10 Alternate Picking Exercises To Boost Your Guitar Speed (2022)

Exercises to improve picking accuracy and speed

In this new tutorial, we're going to see some of the best alternate picking exercises commonly used by a lot of acoustic and electric guitar shredders to improve their picking technique (if you need a refresh, check the correct way to hold a pick).

This lesson also provides some useful guidelines for an effective alternate picking practice. Including these cool alternate picking patterns in your practice schedule will be a great help for developing your left-hand and right-hand synchronization and fluidity when playing scales and arpeggios .

Are you ready to shred? Ok, let's start!

Table Of Contents

  • Alternate Picking Video Exercise
  • Chromatic Picking Exercises
    • 1) The Classic 1-2-3-4 Spider
      • Variations Of The 1-2-3-4 Pattern
  • 2) 1-2-3-4 Spider with 1 String Skip
  • 3) 1-2-3-4 Spider with 2 strings skip
  • 4) The Deadly Spider
  • Picking Exercises On The Pentatonic Scale
    • 5) Pentatonic Scale Exercise #1
    • 6) Pentatonic Scale Exercise #2
    • 7) Pentatonic Scale Exercise #3
  • Two cool exercises by John Petrucci
    • 8) John Petrucci Exercise #1
    • 9) John Petrucci Exercise #2
  • The Problem Of Inside Picking
    • 10) Inside Picking Exercise
  • How to Improve Picking Accuracy
    • Metronome is your best friend
    • Keep the movements as small as possible
    • Record yourself and listen to
    • Keep your hands with no tensions
  • Alternate Picking Exercise: conclusions and further resource

Alternate Picking Video Exercise

Download Guitar Tabs

Chromatic Picking Exercises

1) The Classic 1-2-3-4 Spider

This is a classic exercise for developing alternate picking precision. Always follow the rule 1 finger for 1 fret , so you'll want to use the index for the 1st fret, the middle for the 2nd, the ring for the 3rd fret and the pinky for the 4th.

Once you have this pattern under your belt, try to play the figure all over the fretboard, moving the shape 1 fret up each time.

10 Alternate Picking Exercises To Boost Your Guitar Speed (1)

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Ideally, you should play the exercise in two ways: one starting with a downstroke, and one starting with an upstroke , and of course keeping strictly alternate picking for each note of the drill.

This rule applies to alternate picking exercises in general, as inverting the starting stroke forces you to face all the different movement possibilities of the picking hand.

Variations Of The 1-2-3-4 Pattern

You can add variety to the 1-2-3-4 exercise by changing the order of the frets, so you could play the spider with the 1-4-3-2 (index, pinky, ring, middle) or 2-1-3-4 (middle, index, ring, pinky) patterns, or whatever you like.

Try to experiment with this variation. You can even add a bit of stretch and play patterns like 1-2-3-5 of 1-3-4-5 .

(Video) How To Build Guitar Speed FAST (Just Practice THIS!)

2) 1-2-3-4 Spider with 1 String Skip

Moving across the string is one of the most difficult movements with alternate picking. The two following exercises are conceived to help you practice this particular movement.

10 Alternate Picking Exercises To Boost Your Guitar Speed (2)

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3) 1-2-3-4 Spider with 2 strings skip

This exercise emphasizes the movement across the strings, skipping 2 strings every fret. Try to play this sequence one time starting with an upstroke, and the second time starting with a downstroke.

You'll notice that it's easier when starting with a downstroke. This is due to the "inside picking" problem, addressed later in this article.

10 Alternate Picking Exercises To Boost Your Guitar Speed (3)

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4) The Deadly Spider

This a challenging drill as it forces you to change string every note. When it comes to playing arpeggios on the fretboard, it easy to find this kind of movements.

10 Alternate Picking Exercises To Boost Your Guitar Speed (4)

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Picking Exercises On The Pentatonic Scale

The pentatonic scale is a great basis for creating cool alternate picking exercise . In fact, the pentatonic scale fingerings often have only 2 frets per string, and this allows a great variety of movements that involve more than one string.

On my ebook, Scales Over Chords, you'll find many other scale types with fingerings across all the fretboard.

5) Pentatonic Scale Exercise #1

10 Alternate Picking Exercises To Boost Your Guitar Speed (5)

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(Video) 10 Guitar Studies to Boost Your Alternate Picking Technique

6) Pentatonic Scale Exercise #2

10 Alternate Picking Exercises To Boost Your Guitar Speed (6)

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7) Pentatonic Scale Exercise #3

10 Alternate Picking Exercises To Boost Your Guitar Speed (7)

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See also: The Most Effective Exercises To Practice Scales without Sounding Like a Scale

Two cool exercises by John Petrucci

The following exercises are taken from the masterpiece book "Rock Discipline" by John Petrucci , guitar master for Dream Theater. Like the ones before, you should play these patterns all over the fretboard, shifting the shape one fret up at a time.

