A great tool to add to your arsenal is economy picking.
Economy picking only applies when you’re crossing strings, so it’s really all about reducing right-hand motion as you go from string to string.
At first, it’s a pretty easy concept to get a handle on. Mastering it takes a bit more time.
First, some basics:
The simplest example of economy picking is this:
The thing to notice here is that I’m playing two downstrokes in a row when I change strings.
Normally you would alternate pick this, playing D – U – D – U. The repeated DOWN stroke allows you to save the motion required to go below the next string and then pick UP.
Here is a video example showing a whole major scale across 6 strings. (slow)
And here is the tab for the entire scale:
I did use a bit of alternate picking on the high strings to change direction, but you could do the math and figure out patterns that use strict economy picking. I suck at math.
A key point to remember is DON’T BOUNCE YOUR HAND WHEN MOVING ACROSS STRINGS. This blows the whole ‘economy’ concept. Keep your hand moving in the direction of the string change.
Here is a video showing the same pattern up to speed.
Don’t let the initial benefits of this technique convince you to abandon alternate picking altogether though! There are many situations where this method will not work, such as a simple pentatonic ‘box’ scale, where you play 2 notes per string. Gotcha! You could certainly use some other pentatonic scale patterns to facilitate the technique though.
The most useful patterns for this picking style use odd numbers of notes per string, or combinations of odd on one string and even on the adjacent string(s). It’s all about the repeated stroke when crossing strings, hence the ‘economy’ term.
The hardest part about the technique is making it sound as even and rhythmically locked down as alternate picking. It will take some serious metronome practice to get your pickstrokes nice and even, and not sound like you’re just raking the pick over the strings. Try to make your notes loud, clear and fat, not scratchy and uneven.
Don’t practice with a bunch of distortion…use a straight clean tone and really concentrate on getting nice even notes.