Using efficient picking technique is the key to making fast guitar playing feel easy. Directional picking removes a lot of the struggle to play guitar fast. How? The picking motions used with this technique are smaller and quicker – giving you more speed with less effort.
Main Question: “Tom Hess, doesn’t directional picking only work if I am using 3-note-per-string scales? What about scales that only use 2 notes on a string… 4 notes, etc.?”
Answer: Directional picking technique will work in all cases. The main principle of directional picking is to use the shortest route from one note to the next. Occasionally this means using alternate picking. Sometimes, this means to only use sweep picking and NOT use alternate picking. By combining both mechanics together, you will achieve the fastest speed possible with the least amount of effort.
The core principle of strict alternate picking is to alternate pick regardless of the context… even if it means picking in a very inefficient manner. This causes you to put out MORE effort to achieve less speed.
To master directional picking, you need to integrate sweep picking and alternate picking together. When you practice 3-note-per-string scales, you force yourself to isolate this aspect of playing and master it much faster.
Here are 5 steps to help you master directional picking with 3-note-per-string scales:
1. Focus Exclusively On The Picking Motion
Start by muting all the strings with your fretting hand. This will keep them from creating a lot of noise while you pick. This is crucial for programming the correct picking motion into your picking hand in the early stages of learning this technique. Do the following:
-Pick an upstroke on the muted 1st string (the thinnest string).
-Play a downstroke on that string.
-Play another upstroke on it and pull the hand back towards the B string using ONE sweep picking motion. Pick an upstroke on the B string.
-Play a downstroke on the B string.
-Play an upstroke on the B string again, repeating the same sweep picking motion before towards the G string. Play an upstroke on the G string.
-Keep playing this pattern to complete the rest of the scale.
2. Play With 3-Note-Per-String Chromatic Runs
Once you can pick through the string transition in isolation, start playing 3-note-per-string chromatic runs. For instance: use only your first three fingers to play frets 1, 2 and 3 on every string. This simultaneously trains your 2-hand synchronization skills while maintaining your focus entirely on your picking hand motion.
3. Make The Picking Motion Second Nature Through Continuous Repetition
To form a new habit, you’ll need to train yourself to use the right motions. Focusing intensely gets you through this phase faster. Focus on:
-Using Correct Pick Position: Hold the pick higher up to expose more of its surface area and dig it down deeper into the strings. Don’t merely use the tip. This makes the notes louder without having to pick harder.
-Using Correct Pick Angle: Pick the strings at a 45-degree angle. This will make picking easier and give you a nicer tone.
-Using Strong Articulation: Use more force to pick in order to give the notes more articulation and bring out inconsistencies in your 2-hand synchronization.
4. Put Directional Picking In Context Using Scales
Start practicing any scale you can play using directional picking. Being able to play string changes on 3-note-per-string chromatics helps you play any 3-note-per string scale effortlessly and fast.
5. Use Proven Speed Building Strategies To Become An Even Faster Player
You must have great technique before you can play at super-fast speeds with little effort. You must also have effective and proven speed building strategies that help you achieve your guitar speed potential.
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