Unlock Your Picking!
Weekly Newsletter #74
January 6, 2023
Wouldn’t it great if you could pick fast, accurately, and while staying relaxed?
These are goals most advancing guitarists have, and many never reach them because they don’t take the time to practice the right thing.
No, playing with a metronome slowly won’t help.
Neither will running endless repetitions of that fast lick you’re trying to nail.
What is going to help is building fast twitch muscle that allows you to flutter your picking hand back and forth rapidly.
Develop that muscle and you’ll be a whole new player.
There are two main ways of picking accurately and quickly, regardless of what you’re playing:
Alternate picking and Economy picking.
We’re going to discuss the key to making both of them work for you.
Economy picking is when you change strings with pick strokes that all go in the same direction:
Notice how every string change is coming from a down stroke to another down stroke?
Now think about alternate picking for a second…down, up, down, up etc.
How can you make them both faster?
Well, the down stroke is always easier than the up stroke because you have gravity on your side.
Not only that, but your anatomy is built in a way that makes forearm pronation and ulnar deviation the more efficient movements for your arm.
This means that the up stroke is always going to be a little slower and require a bit more energy.
If you can play two down strokes in a row, then surely you can fit in an upstroke between them.
After all, when returning to the starting position you’re passing the string anyway, you might as well hit it with an up stroke.
The trick to fast accurate picking is the ability to play down strokes quickly, one after another, using relaxation to return and not muscle energy.
In order to do that you need to learn to stay relaxed.
If you can learn to “flick” your hand when playing a down stroke, then it will rebound using relaxation back to the starting position.
This is the key to it all!
Instead of powering through the down stroke, simply flick your hand and if you stay relaxed it should just easily return to its starting position.
Test out this flicking motion by using this exercise.
In the first measure you flick your hand downward and immediately relax it so it pops right back, striking the dotted 8th note.
Stay relaxed the whole time.
In the second measure the up stroke is on the last 16th note of each beat.
In this case the flick is actually on the upstroke.
You want to make this up stroke and the following down stroke part of the same motion.
Flicking your hand upward and then letting it relax back down.
Testing It Out
Try it right now; play all down strokes on the 1st string by flicking your hand.
Every time you finish a down stroke, your pick has to pass the string in order to start over.
If you could play down strokes as 8th notes at 120BPM, then you could certainly fit in an up stroke in between each one right?
This would theoretically make it 16th notes (down-up-down-up) at 120BPM.
All in all, the faster you can play down strokes, the faster you can alternate pick.
So let’s work on double down strokes…
By incorporating a double down stroke into a triplet rhythm you can learn to boost the speed of your down strokes.
The hard part is not to get tense as you approach the double down stroke.
Tension will prevent the flick of your hand and slow you down.
In this next exercise you have to change strings multiple times, and almost everything is a down stroke!
Increasing the speed of your down strokes really comes down to the speed of the flick and the rebound of your hand.
The faster you can flick your hand and return to the starting point, the faster you’ll be able to play down strokes.
Fast down strokes mean you can fit in an up stroke in between each down…resulting in hyper fast picking.
If you practice this concept over string changes, arpeggios, scales etc. you’ll be prepared for clean, fast picking regardless of the phrase, lick or musical scenario.
I’ll be doing a private live stream with subscribers who are interested in learning more about picking and the use of relaxation to gain speed and accuracy.
If you’re interested in joining, please send me an email at email@example.com