19-17-16\13---
|------------------------------------------|13-15-17/18---------------------
|-------------------------------10-13-14/16|--------------------------------
|--------------------9-10-12/14------------|--------------------------------
|----------7-8-11/12-----------------------|--------------------------------
|-5-7-8/10---------------------------------|--------------------------------


------------------|-------------------------------||
-17-15-13\12------|-------------------------------||
-------------14-13|10\9---------------------------||
------------------|-----12-10-9\7-----------------||
------------------|---------------11-8-7\5--------||
------------------|------------------------8-7-5--||
The easiest way to quickly pick an ascending-descending arpeggio without sweeping is to finger only two notes per string, and use quick position shifts to transport your hand up and down the fretboard (lateral motion). This creates an optimum string-crossing pattern for the right hand, enabling you to soar through several octaves while conserving precious picking energy. Figure 21 is a monstrous, two note-per-string F major arpeggio that transports your left hand from the 1st to the 20th fret and back. Beginning with an upstroke, proceed slowly at first and concentrate on shifting your left hand smoothly while maintaining a strict alternate picking motion.
Figure 21

|--------------------------17-20-17---------|-----------------||
|--------------------13-18----------18-13---|-----------------||
|--------------10-14----------------------14|10---------------||
|---------7-10------------------------------|---10-7----------||
|-----3-8-----------------------------------|--------8-3------||
|-1-5---------------------------------------|------------5-1--||
Figure 22 is an exercise designed to teach your left hand the fretboard pattern while increasing your right-hand picking fluency. Once you memorize the pattern, you sould be able to increase your left/right hand coordination and picking speed with practice.
Figure 22

|-------------------------|------------------------------------|------17-20-
|-------------------------|------------------------13-18-13----|13-18-------
|-------------------------|------10-14-10----10-14----------14-|------------
|----------------7-10-7---|-7-10----------10-------------------|------------
|----3-8-3---3-8--------8-|------------------------------------|------------
|1-5-------5--------------|------------------------------------|------------


-17----------17----------|----------------------------------|--------------||
----18-13-18----18-13----|-------13-------------------------|--------------||
----------------------14-|-10-14----14-10---------10--------|--------------||
-------------------------|----------------10-7-10----10-7---|-----7--------||
-------------------------|--------------------------------8-|-3-8---8-3----||
-------------------------|----------------------------------|-----------5-1||
Four-note arpeggios-minor seven, dominant-seven, diminished-seven, etc. -are easier to finger two-notes per string than three-note arpeggios, and require fewer finger stretches and position shifts. Figure 23 is a cool- sounding, three octave Amaj7b5 arpeggio that's easy to both pick and finger. Try playing other four note arpeggios and their inversions using two-note-per string fingering patterns.
Figure 23

|---------------------9-11-9-------|---------------||
|----------------9-10--------10-9--|---------------||
|------------6-8------------------8|6--------------||
|--------6-7-----------------------|--7-6----------||
|----4-6---------------------------|------6-4------||
|-4-5------------------------------|----------5-4--||
Most solos are comprised of short licks strung together, as opposed to long, straight-out-of-the-textbook scales and arpeggios. The exercises in Figures 24-26 are based on short, easy-to-pick patterns shifted up and down the neck. Use these exercises as picking warm-ups and as inspiriation for your own speed licks.
Figure 24

|---------------------------------|---------------------------------|----3-6
|---------------------------------|---------------------3-6-----6-8-|3-6----
|---------------------------------|-----3-5-----5-7-3-7-----5-7-----|-------
|---------------------3-5-----5-8-|-3-5-----5-8---------------------|-------
|-----3-5-----5-8-3-5-----5-8-----|---------------------------------|-------
|-3-6-----6-8---------------------|---------------------------------|-------

                                                         2
----6-8------8-10-------10-13-|-------13-15-------15-18-18b--rb13~--||
6-8-----8-11------11-13-------|-13-15-------15-18-------------------||
------------------------------|-------------------------------------||
------------------------------|-------------------------------------||
------------------------------|-------------------------------------||
------------------------------|-------------------------------------||


Figure 25

|-----------------------------------|---------------------------------------
|-5-4-----8-5-----9-8-----12-9------|-13-12-------16-13-------17-16---------
|-----5-4-----8-5-----9-8------12-9-|-------13-12-------16-13-------17-16---
|-----------------------------------|---------------------------------------
|-----------------------------------|---------------------------------------
|-----------------------------------|---------------------------------------


