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Speedpicking/alternate picking basics

How to play the guitar fast (with speed) : Alternate/speedpicking  

Numerous are the guitarists who speedpick, to mention a few: Yngwie Malmsteen, Al di Meola, Paul Gilbert, Zakk Wylde, Steve Morse, Vinnie Moore, Tony Macalpine, Ronni le Tekro, Jason Becker, Shawn Lane etc.

I personally believe that this is one of the most difficult techniques to master on the electric guitar - especially if your goal is to be able to improvise with speedpicking.

So let's dive into the world of guitar speed...

 

     100 % alternate or economy picking?

 

If you start working on your up - down - up - down - up - down alternate picking, you will realise pretty quickly that it sometimes makes more sense to to play two downstrokes in a row - at least for the beginner.

Even though it may be very tempting in the beginning to "cheat a little" (also referred to as "economy picking") - I do not recommend it. I have been cheating for long time myself - only to realise that creating even and agressive speedpicking tone is almost impossible with economy picking. The two downstrokes in a row (or upstrokes for that matter) interrupt the up and down motion - it's like a marathon runner who all of a sudden starts jumping on one leg.

I have lost a lot of practcing time re-learning to alternate pick - so I really suggest you do it right from the beginning. We have also discussed this in the forum (-> Alternate picking vs economy picking thread) .

 

     Speed picking: Essential guidelines

 

Speedpicking with the right angleHow to hold the pick?

There is no right or wrong here - everybody's hands are different. However, make sure you hit the string with an angle (see picture).

Move the whole arm or just the wrist/hand?

I do both - depending on which pattern I am playing. However, I have found that the patterns which I can play without using the whole arm - are the ones I can use when improvising. Therefore, I am working very actively on getting rid of the arm movement. Unfortunately - I still have a long way to go...

I can play extremely fast but have no control, what to do?

Slow it down and start including accents in your practicing - more about it in the video.

 

     Getting started with speedpicking

 

So grab your metronome, and have a go at the exercises patterns/presented in the video. Make sure to set up a practice routine that includes speedpicking.

The only way to notice any kind of progress with speedpicking - is to give it an immense amount of time. Remember, when investing this time - wouldn't it be a shame to learn the wrong way? Make sure to fllow the guidelines of this slesson!

Oh and just a quick clarification on the last pattern of the video:

---------12-14-15
12-13-15---------
-----------------
-----------------
-----------------
-----------------

This one can be played as triplets: count to three over and over and set the metronome to click on "1".

  ---------12-14-15
12-13-15---------
-----------------
-----------------
-----------------
-----------------
Count: 1__2__3__1__2__3

After lots of practicing you can attempt to play sixteenth-note triplets: count to six over and over and set the metronome to click on "1". Sixteenth note triplets are twice as fast as triplets.

  ---------12-14-15
12-13-15---------
-----------------
-----------------
-----------------
-----------------
Count: 1__2__3__4__5__6

If you want to start out really slowly (which I recommend!) - you can set the clicks on eighth notes (count to two) - this is what I did in the beginning of the video.

  ---------12-14-15
12-13-15---------
-----------------
-----------------
-----------------
-----------------
Count: 1__2__1__2__1__2

 

Not sure about what triplets and eighth notes are? Watch the metronome video!

Good luck!

 

 

"Speedpicking basics " backing track (E minor)
   
Backing track slow
   
Tab TAB

E minor aeolian speedpicking
E minor/aeolian - scale suggestion for this lesson's backing track

Related lessons:
Speed/alternate picking practice patterns (pt2)
Speed/alternate picking vertical (pt3)
"Map My Gap" speedpicking solo

 

 



     Lesson Questions, Feedback & Comments





RIP Dime
post 18th December 2006


Member


This couldn't have come at a more perfect time for me biggrin.gif Thanks!
Kristofer Dahl
post 18th December 2006


Member


Rip_Dime: I hope this helps in your quest for 100% alternate picking..!
Red Tie
post 18th December 2006


Member


this is really really great, i really needed this!
Mark Schiewe
post 19th December 2006


Member


can't wait for the next part
Willster
post 20th December 2006


Member


Great! but I have a question. You made it pretty clear you're suppost to slice into the string when speed picking, but I just wanna make sure I'm getting this right. So when you hit the string the pick should be at a 90 degree angle? Sorry for the stupid question :/.
Kristofer Dahl
post 20th December 2006


Member


Willster: It's not a stupid question it's a very motivated one!

I would say 45 degress rather - good luck! :)
Willster
post 21st December 2006


Member


Thanks for the reply, and you can call me Will smile.gif. Just thought I'd say that I'm really enjoying your website and keep up the great work.
Kristofer Dahl
post 21st December 2006


Member


Willster: Thanks . I am doing my best! biggrin.gif
Red Tie
post 28th December 2006


Member


I also have a question, similar to the one earlier.
I have a teacher, a very experienced musician who tells me that you are to hold the pick, like. hmm, straight. not with the angle.
I really don't know how to explain.
Like in the second picture, you're kind of holding the pick diagonally. And i did the same for a year, before he told me that would be a problem if i am to achieve some greater speed.

