I'm an "ok" alternate picker....should I switch to economy picking?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by Sir Ricardo, Jul 1, 2006.


  1. Sir Ricardo

    Sir Ricardo Member

    Messages:
    204
    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2004
    Location:
    Berkeley, CA
    I can do 104 bpm 16th notes with good accuracy with alternate picking, but beyond that it gets pretty iffy.

    And it has taken me a LONG time to get to this level.

    At this point, it will be approx. 2010 before I can REALLY crank:jo....so I'm wondering, should I switch to economy picking?

    It seems to make sense....let the direction of your hand/musical phrase determine the next up or down stroke.

    What do you guys think, should I do it?

    Would I goof up my technique by trying it for a month or so?

    thanks in advance for your thoughts - - -

    Richard
    ===========================
     
  2. Serious Poo

    Serious Poo Armchair Rocket Scientist Graffiti Existentialist Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    5,103
    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2005
    Location:
    SF Bay Area
    Instead of focusing on one technique or the other, focus on "owning" the notes you're playing. Become the notes you are playing, and you'll find that your picking techniques will improve faster than you would ever think possible.

    :JAM
     
  3. bettiefan

    bettiefan Member

    Messages:
    41
    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2006
    Location:
    Grand Rapids, MI
    I'm more comfortable with alternate picking than economy, but the more I get used to economy, the more places I find to use it. Experiment and find what works best for you.

    Also, work on putting LESS effort into each note. If you're muscling your pick through the string, you'll hit a brick wall where you can't go any faster. Let your pick glide across the strings, and use as little motionas possible.
     
  4. daddyo

    daddyo Guest

    Messages:
    11,809
    Joined:
    May 19, 2003
    You should get the Jimmy Bruno DVD on picking. he is an alternate picker but he won't alternate when changing strings - he keeps going in the same direction. Very fast.
     
  5. Super Locrian

    Super Locrian Member

    Messages:
    1,504
    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2006
    Location:
    In muddy waters
    Unless I'm mistaken, Al DiMeola use alternate picking almost exclusively, and he can certainly play more than fast enough for most musical situations. Being able to play fast is more a question of sound practice habits (practise slow enough to be 100% precise, only occasionally trying to push beyond your current technical level), efficient and relaxed hand movements. And set your goals in a different manner - don't say "I want to be able to play 16th notes at xxx bpm", say "I want to improve my ........ (insert relevant term) technique" and build your practice regimen around such goals.
     
  6. Sir Ricardo

    Sir Ricardo Member

    Messages:
    204
    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2004
    Location:
    Berkeley, CA
    ....play with feeling, strive for 100% accuracy, relax while playing, get the Jimmy Bruno DVD.....

    I'm striving to do all these things, and have just ordered the DVD.....

    so watch out!

    thanks all - -

    Richard
    ========================
     
  7. countandduke

    countandduke Member

    Messages:
    1,268
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    If we look at the most basic function of music, you need only as much technique as is required to tell your musical "story". True, we all have to spend time woodshedding and learning scales, theory, etc. but the human body is an incredibly efficient machine and it will only hold onto unneeded functions for a short amount of time.

    I once heard Shawn Lane giving a lecture which included a short mention of stuttering. He said that the mind keeps re-setting itself which makes the person start back over. I see this very often in my students when asking them to improvise using the minor pentatonic shape for example. They almost always start at the beginning and run the scale. Very often there are hitches in guitarists scaler patterns which more often than not require a weird or unusual position shift. The excersises that musicians need to practice are the ones that will allow their musical thoughts to flow freely.

    I always relate music as a language to my students. I use examples like toddlers learning to speak where they are increasing their vocabulary until it's large enough to start forming sentences and relating their wants and needs. Music is very much the same way in that the musical idea is the end result. Very often 1 well placed note has MUCH more effect than 18. So I ask you, which do you require to express the music inside you??? :D

    Chris
     
  8. Sir Ricardo

    Sir Ricardo Member

    Messages:
    204
    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2004
    Location:
    Berkeley, CA
    Hello Chris and all you folks:

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments, very interesting. Music IS a language, and you are right, the ultimate goal is to speak with your musical voice.....

    My question clearly deals with the technical part of all of this.

    We can imagine most skilled activities (language, music, athletics, etc) as being divided into two parts; technique, and intention.

    Intention is the part that deals with your higher-end goals......conveying drama via a poem, employing an innovative strategy on the athletic playing field, mediating a dispute through effective diplomacy, or creating mystery in your rock song through the use of a killer chord change....etc. etc.