-------------|-----------------------------------------------|--------------
-20-17-------|-17-16-------16-13-------13-12-------12-9------|-9-8-----8-5--
-------20-17-|-------17-16-------16-13-------13-12------12-9-|-----9-8------
-------------|-----------------------------------------------|--------------
-------------|-----------------------------------------------|--------------
-------------|-----------------------------------------------|--------------


---------------------||
-----5-4-----4-1-----||
-8-5-----5-4-----4-1-||
---------------------||
---------------------||
---------------------||


Figure 26

|-----------------------------------------------|---------------------------
|------9-12-------12-15-------15-18-------12-15-|-------15-18-------18-21---
|-9-10------12-13-------15-16-------12-13-------|-15-16-------18-19---------
|-----------------------------------------------|---------------------------
|-----------------------------------------------|---------------------------
|-----------------------------------------------|---------------------------


-------------------------||
-------15-18-------12-15-||
-15-16-------12-13-------||
-------------------------||
-------------------------||
-------------------------||
Sometimes a certain fingering pattern works well for an ascending lick, but proves awkward when you try to pick the lick backwards (descending), or vice versa. The trick is to find a fingering pattern that enables your right hand to flutter back and forth with a minimum of effort. The ascending and descending triplet licks in Figures 27 and 28 are a perfect example of this concept. The easiest way to pick the ascending lick (fig 27). is to alternate between playing three consecutive notes on the 2nd string and three notes on the 1st string. The descending lick (fig 28), however, is more easily picked by alternating between two notes on the 1st string and four notes on the 2nd string. Note the use of finger slides on the 2nd string.
Figure 27

|-------1-3-5-------3-5-7|------5-7-8--------7-8-10|--------8-10-12---------
|-1-3-5-------3-5-6------|5-6-8-------6-8-10-------|8-10-12---------10-12-13
|------------------------|-------------------------|------------------------
|------------------------|-------------------------|------------------------
|------------------------|-------------------------|------------------------
|------------------------|-------------------------|------------------------


-10-12-13|---------12-13-15-----||
---------|12-13-15----------13~-||
---------|----------------------||
---------|----------------------||
---------|----------------------||
---------|----------------------||


Figure 28

|-15-13-------------13-12-------------|12-10------------10-8-----------|8-7-
|-------17-15-13\12-------15-13-12\10-|------13-12-10\8------12-10-8\6-|----
|-------------------------------------|--------------------------------|----
|-------------------------------------|--------------------------------|----
|-------------------------------------|--------------------------------|----
|-------------------------------------|--------------------------------|----


----------7-5---------|5-3---------3-1------------||
-10-8-6\5-----8-6-5\3-|----6-5-3\1-----5-3-1-0-1~-||
----------------------|---------------------------||
----------------------|---------------------------||
----------------------|---------------------------||
----------------------|---------------------------||

