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Alternate picking: how strict to be?

5E3

Member
Messages
5,055
I alternate pick whenever needed, most of the time without even thinking about it. I imagine most players do the same.

Well I recently started working on a speed picking lesson/exercise and the instructor preaches a very strict down-up down-up picking motion. I found out that when moving from string to string I have a bad habit of breaking the down-up pattern. For example, my last pick on the D string was down, and as I move to the G string I should be using an up pick, but have a tendency to use another down pick. This is turning out to be a very difficult to break habit :(

Now I know this sounds quite trivial, but I'm wondering how important is it to keep in the strict pattern or down-up down-up when changing strings? If you are counting time in your head, then down is 1, up is 2, etc., and keeping that straight may matter.

Thanks for your thoughts on this.
 
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Mandoboy

Member
Messages
1,768
It really depends on what you are going for, articulation-wise. Alternate picking is an excellent (and difficult at first) method of approaching playing, but it can be limiting as a one-size-fits-all approach. There are times when economy picking, crosspicking, sweep picking all have their place if you get the desired results sonically.

Playing 8th notes 3+3+2 across the strings (see the crosspicking link) sound like 3+3+2 if you pick them DDUDDUDU or DUUDUUDU rather than DUDU- think 12312312 rather than 121212.

Playing odd figures like 5's and 7's; the new "one" likes to get a down, so a 5 might be 3+2 DUDDU DUDDU or 2+3, DUDUD DUDUD.

It depends very much on how you want the line to sound. No doubt that alternate picking produces good, smooth results, and when you master it, it allows you to play without worrying about what your right hand is doing, and focusing on the left hand, or looking out at the audience (for your parole officer, etc.:BluesBros ).

For certain things like Chuck Berry intros, alternate picking sounds weaker (read: lame!) than using all downstrokes (also very effective in other situations!)

Articulation is something wind, brass and string players obsess over, and it's worth thinking about on plectrum instruments too.
 

Poppa Stoppa

Member
Messages
2,224
Articulation is something wind, brass and string players obsess over, and it's worth thinking about on plectrum instruments too.
:agree
I think that strict dududu is incredibly important for developing an advanced time feel. It's all about developing the movement of your hand/pick into a thing of wonder & beauty, timing-wise.

Of course there are times when you have to do something else just to be able to play a line at speed or whatever, but if you're not automatically doing it wherever possible your timing will suffer.
 

Snap

Member
Messages
390
Even John Petrucci uses economy picking sometimes, so it can't be all that bad for your technique.
 

buddastrat

Member
Messages
14,690
It really depends on what you are going for, articulation-wise. Alternate picking is an excellent (and difficult at first) method of approaching playing, but it can be limiting as a one-size-fits-all approach. There are times when economy picking, crosspicking, sweep picking all have their place if you get the desired results sonically.

Playing 8th notes 3+3+2 across the strings (see the crosspicking link) sound like 3+3+2 if you pick them DDUDDUDU or DUUDUUDU rather than DUDU- think 12312312 rather than 121212.

Playing odd figures like 5's and 7's; the new "one" likes to get a down, so a 5 might be 3+2 DUDDU DUDDU or 2+3, DUDUD DUDUD.

It depends very much on how you want the line to sound. No doubt that alternate picking produces good, smooth results, and when you master it, it allows you to play without worrying about what your right hand is doing, and focusing on the left hand, or looking out at the audience (for your parole officer, etc.:BluesBros ).

For certain things like Chuck Berry intros, alternate picking sounds weaker (read: lame!) than using all downstrokes (also very effective in other situations!)

Articulation is something wind, brass and string players obsess over, and it's worth thinking about on plectrum instruments too.

excellent stuff!
 

Mandoboy

Member
Messages
1,768
Tal Farlow and Tony Rice are two examples of non-alternate pickers who don't seem to have much problem with time, groove, or facility (not to mention ideas) ;)
 

Austinrocks

Member
Messages
7,020
I find alternate picking is more musical and try to use it all the time, now its just habit when I am using a pick, some times I can not for things on the bass E string or whatever but I am conscious of it.

Not sure why its more musical for me but its pretty noticible difference.
 

5E3

Member
Messages
5,055
Thanks to all for your thoughtful responses. I've been working on the strict DUDUDU during my string changes (on a shuffle for instance) and it's coming along fine. It was just a matter of breaking that bad habit of mine.
 

masayako

Member
Messages
543
I tend to follow strict DUDUDU now. I had the bad habit before & I just want to make it right. And I did.
 

5E3

Member
Messages
5,055
^^^^^^ Cool.

Yeah, when a seasoned player or instructor tells you it is easier to learn proper method than to undo bad habits, they are not kidding :)
 

spencerbk

Member
Messages
531
^^^^^^ Cool.

Yeah, when a seasoned player or instructor tells you it is easier to learn proper method than to undo bad habits, they are not kidding :)
Economy picking is not necessarily a bad habit. Jack Zucker (who posts here) wrote an entire book making a disciplined study of it. Sheets of Sound - highly recommended.

It takes practice to economy pick well and it takes practice to alternate pick well. I have found it was worth the effort to get competent at both.
 

5E3

Member
Messages
5,055
^^^^^ I never meant to say it was. For me, I picked up some bad habits early on in my playing and they are difficult to break now.
 

