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Alternate Picking

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Alternate Picking is a style of picking in which the pick strikes the strings to be played strictly in an up-down-up-down order. It is a useful technique for developing speed owing to its repetitive nature.


Contents

The Technique


Alternate picking is a way of picking where the pick hits the strings with upstrokes and downstrokes mixed. The mixing is always in the same order, so it's down-up-down-up. It's never down-down-up-up. When switching strings the movement just goes on. If people want to go double down or double up, when changing strings, they use economy picking. Here's an example of alternate picking:


E------------------------------------------------------------------
B------------------------------------------------------------------
G---6 (down)--7(up)--6(down)--7(up)--------------------------------
D------------------------------------5(down)--8(up)--7(down)-------
A------------------------------------------------------------------
E------------------------------------------------------------------


Use


Many guitarists use this technique to play through small intervals at speeds which would be impossible to reach with downpicking. It is considered on of the main shred techniques. It is not so commonly used for riffing though as downpicking is believed to give a heavier sound. Power Metal especially though, uses alternate picking a lot in riffing, to repeat a single note very fast. This is also known as tremolo picking.


Variations


String Skipping


String skipping is alternate picking, except you jump over strings, i.e. you play three notes on the A string, then three on the G string without playing anything on the D string. Paul Gilbert uses this technique a lot to alternate pick arpeggios.


Economy Picking


Economy Picking is a cross between alternate picking and sweep picking. It is thought to be faster and have a smoother sound, though there is debate as to whether it is better than alternate picking or not. You can see an article about it here.


Related lessons


Pavel - Alternate Picking 4

Speedpicking/alternate picking basics

Muris Varajic Alternate Picking