Using Alternate Picking

Added on Friday 8 Jul 2011

As you play a song, you use both hands at once. After you figure out which notes to press with the left hand, you need to know how to strike the strings with the right.

Alternate picking is the right-hand picking technique that uses both downstrokes (toward the floor) and upstrokes (toward the ceiling). The advantage of alternate picking is that you can play rapid, successive notes in a smooth, flowing manner. Single notes that you need to play relatively fast almost always require alternate picking.

Try the following experiment:

1. Hold the pick between your thumb and index finger of your right hand.

2. Using only downstrokes, pick the open 1st string repeatedly as fast as possible (down-down-down-down, and so on). Try to play as smoothly and evenly as possible.

3. Now try the same thing but alternating downstrokes and upstrokes (down-up-down-up, and so on).

This alternating motion feels much quicker and smoother, doesn’t it? The reason that you can play faster with alternate picking is clear. To play two successive downstrokes, you’d need to bring the pick back up above the E string anyway. But by actually striking the string with the pick on the way back up (using an upstroke) instead of avoiding the string, you can greatly increase your speed.

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