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Mastering Alternate Picking: Techniques and Exercises for Guitarists

Introduction to Alternate Picking

Guitar playing is a popular hobby enjoyed by countless individuals around the world. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced musician, one technique you cannot ignore is Alternate Picking.

It is a fundamental skill that can take your playing to the next level, even if you’ve been strumming the guitar for years. In this article, we explore the benefits of alternate picking, how it compares to downpicking, and exercises to improve this technique.

Benefits of Alternate Picking

The primary benefits of alternate picking are speed, timing, and accuracy. When you alternate pick, you use both upstrokes and downstrokes in a consistent and controlled way.

This creates a balance of movement and tension in your picking hand, which allows for faster and more precise playing. By practicing alternate picking, you’ll increase your picking speed, allowing you to play faster and more complex riffs.

Timing is equally important in music, and alternate picking helps with that too. By practicing with a metronome, you develop a consistent sense of timing required to play in sync with other musicians.

When you use alternate picking, each note is separated by an upstroke or downstroke, which reinforces the sense of timing and rhythm in your playing. Accuracy is the final benefit of alternate picking.

When you use consistent upstrokes and downstrokes, your picking becomes more accurate, resulting in more precise notes. This is especially crucial when playing faster passages or intricate solos.

Downpicking vs Alternate Picking

Downpicking and alternate picking are two common picking techniques used by guitarists. Downpicking involves using only downstrokes to play notes.

This technique can be useful for punk and heavy metal guitarists who employ a percussive, aggressive sound. However, it is limiting in terms of speed and flexibility.

Since you are only using a single picking direction, it can be challenging to play fast and intricate riffs continuously without exhausting your hand. On the other hand, alternate picking, as the name suggests, uses both upstrokes and downstrokes.

This technique is more versatile than downpicking and can handle faster playing with ease. It is also great for creating intricate melodies with varying dynamics, as it allows you to create different sounds based on the picking direction.

Exercises for Alternate Picking Technique

Now that we have explored the benefits of alternate picking let’s dive into exercises that can help improve your technique. 1.

The Chromatic Scale

The Chromatic scale is an excellent exercise to begin with for mastering alternate picking. You can start this exercise by playing the following pattern:







Start slowly and gradually increase the tempo, making sure that each note is picked cleanly and distinct.

2. 3 Notes per String Minor Scale

Now, let’s move onto the 3 Notes per String Minor Scale.

Here is the B natural minor scale:







Play this pattern starting from the first fret and work your way up the fretboard. Remember to use alternate picking for each note.

3. Sequencing in the Minor Scale

Sequencing is the technique of repeating a musical pattern with small variations.

To practice this, let’s play a sequence in the minor scale:







This sequence is an excellent exercise for improving your speed and creating neo-classical sounds. 4.

Semiquaver Rhythms

Now let’s tackle the Semiquaver Rhythms. Play the following pattern with two notes per beat:







This exercise is great for improving rhythmic accuracy and accenting notes in a phrase.

5. Triplet Rhythms

Moving on to triplet rhythms, let’s try this challenging string skipping pattern:







Practice slowly at first and focus on your timing and accuracy as you increase the tempo.

6. String Skipping

String Skipping is a technique that involves skipping strings while playing.

Here is a diminished exercise that works on string skipping:







7. Interval Exercises

Interval exercises involve playing two notes that are separated by a particular distance.

Here is a pattern of melodic fifths that can help you improve your interval accuracy:







8. Accenting Different Notes

Finally, let’s work on accenting different notes in a pentatonic exercise:







Practice this exercise slowly and gradually increase the tempo.


In conclusion, alternate picking is an essential skill for guitar players, regardless of their style of music. By practicing with various exercises, you will improve your speed, timing, and accuracy.

Remember to take your time when practicing, start slow and gradually increase your tempo. With dedication and consistency, you will soon master the technique and start creating beautiful music with ease and precision.

Importance of Picking Techniques in Lead Guitar Playing

Lead guitar playing is a skill that requires the use of different picking techniques. Many guitarists focus on their fretting hand while neglecting the importance of their picking hand.

In this article, we’ll cover the importance of picking techniques in lead guitar playing and offer some tips and strategies for improving your picking skills.

Overview of Picking Techniques

Before we dive into the importance of picking techniques in lead guitar playing, let’s take a brief overview of some of the common picking techniques. 1.

Alternate Picking – This is an essential technique used by many lead guitarists to play fast and intricate solos. It involves alternating between upstrokes and downstrokes to play notes at a consistent speed.

2. Sweep Picking – Sweep picking is a technique used to play arpeggios quickly and smoothly.

It involves using a sweeping motion to glide over the strings, playing multiple notes in one motion. 3.

Hybrid Picking – Hybrid picking is an advanced technique that involves using a pick and fingers to pick individual strings. This technique allows for greater control and speed when playing complex chord progressions and soloing.

4. Inside Picking and Outside Picking – Inside picking and outside picking are techniques used to navigate string changes when playing scales or arpeggios.

Inside picking involves picking in a downward motion when changing to a higher string, while outside picking involves an upwards motion when moving to a lower string.

Advantages of Alternate Picking

Alternate picking is an essential technique used by lead guitarists in different genres such as rock, heavy metal, jazz, and blues. The main advantage of alternate picking is that it allows for increased speed, precision, and control over your playing.

