Rock Guitar Lesson 6. Part 1

Basics of Alternate Picking


Jump to


alternate picking exercises

simple guitar solo


Up to this lesson we played guitar only by pick technique called downbeat or downstroke.

When you need to play solo that contains passages in pace with the same durations of notes,

the alternate picking technique is the right choice for the right hand.

In alternate picking, after the pick strokes downwards and returns back upwards it also strokes

the string (upstroke technique). So by one motion one's able to play two alternate notes.


Video example

In the right hand picking motion participate hand, arm and slightly forearm.

Fingers do not take a part in the picking, they are unmoved and only holds a mediator.


Now try to stroke any string by alternate picking

downwards → upwards → downwards → upwards and etc...

First do it very slowly. Watch the accuracy,

each note takes the same amount of time.

Use drum track or metronome while exercising.

Try to minimize and economize moves.

The pick shouldn't go far from the string it strokes.

Because later it'll ease to play fast.

The angle you hold the pick should be approximately perpendicularly

to the guitar body, but it's not an exact rule.

The volume is equal for upbeat and downbeat touches.


Pick Position



Tip: When you need to get heavier guitar sounding,

turn the pick about 40 degree relative to the string


regular position turned position

regular pick position

turned pick position





In guitar tabs the notation for the upbeat is up beat (upstroke) notation in guitar tabs
downbeat is
down beat (downstroke) notation in guitar tabs

Simple tabs made in text editors do not have alternate picking notations.

When you'll achieve accurate, rhythmical equal alternation over single note,

Move to the exercises below


I recommend you always begin deliberately practicing in slow tempo

and when you gained control and accuracy step by step increase a pace.

It's correct for both of hands.

Why should I exercise slow?

First playing in low tempo warms up copulas and muscles in fingers and hands

that helping to prevent possible injuries on higher speeds.

If you feel pain or something wrong with your hand, immediately stop playing,

take a break for 5-10 minutes.

Another reason to exercise in slow tempo is to acquire really fast,

qualitative playing in the long run.

If you can play any lick slowly and without mistakes it won't be a problem

gradually achieve higher speeds without quality loss. On the other hand if you can't play

something slowly and accurate, your fast playing won't be impressive with all the stumbling

especially in destructive environment such as live performance.

If you want to play fast but don't want to take all these difficulties stick with hammer on/

pull off and tapping techniques.

It's better to begin exercising over the alternate picking with a clean tone because

distortion effect hides some performance defects and compress' volume.

So when you'll be doing exercises right with a clean tone, with a distorted sound it'll be just superior.


Alternate picking exercises


exercise 1

exercise 1 - tab



video example for exercise 1

exercise 2

exercise 2 - tab


video example for exercise 2

Note: In the 3rd exercise below was used rhythmical image of triplet notes.

It means that the duration of three notes in the triplet are equal to the duration of two regular notes. In this lick we'll play 3 notes first per two beats and after 3 notes per 1 beat.

The durations in the music theory is a big topic, and I'm not going to overwhelm you in these beginner lessons by it, instead of this just listen audio/video examples and catch the durations by the ear.

But important thing is to feel the rhythm of triplets,   very often you'll encounter triplets in guitar solos and rhythms especially in blues music.

Listen difference between

plain and triplet rhythmical image

exercise 3

exercise 3 - tab


triplet symbol - this symbol represents triplet figure in guitar tabs and sheet music.

Passage that lays between Begining of Repeatition Ending of Repeatition symbols should be played repeatedly


video example for exercise 3

exercise 4
This exercise is similar to previous one, but pay attention that here I do not use

triplet rhythm, just play 2 notes per 1 beat.


exercise 4 - tab


video example for exercise 4

Alternate Picking Simple Guitar Solo

Finally fire up the distortion pedal and here we go to the guitar solo.

This complete solo is played with triplet figures (3 notes per beat or 12 notes per bar)

only one last note has regular rhythm.


Solo Tab

solo - tab


Online Backing Track for the Solo


in Second Part  of this lesson I'll give you some exercises and tips

to get syncronization between both of hands. Alternate Picking Lesson Part 2.