Close
Skip to content

Forum

Notifications
Clear all

switching from economy picking to strictly alternate picking


(@almann1979)
Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1283
Topic starter  

Over the last 12 months i have tried to ignore the fact that economy picking just doesnt work for everything i want to do - there have been a few occassions when i have been playing a lick and had to really sit, and analyse how i should pick it and whether or not i need to start on an upstroke or downstroke etc.

It seems to me that with economy picking i need to sometimes carefully memorise how i fit the picking around specific licks, whereas alternate picking does seem like a picking engine which fits all occasions.

So, i am working hard to change completely to strict alternate picking, but it really feels like a major change and im not sure how long it will take to make the cross over.

Has anybody else been in this situation?
How did it pan out?

"I like to play that guitar. I have to stare at it while I'm playing it because I'm not very good at playing it."
Noel Gallagher (who took the words right out of my mouth)


Quote
(@gnease)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 5058
 

going with "strictly" anything eventually tends to be limiting. ideally, we would try to be proficient in many picking techniques and let our hands choose the method for the moment. for me, this approach seems to have worked out best for fingerstyle, where I try to suppress conscious methodology and just let my hands and fingers "do what needs to be done." I'm sometimes very surprised at how my digits find a way to deliver what the tune requires. and the methods even change from time to time for the same piece, e.g., good fingers automatically compensating for an injured finger.

I've been an alternate picker for years, and while I have a strong preference for method, it is not 100% effective for everything. there are times with I need to learn how not to follow a alt picking pattern to make something more easily playable or faster, or even to change the timbre.

short version: alt picking is good thing to learn, but don't forget what you already know -- you may need it again.

-=tension & release=-


ReplyQuote
(@anonymous)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 8308
 

there have been a few occassions when i have been playing a lick and had to really sit, and analyse how i should pick it and whether or not i need to start on an upstroke or downstroke etc.

i do it the exact opposite way. i don't stop an analyze my picking because i don't have time to stop and decide how to pick something if i'm playing in front of people, and it's more important to me to be able to play a lick a bunch of different ways so it'll happen naturally from whatever i'm doing before it and whatever i'm going into next.
It seems to me that with economy picking i need to sometimes carefully memorise how i fit the picking around specific licks

that just makes no sense to me.


ReplyQuote
(@almann1979)
Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1283
Topic starter  

that just makes no sense to me.

Maybe it is the way i explained it. When i am learning a new lick, sometimes economy picking doesnt "fit" the rhythm of the lick - and i have to plan how i will approach the picking for that particular lick - and memorise it for when i play the lick live.

edit: for the most part, I am referring to repeat licks in solo's, which may result in me starting the first lick with an upstroke, but the rhythm may leave me starting the second repeat of that lick with the opposite stroke - sometimes it makes it difficult to make the repeats flow with purely economy picking.

"I like to play that guitar. I have to stare at it while I'm playing it because I'm not very good at playing it."
Noel Gallagher (who took the words right out of my mouth)


ReplyQuote
(@anonymous)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 8308
 

wait, never mind. i guess i had a different definition for economy picking than the official one. i just pick as needed. i don't know what you'd call that. sometimes i just play left handed while i surf the net. whatever.


ReplyQuote
(@almann1979)
Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1283
Topic starter  

to me economy picking means when moving from the thick e string downwards, you always strike the first note on a string with a downstroke, and when moving from the thin e upwards, you always start with an upstroke.

And it works great with running scales, but in other areas of playing i am finding it is letting me down - however it has become such an ingrained habit it is hard to break.

"I like to play that guitar. I have to stare at it while I'm playing it because I'm not very good at playing it."
Noel Gallagher (who took the words right out of my mouth)


ReplyQuote
(@anonymous)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 8308
 

i don't understand why people don't just play how they want to.


ReplyQuote
(@almann1979)
Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1283
Topic starter  

Thats the problem i think - i did play just how i wanted, and that became habit, and now because of the habits i picked up with my picking, i am encountering some problems.

For the record, i never chose to use economy picking - i didnt know what economy picking was for a long time - but by coincidence it was how my own personal playing developed. I now see it as a bad habit.

"I like to play that guitar. I have to stare at it while I'm playing it because I'm not very good at playing it."
Noel Gallagher (who took the words right out of my mouth)


ReplyQuote
(@davidhodge)
Member Moderator
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 4485
 

It's not so much that it's a bad habit as it is something you can't change on the fly. There's a time and a place for both styles and, as you're learning, sometimes those time and places run one right after another in a song.

You don't want to unlearn your habit as much as you want to get comfortable incorporating alternate picking into it. There are all sorts of exercises you can do to help yourself acclimate. Do you practice scales with economy picking? I can't imagine you do, but if so, try running through a scale once (up and down) with economy, then once up and down with alternate. Then go up with economy and down with alternate and then reverse. Then try four notes one way and the next four notes the other.

If you can get confident about being able to switch from one to the other, you'll be able to get into the state of "whatever you want" that Greg and Jason describe. Initially, it's going to take effort and concentration on your part. But after a while (and probably a shorter while than you're expecting) it will become second nature and then you'll be stuck with the unenviable task of explaining it to someone else who's mystified by the procedure!

Hang in there, Al. You can handle this. I know that just from what you've been able to do so far. Don't let the expectation psych you out and don't look at it as stemming from a "bad habit." You learned what you learned. You're still going to need that more than you know. Now simply add to what you learned. "Simply" being a bit misleading - sorry about that.

Good luck.

