Lesson 7 – 12 Notes: Alternate Picking Exercises


Lesson Seven: Alternate picking exercises.

Alternate picking is a very basic component of guitar playing.  It is simply playing using only alternating up and down strokes when using a pick.

There are probably thousands of different types of alternate picking exercises.   Since there is only a limited amount of space here, and since it would be completely insane to try to write a complete compendium of alt. picking exercises here, I thought I would, in this space write a few of the exercises I do most frequently.

This first exercise is a very simple two string variety of alt picking chromatic exercise, and may be the exercise I play most as a warm-up.  Simple, fast, and easy.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – 1- 2- 3- 4-5 -4 -3 -2 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -3 -4 -5 -6 – – – –
-1 -2 -3 -4 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -5 -4 -3 -2 -3 -4 -5 -6 – – – – – – – – – – – -etc…

Play this riff all the way 16th fret and then return, like so:

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – 13- 14- 15- 16-15 -14 -13 -12 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– 13- 14- 15- 16- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -15 -14 -13 -12 – – – – -etc.

Play this all the way down to the first fret.  Since chromatic exercise are not key dependent, you play the same exact shape on every set of two adjacent strings up and down the fretboard. If  this isn’t self explanatory, my apologies, drop me a line and let me know what you need to know and I will provide whatever information you require.

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Next up: An actual chromatic run.

The previous exercise, while being what you would call chromatic, is technically not, because every few notes a note gets skipped.  This exercise doesn’t have this note skipping issue.  This is a two octave exercise, and like most exercises I put here is fairly simple.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -1 -2 -3 -4 -5 – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -2 -3 -4 -5 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -2 -3 -4 -5 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -3 -4 -5 -6 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – -4 -5 -6 -7 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
5- 6- 7- 8- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

-2 -3 -4 -5 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – -3 -4 -5 -6 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -3 -4 -5 -6 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -4 -5 -6 -7 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -5 -6 -7 -8 – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -6 -7 -8 -9 – – – – – – etc.

This is an exercise I play as far up the fretboard as I can get, usually on the acoustic, meaning I can usually only get up to the 16th fret as the top note on the low e string, but if you can reach further than that, by all means play it all the way up the fretboard.

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Next up:  A minor alt picking run.

This next one is in fact in A minor(or C major, or any of several modes{which I will get to in a later lesson} depending on viewpoint), and departs from the previous two exercises in being at least somewhat musical.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – -12 -0 -9 – – – – – – – – -10 -0 -7 – – – – – – – -9 -0 -5 – – – – – – – – – – 
0- 14- – – – – – – -10 -0 -12 – – – – – – – – 9- 0-10 – – – – – – – 7- 0- 9- – – – – 
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
-7 -0 – 4- – – – – – -5 -0 -2 – -2 – -5 – – -5 – -9 – – – -9 – -12 – – – – 12- – – –
– – – – – – – 5- 0- 7- – – – – – -3 – – – – -7 – – – – – -10 – – – – – – -14 – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

A fun little exercise, isn’t it?

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A few other things I do when working exercises using alternate picking include

a) Picking one , two or three notes at random, and playing as fast as possible.

b) Scale practice is always a good way to get in some alt. picking.  Scales are your friends, after all, you have to know the rules before you can break them.

c) Creating runs similar to the “minor one” above, in keys and modes picked at random.  This is good for creating a very fluid sound when playing.

d) arpeggiated runs, usually major and minor runs.  It is a rare day nowadays when I sweep pick an arpeggio.  This helps build up speed when moving across strings while alt picking.

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That’s it for this particular lesson, click on the 12 notes tab at the top of this page for the newest lesson!  Thanks for dropping by!

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One thought on “Lesson 7 – 12 Notes: Alternate Picking Exercises

  1. Pingback: Lesson 12 – 12 Notes: Speed Drill « The Rhino Report

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