Guitar Tips And Tricks: Technique Pt. 2 – Alternate Picking

Now that we’ve worked out your left hand, let’s get your right hand in shape!

So what does “alternate picking” mean?

It means each time you pick a note, you alternate between down and up-strokes. Down, up. Down, up. Etc. You get the picture?

Okay, check out the PDF at the end of the article for the examples. Let’s start off doing it on one string.

Ex. 1

Now, it’s all fun and games on one string. Once we start moving from one string to the next, keeping that “down, up” going consistently may start to get a little tough. Try this exercise.

Ex. 2

I got that one from my college professor Dr. Joyce. Thanks Pat!

Pay careful attention to the angle at which you hold the pick, and the way that you hold your pick. For me, I mostly hold my pick between the side of my first knuckle on my index finger, and then cover the pick with my thumb. You don’t want a lot of pick sticking out–just the tip. The pick should slope downward just a little. The angle of your pick is crucial when you use alternate picking, and helps adjust the trajectory of the pick to only hit the string that you’re aiming at.

Another cool thing is that this exercise works for fingerstyle scale playing, too. Simply replace the “downstroke” with your right hand index finger (which would be marked “i”), and the “upstroke” with your right hand middle finger (which would be marked “m”).

Now, let’s make some music and take it to some scales.

Ex. 3

Now let’s try some sequences. They’ll start out easy, and get harder as we go.

Ex. 4-7

There you go! Practice these exercises, and the legato exercises every day as a warm-up after you stretch your hands out, and you’ll be well on your way.

Remember, the best way to practice is to set an alarm and hammer each of these exercises for a specific amount of time. Otherwise, you’ll either get so wrapped up in one thing that you do it all night, or the opposite–you’ll be practicing, thinking, “Gosh, when am I going to get good at this?”

Well, it’s going to take many hours. So don’t think about the time, think about the task. Set your alarm, and do the work every day for a set amount of time, and you’ll see the progress.