Hope you somewhat understand, because this one confused me. tongue.gif
Kristofer Dahl
post 28th December 2006


Member


RedTie: First - there is no right or wrong, what works for your teacher might not work for your friend etc...

BUT I suspect it could also be the following - if your teacher is playing with a thin pick - the picking method you describe works fine. If you are going for shred/metal sound - you want to use a thick pick for agressive sound - and that's when you need the angle.

Your teacher's method would be excellent for the semi-acoustic, jazz-type school. (which is a cool one! biggrin.gif )

/Kris
Red Tie
post 29th December 2006


Member


Actually, he is a jazz musician, maybe that'll explain?
I am going to tell him about your view on this, thanks a lot!
Stevie-Ray-Vaughn
post 30th December 2006


Member


I use a .50 mm pick, and its un-natural for me to play with the pick angled. im not real a heavy metal shredder so am i still alright?
Kristofer Dahl
post 30th December 2006


Member


SRV: The angle thing is more of an advice - it's not a trict rules. So if something else works better than you - gor for it! smile.gif
zzsms
post 6th January 2007


Member


Question...does your pinky rest on the guitar for support while speed picking?
Kristofer Dahl
post 7th January 2007


Member


zzsms: Yes - on some licks I do that. It's a matter of personal preference. Steve More does it while Paul Gilbert doesn't.

Pick whichever feels confortable! smile.gif
mattacuk
post 19th January 2007


Member


Now this lesson I have really enjoyed Kris!! I have been practicing this pattern alone for 20 mins a day to the metronome and I already feellike I have progressed for it !!
Hawk
post 20th February 2007


Member


And me, and me! I have a question!smile.gif

While using a pick to play some acoustic stuff like........m-m-m..like The Unforgiven intro, is it allright to use this "cheating" techniquie? Or is it better to play alternate no matter what?
Kristofer Dahl
post 21st February 2007


Member


Hawk: Always use alternate picking no matter what - this way you can be sure you are never practcing in the "wrong direction"!
terryn0
post 21st March 2007


Member


I have a question similar to zzsms's:

When i play, i sit my wrist just below the strings to support my hand. Should i start picking up my wrist as I play? Would that help in gaining speed too?
Fanman
post 27th March 2007


Member


hey guys, im pretty new to gmc, im just browsing around checking out this and that right now. One of the things i checked out and rather liked was pavel's string skipping excersise. I didnt find it too difficult except for the final section. I can almost play quick enough but i have a feeling my pick holding hand (right) is not in good form. this kinda is why i think my alternate picking isnt as good as it could be. I keep my pinkie extended along my high e string, im not sure why, i guess comfort as i probably just got into that bad habit when i started. also, my hand isnt rested so much on the bridge/saddle whatever its called. more so behind it. ive noticed both that position and my pinkie being extended along the first strign (obvuiously i move it when playing that strgin), these two things i believe have slowed my alternate picking a bit, after this detail full rant, any advice?
guitargod
post 6th April 2007


Member


very useful lesson,thanks kris,do i actually play together with the backing track as in i play triplets along with the backing tracks is it? so the back track as a beat,so i can make do with the metronome when i play with the backing track right?
Viz
post 9th April 2007


Member


Stupid question perhaps, but does guitarists prefer to angle the pick upwards or downwards?
Kristofer Dahl
post 10th April 2007


Member


terryn: Picking hand placement is very indivdual - I can't give you specific advice here...

A backing tracks is just as good as a metronome! smile.gif

Viz: Well if I understand you correctly, I'd say I hold it slightly pointing towards the floor!
Viz
post 11th April 2007


Member


Thanks, thats exactly what I meant =)
sillyman
post 23rd April 2007


Member


hello all ive just started with gmc. ive bin playin for 1 year and when i pick ive only ever picked down but now i see that for speedpickin u you need both directions but do you need to using strict alternate picking for every single picking situation im just a little confused
Gilbo
post 24th April 2007


Member


i understand how ur supposed to angle the pick, but then how do u actually hit the string? if i do the same picking motion as when i had no angle nothing really happens except the picking is delayed because the rest of my pick has to catch up with the front before it plucks all the way thru the string. i probably didnt just make sense there but i just feel like i cant get that slicing feeling unless im picking directly in line with the angle, in which case i couldnt use my wrists to pick and would have to use my full arm to guide the direction. could you explain that to me more fully?
Gilbo
post 24th April 2007


Member


im also learning to play Six by All That Remains right now - is that one of the songs that you think is better to have full arm usage, or do u think its possible to just use wrists? also do you recommend wresting your palm above the strings to keep more control or instead keeping ur whole hand in the air not touching the guitar?
Kristofer Dahl
post 24th April 2007


Member


Sillyman: YES! I recommend using it for all situations - expecially in the beginning! :)

Gilbo: I don't know that song - but basically my advice is to always use wrist movement.

