What Alternate Picking Exercises Are Best For You?

If you've been searching online for alternate picking exercises, then you probably have noticed something-there is a heck of a lot of them! In fact, there are so many it can be totally overwhelming! And this feeling of overwhelm can cause you to ask yourself questions such are…

  • What specific alternate picking exercises should I practice to get the greatest results?
  • How do I find out what the best ones are for me?
  • What alternate picking exercises are useful for me, and which ones are a total waste of my time?

I feel that these questions are very valid. All of us have a limited time for alternate picking practice. And I'm pretty sure you don't want to waste your practice time on exercises that don't work!

How To Choose The Right Alternate Picking Exercises For You

I feel that the first step should be to take a look at yourself. You need to take an honest look at yourself and analyze things such as…

  • Your current level of alternate picking ability. Obviously, a guitarist who is very new to alternate picking has very different technical needs than someone who is already a competent picker. In fact, doing very advanced alternate picking exercises before they are ready for them is a common mistake that some guitar players make. And it can often lead to them developing a very tense technique. It can also lead to technical flaws that need to be corrected later. And if you've ever had to correct bad habits, you'll know hard and frustrating that can be!
  • Your current weaknesses. It is always best to choose alternate picking exercises that address your technical weaknesses in a very targeted way. For example: If you have trouble playing in time to your metronome, then you might want to focus on exercises that isolate timing. (These sorts of exercises are often done on a single note, because this allows you to focus on the timing more).

Once you've analyzed your current level and weaknesses, then you are in a better position to choose exercises that are relevant to your needs. And for many guitarists this will mean selecting exercises from the following three categories…

  1. Timing Exercises. These are alternate picking exercises that isolate rhythmic subdivisions such as eighth notes, eighth-note triplets and sixteenth notes. The truth is, if you don't learn to master these basic subdivisions then alternate picking at a high-level becomes impossible.
  2. Single String Exercises. These exercises only use a single string. They allow you to develop the synchronization between your two hands without having to change strings. And let's face it…if you can't pick fast on a single string then there is no way you'll be able to pick fast across multiple strings!
  3. Multiple String Exercises. Once you can pick confidently on a single string, then the next step is to work on exercises that use multiple strings. The exercises in this category focus on one of the main difficulties of alternate picking…being able to change strings while maintaining a constant alternate picking motion.

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