In The Woodshed
If your alternate picking is in confusion, this workout by Charlie Griffiths will help you master the ins and outs of this vital technique.
Alternate picking means moving your pick in alternate down and upstrokes throughout a passage of notes, regardless of whether those notes are all on the same string or on different strings. Players like Al Di Meola, Steve Morse, John Petrucci and Paul Gilbert are possibly the most well-known members of the alternate picking fraternity. The technique offers a more weighty, consistent sound due to the momentum of the hand propelling the pick through the strings. When alternate picking successive notes on a single string, the approach could not be more simple as alternating down and upstrokes follow one another naturally and efficiently. When moving the pick from string to string, however, a bit more practise is required. There are two ways of picking string changes, known as ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ picking.
Outside picking means moving the pick around the two strings in question, so the pick hits the ‘outer edges’ of the strings first. This is often described as hooking around the strings. For practical purposes we can reduce this motion down to just two notes. An example of this is playing a downstroke on the fourth string and an upstroke on the third string. Try repeating this using just the open strings allowing you to focus solely on your picking hand and let the pick move down and up smoothly in a relaxed manner. Inside picking is the exact opposite, so reverse the picking direction. This time start with a downstroke on the third string and an upstroke on the fourth string. This means that the pick hits the inner edges of the strings and effectively bounces between them in ping-pong fashion.
Both picking directions should sound exactly the same, although one will inevitably feel more natural than the other. This is normal and over time and with plenty of practice they will even out and become second nature. We don’t have the luxury of favouring one over the other as something as simple as playing a Major scale requires both inside and outside picking throughout. The following examples will help you practise inside and outside picking methodically and eventually combine the two. Notice that all of these
AL DI MEOLA, STEVE MORSE, JOHN PETRUCCI AND PAUL GILBERT ARE POSSIBLY THE MOST WELLKNOWN MEMBERS OF THE ALTERNATE PICKING FRATERNITY examples have an odd number of notes per string: 1, 3 and 5, which is the first indicator that inside or outside picking is needed.
Example 1 is an outside picking lick starting with a downstroke on the fourth string followed by an upstroke on the third. This will help you practise hooking around those strings. Example 2 is the same melody but displaced by an eighth-note, which switches the picking to start with a downstroke on the third string and an upstroke on the fourth, ideal for bouncing that pick between the strings. Examples 3 and 4 are a bluesy lick, which requires three-pick-strokes-per-string - Example 3 being inside picking and Example 4 being outside picking. The final example has five pick strokes per string and actually switches between inside and outside picking. NEXT MONTH Charlie hones your skills for mastering 7/8 Time Signature
Dedicate your practice time to inside and outside picking