Economy Picking in Arpeggios

Basic economy picking used in 2 string arpeggios.

Economy Picking in Arpeggios
Hi UG community! Now as a smaller lesson separate from my theory lessons that I have posted, I'd like to touch on some cool picking concepts based on "economy" picking.

Economy picking is a variation on "alternate" picking. The term economy in this reference to guitar, is: "The path of least resistance" or the least amount of motion required to perform the passage, or phrase if you will.

Alternate picking is a consistent variation of up-down-up-down, etc. Economy picking can be used in either direction. What I mean by that is, "ascending" (scaling up) or "descending" (scaling down).

In ascending, let us say three notes per string starting on the low E string the "Picking pattern" would go as fallows. E string, down-up-down-A string, down-up-down-D string, down-up-down, etc. You could stop there, or continue with this pattern up to the high E string if you wanted.

In descending, in the same reference, starting from the high E this time instead, still remaining with the three notes per string, the pattern would be reversed. The pattern would go as follows: high E, up-down-up, B string, up-down-up, G string, up-down-up, etc. Also, you could descend all the way to the low E.

As you can see, the adjacent string are played with the range of motion of your picking hand at a minimum. This is not the easiest technique to master per-se. But, with enough practice and be very effective for fluidity. Michael Romeo from Symphony X is a player I greatly admire for his use of this technique.

All that being said, here is an easy to practice arpeggio based lick, or lick's that employ economy picking. In these examples the pattern stays true when transferring to the next string. Ex: down-down-up.

Ex.1. This example is played entirely on the B, and high E strings.
e ------12--15P12---------12--15P12--------12--15P12--|
b -12-------------------12-------------------12-------|
g ----------------------------------------------------|
d ----------------------------------------------------|
a ----------------------------------------------------|
E ----------------------------------------------------|
In the above example, a simple arpeggio is outlined. The notes are (low to high) B, E, and G. The first two notes are down picked, the B and E. The last note is an up-pick followed by a "pull-off." This makes the individual "cells," "quadruplets," or 4 notes played linearly in rapid succession. I play the three times over a normal 4/4 meter. Since all three cells played quickly adds up to 12, this type of approach matches up with a triplet feel. 

Ex.2. Here are some more "shapes" or "patterns" that use this technique. This time we will stay in the key of E minor. Spelled from lowest to highest, E, F#, G, A, B, C, D.
e ---15P19--------15--19P15-------15--19P15---|
b --------------17------------------17--------|
g --------------------------------------------|
d --------------------------------------------|
a --------------------------------------------|
E --------------------------------------------|

Above this arpeggio is Em spelled, E, G, and B.
e ---17P14------14--17P14-------14--17P14------|
b -------------15-----------------15-----------|
g ---------------------------------------------|
d ---------------------------------------------|
a ---------------------------------------------|
E ---------------------------------------------|

Above this example is D Major spelled, D, F#, and A.
e ---15P12------12--15P12-------12--15P12------| 
b -------------13-----------------13-----------|
g ---------------------------------------------|
d ---------------------------------------------|
a ---------------------------------------------|
E ---------------------------------------------|

Above this example is C Major spelled, C, E, and G.

Each of the next few arpeggios I will list the notes and names of, but to keep to this lesson just repeat them 4 times over the corresponding chords. I will make a tab with the chord's and list the names of these as well.
e ---3P0--------0--3---5P2--------2--5------7P3--------3--7---8P5-|
b ------------1--------------------3-----------------------5------|
g ----------------------------------------------------------------|
d ----------------------------------------------------------------|
a ----------------------------------------------------------------|
E ----------------------------------------------------------------|
e ---12P8-----------8--12---14P10----------10--14----20P17--|
b --------------10--------------------------12--------------|
g ----------------------------------------------------------|
d ----------------------------------------------------------|
a ----------------------------------------------------------|
E ----------------------------------------------------------|
These arpeggios in order from lowest to highest are as follows, C Major, D Major, E Minor, F# Diminished, G Major, A Minor, B Minor then Ex.2 fills in C Major, D Major, E Minor, then we go up to F# Minor, and finally G Major.

Ex.3. The chords are as follows. I just put them into "power chord" form here with the exception of F# Minor, I have lowered the 5th here to a Diminished 5th to match the arpeggio above.
e --------------------------------|
B --------------------------------|
G --------------------------------|
D --2---4--5--7--9--10--12---14---|
A --2---3--5--7--9--10--12---14---|
E --0---2--3--5--7--8----10---12--|
These are the 7 chords in the "power chord" form starting from E, noted lowest to highest as follows, E, F#, G, A, B, C, D, E (one octave higher).

These examples are a little more fun with a second guitarist for rhythm and trading off. If you have a way to record, loop, and/or playback and jam with that would be ideal, assuming you don't have a 2nd player to jam with. Play around with these shapes, after enough noodle-ing with them you can commit them to memory.

Also, try to play them in order, and for a different challenge jumble the order. I really like this patter: E Minor, C Major, D Major, B Minor, C Major, A Minor, B Minor (these are performed higher on the neck). Another I really dig is, alternating two in, one out, like this, E Minor, C Major, D Major, E Minor, C Major, B Minor (also played higher on the neck) etc. Notice for two in one out I play the first two sets both times just alternate the last of the three sets or cells on the second time.

These can also be played in any octave just match the shapes and patterns to the "roots" or lowest note in each arpeggio, the "shapes" should match up. I really like these arpeggios played in the 2nd octave starting on the A string at the 7th fret. Just food for thought so to speak.

If applied correctly I think that this economy picking can have a very smooth and even sound, as well as not use as much energy as alternate picking for the same passage's tabbed above.

I hope this lesson provides something useful for you in your playing or maybe even just added something for you to play around with utilizing a different approach. I also hope it is user friendly in the respect that all levels of ability can actually appreciate it.

Thanks, and remember if you get frustrated or are having some trouble with this, try playing something you know well, or maybe take a break from your guitar all together.

Practice makes perfect, and patience makes endurance!

Hope y'all enjoy!

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