Lesson 6 - Alternate Picking - The Basics

  1. Theory
  2. Exercises
  3. Guitar Solo

Up to this lesson we used only the downstroke technique to pick the strings. It is a simple and reliable technique, but when you need to play something speedy, alternate picking comes in handy, it allows to bite a string twice where the downpicking does only once.

Video example

When exercising the alternate picking aim to give each note in a sequence same amount of volume and time.

While exercising:

  • Try to minimize your moves. The plectrum shouldn't go too far from a string it picks.
  • It is helpful to sync your picking with a drum track or a metronome.
you can hold the pick parallel as well as angled to the strings:
parallel pick positioning
angled pick positioning

I find it is easier to play with the angled pick, this way it gets through a string with less resistance.

In guitar tabs the upstroke is indicated by the upstroke notation in guitar tabs symbol and the downstroke by downbeat or downstroke notation in guitar tabs

Text-based guitar tablatures do not have any notation representing picking direction.

I recommend you start practicing in slow tempo, when you feel warmed up you can increase your speed.

Why should you exercise slowly?

• First of all, playing in low tempo warms up the ligaments and muscles in the hands consequently helping to prevent injuries that might happen if you start off your playing like crazy.

If you do feel pain or something wrong in your hand, immediately stop playing and take a break.

• Another reason, is that when you play slowly you have time to watch and correct mistakes as they come. Preventing mistakes in slow tempo will help you a lot when you'll play fast. Those mistakes won't form a habit that would otherwise negatively impact your progress.

It's a good idea to switch your distortion effect off while you're drilling through the following exercises because it can hide little blemishes in your playing from you.

Alternate picking exercises

Exercise 1
exercise 1 - gutar tab
Exercise 2
exercise 2 - gutar tab
Exercise 3
exercise 3 - gutar tab

In this exercise I used triplet notes, in the first part I played 3 notes per 2 metronome clicks, and in the second - 3 notes per 1 click.

triplet notation
triplet symbol

If you're new to triples, they can easily trip you up while you're trying to get them.

For clarity's sake, in this short video I demonstrate the difference between the 1 stroke per click and 3 strokes per 2 clicks.

Triplet notes is a common thing, you'll encounter them quite often in guitar solos.

Exercise 4
exercise 4 - gutar tab

This exercise looks similar to the previous one, but here I do not use triplet notes, just 2 "straight" notes per click.

Guitar Solo

Finally you arrived at the guitar solo, now it's time to fire up your distortion and enjoy!

Here I used triple notes again - 3 notes per 1 beat.

Guitar Solo - tablature

The backing track to play along with

You can also download this track in ogg and mp3 format.

In the next lesson I'll expose you to more alternate picking exercises and give you some tips to achieve better synchronization between the hands.