Double Picking and Scales (Guitar Lesson)


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Steve Eulberg

Double Picking and Scales

Steve teaches a signature bluegrass lick that will really spice up the bluegrass song. In order to learn the lick, you must master double picking and a few scales.

Taught by Steve Eulberg in Bluegrass Guitar with Steve Eulberg seriesLength: 30:04Difficulty: 2.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (10:25) Introduction and Double Picking Steve switches gears from left hand technique to right hand technique. In this lesson, you will learn an essential rudimentary right hand technique: double picking. Double picking is also commonly referred to as “alternate picking.” This technique enables a guitarist to play much faster. Repetitious picking in which the pick changes direction with each stroke is known as double picking. If you currently use downstrokes exclusively, your right hand is extremely limited in the range of what it can perform. In this lesson, Steve demonstrates some exercises that will get you acquainted with this important technique. You will also learn some very important scale patterns. Knowledge of scales and mastery of double picking are essential skills when playing any form of melodic material.

A. Double Picking Rules
1. NEVER rest your fingers on the pickguard under any circumstance! Although this may provide you with some stability when you are first learning, this poor technique will severely limit your right hand ability in the long run.

2. Rest the palm of your right hand on the bridge when playing a double picked passage. The palm should also rest on the bridge when playing any scalar line.

3. The palm SHOULD NOT rest on the bridge when playing any passage that involves strummed chords or string skipping. Watch Steve carefully as he demonstrates this technique. The right forearm rests on the upper body of the guitar to provide stability. This technique allows the right hand to move more fluidly. If your wrist is anchored to the bridge, the range of motion of the right hand is not large enough to accommodate the aforementioned techniques.

4. Downstrokes and upstrokes must be identical in tone and volume.

5. Your pick strokes need only be large enough to create a solid tone. Remember the economy of motion techniques that Steve explained in his Phase 1 series. Keep the pick as close to the string as possible at all times. This will enable you to double pick much faster.

6. Only the very tip of the pick should make contact with the strings. Do not dig your pick into the strings. This will hinder your ability to move fluidly from one string to the next.

7. The right hand fingers not holding the pick should remain slightly curled into the palm. They should only fan outwards when playing rapid palm muted passages in the rock and metal genres.
B. Two Methods of Double Picking
There are two ways in which double picking can be performed. Both are equally valid options. Experiment with both options for a significant amount of time. After this initial experimentation period, decide which technique is more comfortable for you.
Method 1 - Use the wrist as a pivot to double pick.

Method 2 - This method almost excludes the wrist entirely. The thumb squeezes inwards toward the palm during a downstroke. For an upstroke, the thumb and first finger relax and return to their normal position. Thus, almost all of the picking movement originates from the thumb and first finger. This technique is generally more comfortable for guitarists that have a hitchhiker thumb.
C. Basic Double Picking Exercises
Exercise 1 - Set your metronome to a slow tempo. Quarter note=70 is a great place to start. Play the open D string in continuous eighth notes using double picking. It is best to practice double picking using open strings. This takes the left hand out of the equation and allows you to focus completely on the movement of your right hand.

Exercise 2 - Set your metronome to an even slower tempo. Starting with the sixth string, play each string for a full measure in sixteenth notes. To keep the rhythm of sixteenth notes nice and even, say the word “Mississippi” at the beginning of each beat. This works well because Mississippi consists of four even, non-stressed syllables. Counting “1 e and ah” is also a great method to subdivide the quarter note into four equal sixteenth notes. Steve discusses pneumonic counting devices in the final scene of the lesson.
D. G Major Scale
Scales are the building blocks of all music. From this day forth, scales MUST become a part of your daily warm-up/technique practice.

Note: Check out Brad and Matt’s Phase 2 lessons for more information regarding why scales are so important.

In this lesson, Steve demonstrates two scales in open position. Keep in mind that all scale patterns on the guitar can be transposed easily to another key. However, the scales in open position (scale patterns that contain open strings) must change their fingering when transposed higher up the neck.

Note: Click the “Supplemental Content” tab for a fretboard diagram of all the “open” major scales discussed in this lesson.
Chapter 2: (9:26) Double Picking with G Major Scale; C Major Scale A. G Major Scale Practice
All scale patterns MUST be memorized. Once you have memorized the fingerings for the G Major scale, continue to practice the scale using double picking. (Every other note should be played with an upstroke.) Instead of playing each note once, pick each note for a full measure of sixteenth notes before moving to the next note. Playing a scale in this manner focuses more attention on double picking technique.
B. C Major Scale
The C Major scale consists of all natural notes. If you are familiar with the piano keyboard, the C major scale is comprised of nothing but white keys. The black keys on a piano represent the accidentals (sharps and flats.)

Before you practice the C scale with double picking, pause the video and take some time to familiarize yourself with the fingering for this scale. Once you can play through the scale from memory, add the double picking technique. Once again, play each note for a full measure in sixteenth notes. You should be counting four “Mississippis” for each note. Watch Steve carefully for a demonstration of how the scale should be performed.

