Picking Techniques beyond Alternate Picking

Alternate picking is the core of what I use when I play jazz guitar. But there are other strategies that I combine alternate picking with to make it easier to play faster phrases. This video is on how I use sweeping and economy picking to play certain arpeggios and jazz phrases.

In the end a good technique is going to be a combination of several techniques and should be a tool set that you rely on to help you get the phrasing that you like. In the end we have to let the music rule the technique and not the other way around.

The construction of the lesson

The way this is build up is that I have three examples with some different techniques that I break down and give you some exercises to work on the picking technique strategy in that example.

Small sweeps for 7th chords

The first example has two different applications of economy picking or sweeping. The firs is a standard sweep of an Abmaj7 arpeggio. The 2nd is used twice to add some more dramatic movement with the arpeggios in the bar.

Here I will focus on the second approach. The idea is to use a down stroke for the first note in the arpeggio and then add a pull off to give your right hand time to easily make the sweep of the last two notes.

To work on this idea it is probably a good idea to first spend some time with just getting your right hand used to the movement. I demonstrate this in the video as well.

If you want to go on further you can do the exercise shown here below:

The opening of the example is using a slide to make it easier to speed up the phrase. That is another thing that I use a lot in combination with all the chords

Economy picking triads in string combinations

The opening part of the second example is using a pentatonic scale layed out in a 3–1 pattern on the neck. That way of playing a pentatonic scale makes it really easy to play certain types of melodies (for me anyway).

The picking of this phrase is a bit tricky and I start the phrase with an up stroke. If you have a phrase that is difficult to play then it can be a good idea to check what it feels like and how it sounds if you reverse the picking.

In this case it really helps me with playing the phrase fast enough, and I also talk about this idea in the next example.

The main focus in this example is playing triads. The 2nd bar of the example contains two triads, one is 1 note per string and one is a 2–1 fingering (so 2 notes on one string and 1 note on the next).

The Triad Picking strategy

The triads I am concerned with in this lesson are the descending triad arpeggios. The idea in the 2nd bar is to start the triad with a down stroke and play the rest with upstrokes.

The way I do this it feels like a more balanced way to play them than having to “reverse” the picking if I play several triads.

You can work on the 1 note per string variation using this exercise on the middle string set:

The two string version of this exercise could be something like this.

If you get more used to this approach it is really useful to try to play a scale position of diatonic triads.

Turned Around Sweeps! The surprising solution

The idea in the beginning of this example is to play 3 note patterns with one note per string and then use a specific picking idea that if you try if for the first time seems counter intuitive.

In this example I am using the approach on the first two arpeggios in the example. First an Abmaj7 shell voicing and then a quartal arpeggio from Ab.

I discovered that I use this approach when I was explaining and slowing down an example for a student, but I find that the idea works extremely well.

The strategy is to start with an up stroke and then go down and up on the next two notes. This is in fact all alternate picking, but if you repeat it then we get two up strokes after each other. One at the beginning and one at the end.

The advantage is that the last note is setting us up to move back and get the first note in the next one. This is mostly useful if you are repeating 3 note patterns like I do in the example here below.

To work on this approach you can do the exercise of diatonic shell voicings shown here below:

Putting it all together with techniques

As I mention in the beginning the best strategy for me is to have a lot of different options with picking and then try to find a combination of what is playable and what sounds good. I think this should be the main priority when working with technique. in my opinion.

Of course you can also tell that I also use legato very often as a part of the strategy. If you are interested in a video on this then leave a comment on the video on YouTube. Maybe I should do a video on that.

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