Skip to main content Skip to navigation Skip to search
  • Lessons
  • Articles

Unlimited lessons, backing tracks, and more.

Watch and learn anywhere.
Cancel anytime.

Picking For Beginners - Alternate Picking

Sean Conklin 456 lessons

Let's take a look at alternate picking. Alternate picking is definitely one of the most popular forms of guitar picking. The reason it's so popular is because it's extremely practical to use in many musical situations.

Alternate picking involves our picking hand making consistent down, up, down, up, down, up motions. So as you can imagine, doing a swift downstroke and upstroke uses a lot less energy than doing 2 downstrokes for example. That alternating motion allows for a lot of momentum when you're picking as well. So alternate picking is very practical indeed!

Before we go to the exercise, let's go over a few points...

1. See in the video how I place my pinky finger on the body of the guitar? The reason I do this is to give my picking hand a reference point, so it can memorize the distance to and from certain strings. Keep your pinky stationed wherever it feels comfortable to you, and make sure your entire hand is relaxed. I highly recommend that you utilize your pinky for this when first learning how to pick.

2. Make sure your pickstrokes aren't completely flat on the strings. Angle your pick a little so the pick moves across the strings easier. It will feel smoother as well as sound smoother.

3. Make your pickstrokes as small as possible, using only enough energy to get the string to sound properly. Minimizing the pickstroke motions can save you a lot of energy.

4. Accent when you pick. Accenting certain notes can help your timing immensely, especially when alternate picking at higher speeds. If you practice accenting when going slowly, you'll develop a good sense of rhythm to control your timing at faster speeds.

Speaking of accenting, we're going to accent in this lesson's exercise! Check out the tablature below. On the first sixteenth note of every beat, you'll be giving a little more force on the pickstroke to accent. (You'll see a sideways triangle to indicate when to play an accentuated note) Practice this very slowly at first. All we need to worry about right now is proper form and execution. Then, when you feel you have the exercise down accurately, gradually increase your speed. But make sure you don't sacrifice correct form for speed. If it starts getting sloppy, slow down and keep practicing.

Have fun and happy alternate picking!

Send this to a friend