this lesson we're going to learn the basics of alternate picking,
and why it's important for things like speed building,
rhythm and timing with your guitar playing (and especially with
If, up until now, you've been only
your riffs and licks (which most beginners do - I did), you'll really
appreciate learning to alternate pick - you'll be able to pick a lot
and with better timing. Apply it to any lick you play.
how does it
Simple - instead of just down
picking a string, you pick using up
and down stroke
movements (e.g. down-up-down-up-down-up etc.).
Now, when applied in practice,
you'll have to get used to the extra control
needed with the physical aspects of alternate picking. One of these is
keeping your picking "sweep" tight around the string you're playing -
we'll look at this, and the others, over the course of this lesson.
I'm aware that there will be
absolute beginners needing step-by-step exercises, so I'm going to
start very basic and then you can progress in your own time as we move
The basics of alternate
picking on guitar
you can be self-disciplined with your timing, you'll master
this very quickly. Timing is the ability to pick consistently to, say,
a click track or a beat and stay in time with the rhythm.
Take a look at the exercise
below. To start with, just down
pick the bottom E string, copying the rhythm in the audio
example (click the diagrams to
Now, we're just going to fill
in the short gaps between each down
stroke with an up stroke. You have to use an
upwards motion anyway to get back in place for the next downstroke -
just use that upward motion to add another pick stroke:
What helped me with rhythm when I first started was to count the down
strokes in groupings of 4 and then add in the up strokes as the "and"
in between. It might help you too... try it!
follow the same
procedure for the other strings
Each string will feel
different when alternate picking. You'll notice that you have to
keep your picking sweep tight around the string to avoid picking any
unwanted strings above or below.
At first, you'll accidentally
hit strings around the string you're supposed to be picking - it just
takes time - start slow, and build up speed gradually using a metronome.
Speed is the last
thing to master - first, focus on perfecting your
timing and string accuracy, then, and only then, can you speed up.
Alternate picking while changing string
Sounds obvious... but you need
to learn to change string, like you
would in most riffs, and not let it interrupt the picking rhythm.
Beginners can often get "derailed" when they try to change string
during a lick.
Take a look at the exercise below - we're going to play the minor
pentatonic scale, using alternate picking. To start fairly
simply, we're going to allocate 4 picks per note starting from the
bottom string (down-up-down-up *change* down-up-down-up *change*
Click the diagram to hear the
audio (I'm actually playing A minor pentatonic,
starting at fret 5 on the low E string) and try to keep the timing
constant as you change notes and strings:
Now try one
pick per note
Let's try a different scale
for this - the major scale. Using one pick stroke per note,
play through the major scale below. Remember, use a metronome
to speed up gradually.
OK, once you're comfortable with playing the above exercises at a speed
you're happy with, we can move onto something a little more complex!
alternate picking exercises
Creative soloing jumps around scale patterns, rather than playing them
in a linear kind of sequence.
You need to be able to
alternate pick smoothly with irregular string
switches - the average listener will just hear a sequence of notes, but
you, as a lead guitarist, have to physically
negotiate jumps between strings and fret intervals.
Take a look and listen to
the exercises below. These are soloing phrases that make use
of all 6
strings of the guitar. Try them out yourself keeping that strict,
down-up-down-up, picking motion.
It'll take a while to
co-ordinate your pick and fret hand changes on patterns
over more than a couple of strings, but keep at it and your "muscle
memory" will soon kick in!
Hopefully, after taking time with the exercises
in this lesson, you should be confident with the core physical aspects
alternate picking. Now it's time to apply it to the scales
and licks you learn.
Eventually, it'll become second nature - your picking hand will
naturally know the distance it needs to move to the
next string, or even skip a string.
The more time you spend
and the wider variation of phrases and movements you challenge yourself
with, the more
this technique will sink in and become second nature.
Thanks for your time and
Please let others know, cheers...