Alternate Picking Technique For Guitar - Lesson 1

In this guitar lesson we'll take a look at a great way of improving your alternate picking technique. It involves creating and practicing odd-note picking patterns. (By "odd-note" I mean picking patterns that contain an odd number of notes).

[Side Note: I should say here that I'm assuming that you've already mastered the basics of alternate picking. If you haven't already got a firm grasp of the fundamentals, then this lesson may not be suitable. If that's the case then you might consider investing in my Alternate Picking Fast Start course to help you get up to speed].

For this lesson we are going to create four alternate picking exercises based on the following one-octave fingering of the G Minor Blues scale…

G Minor Blues:

G Minor Blues Scale

If you don't already know this scale fingering, then I recommend memorizing it now. Once you've finished memorizing it then you are ready for the next stage…

Creating The First Two Alternate Picking Exercises

Let's now create the first exercise. While there are many odd-note patterns that we could create from the scale fingering, we are going to do something super-simple for now. Let's just create an alternate picking exercise by playing the first five notes of the scale fingering in sequence. In other words, we are going to do this…

  • Note 1: Play the G-note on the 5th fret of the D-string.
  • Note 2: Play the Bb-note on the 8th fret of the D-string.
  • Note 3: Play the C-note on the 5th fret of the G-string.
  • Note 4: Play the Db-note on the 6th fret of the G-string.
  • Note 5: Play the D-note on the 7th fret of the G-string.

There we have it. We've just created a five note pattern. Let's now write it out in TAB so that it looks more like a proper exercise…

Alternate Picking Exercise 1: First Five Notes of Scale Fingering (Ascending)

Alternate Picking Exercise 1

Notice the arrows that I've added above the TAB. They are there to remind you of the fact that if you're using alternate picking then each time you repeat the five notes you need to start with a different pick motion. So when you practice the exercise pay very close attention that you are doing that. If the first time you play the five note pattern you use a downstroke, then the next time you play the pattern you will need to use an upstroke.

Let's now create the next exercise. For this one we will simply reverse the notes of the first alternate picking exercise…

Alternate Picking Exercise 2: First Five Notes of Scale Fingering (Descending)

Alternate Picking Exercise 2

Creating The Last Two Alternate Picking Exercises

OK, let's go nuts and create an exercise using the last five notes of the scale fingering. We will do this…

  • Note 1: Play the G-note on the 8th fret of the B-string.
  • Note 2: Play the F-note on the 6th fret of B-string.
  • Note 3: Play the D-note on the 7th fret of the G-string.
  • Note 4: Play the Db-note on the 6th fret of the G-string.
  • Note 5: Play the C-note on the 5th fret of the G-string.

And here it is written out in TAB…

Alternate Picking Exercise 3: Last Five Notes of Scale Fingering (Descending)

Alternate Picking Exercise 3

You can probably guess what we're going to do now. Yep…we're going to create a fourth exercise by reversing the notes of Alternate Picking Exercise 3. Here it is…

Alternate Picking Exercise 4: Last Five Notes of Scale Fingering (Ascending)

Alternate Picking Exercise 4

Your Homework

Before you move onto the next alternate picking lesson, be sure to do the following…

  • Memorize all four of the alternate picking exercises that we covered in this lesson. Make sure that you are 100% alternate picking the exercises. (Because it's quite easy to slip into "economy picking" mode when playing these sorts of exercises, you will need to pay close attention that you are consistently using alternate picking).
  • Go nuts practicing them. Don't worry about speed for now. Just aim to play the exercise perfectly with a good clear articulation. I highly recommend practicing them with both a clean tone and a distorted guitar tone. (They both have their own unique set of challenges!).

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