A Primer On Economy Picking

A basic approach in learning economy picking.

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Economy picking is a technique used by a lot of great guitarists and other musicians that play stringed instruments that uses plectrums or picks, the pioneer of the technique is the great Frank The Thunder from Down Under Gambale. This technique is great if you are having difficulties in picking especially if you cross adjacent strings during a speed run or if doing technical guitar phrases. Also, this technique allows you to learn and play fast licks easily. From a guitar school of thought, alternate picking is still the best way in tackling guitar solo phrases but is somehow difficult with some guitar players. This technique opened an opportunity for both new and advanced players to explore and create music that is technically impossible, possible. One word of inherited knowledge, speed is a by-product of picking accuracy and efficiency. Speed is only an embellishment to the great musical wonders that you are about to create and play. The following primer lesson is presented in a non-exercise fashion but more on musical situations that we can actually use. Now, let's get it on! Example 1: Dm
      D   u   D   D   u   D   D   u 
E|-----------------------------------|
B|-----------------------------------|
G|---------------------------5---7---|
D|---------------5---7---8-----------|
A|---5---7---8-----------------------|
E|-----------------------------------|
Here is a typical phrase that most beginners have difficulty in tackling even with conventional alternate picking. First, try to memorize the fingerings of all the notes as presented and take note of the down strokes: from F (8th fret, 5th string) to G (5th fret, 4th string) and Bb (8th fret, 4th string) to C (5th fret, 3rd string). Notice that we only have 3 upstrokes when executing the phrase. This is because if we deploy this picking technique, we are actually eliminating the upstroke when we cross strings. Take time to learn the basic motion. It will reward you greatly. In this example, the run is built on a D minor scale passing every diatonic note from root to octave. Example 2: Dm
      d  U   U   D   U   U   D   U 
E|-----------------------------------|
B|-----------------------------------|
G|---7---5---------------------------|
D|-----------8---7---5---------------|
A|-----------------------8---7---5---|
E|-----------------------------------|
This exercise is a mirror image of the previous example but concentrating on the upstrokes. Take note, the motion for this sample is completely reversed from the previous exercise. Notice that from the exercises that you use the same picking stroke onto the next note when you cross strings. This is the basic principle behind Economy Picking. If you already nailed the basic movement in executing economy picking, here are samples of guitar playing situations that you might want to consider in deploying the technique:
Legend: u - upstroke
        d - downstroke
 
   u        d  d u     d  u  u      d  u  u     d  u    u      d  u
E|-------------5------------------------------------------------------|
B|----------5----------5--5---------5--5--------5--5-----------5--5---|
G|-7^(9)---------7^(9)-------7^(9)--------7^(9)---------7^(9)---------|
D|--------------------------------------------------------------------|
A|--------------------------------------------------------------------|
E|--------------------------------------------------------------------|
 
   d      d         u  d  d  u         d        u  u  d   
E|----------------------------------------------------------|
B|-7^(8)^(7)^(8)--------------------------------------------|
G|-7^(8)^(7)^(8)----5-----7--5^(7)--------------------------|
D|---------------------7---------------5^(4)----2-----------|
A|----------------------------------x--------------3--0-----|
E|----------------------------------------------------------|
 
   u    d      u  u   d     u    d  u  d     u  d     u  d   
         hold bend
E|-------------5-----------------------5--x------------------|
B|----------------5--------------------5--x-----5------------|
G|-2----4^(6)--------(6)^4--2----0-----------4^(6)----2--0---|
D|-----------------------------------------------------------|
A|----------------------------------0------------------------|
E|-----------------------------------------------------------|
 
   d   u  u   u            d    u
E|-----5-------------------------------|
B|--------5----------------------------|
G|-1/2-------(6)^4-----///14--/18\\\---|
D|-------------------------------------|
A|-------------------------------------|
E|-------------------------------------|
Executing the technique will take time and effort even sometimes borders on the weird. But knowing when to use it will really improve your guitar playing ability. Also, I advise that you use a good pick when learning the technique due to the fast response time to string attack no matter what the string gauge you are using. I recommend using V-Picks Guitar Picks. Check out the site to find what pick you might want to use. Stick around for the next installment of this guitar lesson. Thank you for time reading. I hope this will help your guitar playing!

6 comments sorted by best / new / date

    shadowmaster036
    Nice lesson. I've actually just gotten into economy picking but didn't have much to work with besides implementing it into the songs I already know. Try to include as many exercises as possible in the next lesson though...
    qsceszxdwa
    I have always found it strange that ever since i started playing, i have always 'economy' picked. I have always found it to be normal and logical. I have never purely down picked and have only practiced alternate picking. What is wrong with me, internets? A nice article for people who don't do it already... (seriously, what is wrong with me???? :O)
    the_wassel
    qsceszxdwa wrote: I have always found it strange that ever since i started playing, i have always 'economy' picked. I have always found it to be normal and logical. I have never purely down picked and have only practiced alternate picking. What is wrong with me, internets? A nice article for people who don't do it already... (seriously, what is wrong with me???? :O)
    you're more concerned about being smooth than thrashing.
    LightxGrenade
    nice lesson. I liked that you didn't just focus on 3 notes per string (or just an odd number) economy picking which is what a lot of lessons about economy picking stick with. Maybe the way to hold the pick should be discussed in your next lesson because that's something that is often ignored regardless of economy or alternate picking but I suppose I'm just knitpicking at that point. Good job, nothing new but understandable and applicable and that's just as important if not more so...
    Axler
    Tx for the info'. I have an understanding about economy & alternative picking but your last example threw me a bit. Why would you play the first three notes u d d ? I would have played them d d u and continued like this - am I wrong here?