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New Jersey Guitar Lessons

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 Alternate Picking


Rules of Thumb


1) BE LOOSE - The less tension you have when you pick, the faster you will be able to play and the less muscle strain you will suffer. Never dig in when picking really fast. Lay back and be loose. 


2) THINK ECONOMY - Economy of motion is the key here. This means try to eliminate as much motion between pick strokes as possible. The less that you have to move your hand, the faster you can get back to the string.


3) ALWAYS PICK FROM THE WRIST - If you pick from your elbow, stop and relearn! You can really mess up your elbow by doing this. Always use your wrist to pick! 


4) WARM UP - Always stretch out your tendons.


5) SLOW BEFORE FAST - You can not play fast unless you can play it slow. Do not ever attempt to play something faster than you can if you are going to sacrifice cleanness for speed. This is a big NO in alternate picking.  Learn it slow, practice it slow. Get comfortable with the lick, and then develop the speed. As they say in football, "you have to catch the ball before you can run with it."


6)USE A METRONOME- Regular practice of this kind will greatly improve your timing and you will find that your musical technique advances in leaps and bounds.


The Basics


    So, what is alternate picking? Simple, it is the process of playing a series of notes while using consecutive alternating motion between picking strokes. This means you never repeat the same picking stroke twice. e.g down, up, down, up, ect... Now, with this in mind, let us apply this idea. play the following example. Remember our rules of thumb! (Note that the V indicates an upstroke and the 3/4 of a square marking indicates a down stroke)



    Congratulations, you have just alternate picked! Pretty easy hey? Well here is a classic picking exercise to help you develop those picking chops.



    I'm sure you've seen that exercise 100 times by now.  I know, I've seen it probably a thousand, and I've played it way more than that. But, this exercise is a classic for a reason, IT WORKS! Remember to do it in a descending fashion too! 


    Moving onward, one of the most difficult parts of picking  fast is crossing strings. Weather it be fumbling up the consecutive motion, or unwanted noise,   crossing strings while picking fast can get ugly! How do we prevent that?   Simple, start SLOWLY and isolate the problem. Try this exercise on for size. Be careful not to make noise when crossing strings. 



    Remember us talking about economy of motion? It is really really important when crossing strings. The less motion you use when you cross, the faster that you will be able to burn. Here is another lick with a different feel of string crossing.



    Playing those exercises daily will really help you clean up your string crossings.




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