If you happen to hit a wrong note, don’t stop and retrace your steps. Regardless of whether you are practicing or performing, it is always best to keep the rhythm uninterrupted. Otherwise, it is quite easy to fall into the habit of reinforcing your mistakes. Keep Steve’s “bear in the woods” analogy in mind at all times. However, if you notice that you repeatedly have problems with a specific segment of a scale, isolate that portion of the scale and devote extra time to it.
Chapter 3: (5:25) The D Major Scale Repeat the same process you used to learn the G and C scales to practice the D Major scale. Remember that D Major contains two sharps in its key signature: F# and C#.

Steve demonstrates two different fingerings for this scale. The first version works best when playing a memorized melody. The second fingering is best applied to improvised solos.
Chapter 4: (4:48) Word Based Rhythm Patterns Steve demonstrates some more great pneumonic devices designed to keep your rhythm even. Most of these devices are common auditory tools that have proven very effective with young children. However, they work just as well with adults. Some people are simply not visual learners. These pneumonic devices serve as a reminder of how a specific rhythmic figure should be played.
A. Mississippi - As discussed earlier in the lesson, this word can be used to count four repeated eighth notes or four repeated sixteenth notes.

B. Stop Pony - This works great for a quarter note followed by two eighth notes. It also works for an eighth followed by two sixteenths

C. Monkey Run - This pneumonic device applies to the rhythm represented by Stop Pony only backwards. It works for two eighths followed by a quarter or two sixteenths followed by an eighth note.
Play each scale in this lesson using each of the rhythms described above. Before tackling this task, watch Steve demonstrate each rhythm.

In the following lesson, Steve will teach you some great bluegrass licks that are derived from the three basic scales demonstrated in this lesson.

Video Subtitles / Captions





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Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.


wrmerckwrmerck replied on July 10th, 2012

The written instructions ("About This Lesson" tab) say that you sould never rest your finger on the pick guard, but rather should rest the palm of your hand on the bridge. The instructions also say, "Watch Steve carefully and he will demonstrate this." Look at scene 2, starting at approximately 0:50 (demonstrating "Mississippi"). It appears to me that Steve is clearly resting the pinky of his right hand on the pick-guard. I have a local instructor who also warns strongly against resting any fingers on the guitar ... and then I watched a video of Eric Clapton on YouTube and he was resting his pinky on the pick-guard. How important is this warning? I am a relatively new player. I don't want to create habits that I will have to undo later ... but I see Steve and Eric Clapton (two accomplished guitarists) doing it. Any thoughts?!?!?

adamhaasadamhaas replied on December 29th, 2012

Just my 2 cents...I think there is a difference between having your pinkey out and using it as a brace for your hand. I think was Steve is doing and what a lot of players do (Clapton included) is keep their pinkey out as a matter of comfort and not as a means to support their hand on the guitar

mrjersrmrjersr replied on December 15th, 2010

Help I am on double picking and can't get past scene 2. Say's video not found.

critter421critter421 replied on August 16th, 2010

Hey deralackley.... The idea is that the capo becomes the new nut of the guitar.... making it fret "0". So, if you were to play in A, you would put the capo on the second fret. This effectively raises everything by one whole step. If you were to play a chord that looked like G, your second finger (root note) would infact be playing an A. Every fret = one half step... so, when using a capo, translate accordingly.

sendbahtsendbaht replied on February 21st, 2009

Hello deralrackley, as you can see Steve no longer answers questions. Maybe he has left this site. Though, not to complan I sure injoy this music site a whole lot and like you enjoying Steve's lesson. Nice guy he seems. Don

deralrackleyderalrackley replied on February 6th, 2009

Steve--In the bluegrass guitar lessons, you mentioned that many bluegrass guitar players only use the "G Major" chord forms (or was it the "C Major" ) and use a capo for the various keys. Soo--How do you know where to place the capo on the fret board for the different keys.

clampettclampett replied on February 23rd, 2008

Steve-- You've got a finger-style blues player who loves blue grass is seeking to make the jump. Query: you've introduced alternating picking here with the scales. BUT...do you use alternating picking when you are just playing base note/chop patterns? Restated, in blue grass would I generally just keep to downward pick strokes if I playing base note /chops as opposed to executing a run? Thanks.

changechange replied on November 5th, 2007

Hi Steve, what about the guys who dont use a plectrum? Do they have to use their first finger for the up stroke to double pick?

steveeulbergsteveeulberg replied on October 4th, 2007

Hi Merle, thanks for the suggestion. I'll have to do some research! Steve

merlemerle replied on October 4th, 2007

Steve, it's Merle here. could you please make a lesson on the fingerpicking style of James Burton? he has this style where he playes rhythm and fingerpicking at the same time. people here at jamplay would love it.I don't ask for much and this would mean a lot to me.Steve, I know your the man for the job so please, think about it. see ya ,Merle.:(

Bluegrass Guitar with Steve Eulberg

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Bluegrass is one of the most recognizable styles of guitar. Some refer to bluegrass as a celebration of the simple things in life. Dive into this series to learn the essential components of the bluegrass guitar style.



