My Journey Through Picking

One of the things that I’ve spent a lot of my guitar time on in the past (I’m talking the late 80’s here people!) is picking. Alternate picking, economy picking, sweep picking, cotton picking. Actually, I haven’t done any cotton picking now I think of it 😉

I started out doing 3-note-per-string alternate picking, a la Paul Gilbert:

Well, not quite like that, but the idea is the same!

So, the exercise that I used to play until my hands fell off was this classic Gilbert one:

Paul Gilbert Alternate Picking Exercise
Paul Gilbert Alternate Picking Exercise

I still play this lick just about everytime I pick up the guitar, but I prefer to start it on the 5th fret of the 2nd string and play the same shapes from there.

After doing that for a while, I tried out some economy picking, the kind that only an Australian with a dayglo guitar and a mullet could teach the world:

I got this going pretty well, and then tried going back to alternate picking again, and I couldn’t do it [superemotions file=”icon_lol.gif” title=”Laughing Out Loud”] Arghhh! So the solution to that was to practice both, in equal measures (the cooking term, not the musical term, that is).

The next thing to tackle was sweep picking. Enter Mr Malmsteen into my guitar playing world:

That’s all the Malmsteen I could handle for today 😉 I spent a large number of hours playing almost that exact same lick from the video, with the one exception being I played the second note (the C) on the 15th fret of the 5th string, instead of the way he plays it with the second note being on the 4th string at the 10th fret.

Something that I found really helpful was an exercise by Vinnie Moore, where you basically move a D major shape chord up and down the neck, sweeping as you go:

Vinnie Moore Sweep Exercise
Vinnie Moore Sweep Exercise (click the image to enlarge it)

The hard bit is to combine all these techniques, as each has it’s own place in lead playing particularly if you like playing very fast. Working on each technique in isolation is important, and necessary in the beginning, but being able to switch between each one at will (and without thinking about it) takes a fair bit of effort. Practice, practice, and then when you’ve done that, do some more practice 😛

stretchAnd then start working on your legato…

For another day I think 🙂