Alternate Picking Practice - Improving Your Consistency

If you're new to alternate picking you may be feeling a little bit overwhelmed. There are countless picking exercises out there. But you also probably know that if your alternate picking practice is not effective, then you'll get minimal benefit from those exercises.

So what does it mean to practice alternate picking effectively?

Well, the answer isn't simple and clear-cut. There are MANY factors that can either improve or degrade the quality and effectiveness of your picking practice. With that said, here is a principle that has really helped my progress over the years…

Focus On Consistency

I've noticed over the years that some of my students have the tendency to "binge practice". What I mean is that they go absolutely nuts with alternate picking practice for a short period of time. For Example: They might practice their picking for three hours a day for a week. But then they stop.

Why do they stop? I think in most cases the answer is burnout. They get sick of practicing alternate picking so much each day! And because they get sick of it, they stop doing it. And I think that's a normal reaction for most people. Not everyone has the maniacal discipline of someone like Steve Vai!

So what's the answer?

What I recommend to you is to set aside 20-minutes a day for your alternate picking practice. If you do this everyday for 30 days then you will cultivate a positive habit of daily alternate picking practice. And this has real power…

Even though 20-minutes a day isn't particularly long, you will often amaze yourself at the progress you can make. Think about it. In a years time that adds up to roughly 120 hours practice just on alternate picking. In 10 years time you would amass roughly 1200 hours of practice just by doing 20-minutes daily!

But What About The Guitar Freaks?

We all know that the true guitar freaks like Rusty Cooley, Theodore Ziras and Tiago Della Vega have done much more than 20-minutes a day to build their freakish picking skill. (I'm guessing that they practiced hours and hours a day to develop their picking chops!). So wouldn't it be best to copy the best alternate pickers and do what they did?

My thoughts are this. Once 20-minutes a day becomes a habit, then increase it. For example: You could do 20-minutes a day for the first month, 40-minutes a day for the next month, and 60-minutes a day for the third month. This approach would allow you to gradually get used to the increased amount of practice. And this would be far safer for your hands than just starting with a large amount of alternate picking practice!


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