December 13, 2023

Alternate Picking

Let´s start, for those of you who do not know what Alternate Picking is… It is a guitar playing technique that employs strictly alternating downward and upward picking strokes in a continuous run, it is just as simple as that.

But now, playing this technique is a completely different thing. If you are having problems with it, this is what you can do:

The main problem with alternate picking comes when you are picking a note in the opposite direction of the next string that you’re going to play. For instance, if your last note was a down stroke on the G string, and your next note is an upstroke on the D string, then your pick has to travel a more complicated path than if you were picking up on G and down on D. What to do?

Some people just refuse to let their picking hand do the more difficult move, by trying to put a hammer on or a pull off to time the direction of the pick to a more favorable direction. Others might just be using the pick to start the string in motion, but are doing all hammer or pull offs other than the first note on a string.

But let’s concentrate on what to do if you are using the versatile alternate picking method. Since we don’t want to limit the note choices, or string choices, in any way, we have to just get good at dealing with the problem.

Practice going back and forth between two strings picking in the opposite direction. For example, play a C on the 3rd string (5th fret) with a downstroke followed by an E on the 4th string (2nd fret)with an upstroke. Repeat the C and E one more time.

Video Lesson: How to Hold a Guitar Pick

Next, bring the C down to a B (1 fret) on the 3rd string with a downstroke, followed by the same E on the 4th with an upstroke. Repeat the B and E. Just to make a slightly musical pattern, do the same thing, but change the B down to an A, doing the same pattern. To make the pattern symmetrical, return the A back up to a B and play B,E,B,E, just like the second pattern.

It will take a lot less time to play this than to read about it, so try to muddle through this explanation to get to the actual notes, it’s not hard to play this as long as you don’t try to play it too fast.

As with all exercises, do it slowly and as accurately as possible at first. Doing this exercise addresses one of the most important points about practicing and improvements.

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