    These "intention" skills are learned and honed via intense examination of your audience, yourself, your environment, your goals......and are improved by the feedback you are likely to receive.

    Technique is the part that deals with the "nuts and bolts" of how to execute. In athletics it might be how to get the right amount of topspin on your forehand tennis shot; in diplomacy it might be in knowing just how to appeal to one party's pride; in music it might be getting your trills down pat....etc. etc.

    These "technical" skills are learned and honed by repetition, analysis, and getting proper instuction, so that you can avoid other people's mistakes, and instead focus on maximizing your technical potential, which supports your ultimate goal; your ultimate goal being able to do as Chris and others have said, which is to become the best artist you can be.

    >>>>>>>>>

    in posting this thread, I was more interested in the technical element, which is why I was dealing with the seemingly humdrum issue of alternate vs. economy picking. Clearly, one's picking choice is not going to determine how soulful an artist one becomes......but it will make conveying one's musical ideas easier, if you get the right technique down.

    And that's my goal for this issue.....getting and developing good technique.

    thanks everybody - - -

    Richard
     
  9. countandduke

    countandduke Member

    Messages:
    1,268
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    Practicing the technical side of the music is certainly worthy of time and dedication and for me, alternate picking is almost exclusively what I personally use. There are times that I use economy picking but it comes without thought. I don't think you would do anything negative to your techniquefor trying the economy picking for a while.

    I am wanting to make sure that you are looking at this in the right way, are you hearing ideas that you are unable to play due to your lack of speed??? In almost ALL cases, speed comes from perfect practice, but I do think that you have to throw caution to the wind and rev up the speed quite a bit just to push yourself to do it. If you can only play at 104BPM. Why not try 108?? Or 124? If it's a little sloppy, that's okay, then you can back down the metro but at least your body now knows what it feels like to try and play at that speed. Then you just work on getting rid of the sloppiness......

    In my own experience, almost all things technical work themselves out but if you want to make a concious decision, then by all means. I don't think anything negative would come of your change to economy picking, in fact, you'll be much the wiser.....

    Good luck.....

    Chris
     
  10. lgehrig4

    lgehrig4 Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    5,287
    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2005
    Location:
    CT
    Economy picking is used when you change strings. If you want to be able to pick faster on one string you will have to alternate like you are currently doing. As already mentioned, learning both is a good thing.

    I find it easier to play faster if I am wanking to a song/backing track rather than a metronome because I forget about technique and focus on sound.

    Either way focus on staying as relaxed as possible. It works wonders!
     
  11. ivers

    ivers Member

    Messages:
    3,145
    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2005
    Location:
    Norway
    If you wanna learn economy picking, by all means do it, because it's a nice technique to have in your arsenal.

    Having said that, I wouldn't abandon alternate picking just because I had problems becoming faster at it. I'm sure you like everyone else can improve significantly with the right kind of practice, and for me the best tip is to practice a lot of alt picked arpeggios, where you play mostly one note per string. This is what helped me progress immensely from having bad alt picking technique, to becoming fairly good at it.
    I wouldn't ditch scalar exercises entirely, as they're good for coordination, but for isolating the right hand motion and really working it, alt picking arps is where it's at, IMO.

    My effort on this came from hearing piano players by the way, and wanting to phrase more 'vertically', ie more chord oriented, but liked the feel of alt picking more than economy picking. So it was musically motivated more than technically, and that probably made it easier to dedicate myself to it, I think.
     
  12. Jon

    Jon Member

    Messages:
    1,434
    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2004
    Location:
    Birmingham, UK
    I've been looking into the whole speed thing for a while, trying to improve my own technique. The main thing that seems apparent is that there is no right or wrong technique - Jimmy Bruno teaches that the movement should come from the elbow whereas Al Di Meola says it should come from the wrist and not the elbow, loads of guitarists with 'great' technique hold the pick differently and do things which are supposedly wrong.

    I feel that the main thing is to let the music dictate the technique - if you want a very smooth flowing line then a mixture of economy picking and legato is probably best, but if you want a more rhythmically accented line with more definition of the pick attack then strict alternate picking is better. You shouldn't switch to economy picking just because you feel that you might be able to play faster using it.

