Cutting Edge Alternate Picking Part 1

Following on from the Cutting Edge Legato tutorials, this miniseries on Alternate Picking technique will build upon the fretting hand speed, accuracy and strength. Having good technical ability in both Legato and picking techniques will give you complete command of scalar concepts on the guitar. You will need to keep up the practice on your legato ideas, as having an excellent fretting hand is the first crucial step in being able to be a good picker.

 In this tutorial, we are going to be looking at single string concepts for the alternate picking technique, as playing on one string eliminates the most challenging hurdle with alternate picking, which is string crossing. Playing on a single string will allow you to hone your skills for the alternate motion and achieving a perfect synchronisation between your picking hand fretting hand.

 On the accompanying Mp3 demonstrations, which are available in the downloadable content, I have played the exercises at a learn tempo, and then at a target top speed. You must start slowly and build speed over time, even if you are an advanced player, you will want to practice these ideas slowly and make sure that your timing, accuracy and tone are immaculate.

 As with the legato tutorials, I have played all of the examples in A natural minor, but have included scale charts for melodic and harmonic minor so you can move the examples around to different parts of the neck. I explain this idea further in the accompanying video tutorial. As I discussed for the legato ideas, I recommend practising each exercise for around 5 minutes per day, and of course, in many different positions and on different strings.

 Whether you are an advanced player or a beginner, it is worth noting that the way you hold the pick, the set up of your arm and how much of the pick attacks the strings are all factors in achieving results with this technique. For loads of advice on how to get this technique correct in the beginning, you should check out my book High Intensity Guitar Technique 1, which has several supporting videos that show exactly how to perform this concept. Make sure that you also watch the supporting video for this tutorial, as again you will see this in action, and I discuss some warm-ups that are not included in the tab examples here.

On the accompanying video, I also discuss some recommended players for this style. If you’re not sure on who are the best Alternate Pickers to check out, here is a list of players from various genres who have an impressive facility for this technique.

  • Yngwie Malmsteen
  • Vinnie Moore
  • Guthrie Govan
  • Shawn Lane
  • John Petrucci
  • Steve Morse
  • Al Di Meola
  • John Mclaughlin
  • Steve Vai
  • Paul Gilbert



Example 1

Example 1 shows three different positions for a forwards motion sextuplet picking pattern. Learn each position before combining them, and eventually taking the pattern through the whole of the A natural minor scale. You can play this idea down a string too, as is shown in the video. You can also play ideas like this on different strings, and obviously with any scale.

Example 2

Example 2 reverses the ideas from example one. Be sure to synchronise both hands correctly before building speed. Don’t forget you’re aiming to be clean at 120bpm. Once you can play each fretboard area, try playing this idea straight up, or straight down the scale as I show in the video tutorial, and like example 1, play on different strings and with different scales/modes.

Example 3

Example 3 shows two variations on the sextuplet pattern, basically making the idea more intervallic so you don’t play just ascending and descending. I’ve written the ideas just in one position, once you can play them at speed, move them around to different positions and then scalar runs. As always, make sure to change strings, keys, and scales.

Example 4

Example 4 shows a sixteenth note run in the style of Yngwie Malmsteen. This one doesn’t work positionally, so I’ve written it played straight through the A natural minor scale. Once you’ve got this one down, try playing it in different modes and scales. Top speed for this is 160bpm.

Example 5

Example 5 is a typical descending run in straight groups of four. Most commonly guitar players play this idea in one position, but it works well along the length of one string. Apply the same principles to this one as in example 4.


Having worked on the examples in this lesson, you will have a solid foundation for single-string picking. Make sure you practice these examples over backing tracks, transpose them to different keys and try to use them in the most musical ways possible. In the next lesson, we will be studying Alternate Picking across different string groups and through full scale positions.

Enjoy, and I'll see you next time!

Download This Lesson As A PDF E-Booklet With Additional Bonus Material!!


The five examples in this lesson give you a good grounding for single-string picking, but there is so much more you can do with them. In the PDF booklet, I give you loads of ideas on how to expand the exercises in this lesson so that you can keep practising and improving for hours on end. The exercises in these routines are all used in my practice, and if you combine them with the ideas outlined in the PDF, they will keep you challenged and improving for years to come.


Additional bonuses in the download include:


  • Mp3 files of the examples played to a metronome at learning and target tempos
  • Guitar Pro files of the examples
  • PDF just of the exercises
  • Hints and tips showing you how to expand on the examples
  • Extended scale forms for Aeolian, Melodic Minor and Harmonic Minor so you can see precisely how to transpose these concepts to different fretboard areas.  

Download Cutting Edge Alternate Picking Part 1 with bonus features and start taking your Technique to the next level now!! It can be downloaded free of charge, but if you've enjoyed the lesson and want to help me find the time to create more lessons like these, you can pay what you want, name a fair price!! 

Download Cutting Edge Alternate Picking Part 1 with supporting mp3, pdf and guitar pro files now!! Pay what you want, download it for free or make a contribution to help me make more lessons like this. Download Now