These exercises are incredibly useful for developing a great left-hand right-hand synchronization.

8) John Petrucci Exercise #1

10 Alternate Picking Exercises To Boost Your Guitar Speed (8)

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9) John Petrucci Exercise #2

10 Alternate Picking Exercises To Boost Your Guitar Speed (9)

(Video) Best 5 MIN Alternate Picking WORKOUT! (Hand Synchronization, Speed, Endurance)

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The Problem Of Inside Picking

Probably you'll already notices that it's more difficult picking notes when the pick remains "inside" two strings. Let's read this quote from John Petrucci about this issue:

One of the more difficult techniques for most guitarists is using alternate picking through arpeggios since most of the notes within common arpeggio shapes are arranged in a one-note-per-string manner.

When using alternate picking, there will be a few instances that require the pick to execute an up-stroke on a lower string after a down-stroke on a higher string.

This "inside the string" picking technique is the most difficult pickstroke to master - John Petrucci - Rock Discipline

10) Inside Picking Exercise

The following exercise has been created to address the inside picking difficulty. This time you should practice the exercise by picking exactly in the way shown on the music sheet (do not invert the first pick stroke).

Start with a downstroke and keep alternate picking for all the duration of the exercise. Does it seem easy?

10 Alternate Picking Exercises To Boost Your Guitar Speed (10)

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How to Improve Picking Accuracy

Alternate picking is a cool technique, but it requires particular care to be precise and clean. Here are some general tips that you should always keep in mind while practicing alternate picking exercises. For a complete guide on this topic, check our how to improve guitar speed tutorial.

Metronome is your best friend

Always, always, always use a metronome. The metronome is your best friend. Start at low speed, one note per beat, and try to keep the pace, without mistakes or imprecision. Also, try to use the same intensity for each pick stroke. In particular, be sure that your down-strokes and your up-strokes sound equally .

Sometimes try to overshoot your target speed. If you can play comfortably at 180 bpm, and you want to practice for reaching 190 bpm, try to play the exercise at 200 bpm for a while.

This pushes your hands to work harder.

Then decrease the speed near the target speed (200) and see what happens. Often in this way speed is developed more quickly than increasing bpm without overshooting.

(Video) Best 5-Minute Alternate Picking WORKOUT! (For Intermediate Players)

Keep the movements as small as possible

The movement of the right hand should be as minimal as possible. This is the so-called " efficiency of motion ". You should move the pick just to hit the string, up and down, without a large movement.

One useful exercise to internalize this movement is to down-stroke an open string, and suddenly mute it with the pick, then execute an up-stroke and stop on the string. Then do the same in the opposite direction, play the open string with an up-stroke, and mute it with a down-stroke.

This train your right hand in keeping the crossing string action as small as possible.

Record yourself and listen to

This is a simple but invaluable tip given by Guthrie Govan : record yourself and then listen to the track carefully. Try to spot mistakes or imprecision. If what you hear is ok, then you can increase the speed of the metronome (that you always use, right?).

While playing, you're not fully aware of the sounds you produce, as you have to care about frets, hands, picking and so forth.

Recording and listening is a great way to get impartial feedback on your progress and performance.

Keep your hands with no tensions

When speed increases, is naturally to be a little in tension. You should have your hands always relaxed, you should not feel a tension in tendons or muscles.

If this happens, decrease the speed just a bit and check if your hands are more relaxed.

Alternate Picking Exercise: conclusions and further resource

I hope this set of picking exercise will give you something to practice on.

As a final tip, I want to say to take your time : it's easy to be fascinated by those incredible shredders out there, but the key to get speed and precision on guitar is to start very slow , focusing on the present moment, one note at a time, and increasing bpm little by little.

I conclude this article with a series of guitar scales exercises, specifically conceived for improving your musicianship, and a scale ebook to download for free:

Download the Guitar Scales Pdf Ebook , it contains many fretboard patterns for scales and arpeggios, in 4-frets-note-box and 3 notes per string configuration. Play these patterns would be a great exercise for your alternate picking technique.

FAQs

How do I get faster at alternate picking? ›

If you can play alternate picking continuous. Down and upstrokes for sixteenth notes at a tempo of

How do I increase my finger speed for guitar? ›

Tips for Increasing Your Playing Speed
  1. Loosen Up. You would never lace up and hit the pavement for a run without first doing some leg stretches. ...
  2. Practice regularly. ...
  3. Practice slowly. ...
  4. Practice fast. ...
  5. Synchronize Your Fretting and Picking Hands. ...
  6. Use Alternate Picking. ...
  7. Use Sweep Picking. ...
  8. Use Economy Picking.