93 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    cwnhat
    I've been playing for six years with only using downstrokes... this lesson helped me break the habit. Thanks!
    warlock_182
    just paste them into notepad be thankful it even has examples or it would mean nothing to you.
    tweeb
    Hey should i play alternative picking when i play power chords and chords like when i play Iron Man or Money for Nothing too? And i don't have to Palm Mute when i play alternative picking right?
    ManoDelDiablo
    Jumboshrmp wrote: Am I the only one that thinks that figure 5B is WAY easier than figure 5C? Heck, I think figure 5A is easier.
    Keep in mind that how easy it is to play the example isn't important. What matters is how easy it is to pick, that being what the lesson is about and all... 5A is the best if you ask me. Very easy to Economy pick.
    joshgiesbrecht
    WOW.. This is SUCH a good lesson.. Like I've been playing for over a year and a half.. I'm self taught.. I never thought I would need this.. But.. Thanks to you, I got it down after trying to teach it to myself like a year lol.. Instead.. I learn this in 5 mins.. SOOOOO good.. Keep up the good work man.. Perhaps some more related lessons soon?
    tweeb
    You don't have to palm mute, but I find that sometimes it may help control the top string, however it makes a different sound, so only use it if you want that sound (generally, if you're using a ton of distortion, you should palm mute when picking one note really fast, otherwise it rings out like crap). For power chords, I don't alternate pick, unless I'm muting the bottom strings. But in iron man, I always downpick.
    Thanks for replying
    Ive been learning for a while now, but what pick is usually considered for playing at speed? I usually use 1.5 mil but Ive tried out others and just cant decide
    I use 1 mil picks.
    Jumboshrmp
    tweeb wrote: Hey should i play alternative picking when i play power chords and chords like when i play Iron Man or Money for Nothing too? And i don't have to Palm Mute when i play alternative picking right?
    You don't have to palm mute, but I find that sometimes it may help control the top string, however it makes a different sound, so only use it if you want that sound (generally, if you're using a ton of distortion, you should palm mute when picking one note really fast, otherwise it rings out like crap). For power chords, I don't alternate pick, unless I'm muting the bottom strings. But in iron man, I always downpick.
    WishfulShredder wrote: Ive been learning for a while now, but what pick is usually considered for playing at speed? I usually use 1.5 mil but Ive tried out others and just cant decide
    It's definitely preference then. I can't use a thick pick for anything but strumming songs. I use fender medium for everything. I actually find that using thin makes me pick faster, though it's harder to control. It all depends, theres a fine line between a good thin pick and one that is way too thin. I bought a pack of fender thin picks once and some were slightly thicker, not by too much, but very noticable
    Jumboshrmp
    Am I the only one that thinks that figure 5B is WAY easier than figure 5C? Heck, I think figure 5A is easier. Great article though. I'm glad to see some excercises that actually sounds good, instead of the whole "pick the string and fret 1 - 2 - 3 - 4" stuff
    gokuace2000
    brush200400 wrote: great lesson good exercises for practicingWishfulShredder wrote: Ive been learning for a while now, but what pick is usually considered for playing at speed? I usually use 1.5 mil but Ive tried out others and just cant decide heavy, no specific gauge. I use fender heavy
    i use dunlop gator grip 2.0mm. but you can use any gauge you want really. its more based on perference.
    brush200400
    great lesson good exercises for practicing
    WishfulShredder wrote: Ive been learning for a while now, but what pick is usually considered for playing at speed? I usually use 1.5 mil but Ive tried out others and just cant decide
    heavy, no specific gauge. I use fender heavy
    WishfulShredder
    Ive been learning for a while now, but what pick is usually considered for playing at speed? I usually use 1.5 mil but Ive tried out others and just cant decide
    RyGuy009
    its hard to play with a metronome but im getting the speed, i just dont know how fast it is, buts its getting fast. good lesson
    kimark4
    hmm...what song can you recommend to me to practice more my alternate picking??!..
    HateCrewMafia
    thx man i really needed something to help me in this section of my play... i was stuck as in where to go to gt this stuff down... was real helpful have alll ready reccomended to people
    Silky Smooth
    Single string licks are underrated Theres a lot of great things you can do with one string and great picking technique
    Septerra
    is alt picking only for single strings and not for chords? I get confused about that
    spiroth10
    good lesson. Still can't play all the examples yet, but hopefully I'll get there soon enough...
    kn4ck3r
