Sort Out Your Picking Alternate Picking
Still promising yourself a better picking technique? Stop dreaming and make it a reality with our new three-part series! In this first instalment, Phil Capone shows you how to quickly develop a fast and efficient alternate picking technique.
Playing fast is fun and can add extra excitement and climatic potential to your solos. no surprise, then, that it’s top of most guitarists’ technique wish list. Unfortunately, many players fail to achieve their dream because they approach the problem from the wrong perspective; playing fast is not just about fast picking, it’s about the coordination between your fretting fingers and your pick. So it’s vitally important to ensure that your fretting hand is working as efficiently as possible too. the exercises in this article are designed to help you build a slick fretting hand technique (with good finger independence) as well as improving your alternate picking speed. the best news is that you don’t have to spend hours practising; use these exercises as part of your daily warm-up routine and you should see improvements in your alternate picking (whether slow or fast) in no time.
it’s important to remember that virtuoso musicians always play rhythmically, even when playing fast; subdividing the beat precisely and accurately. let’s forget about rock’n’roll and the electric guitar for a minute and delve into the world of jazz. Charlie Parker pioneered bebop ‘double time’ phrasing by playing lightning flurries of 16th notes with the same considered note content and rhythmic accuracy as his eighth-note licks. His pioneering technique remains a crucial part of jazz improvisation to this day. so think like Bird: the best way to approach fast licks is to always be aware of the subdivision you are playing, be it triplets, 16ths or sextuplets. Without the important element of rhythm, your fast lines will just sound like a random note generator on acid!
You may find some of the workouts here quite tricky; don’t worry if you do, they are designed to challenge aspect of your technique. the best way to start is by grabbing your metronome (and you should
practise with a metronome!) and slow down the tempo by 10 or 20 bpm, or to whatever tempo you can comfortably play the example you’re working on. Build speed gradually (and be patient as this may take a while for the faster exercises) until you can play along with the backing tracks. By starting slowly in this way you will also be able to monitor your hands more carefully, ensuring that you are correcting any weaknesses and building a strong and accurate technique. Exercises 1-4 focus on one-string picking, allowing you to develop your picking hand technique. Exercises 5-8 focus on two-string exercises, addressing the problems encountered when crossing from one string to another. Exercises 9-12 expand this challenge across three strings. Exercises 13-18 address the issue of skipping between nonadjacent strings, while exercise 19 is a final workout that combines single-string and multiple string picking challenges.
you don’t need to play all the exercises in one session; in fact, it’s better to pick one or two from each section and spend just five minutes on each. What’s most important is that you practise these on a daily basis as part of your warm-up routine.
I had struggled with alternate picking for a very long time. I never thought I could do it. Paul Gilbert