How can I improve my alternate picking accuracy? ›

If you never tried alternate picking, one simple exercise useful to get a feel is to play an open string with alternate motion: down, up, down, up, down, etcetera. Always remember to use a metronome when practicing this kind of exercises.

How do you pick a speed on a guitar? ›

Pressure needed in order to make the notes sound out is going to help you glide. Across the strings

How can I practice picking speed? ›

Practice slowly and learn four or eight notes at a time, keeping your pick moving 'down-up' throughout. Try flicking your pick away from the strings on the upstrokes to lessen the chance of hitting the wrong string on the downstroke. Start at 60-90 BPM, and just remember: 'down-up, down-up'.

What pick is best for alternate picking? ›

#1 Pick: Dunlop Jazz III. The Dunlop Jazz III has become somewhat of a staple in the guitar world. As its name suggests, it was originally created for Jazz guitarists. Due to its thickness, small size and pointed end many guitar players look to it for guitar playing that requires heavy alternate picking.

How can I increase my finger speed and dexterity? ›

To increase the dexterity of your fingers, place your hands on a flat surface with your palms facing down and lift and lower each finger sequentially, beginning with the index finger and then reversing the direction. Repeat several times a day and increase speed.

How long does it take to get good at alternate picking? ›

It takes a while, but before you know it (Overused but completely applicable expression), you'll be using it subconsciously. as long as it takes for good practice to become good habit. dont worry about speed focus on timing and rhythm and the rest will come. About two to three months.

How do you alternate pick cleanly? ›

This Is Why You CAN'T Pick FAST! (and 6 exercises to FIX it) - YouTube

What is the fastest way to pick notes? ›

Fast Picking - How To Pick Fast Lesson and Workout - YouTube

How do you build speed with a sweep pick? ›

[Sweep Picking Tutorial] 2:1:2 Speed Arpeggios - YouTube

How do you pick fast on one string? ›

Speed Picking 04 - Single String Scales with Mark TheGuitarGuy

What training method is used for speed? ›

Interval training involves alternating between periods of hard exercise and rest. It improves speed and muscular endurance.

Are thinner or thicker picks better? ›

Thick picks are those who love their playing enhanced by better grip, louder volume and fuller sound. The thickest of picks are loved especially by those in the heavy metal scene. Thin picks are typically associated with acoustic and rhythm players. They are great for beginners and virtuosos alike.

What pick size is best? ›

Generally the thickness of guitar picks varies between thin (or light) 0.4mm picks and thick 1.5mm picks. If you prefer strumming and playing rhythm, go with a thinner guitar pick. A thicker pick on the other hand works well when you require more control.

Do I have to learn alternate picking? ›

Alternate picking is an important skill, because it allows you to play more than twice as fast than with just down picking. The basic idea is that if you are picking just on down strokes, every time you bring the pick back up to stroke down again, you are missing an opportunity to hit the string again.

What exercises increase hand speed? ›

During my ten years in the NFL, when I wanted to increase my hand speed for covering wide receivers on the line, shedding blocks and getting interceptions, I would focus on doing more push ups and pull ups. Every day you should do a minimum of 50 pushups and pull-ups in your workout routine.

How can I increase my finger and hand speed? ›

I've always found a good exercise for finger speed to be simply, tapping. Tap away to glory. Use a metronome and keep up the rhythm. Slowly increase your speed and also the duration of each session.

Is it possible to increase finger speed? ›

You can make a finger speed exercise out of just about anything. Try moving through any scale as slow as possible, and steadily increase your speed as you move up and down the scale. Always make sure your playing is nice and smooth and even before upping the tempo!

How long does it take to get good at alternate picking? ›

It takes a while, but before you know it (Overused but completely applicable expression), you'll be using it subconsciously. as long as it takes for good practice to become good habit. dont worry about speed focus on timing and rhythm and the rest will come. About two to three months.

How do you alternate pick cleanly? ›

This Is Why You CAN'T Pick FAST! (and 6 exercises to FIX it) - YouTube

Videos

1. 4 MIN Shred Challenge to 200BPM (4 WEEK RESULTS)
(BERNTH)
2. Alternate Picking Exercises - Exercise for Faster, More Accurate Picking!
(James Shipway Guitar)
3. Guitar Exercises For Speed And Accuracy
(Guitar Mastery Method)
4. Alternate Picking: How To Play FASTER! (Speed Burst Exercises)
(BERNTH)
5. Guitar Speed Secret | The Alternate Picking Fix
(Music With Marky)
6. BEST 15 MIN PLAY-ALONG GUITAR WORKOUT (Finger Exercises, Alternate Picking, Speed, Timing)
(BERNTH)

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