Guitar Lesson: The Basics of Alternate Picking

Alternate picking is the most common and efficient way to play notes on individual strings.

Alternate picking requires that you strike the first note with a down-stroke and the next note with an up-stroke.  The pattern is simply repeated for each successive note.

To get started with this technique we will look at a basic and very effective alternate picking exercise.

Here is how to play the alternate picking exercise shown above…

To start the exercise, begin on the first string, 1st fret.  The number combination 1-2-3-4, represents your fret-hand fingers.

Your fret-hand fingers are numbered from one to four (index to pinkie).

To play this exercise, place your first finger on the 1st fret and pick the note. Pick this note with a down-stroke.

Next, place your second finger on the 2nd fret and pick this note with an up-stroke.

Now place your third finger on the third fret and play this note with a down-stroke.

Finally, position your fourth finger on the fourth fret and pick this note with an up-stroke.

You are now ready to repeat this pattern starting on the second fret.  The exercise 1-2-3-4, should be repeated on each fret until your fourth finger reaches the twelfth fret.

You then play the exercise backwards (4-3-2-1) to the 1st fret.  This exercise should be practiced on two or more strings every time you practice. This exercise will help improve your guitar technique. It’s also a great warm-up exercise.

About Don J MacLean

Don J. MacLean is one of the world's leading authorities on accelerated learning systems for guitar—with students using his methods in more than 50 countries worldwide. Don is the author of over 60 books including The World of Scales, the Absolute Essentials of Music Theory for Guitar, How I Got Killer Guitar Chops While I Was Still in High School: Confessions of a High School Shredder, 21 Secrets to Learn any Guitar Song Super-Fast, and Guitar Essentials: Chord Master Expanded Edition.