This technique enables you to play fast, intricate solos with accuracy while maintaining a consistent tempo. Furthermore, alternate picking is an excellent technique for improving your overall timing and rhythm.

By using a consistent upstroke/downstroke motion, you develop a sense of timing and rhythm that is essential when playing with other musicians. You can also use this technique to accent different notes in a phrase, creating a varied and dynamic sound.

Inside Picking vs Outside Picking

When playing scales or arpeggios, you’ll often need to navigate string changes. Inside picking and outside picking are two common techniques used to do this.

Inside picking involves playing a downstroke when shifting to a higher string and an upstroke when moving to a lower string. Outside picking is the opposite, playing an upstroke when moving to a lower string and a downstroke when shifting to a higher string.

The difference between these two techniques is more apparent when playing at faster tempos. Inside picking can allow for a smoother transition between strings, while outside picking can give more emphasis to the notes on the downbeat.

Experienced guitarists will often use a combination of these two techniques to achieve different sounds and playing styles.

Tips and Strategies for Improving Picking Technique

Now that we have covered the importance of picking techniques in lead guitar playing let’s look at some tips and strategies for improving your picking technique. 1.

Starting Slowly and Building Speed

Starting slowly is essential when developing your picking technique. You’ll want to focus on accuracy and timing rather than speed.

Once you have achieved the correct technique, gradually increase the tempo of your playing to build speed. Use a metronome to keep you on time and record your progress.

2. Measuring Progress Through Time

When improving your picking technique, the best way to measure progress is through time.

Setting achievable goals and charting your progress over weeks or months can give you a sense of accomplishment and motivate you to continue your practice. This will help you realize your potential and reach your goals for your playing.

3. Importance of Perseverance

Lastly, perseverance is crucial when developing your picking technique.

It may take time to get comfortable with alternate picking, sweep picking, or other techniques, but with consistent practice, you’ll develop these skills. Be patient with yourself and focus on the progress you’re making rather than the mistakes you’re making.

Remember, the more you practice, the more your skills will develop.


Picking techniques are an essential part of lead guitar playing. Whether you’re using alternate picking, sweep picking, hybrid picking, or inside and outside picking, these techniques allow you to play faster, with greater accuracy and control.

By following the tips and strategies we’ve outlined and maintaining perseverance, you’ll soon develop your picking skills and become a skilled lead guitarist.

Course and Resource Recommendations

When it comes to improving your picking technique, practice is crucial, but having the right resources can make a significant difference. In this article, we’ll take a look at some courses and resources that can help you improve your picking technique, and make the most out of your guitar playing.

TrueFire’s “Guitar Gym: Alternate Picking Workouts”

TrueFire is an online guitar learning platform that offers a wide range of courses and resources for guitar players of all levels. One course we recommend for improving your picking technique is “Guitar Gym: Alternate Picking Workouts” by Chris Buono.

This course is designed to help you develop your alternate picking technique and take your playing to the next level. The course consists of 18 workout sessions with varying levels of difficulty that you can complete at your own pace.

You’ll learn exercises that will help improve your speed, accuracy, and timing when picking. One unique feature of this course is the use of a metronome to help you develop your timing skills while practicing.

You’ll also find helpful tips and techniques that will help you get the most out of your practice time. If you decide to enroll in the Guitar Gym course, we have an exclusive promo code that can offer you a discount.

The promo code is: GUITAR2021.

Embracing Alternate Picking

Alternating picking is a technique that every serious guitarist should learn and embrace. It can help you play faster and with more precision, and make your guitar playing sound cleaner and more effortless.

Here are some additional tips and resources that can help you embrace alternate picking and improve your overall technique. 1.

Use the Right Hand Position. When practicing alternate picking, it’s essential to use the correct right-hand position.

This involves holding the pick with a firm grip, resting your wrist on the guitar, and picking from the elbow rather than the wrist. By using the correct position, you can achieve greater control and accuracy when playing.

2. Practice Slowly and Gradually Increase Speed.

As mentioned earlier, starting slow with your alternate picking practice is essential. You’ll need to focus on accuracy and timing, gradually increasing your pace as you develop your technique.

Use a metronome to help you maintain a steady tempo and record your progress over time. 3.

Find Songs With Alternate Picking. One way to incorporate your alternate picking practice is to find songs that use this technique.

Start by finding easy songs, and gradually move towards more challenging pieces. This approach allows you to apply your technique in a practical and fun way while developing your skill set.

4. Use Online Resources.

The internet is filled with online resources that can help you improve your picking technique. There are videos, articles, and forums that offer tips, techniques and provide feedback on your playing.

Look for resources that are well-reputed and trusted by guitar enthusiasts worldwide.


In conclusion, improving your picking technique is a critical aspect of becoming a skilled guitar player. By using the right resources and practicing diligently, you can develop your technique and make your playing sound clean and effortless.

We hope the recommendations and tips presented in this article will help you become the best player you can be, embracing alternate picking and becoming more skillful in guitar playing. In conclusion, mastering alternate picking is essential for guitarists who want to take their playing to the next level.

It offers various benefits, including precision, speed, and timing, and it’s a fundamental technique used in different genres. To improve your picking technique, start slowly and increase speed gradually, use the correct hand position, and find songs to practice.

To further your development, enroll in courses like TrueFire’s “Guitar Gym: Alternate Picking Workouts.” Remember, consistency and perseverance are key to achieving mastery. With the right resources, practice, and dedication, you can improve and take your guitar playing to the next level.

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