    child-of-bodom- and XxDontxWaitXx I'm sorry but the answer to this question is: the way you feel comfortable with... silly answer I know. The only thing I can do to help, is tell you how I hold it most of the times. (For some techniques and playing positions I tend to change the way I hold the pick) Firstly, I hold it between the index finger and thumb, and this is sort of the approach to it. 1. Relax your picking hand and hold it with your palm facing your stomach. (you should now be looking down on the "thumb side" of the hand) 2. Now completely close the two outer joints of your index finger, quite hard. (The inner bone and the outer bone of the finger should now be more or less parallel. The outermost bone of your finger should point back towards your wrist) 3. Now lay your pick down on the outermost bone of the index finger, with the tip of the pick pointing away (perpendicular) from your fingernail. 4. Now lay your thumb on top of the pick, and relax the muscles of the index finger and thumb a bit. (The tip of your index finger should stop near the outer joint of the thumb) 5. Now do some final adjustments to the pick so that the attack on the strings feels right. 6. Now do some final adjustments to your hand, if needed. Some common adjustments mentioned below. I like to curl the rest of my fingers the same way the index now curls, keeping a little bit of tension in the fingers just to keep everything in place. Some people anchor the pinky or other available fingers at the bottom of a pickup or somewhere on the pick guard. Others anchor the wrist at the bridge. My hand floats freely over the strings not anchored anywhere. Try some hybrid picking (pick with the pick and pluck with the rest of your available fingers on your picking hand) Check this out and notice the difference in sound: Try holding the pick very loose and very hard. Try angling the tip of the pick more and more towards the neck. Try angling your hand up or down, so that the attack on the string is less parallel. (angle between pick and string) And every other possible way of changing how your pick meets the string that you can come up with. Hmmm... wasn't easy to explain this just using words, but I hope you understood most of it. And, this is not the 'correct' way of holding the pick, it's just my favourite way. You find yours... hth BoB
    Mikhajlovich
    BlairC wrote: Ok what's better to use Alt picking or economy picking?
    As a bassist, I personally say economy picking is more efficient, as it minimizes right-hand motion by reducing that unnecessary jumping movement while switching strings. It makes it easier to ascend AND descend scales...and quite frankly, ever since I learned to do it, I've resolved never to go back to downpicking again if I can possibly help it.
    Strat'z
    Pain doesn't mean if you're doing it wrong it's normal. When i started doing power chords my wrist hurt like hell. So i rest a bit and then i went back to it. I suffered nothing by doing this. Even my teacher says it's normal. But nice lesson
    Paydro91
    i've been wanting to learn this for a while but always put it aside. time to do it now though
    harubie
    the problem im facing now is when i try alternate picking chords .. it always feels like a "speedbump" whenever i try to up stroke. I need help ! haha
    Jroot101
    Does anyone know if this will help my right hand hit the strings? because i seem to hit the wrong strings if am doing picking. E.G. i will be doing a scale and hit the 'D' string instead of what i want to hit which is 'A'
    RawrSlinky
    666-JoE-666 wrote: kimark4 wrote: hmm...what song can you recommend to me to practice more my alternate picking??!.. the intro to Welcome Home by Coheed and Cambria is good for alternate picking, it incorporates string crosses aswell
    That's not a great example considering it has a 3 note sweep right at the beginning. On the subject of Coheed though Everything Evil has some pretty good alternate picking, palm-muted and at high-speeds so pretty close to some of the excersizes here to
    metalmaniac45
    6 months ago i read this lesson and applied it. i can now solo at blistering speeds. thank you so much.
    Lime99
    So everything is supposed to be palm-muted in this lesson? I'm only on the first 2 figures and it's easy for me while palm-muting but its like a totally different ball-game when not palm-muting-much harder. Also I notice the bottom of my palm is kind of like rubbing against the strings on the bridge which isn't comfortable after awhile.
    666-JoE-666
    kimark4 wrote: hmm...what song can you recommend to me to practice more my alternate picking??!..
    the intro to Welcome Home by Coheed and Cambria is good for alternate picking, it incorporates string crosses aswell
    666-JoE-666
    mdude wrote: GREAT MANN GOOD JOB>>>>!!! ANYONE PLESE TELL ME HOW TO HOLD THE PICK WHILE STRUMMING!!!.. I MEAN WHICH IS THE BEST AND CORRECT WAY!!!
    The Way I do It.. And I think most other guitarists is to hold the pick with the ponted end toward the string, between your thumb and index finger... try to keep the action to the elbow but have a loose wrist aswell
    Dreaming_guitar
    hey...could you guys give a picture sample on dizzz thing...i can't learn with just word playing in my mind...hopefully ur guys help me...im new...gotca
    Samothomas
    NekoFoo wrote: Does he mean play at 160 bpm in sixtenth notes?
    I'd like to know that too. In exercise one, are they 16th notes?
    MadMetal
    Awesome, Ive been playing for a little more than a year and I really underestimated the importance of this stuff. 5 stars
    metalmaniac45
    kimark4 wrote: hmm...what song can you recommend to me to practice more my alternate picking??!..
    try one by metallica
    kimark4
    hmm...what song can you recommend to me to practice more my alternate picking??!..
    Metallica__rule
    Thanks for the info but it pisses me off ive been patricing alt. picking alot recently but im still quicker just with downstrokes when playing a song string crossing
    kn4ck3r
    GURRA89 You are supposed to mute the strings you play. Try this: Lay your right palm on top of the bridge (where the strings are fastened), not touching any of the strings. Now start picking the 6th string (thickest) repeatedly. As you do this, slowly move your right hand forward (towards the neck). The more you move your palm off the bridge and onto the strings, the more muted will the string be, producing a percussive sound (thump like sound). This is called palm muting. Palm muting is usually indicated with a: p.m. above the tab where you should mute. Sometimes it's indicated with p.m. - - - - - - | , if a large section is supposed to be muted. (p.m. indicates start and | indicates stop) The tabs in this lesson doesn't indicate when to palm mute. Perhaps the author expect you to palm mute all of them... I dunno. hth BoB