Pat Healy

Senior Member
Messages
10,952
Thanks to all for your thoughtful responses. I've been working on the strict DUDUDU during my string changes (on a shuffle for instance) and it's coming along fine. It was just a matter of breaking that bad habit of mine.
That's what it was all about for me. I discovered that I'd gotten into the same habit as you - breaking the up/down motion when I changed strings. I found that I'd hit a ceiling on my speed, and determined to break through that ceiling by learning to play strictly DUDUDU. It definitely helped with the speed thing, and with being able to play fast, picked runs with a powerful and consistent attack.

I don't think it's important to alternate pick everything, but it's important to know how to do so when the part calls for it.
 

dantedayjob

Member
Messages
1,866
When I first learned how to play I was taught strict alternate picking, however I, without thinking about it, developed economy picking on my own... My second teacher saw me doing it and asked where I had learned it... I responded with "Huh? what?" I didn't even realize at that point that I was doing it. He listened to what I was playing and just said "carry on." A couple years later when I started teaching, I analyzed my picking technique and compared the two actions... I find economy picking to be more "natural" and "smooth"... I can play faster and more accurately with this method, the music flows with less conscious thought. Timing becomes a matter of feel and if you are relaxed (using either method) the technique you are most comfortable with (i.e. requiring little or no thought to execute) will seem the most rhythmically stable. I have also found that I vary my attack slightly when changing strings, which compensates for the slight tonal difference between picking methods. I teach both alternate and economy picking to my students, but tend to recommend that they use economy picking, since, IMO, it will serve them better in the long run.
 

papersoul

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
13,787
This is interesting..

I was working on Gibert's video tonight and notice he talks about alternate picking a lot. Funny because he shows some of his runs starting with a down stroke, but all the tab he shows is shown with up strokes. I find I am definitely an economy picker. I thin I just became an economy picker naturally and it is hard to break. I tend to always start on a down stroke and when it is time to go to the next string, I'll continue the down stroke.

Does that really impact sound in a negative way and/or speed?

I find it difficult to go between to strings quickly like the B and E strings if you have to up stroke the E and down stroke the B string.

What if you tem pick? All bets off the table? LOL!
 

Baminated

Senior Member
Messages
6,491
to the op:
using your instructor's logic to the ultimate end would mean that Frank Gambale is doing something "wrong" or "not up to his potential"

One needs to to both: economy pick and alternate pick. There are some things you just can't do alternate
 

mbetter

Member
Messages
769
to the op:
using your instructor's logic to the ultimate end would mean that Frank Gambale is doing something "wrong" or "not up to his potential"

One needs to to both: economy pick and alternate pick. There are some things you just can't do alternate
That's specious reasoning; his instruction makes him do that, not Frank Gambale.

I agree with the instructor, play strict, 100% alternate. Even if you eventually have to economy pick something, you'll be a better player for having worked through the tough parts. When you economy pick, some things are a breeze and some things suck to play. When you alternate pick, everything sucks just about equally. You sacrifice some speed but your playing won't be influenced as much by what's easy to play, like some of the three-note-per-string wonders you'll run into occasionally.

-Mike
President, Recovering Economy Pickers Anonymous.
 

scr@tchy

Member
Messages
3,929
I play mostly economy picking. Making two strokes into one opened so many doors and whether a passage is easy or hard has nothing to do with it for me, in fact economy picking makes the hardest things alot easier in my experience. The things I play alternating are usually things left over from when I alternate picked everything and it just feels better because I practiced it alternating for so long. Of course there are places where if you are trying to pick always in the direction of the string you are playing (economy) you end up with alternating by default.

For me the whole purpose of technique is to simplify and gain relaxed control, and passing a string then turning around and to pick it (ie: alternating) is like driving on the highway and passing your off ramp, pulling off onto the shoulder, backing up, and then getting off the ramp. My scales sound seemless whether I am playing 1, 2, 3, or 4 notes per string.

In this case, only ignorance would tell you there is only one way to do it. Practice and discover both ways for yourself, find ways to prison rape ignorance.:YinYang
 

KRosser

Member
Messages
14,081
I alternate pick whenever needed, most of the time without even thinking about it. I imagine most players do the same.

Well I recently started working on a speed picking lesson/exercise and the instructor preaches a very strict down-up down-up picking motion. I found out that when moving from string to string I have a bad habit of breaking the down-up pattern. For example, my last pick on the D string was down, and as I move to the G string I should be using an up pick, but have a tendency to use another down pick. This is turning out to be a very difficult to break habit :(

Now I know this sounds quite trivial, but I'm wondering how important is it to keep in the strict pattern or down-up down-up when changing strings? If you are counting time in your head, then down is 1, up is 2, etc., and keeping that straight may matter.

Thanks for your thoughts on this.
Just because your teacher wants you to be strict about something in the practice room doesn't mean it isn't fair game when it comes time to make music. Anything is fair game when it comes time to make music.

Practice time is when you want to be specific and demanding when trying to hone specific disciplines; performance time is when you want to forget all this.

Too many students think they need to play the things they practice.
 
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Goo Fighters

Member
Messages
6,118
Too many students think they need to play the things they practice.
So true. The epiphany for me happened when the things I practiced for years just showed up in my improvisations without me even having to think about it. "Subconsciously informed" I guess you could call it.
 




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