The Most Common Mistake in Alternate Picking

In this particular article I will tell you about one technique that is very often used by almost every guitarist. It is called alternate picking, and here.

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The Most Common Mistake in Alternate Picking
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In this particular article I will tell you about one technique that is very often used by almost every guitarist. It is called alternate picking, and here. I will bring an example and show you the technique’s basics. I will also describe one common problem that a lot of musicians have with it.

So, here is our today’s example:

It is not very difficult, but you should have some experience to play it. It's also possible to play it even with downstrokes only. But I picked this easy example so that you can focus on what your right hand is doing here.

In case of using alternate picking it is correct to play the riff like so:

- Down on the 5th string

- Up on the 6th

- Down on the 6th

- Up on the 5th

- Down on the 6th

- Up on the 6th

- Down on the 5th

- Up on the 6th

Here “Down” means downstroke and ”Up” means upstroke

While starting, a problem may appear where you intuitively want to make a downstroke instead of an upstroke. This happens on the note number 4.

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Or you can use just sweep motion down playing both of notes with one stroke.

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And this may appear comfortable to you at the beginning. But later on several mistakes can come out. I will tell about them further in the article.

Here, I have to notice that all I will say below, is not to prevent you from playing in certain way, but to warn you about some difficulties you may meet for you to be ready for them. You still are free to play in the way you want or feel comfortable to.

1. Keeping straight rhythm becomes harder task

Alternate picking are just alternated downstrokes and upstrokes. When you are trying to interrupt the constant motion by adding several downstrokes in a row the smoothness of the motion breaks. Also it becomes harder to keep it straight on time.

2. Speeding up also becomes harder

As I said before, alternate picking are just alternated downstrokes and upstrokes. Your hand here moves at a constant speed. When you use two downstrokes your hand should go twice as fast to stay in tempo with the picking. This just getting worse and tougher if there are places where you have to skip strings jumping over them. So, as you can see getting faster is interfered by these details. What’s more as you keep speeding up earlier or sooner there will be a point when the hand won’t physically be able to deal with two downstrokes in a row.

3. It changes the tone

A note picked with a downstroke sounds much brighter, than the one, picked with an upstroke. So this will be noticeable in our riff but you don’t always want it. If two guitarists of your band play the same riff in a different way you will hear it. Especially when playing alive: the dynamics of guitars will be different. Another thing here is also connected with speed. As you increase the speed, the motion gets harder and harder to do and at some point you will lose the accent, that you may reach with a downstroke. Then if you keep accelerating your riff will get blurry and sloppy. Sweeping is a good technique to use in fast solos for many reasons. But alternate picking is better for rhythm to keep it tight and sharp.

As I said earlier this was not an attempt to force you to use only alternate picking. These were just warnings about problems you may have. You are free to use any technique you want if you feel like it. Just keep in mind what I said above and check if some technique is appropriate to the place where you want to put it. I used sweep transitions in alternate picking in my songs and that sounded great.

So go on for anything. The difficulties are avoidable if you know about them.

You can use this riff as an exercise for training alternate picking. But don’t worry if you fail at it. This may only mean that you should play some easier stuff before. Everyone has his own level.

If you want to make sure you are practice guitar correctly you are welcome to my guitar lessons in Moscow.

Author: Pasha Bocharov - professional guitar teacher and musician.

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