Alternate Picking FAQ

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Question: "When you alternate picking the string, do you rest the side of your palm on the bridge, or do you just pick the notes freely, without the right hand touching anything?"


"When I play the lower strings my hand is over the body or just in the "air" (actually the forearm is over the body resting). And when I play the higher strings the hand could be over the lower strings muting them."

"For low strings I rest my right hand on the birdge, and avoid letting it touch the strings. For high strings I just palm mute every string below."

"Quite simply I roll my palm over the strings I'm not playing."

It is a matter of personal preference, try both ways, and see what is right for you."

Question: "I play outside string shifts at about half the speed of inside shifts and I noticed that I tend to naturally economy pick but I dont possess the speed I want. Should I just slow way down and really focus on these outside shifts or keep my natural style and determine how to get more speed out of it?"


"I'm by no means expert, but had the same problem of using economy picking instead of outside picking but I decided with the advice of some students and instructors here at GMC to drop that habbit, alternate picking is just more fluent and even for most of the things we play and economy is easier for slow and middle speeds but alternate because of the predictabillity is much better when you start going faster and faster, my advice to you is to use mainly alternate and practice your outside string shifts slowly, believe its hard but I think in 2 weeks in which you make yourself only play alternate you'll see its much more natural"

"Try more to master alternate picking better. But no need to quit on economy, both ways are good and useful depending on situation."

"All combinations should be exercised equally for optimal results, but of course it is up to you how you will build your picking technique range. If you feel that you should focus more in outside shifts, then do it - it can only do you good."

"If economy is slowing you down try alternate picking for a change. Either way I think you should practice all techniques and have a choice when you play certain runs."

Question: "I notice that I seem to alternate pick arpeggios now even though that wasn't my intention. I am by no means a fast picker but have been concentrating on AP for scales and such and now seem to do it on arpeggios as well. But I noticed on the arpeggio lessons that the instructors don't AP these. Am I better off breaking the AP habit right now on these becaue it will hurt me down the road?"


"That is a good habit, don't break it. Learn sweep picking of course, but playing alternate picking arpeggios makes you a generally great picker, also with scales."

"You should keep your way but also add sweep to your picking world, you're getting different results (sound) if you play with AP or sweeping, the more options you have the better!"

"Nothing wrong with practicing AP on arpeggios, but economy picking (sweeping) arpeggios is very useful as well for covering wider array of techniques, it will only do you good."

"There are many ways to play an arpeggio, it just depends of the situation and your idea. You can even play it using legato, it's a great thing to do. You can sweep downwards and get back using only hammer ons and pull offs, or you can play the whole arpeggio just by using legato."

Question: "Right now I'm basically a strict alternate picker but I think I want to learn sweep picking, so will sweep picking mess up my alternate picking? "


"I don´t think so. Alternate picking and sweep picking are two different things. You should always be aware of what you´re playing so that you have a general view on your skills. Just start with sweeping, every new technique is useful!"

"The practice of sweeping won't mess around with the alternate if you don't get out of your practice list the alternate. If you practice both techniques you'll get equally proeficient with both of them.."

"No, no, it will only improve your playing. Coordination, control...It will also improve your alternate picking believe it or not!"

It is a matter of personal preference, try both ways, and see what is right for you."

Question: "On the video 101 of Kris Dahl about Speed picking, he talks about the inclination of the pick on the string. That depending on the inclination you can pick faster. I'd like to know your opinions on that. Do you keep your pick parallel to your strings for speed picking or do you give it some inclination? "


"A slight angle makes it easier but the tone suffers from the scraping pick, try to find an ideal angle were picking is easy and the sound is still good."

"It also depends on how sharp the pick is. If it's "sharp" (like a Jazz III) the tone will be much more articulated even when holding the pick in an angle. String thickness is another issue. However, a little bit of angling always helps but be careful not to just rub the pick against the string."

"I think it depends on the type of sound you like more than the speed picking technique. For example, Paul Gilbert has a very wide pick angle to play fast runs and combined with alternate picking that sounds like a chopper, really agressive. If you don't want that kind of sound maybe a narrower pick angle is better. Also is true that maybe a parallel pick towards the string is not adviced because the natural position of the hand regarding the strings or the guitar body. So between those possibilities I think you should try them to see what's more confortable and the sound you like."

It is a matter of personal preference, try both ways, and see what is right for you."

Question: "I'm trying to learn Master of Puppets, by Metallica. I've been told that all of the riffs are downpicked. The problem is, that I can't downpick that fast. Would it be an option to alternate pick the riffs?? "


"It IS all downpicking but you don't have to torture yourself and wait for a long time till your speed comes on the right spot. If you like the tune then play it with alternate while practicing downpicking anyhow, then switch it to downpicking. I said "wait for a long time" cause many guys can't play that song at full tempo while being comfortable, it's gonna take a while for sure."

"Practice downpicking until you can do it properly!

How much will come out of using shortcuts? Right: NOTHING!

You can practice some Not-so-fast downpicking songs and work your way to downpicking accuracy, stamina and speed. Try to play Creeping Death by Metallica first, it's fast but not AS FAST as MOP."

"I learnt it alternate and James actually plays it with alternate sometimes live. I'd just decide which you would rather learn it with now and if later you feel you should learn it with downpicking then it won't take you long to change."

"If you want to play the song now, do it with AP but remember to practice it in downpicking and switch to it once you can play it uptempo - it will sound much better."

Question: "I have never before thought about the way I pick, and thought that what I did was alternative. A few days ago I sat down and looked at what I did. Of course it was Economy picking. But I don't see why you would want to play Alternative picking, as Economy let's you move faster between the strings. So is there a reason to why you would want to play Alternative, and what is good about it? "


"So, the thing is, alternate and economy are quite different, they sound different, they give you different results, they offer you different ideas once you master them nicely etc. And no, you cannot play everything with economy, try 2nps patterns like pentatonic runs and you'll realize. Same thing goes for alternate, when you cannot play it with alternate then most likely economy is the way to go. Practice both, they are both useful though alternate has few advantages more."

"I am personaly a fan of alternate picking but sometimes I use economy for a better approach in horizontal scale patterns and arpeggios. There is a big differnce between the two. If I demonstrate you some fast 16th triplets licks you would realize that there is probably no human being that could posibly execute that with economy picking. The same applies the other way around. Learn both and use them when appropriate."

"Both techniques have different applications and are equally useful. We can go on about it and mention players that rarely (if ever) use alternate (Holdsworth, Gambale) or talk about guys that rarely use economy (Gilbert for example!). Bottom line is why not practice both?"

"I went through the same thing when I started playing. I had been playing about 6 months and I used economy picking. I thought there is no way that this is not the best way to play its just seemed so much easier. Then I decided I wanted to shred. So I started to watch and play Paul Gilbert Riffs. Pretty soon I started to get stuck. When I say stuck I mean I would lose my rhythm and crash right in the middle of a run. To make a long story short the only way I could advance was to learn how to use strict alternate picking. I still use economy picking but mainly when I play blues or something that has a lot of Legato. "