Peace


ReplyQuote
(@almann1979)
Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1283
Topic starter  

Thanks for the encouraging words david.

I think its a great idea running scales using both styles of picking - i will definitely make that may daily warm up for the next few months!!

Thanks, Al

p.s actually - when i do practice my scales i do use economy picking for them, it is just what i have always done (i am not sure why though). I think that is why i find it so difficult to change on the spur of the moment if needed, and why i have to plan ahead any licks that dont involve economy picking.

"I like to play that guitar. I have to stare at it while I'm playing it because I'm not very good at playing it."
Noel Gallagher (who took the words right out of my mouth)


ReplyQuote
(@moonrider)
Noble Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 1309
 

David nails it. Then add hybrid picking into the mix. I use a mix of all three, and it's mostly an unconscious choice as to what gets used when.

Playing guitar and never playing for others is like studying medicine and never working in a clinic.

Moondawgs on Reverbnation


ReplyQuote
(@noteboat)
Famed Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 4933
 

My two (maybe three) cents worth...

There are several approaches to picking, and each has its place. All downstrokes are best for power chords (since you can't hit both strings at exactly the same time, the sound will vary if you change the pick attack); alternate picking is best for repeated notes, and for 'locking' in a rhythm (more on this below), and economy picking is best for fast lines that are moving in the same direction for a couple beats or more. I think every lead player should have all three of these in their arsenal for different situations.

When I'm improvising, I'll do whatever fells right. But that's a result of practicing each of the picking styles in 'set' pieces. I won't go into how to practice all downstrokes, because that's pretty self-explanatory. But for the other two main pick styles:

Strict alternate picking can be counter-productive. Choosing to use a downstroke solely because your last stroke was up can lead you to weird and uncomfortable picking, especially in phrases that skip strings... and it can also mess up your sense of rhythm, because it leaves your picking hand completely divorced from the groove. Instead, practice alternate picking by choosing the second smallest rhythmic unit you're using - that's the unit for your downstroke. Then start each beat with a downstroke.

For example, if you have a rhythm that's Q (quarter note), E (eighth note), E, S (sixteenth), E, S, E, S, S, you're playing this:
D D D DU UD DU
1 2 & 3e a4 &a

This may not look like alternate picking to you - but it is! You're moving your hand to alternate sixteenth notes. If there isn't a sixteenth note, you're not playing - but you can be moving your hand anyway (as you do between the e and a of 3 in this example... your hand is moving DUDU on beat 3, but you're missing the string whenever an attack isn't needed.

The main advantage to this is that you're 'locked in' to the beat: you're always moving down on the beat, and when you need to play faster beat divisions you are always moving at the same speed, not starting and stopping. It helps you internalize the beat - I tell my students you want to get your body dancing with the music, and this helps reinforce the groove. If the passage happens to be a regular rhythm of straight eighths or sixteenths, it becomes strict alternate picking.

After you've got that down, you want to work on string skipping exercises - and you want to do those two different ways... first, exercises that alternate between a low note on the beat (or eighth) and a higher note in between, like this:

-------------------------------------------------
---3-----3-----3-----3-----3-----3-----3-------3-
-------------------------------------------0-----
------------------------0-----2-----4------------
------0-----2-----3------------------------------
-3-----------------------------------------------

After you have that down, then do reverse alternate picking drills - start with the D note on the beat in the exercise above (with an upstroke on the beat), and use downstrokes for the lower notes in between.

Economy picking takes a bit more thought. The idea is that you keep moving your pick in the same direction IF the next note is in the same direction - or if you can make it be in the same direction... which can mean using a slur OR changing the fingering. But if a note must be played on the same string, and you can't slur it (either for reasons of phrasing or because you're repeating a note), economy picking is the same as alternate picking at that moment. For example, you might have a C major scale in open position:

D D U D D U D U
------------------------
-------------------0--1-
-------------0--2-------
----0--2--3-------------
-3----------------------
------------------------

You could turn this into complete economy ("sweep") picking by using slurs:

D D D D
------------------------
-------------------0-h1-
-------------0-h2-------
----0-h2-h3-------------
-3----------------------
------------------------

Or you could make it more efficient by eliminating the alternate picking on the 3rd/2nd strings by changing the fingering:

D D U D D U D D
------------------------
----------------------1-
-------------0--2--4----
----0--2--3-------------
-3----------------------
------------------------

So you'll want to practice scales and arpeggios in different fingerings, and see if you can alter then to suit the picking strategy. If you practice them until they're second nature, they'll be available when you improvise.

In my own practicing, one my current goals is perfecting my picking accuracy. So I'm making up awkward picking patterns - one I've been doing every day is attacking sixteenth note string-skipping drills using a strict DDUD attack (and other exercises like that). So as you master the basic picking strategies, keep working at harder things... my picking nirvana is being able to play the next note - whatever it is - at the right time, no matter where I'm coming from. Ultimately, I want my musical line to never be limited by my technique. Aand after 40 years of playing, I'm getting closer.... but I've still got a ways to go!

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


ReplyQuote
(@almann1979)
Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1283
Topic starter  

Thanks for the detailed reply note boat, I think i need to take some serious time over the next few months to make it feel natural to swap between the different types of picking.

To be honest though I am glad about that, as i can treat it as a project and put some more focus into my practice.

Thanks for all the advice.
Al

"I like to play that guitar. I have to stare at it while I'm playing it because I'm not very good at playing it."
Noel Gallagher (who took the words right out of my mouth)


ReplyQuote