    If you're not making much progress, it might be best to find a teacher who has great pick technique and is willing to work with you to develop technique. You could look at the guitar speed trainer software (guitarspeed.com) which also has some very interesting info on how to develop speed (start out slow, then speed up in increments until you're just about losing it, then slow back down to a speed where it's just slow enough not to make mistakes to finish). Also Jamey Andreas' principles site and book is great for looking at the minute details of technique and Ney Mello is supposed to have a new DVD set based entirely on picking coming out.

    One of the best things i was ever told was: everytime you play something your muscles learn from it, so everytime you make a mistake because you're playing a bit too fast, your muscles are learning to play that mistake. If you realise that every time you fumble a couple of notes in a scale because you're going to fast, you're actually moving further and further away from where you want to be, it soons focuses your attention.
     
  13. countandduke

    countandduke Member

    Messages:
    1,268
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    There are lots of great guitar pickers out there some with great technique and then there's Pat Metheny. I think Pat has one of the craziest picking techniques out there but I think he is one of the better improvisers and players out there right now. He admits that his technique isn't that great but there was no one to show him the proper way to do it and I am certainly not gonna argue with his results. Allan Holdsworth is a guy that has gone in the direction of trying to get the guitar to NOT sound like a guitar. His picking technique is almost nill since I would guestimate his picked notes to be maybe 1/5 of the notes actually played. But again, focus on the music and the picking will reveal itself in the most logical and efficent way for YOUR body.

    +1 on jamming with backing tracks. Good ones can be found at www.jazzbooks.com

    IMOP the best picking technique was Shawn Lane.....

    Chris
     
  14. Yngtchie Blacksteen

    Yngtchie Blacksteen Member

    Messages:
    3,454
    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2005
    Location:
    Bergen, Norway
    Yes, but do Bruno and DiMeola use the same picking technique? No, they don't. Bruno uses economy picking, which means more economic picking motions. DiMeola uses alternate picking, which requires more drastic picking motions. Using the elbow doing fast alternate picking could actually do damage to your muscles, as you'll tense up while skipping around with the pick. So if you're an alternate picker, the last thing I'd recommend would be to use the elbow. It's not a big concern with economy picking, but I do feel it's important to avoid using the elbow for alternate picking.
     
  15. Kappy

    Kappy Member

    Messages:
    14,044
    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2005
    Location:
    West Village, NYC
    Really? I thought with a fluid technique your elbow of course would move some, but it would be a relaxed, flowing motion, not a jaunty and tense motion. At least that's what I strive for when doing chordal/intervallic alternate picking. And I'm sure people tense up big time when doing economy and even sweep picking too. If you don't focus on your body when practicing, you might develop bad habits even though you're technically doing all the right things with the pick.
     
  16. countandduke

    countandduke Member

    Messages:
    1,268
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    I certainly move my elboz to a small degree but my wrist moves much more. I think what he was trying to say was that moving at the elbow with your wrist locked is not a great idea.....

    Chris
     
  17. bettiefan

    bettiefan Member

    Messages:
    41
    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2006
    Location:
    Grand Rapids, MI
    I agree. For me, either the motion comes from moving my thumb and forefinger back and forth, or my wrist. To me, moving your whole forearm back and forth is inefficient and wasteful. However, Steve Morse is a great example of a guy who alternate picks EVERYTHING and moves at the elbow. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
     
  18. lgehrig4

    lgehrig4 Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    5,287
    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2005
    Location:
    CT
    I could be wrong, but this is what I try to do. I use my wrist for the picking motion, but my elbow moves slightly to change my hand position from string to string. I find if I keep my elbow locked in place when I move to different strings my pick angle changes and this throws off my picking.

    By using the elbow to move from string to string my hand postion doesn't need to change and it feels the similar so matter which string I'm on. I'm still having trouble with the low E though :(
     
  19. Jon

    Jon Member

    Messages:
    1,434
    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2004
    Location:
    Birmingham, UK
    True, but then Vinnie Moore who cites diMeola as a big influence seems to pick mostly from the elbow (at least on the old tuition video that I used to have). However, I think you're right in that locking the wrist and attempting to make all the movement come from the elbow doesn't seem to be a good idea. Obviously there will always be some movement from the elbow to position the hand over the correct string, but the actual picking ought to be from the wrist.

    There are always going to be guys who have unorthodox technique (Kenny Burrell seems to 'circle' pick just using movement of the finger & thumb that hold the pick) that works for them, but if you have the time (and stamina) to be able to practice for 8 hrs a day then you could probably any kind of technique to work over the years.
     

Share This Page