Picking Practice for the New Guys

This is just a couple little methods I used in order to increase the my alternate picking skills to allow for some fast soloing without the need to sweep pick.

Ultimate Guitar
Now, everybody goes nowadays and listens to some shredding metal where they're literally jumping all up and down the neck in a flurry of wild arpeggios and broken scales in order to gift their music with the edge of excitement. But... You see: it doesn't always have to be this way.

If you've ever heard the song "I'm Going Home" by Ten Years After, you will understand what it means to be a mighty picker. Alan's licks and rock 'n' roll shredding will be stuck in my head 'til the day I die. So, in order to appease my newfangled mind, decorated by the music that beseeches it's every lobe of sensation, I would love to learn that song and be able to shred it at every bar in the tri-state area.

But, Simon... The Licks! They're too fast! Aye... Well, in the event of speed picking, whether it be classic rock 'n' roll, or thrash metal, you'll be faced with a few challenges:
  • Fatigue. Sometimes, you shred so hard, that your forearm aches with force of 1,000 buffalo.
  • Rhythm and timing. Keeping in time, and on rhythm at the same time is a must for keeping your picking crisp, and to the degree of fire that burns the very soul of your listener.
  • Strength of your fretting hand. To be able to keep up with your racing picking hand, whether it be left or right, you've got to keep a strong fretting hand (or shredding hand, whichever you wanna call it). Mainly, because if you don't it'll sound like your mindlessly rubbing your finger nails on electric wire and it's snapping around the bra strap of last nights floosy
So young one, these problems will be a... Uh, problem for you up until you master them and get to your next challenges, but I'll keep the next few for part 2.

Now! Getting to the first challenge. It'll be awfully vague, and terribly scripted mainly because I can't train your tennis arm for you.

1. Fatigue and How to Overcome That Sh-t

As a guitarist, you've had your share or finger pains, or what have you. But now that you've moved to the next level, you're trying to shred so fast that your muscles start whacking the weeds outside and your dad is calling you "Tennis Boy" for the rest of your life because your arm gets so jacked. You know... Like when you play tennis.

But, the reason it's going to be so vague, is because it's like doing push ups: do more and you will get stronger (Which working out is honestly one way I would suggest, it doesn't help to be a noodle, unless you're body is attuned to guitar playing and has adapted as such; I know a few people who don't work out, but strum like a mofo).

So basically, you have one or two options:
  • Get jacked.
  • Keep picking, this sh-t takes work.

2. Rhythm and Timing, Keep It Right or Don't Gloat

I've met a plethora of people in my days who are like, "Hey I play guitar, I'm really good, you should let me see that!" and I having an optimistic view on life say, "Sure, give it a go sport, show me what you've got!"

"Yeaaaaaaaa, that was... Good?"

So, if you haven't guessed, my ill mannered reply slammed right on the fact of: this person, just doesn't have a rhythm. Which I could never really understand how someone could lack rhythm personally, I mean, our lives, and the world are full of rhythm and succession. Because music is natural. Everything has a pitch, a bpm. I mean, my cellphone vibrates in the key of A for exactly 4 seconds every time, and that's robotic. Sure, people are spontaneous, and unpredictable, I get that, but these actions are in cahoots with the very roots of the universe.

When you go to speed pick, make sure you're on time. Practice with a metronome if you have to. Play the blues, the blues is a powerhouse of rhythm.

And again, I can't train you on how to play right by typing words, but you can practice with your own body if you put the effort in.

3. Finger Strength and Its Importance to Shredding

You ever see one of those finger grips that you use you work out your fingers? Yeah, you should buy one. You can get them in any music store for at the most probably 10 bucks. Or you can do finger push ups like a real Shaolin monk.

Your fingers need to be strong and durable, they need to have the strength to pull off, hammer-on and spider up the neck in a glory of shredding power. Because again, listen to "I'm Going Home" by Ten Years After, or "Royz Blues" by Roy Buchanan. These songs will teach you, and they will inspire you to get your hands up and running like the little butt plugs they are.


So, you may (or may not) have learned from this Lesson, but like with any lesson, you get from it what you make of it. And in all honesty, I feel like these tips will help you more that buying a subscription to a guitar lessons website, because let's be honest: they suck. I tried it once when I got a free 2 day subscription with a guitar I bought, and the lessons were terrible.

All-in-all, it just takes practice. Coming from a musician who taught himself how to shred "I'm Going Home" and "Royz Blues," you aught to trust my word. But don't just leave your practice at classic rock, try learning Dick Dale or some surf songs for some tremolo picking, because Dick speed picks with rhythm and power, hard enough to melt his picks in a show. Learn some Spanish guitar for practice your picking up and down the neck and learn some thrash metal to practice your left hand, and trust me, you'll get there.

2 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I agree on that timing is important. But buying one of those finger grips to aid guitar playing is a waste of time and money. If we pretend for a second that it actually helps (even though it doesn't) you could simply spend that five minutes playing the guitar for greater reasults. If you have such a weak grip that you physically can't play the guitar your guitar is set up wrong, or your technique really sucks. And a finger grip workout does jack shit to fix that.
    "...if you don't it'll sound like your mindlessly rubbing your finger nails on electric wire and it's snapping around the bra strap of last nights floosy" thats pretty funny. Your lesson seams like a long winded way of saying "if you want to be good you must practice all the time." Wich is definitely true. I will say that i appreciate the recommendations tho. I was not lucky enough to have an older music mentor so i had never heard of [b]ten years after or [b]Roy Buchanan . They can really shred so i really appreciate that part of the lesson.