Kris
sillyman
post 24th April 2007


Member


even when ur only picking one note per string like in a melody or sumtin
Gilbo
post 25th April 2007


Member


alright thanks ill be sure to work on just using my wrists, another question i had was that i hold the pick just like you do when i am NOT speedpicking but it just feels really weird to hold it like that when i speedpick (i like to pinch the sides of the pick with my fingertips) so is it okay to switch how you hold the pick when u go into speedpicking? do you recommend it?
Kristofer Dahl
post 27th April 2007


Member


sillyman: Yes even then, in the beginning - once you are an accomplished player and want to break some rules, it won't be a problem...! smile.gif

I can't really say I recommend it - but I don't see to much of a problem with it!
r1ch4rdh
post 10th May 2007


Member


Would be great if you could give a tab for the speed run you do on this video about 39 seconds in. Sounds somewhat like the one of the speed licks solo.
Aaron
post 13th May 2007


Member


this is the lesson i needed the most
signularis
post 10th June 2007


Member


thanx it helped a lot improving my speed picking
Fazer
post 17th July 2007


Member


Thanks, really helped me alot.
But one thing, Ive got a Zoom G2 multi effect pedal, there is also a Drum-Machine included which i can set to a "X" BPM so. Do i still need a metronome? Because i think drums is the same as a metronome.. (both giving a beat/tempo).
Plaidman
post 17th December 2007


Member


Kris,

Thanks for everything you've put into this site. You're a fantastic guitarist and your lessons are very encouraging and helpful.

I'm still kinda at the point where my playing sounds like a cat getting declawed, but I have improved ten-fold over where I was before discovering this site with you and the other great instructors.

Your collaboration with Marcus is phenomenal and just plain enjoyable!

I checked out several other online guitar instruction sites before joining this one. I chose Guitarmasterclass.net because it's light-years ahead of everyone else.

Thanks,

Joel
Tomy Jeon
post 24th December 2007


Member


This helped me so much! Thanks Kris biggrin.gif
TeeKay Kern
post 27th December 2007


Member


Thanks for the awesome lesson Kris! I've already increased my speed by 30 BPM's today!
{TooL}420
post 4th January 2008


Member


Thx for the lesson Kris!
1 question when you play the triplets what beat do you accent? the 1 still.
adam1302
post 2nd March 2008


Member


thanks for this helped me heaps
Seventh
post 15th May 2008


Member


great lesson:)
this really imrpoves your speed:)
MikeBH
post 26th June 2008


Member


Great little exercise!

I'm new here and started "reviving" my guitar playing skills only a few weeks ago. Accurate, fast alternate picking always was my Achilles heel.

I have one question that relates to this lesson I have actually been thinking about for the past few weeks.

Especially when I try to play fast alternate picking I have a tendency to have my right hand pinkie press down towards the body of the guitar, sort of stabilizing the movement of the hand.

I noticed that several teachers here let all their right hand fingers move up and down along with the wrist (some in a loose fist others with fingers more extended).

I tried it and found it a lot easier to relax the wrist and get a quick motion going. However, I feel the accuracy when you start moving from string to string got worse.

What do you think, should I try to get rid of my "pinkie pressing"?
Guitar1969
post 15th July 2008


Member


Kris - Can you clarify something for me - Should we always be accenting at least one of the strokes when speedpicking, such as on triplets, 16ths, and eighths, or do you ever just play even AP on a single note. I have gone through this lesson. Is the accent also used to keep track of where you are(Timing wise) ore is there some other reason, besides the sound it creates.
Antonio23
post 28th August 2008


Member


great lesson!
i´m practicing with the metronome for 15 minutes and i can already see improvements!
lespaul48
post 29th November 2008


Member


One question, you know when you do that finnaly picking pattern? it feels more comfartable to do two downstrokes at the 15th fret of the b string and the 12th fret of the e string rather than doing a downstroke and an up stroke. Is this proper tecnique or should I change it. Thanks for the help and awesome lesson.
IceAngel
post 24th August 2010


Member


Great lesson, I can't wait to get started with it!

Unfortunately, the last part of the video won't play for me - I have tried viewing it on several computers, but the video stops after the third lick. It would be great if one of the administrators could please fix this, so I can watch the video in its entirety. Thanks! =)
JaxN4
post 22nd July 2011


Member


Hey mate cool Lesson, I'm gonna practice those runs you showed...very usefull....
azureus
post 9th December 2012


Member


Thank you for those verry clear explenation!
With an eye for the details !
I correct somme bad habbits ,and after practise a time ,i got blister results !!
Super!


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