Best alternate picking exercise ever

Well, ever might be a bit exaggerated, but really, this little exercise can really help to focus your technique and get some specific things happening with your picking. The lick itself is short, so learning it and remembering it is easy.

Here’s a short clip of the lick, played pretty slow – play along or just listen.

example 1:

And here is the tab for the line.

Alternate picking- open position

The repeated downstrokes are swing 8ths with the last note missing… The alternate picked notes are 8th note triplets (all 3 notes).

Start at a tempo that is completely comfortable for you to play through it with total control. Don’t let the simplicity of this fool you! Here are some things to keep in mind:

The whole point of the exercise is to gain control over picking, so don’t take shortcuts. You must ALTERNATE PICK every note. Make sure you are not economy picking the notes (repeated up or down-strokes. This lick is very easy to play w/ econo picking, so there’s really no point to that. We are after super-tight alternate picking here.

Keep your hands relaxed. Even when you speed it up. The muscles you use to pick fast work much better when they are not clinched up tight. Chill out…breathe…

Don’t speed up until you can play through the notes over and over with NO mistakes or fumbly notes. Accuracy and clarity are key.

Try it in a closed position

Playing in open position messes with some people’s heads for some reason – if so for you, try it in a closed position. Here’s the same idea at the 5th fret:

Alternate picking- closed position

On the low strings

One more variation, this time on the low strings. Your hand will be in a slightly different position, so keep relaxed, loose, don’t move any more than necessary to pick each note.

low variation:


And here is the tab for the low version:

Alternate picking- low strings

Give it time

Results from this exercise will come in time. Just loop it until you can repeat the notes without any mistakes, and you really feel ‘in control’ of the up and down strokes. Once you feel this, you’ll know exactly what I mean. Your up-strokes will be just as strong and even as your down-strokes, and you will not be scrambling to get each note. I use it as a warm-up exercise or just to tune up my picking when I get slack.