Economy Picking Technique For Guitar - Lesson 1

If you've spent some time on guitar forums then you already know that guitarists are often very passionate about their approach to picking. Some players swear by alternate picking and feel that other approaches to picking are substandard. Then you have the die-hard economy/sweep pickers who think that their approach is best because it is the absolutely most economical approach to picking.

I must admit I cringe when I read these heated debates…


Because like most things in life and music it is not a good idea to think in such a black-and-white way. In my humble opinion, alternate picking and economy picking SOUND different. So why not learn how to do both? That will make you much more versatile than someone who rigidly chooses only one method of picking but rejects other methods!

What Is Economy Picking?

If you're new to all this economy picking stuff, then you might be wondering what the heck it is. And this is another funny thing. Many guitarists can't agree on the "correct" definition of what it is! (Sometimes I think these players who like to argue on forums would be a LOT better if they spent less time arguing and more time practicing!).

For what it's worth, here is my definition of economy picking…

Using the same pick stroke to cross two or more strings.

Some players would disagree with this. But tough…they can set up their own websites and write their own lessons! (Have you ever noticed how the guitarists who love to argue on forums are usually too lazy to do this?).

So what exactly does this definition mean? Well, probably the best way to explain it is with a short exercise…

Economy Picking Exercise 1:


In this exercise you'll be playing a B Minor triad with economy picking. This means that you will do the following…

  • Play the first note with an upstroke.
  • Play the second and third notes with one continuous downstroke. In other words you will be playing two notes with one single downstroke motion.

If I write out just the picking mechanic of this exercise, then it looks like this…

Economy Picking Mechanic From Exercise 1:


What this mechanic means is this…

  • Play the current string you are on using an upstroke.
  • Pick the current string again using a downstroke, and use the same downstroke motion move to the next adjacent string.

Now why would I think of picking mechanics in this way? Why not just learn the exercise without analyzing the mechanic used? The answer is simple. So that I can create new musical ideas using that mechanic. (If I'm unaware of exactly what mechanics I am using, then it's pretty hard to come up ideas using those mechanics!).

Let's take a look at an economy picking lick that I composed using the mechanic above…

Economy Picking Lick 1:

Economy Picking Lick 1

Here are a few important notes about this guitar lick…

  • This economy picking lick is constructed using notes from the B Natural Minor scale. (This scale has these notes: B C# D E F# G and A).
  • Most of the lick is played using sixteenth notes. This means that you will need to play four evenly-spaced notes per click of your metronome. Pay extreme attention to the timing. (Be sure that you don't speed up when playing the easy bits, and slow down when playing the hard bits!).
  • Notice also how I have used the economy picking mechanic five times in a row! 8-O 

Don't believe me? Well here's proof. Check out the same lick with the mechanic circled…

Economy Picking Lick 1 Explained

Your Homework

Before you move onto the next economy picking lesson, make sure that you have done the following…

  • Memorize and practice Economy Picking Exercise 1.
  • Memorize and practice Economy Picking Lick 1.
  • Make up some economy picking licks that use the mechanic we covered in this lesson. (The goal is to be as creative as you can while have the constraint of having to stick to using the one mechanic).

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