Cutting Edge Alternate Picking Part 3


In the previous two lessons of this series, we, have discussed two commonly accepted playing methods for the alternate picking technique; The first of these were single string ideas played along the neck, known as linear playing. The second type of idea would be licks and runs played across the neck in one fretboard area known as positional playing. In this lesson, we are studying the third way to navigate the fretboard, which is to employ ideas that look at playing along the strings and across positions which we call combination playing. We focused in on playing these combination ideas with the legato technique in the cutting edge legato series, but this time we will be looking at using alternate picking.

 As we have seen in the combination legato lesson, your ability to fully utilise combination playing will allow you to ultimately unlock the fretboard and be able to play fast fluid lines. In this lesson, we are focusing on using similar ideas but are executing the runs in a strict alternate fashion. Having a command of both technical styles allows you to choose on the fly whether you want to employ a sound that is smooth and silky, like Joe Satriani, Allan Holdsworth or Brett Garsed, or you want that spiky aggressive attack found in the tonal characteristics of Paul Gilbert, John Petrucci or Yngwie Malmsteen's playing.

 Remember that even if you are an advanced player, these examples will need to be practised slowly and then gradually built up to tempo over time. The focus should not just be on executing the notes of the run but making sure your tone and timing between the two hands are immaculate. Quite often the issue with the alternate picking technique can be found in the fretting hand, so give yourself time to ingrain the shape of a run into your hands, so you know where you are going with these vast fretboard ideas.

Naturally, we are covering more significant distances of the neck in this lesson than in previous static examples, so by playing slowly you allow your mind to understand the shape of a lick or run so that as you build speed, you will not need to think too hard about where your hands need to be, but these runs will just flow out. As soon as you have mastered the techniques in this lesson, you need to create runs of your own and start employing them musically. The eventual goal having worked on the technique in these lessons is that you will be able to create a bank of runs that you can use in your improvisation and composed solos.


Example 1

The first example shows a cyclic scale fragment idea to show you how to combine a two-string cell through several positions of a scale. 

Example 2

Example 2 shows the reverse motion of Example 1, so now focuses on inside string picking. Follow the pick directions in the example, starting on a downstroke, inside the high string, and ending on an upstroke, inside the low string.

You can expand on this example by reversing it, so you play descending, from high to low positions on the neck, or by playing different sextuplet patterns on each string. Example 3 shows how you can ascend one position, slide directly into the next and descend. This idea is very reminiscent of players like Vinnie Moore. 

Example 3

Example 4 is a sequencing idea that spans two different portions of the C major scale and uses high and low parts to create a broad dynamic texture. We're using position 7 at the beginning of the run, moving into position 1, and position 7 in a lower register. This run can be found in the key of G major (E minor) in Paul Gilberts tune technical difficulties. 

Example 4

Example 5 is also lifted from a Paul Gilbert tune. This particular run can be found in the song Curse of the Castle Dragon and uses Octave displacement as we saw with the legato ideas. This run also uses string skipping. Be aware of the G# on beat four of bar 1, as we momentarily switch from Natural to Harmonic Minor.

Example 5

Example 6

Example 6 shows a run that is based on something Jason Becker played in his tune Altitudes. Again this one uses lots of position shifting and string skipping.  

Example 7

Example 7 is a run from Vinnie Moore's tune Morning star. It's a descending run that moves diagonally through positions down the scale. 

Example 8

Example 8 in the legato lesson showed how you could start in a low position of the neck and combine multiple positions diagonally to cover lots of ground, in this lesson we're doing something very similar but picking every note instead.  

Example 9 shows how you can move diagonally in sixteenth note fashion while picking everything; this kind of lick has an aggressive biting tone if you get it right. 

Example 9

Example 10 in the combination legato lesson showed a three notes per string pentatonic lick spanning the full fretboard, so I thought we'd finish with a similar idea in this lesson with picking. This time it's a sextuplet pattern rather than septuplet; this keeps the picking pattern the same for every string. 

Example 10

By spending lots of time working on the runs in this lesson, you will have a springboard for creating your ideas with the Alternate Picking technique that will allow you to break out of any boxes or patterns you feel stuck in. Make sure you practice these examples over backing tracks, transpose them to different keys and try to use them in the most musical way possible. Enjoy!


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


The ten examples in this lesson give you a challenging yet productive workout that if practised diligently, will yield excellent results with this technique. As always there is way more that you can do with them. In the available download, i give you some practice tips showing you how to expand the examples. 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
  • Full fretboard diagrams for all modes of the major scale in the key of A, with an additional explanation on how to transpose these exercises into all of them.  

Download Cutting Edge Alternate Picking Part 3 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 3 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

Still want to take your technique further? check out High Intensity Guitar Technique in the store. Click the image above.