Is There Really A Magical Alternate Picking Exercise?

OK…I'm a little bit embarrassed to admit this. I'm definitely not proud of it. And I'm not sure if I should share this with you. But, here it goes anyway…

When I first started to learn to alternate I was after looking for a quick fix. I was looking for some special, powerful and almost magical alternate picking exercise that would fix all my problems. I wanted to discover an exercise that would transform me into an alternate picking beast! I wanted to uncover some kind of secret exercise that would help me pick as fast as a machine gun. :-)

So what happened?

Well…over a period of time I bought virtually every instructional video that I could find that talked about alternate picking. I had videos by awesome pickers such as Paul Gilbert, Yngwie Malmsteen, Shawn Lane and Vinnie Moore. I must admit I was (and still am!) blown away by their picking skill. But did I ever find that magical alternate picking exercise?

I think you can probably guess the answer…

Nope. Unfortunately not. But what I did eventually come to learn is this…

Every alternate picking exercise works…if you practice it correctly.
Virtually ANY alternate picking exercise will improve your picking chops a lot if you know how to practice effectively. And unfortunately the opposite is also true. If you don't know how to practice your picking effectively, then most exercises will give you virtually no benefit. (In fact they could HURT your playing if you are practicing them with faulty technique).

Although it's probably best to learn how to practice effectively from a guitar tutor or organized alternate picking course, here are a few tips will help you…

  • Learn to make your fretting-hand and pick-hand movements as small as possible. The smaller your movements are, the faster you will be able to play.
  • Pay close attention to your synchronization as you practice. What do I mean by synchronization? Synchronization is how well your left and right hands work together. When you pick a note, your left hand should press down at exactly the same time the pick hits the string. If your left hand presses down before or after you pick, then your hands are not synchronized. This can often result in a choppy sound or buzzing notes.
  • Learn to use a metronome. Once you learn the best methods of using a metronome you will find that your timing will improve a LOT. And good timing is definitely important if you want to develop a fast, fluid and effortless alternate picking technique.


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