Lesson 1

Intro to Bluegrass

Steve demonstrates basic, essential bluegrass techniques. In this lesson, you will learn the bass/chop technique.

Length: 16:00 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 2

Building the Song

Now that you have the bass/chop down, Steve demonstrates additional bluegrass techniques.

Length: 21:06 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 3

Walking Between Chords

Steve takes our bluegrass song one step further in this lesson. He demonstrates how to play a walking bass line between chords.

Length: 21:07 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 4

Accenting Your Play

In this lesson, Steve discusses hammer-ons and pull-offs and how they are used in the bluegrass genre.

Length: 33:34 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 5

Double Picking and Scales

Steve explains double picking, also known as alternate picking. He teaches a scale that enables you to play an awesome bluegrass lick.

Length: 30:04 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 6

Bluegrass Licks

Steve teaches a widely used bluegrass lick.

Length: 22:34 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 7

Descending Lick

In this lesson Steve teaches a descending bluegrass lick.

Length: 34:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 8

Bluegrass Melody

Steve gives tips on playing a melody line in the bluegrass genre.

Length: 37:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 9

Raising the Octave

Steve demonstrates how you can use "closed chord" voicings in order to raise the octave of the melody. Great lesson!

Length: 38:00 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

Fun Bluegrass Licks

Steve demonstrates some bluegrass licks that serve as introductions, endings, and transitions within a song.

Length: 23:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 11

I Am a Pilgrim

Steve Eulberg teaches a classic bluegrass song entitled "I Am a Pilgrim." He covers strumming, the melody, and walking bass lines.

Length: 28:57 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 12

Angel Band

Steve teaches a bluegrass waltz titled "Angel Band."

Length: 28:09 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 13

Catchy Bluegrass Lick

Steve dives deep into another classic Bluegrass lick that you can use to flare up a jam session or song.

Length: 20:46 Difficulty: 2.0 FREE
Lesson 14

Wabash Cannonball Part 1

Steve Eulberg teaches the first part of the bluegrass classic, "Wabash Cannonball."

Length: 18:52 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 15

Wabash Cannonball Part 2

Steve continues his two part "Wabash Cannonball" series by teaching how to develop the basic rhythm and melody into unique solo sections.

Length: 23:53 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 16

Ballad of Jesse James Part 1

Steve Eulberg teaches this old tune as if it were being played back in the old days. Here, Steve demonstrates the verse, chorus, and melody. Enjoy the story behind this one!

Length: 15:26 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 17

Ballad of Jesse James Part 2

In his second lesson of "The Ballad of Jesse James," Steve Eulberg demonstrates a more in depth look at how to play the song in a bluegrass form. This lesson is all about double stops, and when combined...

Length: 21:53 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only

About Steve Eulberg View Full Biography An Award-winning multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter, Steve Eulberg weaves mountain and hammered dulcimers with a variety of unusual instruments to create thought-provoking, smile-inducing, toe-tapping acoustic experiences.

He has sung and composed for religious communities, union halls, picket lines, inter-faith retreats, mountain-top youth camps, as well as the more familiar venues: clubs, coffeehouses, bookstores, festivals, charity benefits and showcase concerts.

Born and raised in the German-heritage town of Pemberville, Ohio, Steve was exposed to a variety of music in his home. Early piano lessons were followed by trumpet in school band, and he became self-taught on ukelele and guitar and harmonica. Mandolin was added at Capital University where, while majoring in History, he studied Ear Training, Voice and took Arranging lessons from the Conservatory of Music.

While at college, he first heard hammered and mountain dulcimers, building his first mountain dulcimer just before his final year. Seminary training took him the west side of Denver where he built his first hammered dulcimer. With these instruments, he was able to give voice to the Scottish, English and Irish traditions to which he is also heir.

Following marriage in 1985 to Connie Winter-Eulberg he settled in Kansas City, Missouri. There he worked cross-culturally in a church of African-Americans, Latinos and European Americans, with music being a primary organizing tool. He moved with his family in 1997 to be nestled beside the Rocky Mountains in Fort Coillins, Colorado.

Founder of Owl Mountain Music, Inc. he teaches and performs extensively in Colorado and Wyoming with tours across the US and the UK. He delights in introducing the “sweet music” of dulcimers to people in diverse settings and in addition to his own recordings, has included dulcimers in a variety of session work for other musicians.

In 2000 he was commissioned to create a choral composition featuring dulcimers for the Rainbow Chorus in Fort Collins. It was recorded in the same year (BEGINNINGS). He is currently at work on a commissioned symphony that will feature hammered dulcimer and Australian didjeridu.

Eulberg passionately believes that music crosses cultural and language barriers because music builds community. Influenced by a variety of ethnic styles, his music weaves vital lyric with rap, rock, folk, gospel and blues. Audiences of all ages respond well to his presentation and to his warm sense of humor.

Steve is a member of Local 1000 (AFM), The Folk Alliance, BMI and BWAAG (Better World Artists and Activist's Guild).

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