The Ins and Outs of Supersonic Alternate Picking
Other than the obvious differences in the fingering and picking of each of these, pay attention to the relativity between their melodic contour and the relation to their respective beats. Practiced properly, each of these will have dramatically different feels! Be sure to try variations like this with some of your favorite practice patterns and licks.
EXAMPLE 5 demonstrates the concept of combining both inside and outside picking in a real world scenario. This Gus G-style “solo crescendo” lick combines three different shapes in an expanded loop in Dm, shifting positions with each beat.
So far the examples have dealt with repetitive patterns on two strings, but the Paul Gilbert-inspired EXAMPLE 6 takes outside picking further in a connective pattern ascending across all six strings. In this case, the pattern expands beginning on the low E, then the A, then the D, etc., culminating in an Am arpeggio beginning with a tapped C note at the 20th fret on the high E and then continuing through the arpeggio with pull-offs and sweep picking.
This maneuver, and the alternate picked notes on the A string at the end of the phrase, will greatly emphasize your overall control of your picking, as you’ll find that momentum can be difficult to overcome when you switch techniques.
Finally, EXAMPLE 7 works a Buckethead/Greg Howe-style ascending E major (D# Locrian fingering) pattern emphasizing inside picking. As with the previous example, this example once again focuses on controlling momentum, rising to a crescendo by shifting the angle of the pattern from vertical to horizontal.
All players, regardless of their skill level can benefit from breaking down and focusing on the mechanics of their alternate picking technique. Beginners and intermediates will get the most benefit by practicing the above exercises with a metronome and focusing on rhythmic accuracy and finger articulation with the goal of relaxed speed, moving the picking patterns into any scale patterns they know, and advanced players should expand the patterns mathematically across the fretboard and/or increase the difficulty of the exercises by incorporating string skipping.
Scott Marano has dedicated his life to the study of the guitar, honing his chops at the Berklee College of Music under the tutelage of Jon Finn and Joe Stump and working as an accomplished guitarist, performer, songwriter and in-demand instructor. In 2007, Scott developed the Guitar Strength program to inspire and provide accelerated education to guitarists of all ages and in all styles through state-of-the-art private guitar lessons in his home state of Rhode Island and globally via Skype. Learn more at GuitarStrength.com.