How to Master Alternate Picking On the Guitar 

Playing the guitar can require a musician to use various methods and tools to achieve the desired sound. Alternate picking is one of these popular methods. 

This technique is more efficient and requires you to use the guitar pick in both downward and upward motions to create more fluid sounds. Learning how to master alternate picking on a guitar can take some time. 

Alternate Picking Variations 

Patience and practice are critical when learning a new skill like alternate picking. This skill consists of three techniques that prove helpful in unique scenarios. In addition, musicians might find that some songs use a combination of these alternate variations throughout, so it is beneficial to be fluent in all techniques. 

These options include: 

  • Double Picking
  • Outside Picking
  • Inside Picking

Double Picking 

This technique is known as double picking because you pick the exact string twice – once downward and once upward, or vice versa. Some melodies require double picking of the same string multiple times. This method is also known as tremolo picking

Outside Picking 

This method requires the musician to pick the strings on the outside edges as they travel down and up. Typically, outside picking occurs when you pick lower guitar strings on the downstrokes and higher strings on the upstrokes. 

Inside Picking 

In contrast, inside picking occurs when you pick in the spaces between the two strings. This technique uses high strings on the downstrokes and low strings on the upstrokes. 

In simple terms, the guitar pick’s movement changes when comparing outside and inside picking techniques. The pick goes away from the guitar with outside picking methods. Alternatively, it goes towards the guitar for the inside picking technique. 

Mastering Alternate Picking in 5 Easy Steps 

Although alternate picking seems complicated and challenging, it is possible to master it in only five easy steps with this guide. 

Step One: Mastering the Grip

After you become more proficient with alternate picking, your hands will pick up speed. Therefore, the proper grip is critical. Please check the article How to Hold a Guitar Pick for more details.

Hold the pick between your thumb and forefinger with a secure grip that is not too tight. Only a small portion of the tip should extend beyond your fingertip. If you leave too much pick surface open, you increase the chances of it getting caught on other strings during your movements. 

Step Two: Use the Correct Positioning 

Position the pick at a 45-degree angle rather than remaining flat and parallel with the strings. This angle will help minimize the chances of your pick getting stuck on unintentional strings. It will also aid in a more fluid movement and increase your overall picking speed. 

Step Three: Master Proper Wrist Movement 

Alternate picking works best with proper wrist movement. You should avoid moving your wrist up and down and instead use a side-to-side motion such as turning a door handle. This movement enables outside and inside picking to flow more naturally. 

Step Four: Use Small Pick Movements 

You want to use small movements with alternate picking and avoid big gestures. The pick’s tip should not move very far from either side of the string during your practice. Keeping it close with small movements will also help you increase speed and accuracy. 

Step Five: Practice, Practice, Practice

Alternate picking will take time and practice. Remember to keep your neck and shoulders relaxed and breathe as you learn this technique. Then, you can start by trying to complete double-picking one string at a time and slowly progress to the outside and inside methods. 

A few minutes of practice each day will help your hands learn how to work together and master alternate picking in no time. 

What to do next?

Now, you can try to practice some songs. The first thing you probably have to do is to learn How To Read Guitar Tabs(coming soon) and How To Read Guitar Chord Charts.

Here is another article about Ultimate Guitar Tabs(coming soon) which contains plenty of free guitar tabs or chords.

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Gavin W has been mastering several types of music instruments like guitar, drum, bass, and audio mixing tools for over 15 years. He has participated in many rock shows such as Hajin Chan and Super Junior concerts. He was the guitarist of a pop-rock band called Pendular, which has won some significant awards like Asian Beat, Champion in Warehouse Youth Band Competition, and No Drug Music Contest. He is also active in the music education sector and has been a music tutor in schools and music learning centres since 2008.

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