Clean Up Your Alternate Picking Now!

Get ready to balance out your pickstrokes and string crosses for a cleaner and faster alternate picking technique today!

Ultimate Guitar
A hugely under discussed aspect of alternate picking is that of picking hand imbalance and the trouble it can cause.

Alternate picking is when notes are executed by the picking hand in an alternating manner - a downstroke followed by an upstroke followed by a downstroke and so on.

For whatever reason, players often tend to be far better at downstrokes than they are at upstrokes. And, if one picking direction is favored then a picking imbalance will be encountered.

Let's dive right into exercise No. 1 to combat this.

Exercise 1

Take this chromatic exercise. It's 4 repeating notes played with alternate picking. Accent (pick hard) every downstroke. And now...

Exercise 2

Try the exact same thing but accenting every upstroke instead.

Did you find one exercise easier than the other? Whichever one you found to be a little harder - practice that one far more than the other. Working on our weaknesses makes us strong, and in the context of these 2 exercises, working on our weaker pickstroke will bring us balance.

The other area of alternate picking which is prone to imbalances is string crossing (playing a note on one string and then switching to another to continue playing). There are 4 ways to cross a string: Outside picking away from you, outside picking towards you, inside picking away from you, and inside picking towards you. Here is a graphic to explain what I mean:

String crossing is the biggest hurdle when it comes to fast, accurate, multi-string picking runs, and all 4 of these string crosses need to be mastered evenly. If even one of these aren't as good as the other 3 then you will be imbalanced and severely restricted.

And so I designed a short, repeating exercise to address this. The exercise includes all 4 string crosses. You will feel what I mean the moment you try it!

Exercise 3

Here is the video for the final exercise with in depth explanation:

YouTube preview picture

About the Author:
By Alfred Potter

15 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Sounds like a great lesson, but would you elaborate on how economy picking comes in the middle of all of this? I have been doing economy picking before I knew what it was called (and before I even realised it) and am not sure if this is a good thing or not. Please help.
    The choice between the two techniques is yours to make. Of course, lots of guitarists choose to learn both, yet a whole lot more tend to just stick to one. Economy picking is easier to get fast with and hence why it's so tempting. Unfortunately it's best suited for well rehearsed passages, as you have to remember when to do directional picking. This is my understanding of it? Alternate picking is far harder to get good and fast at but is more versatile. Once you've got it down you can literally do anything with it. I have about 2 or 3 things I use economy picking for and it was a conscious decision. So to answer your question I always say alternate picking.Keep economy picking as a backup fancy trick.
    Such an easy lesson, but it works wonders. The same goes for bass players, alternate your plucking fingers consistently. Practice that finger motion daily with a simple note sequence and you'll be faster every week !
    I think jimmy bruno's logic is best here..when going from a lower string to a higher one always use a downstroke and vice versa..economy picking is the way to go