If you've been learning lead guitar for a while you may have come across the technique "alternate picking".
And like many guitar techniques, it can be a bit confusing if you haven't done it before.
So what is it?
Simply put, alternate picking is when you play something using alternating downstrokes and upstrokes of your
pick. For example: If you wanted to play a four-note lead guitar lick using this technique you would do the
- Play the first note with a downstroke.
- Play the second note with an upstroke.
- Play the third note with a downstroke.
- Play the fourth note with an upstroke.
Get the idea? With alternate picking you never have two of the same pick motion in a row. You will always be
picking down-up-down-up with alternating motions.
So what would be the advantage of doing it?
Well, probably one of the greatest advantages of doing alternate picking is speed. Let's take a look
Many guitarists new to lead guitar often use all
downstrokes when they play scales, licks and solos. Now, this is fine to a point, but it can make it hard to
gain enough speed to play those terror-speed licks! There is a limit to how fast you can do the same pick
motion in a row.
The cool thing is that just by adding upstrokes in between each of your downstrokes you can potentially
DOUBLE your speed. For example: Let's say that you can play 240 downstrokes in a minute. That means you have
the potential to pick up to 240 notes each minute. Just by adding upstrokes, you can now do 480 pick motions
each minute. And that gives you the potential to play 480 notes per minute!
You probably noticed that I used the word "potential" above. Why? Well, like many things in life, there are
complications. In this case, just because you can pick 480 notes per minute doesn't mean that your
fretting-hand can keep up! (If your fretting-hand can only change notes 300 times a minute, then that is your
current speed potential while doing alternate picking).
I saw a perfect example of this on YouTube the other day. Some guy was able to pick a single note at an
insanely fast speed. Unfortunately his fretting-hand wasn't as well developed as his picking hand. So it meant
all he could do was make sounds that reminded me of a bunch of bees buzzing around in a jar!
So remember…it's cool to be able to pick fast. Just be sure you work on your fretting-hand speed as
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