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Alternate Picking Part 1 (Guitar Lesson)


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Nick Greathouse

Alternate Picking Part 1

Nick starts his series with Alternate Picking part 1. Improve your timing, speed, and execution with this important lesson.

Taught by Nick Greathouse in Speed and Technique seriesLength: 21:23Difficulty: 2.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (2:34) Series Introduction Welcome to my "Speed and Technique" lesson series! The purpose of this series is to give you an overview of some of the essential techniques for rock guitar playing. The three main topics of the series are Alternate Picking, Legato Playing, and Sweep Picking/Arpeggios. As the series moves forward the lessons for each topic will get progressively more difficult, so be sure that you are comfortable with each lesson before moving on to the next.
Chapter 2: (4:17) Lesson Introduction This first lesson in my "Speed and Technique" series focuses on alternate picking. Alternate picking is, of course, the constant "down, up" or "up, down" motion of the right hand. This technique is the cornerstone of playing scale lines with speed and rhythmic accuracy.

The goal of this lesson is for the student to get comfortable using the technique on a single string so that it becomes second nature to alternate pick. Developing the technique this way is essential so that when you begin playing more complicated lines or full scales, you don’t have to think about the picking pattern.

The 15 exercises in this lesson are designed so that a simple fret-hand pattern is repeated with continuous alternate picking. Be sure that you do not "re-start" the picking pattern each time you repeat the fret-hand fingering, for that is one of the biggest pitfalls for beginning players.
Chapter 3: (6:40) Fret Hand Fingerings This scene covers the fret-hand fingerings for this entire lesson (as well as the first legato lesson). All three fingerings are in the key of A and they are all three notes per string. Be sure to use the fingering indicated on the tablature so that each finger is developed equally. The first and second positions are both “one finger per fret” positions, the second one is especially good for strengthening the troublesome 3rd and 4th fingers. The third position is meant to slightly stretch your left hand so that you’ll be able to do more difficult reaches later on. All three of these fingerings are absolutely essential to three-note per string scalar playing, and they’re all played on the third (G) string.
Chapter 4: (10:39) Alternate Picking Exercises This scene demonstrates all 15 of the picking exercises in this lesson. Be sure that you practice each example with the rhythm written in the notation. Examples #1-#9 are all triplet rhythms (three notes per beat), examples #10-15 are 16th note rhythms (four notes per beat). Once again make sure that you use the correct fingering, and constant alternate picking for each exercise.
Chapter 5: (20:05) Effective Practice Though each picking exercise is only one measure long, they are meant to be played many times. Alternate picking is a technique that requires many, many, repetitions to get under control and to start building speed. The best thing for me to do has been to practice each example continuously for a predetermined amount of time (i.e. one minute, five minutes, etc.). Though you could practice each example for longer, I recommend the one minute time limit. I also recommend that you take as minimal a break as possible between exercises so that the entire set takes about 15 minutes total.

Important things to remember while practicing this lesson:
  1. Play the correct rhythm, with a metronome.
  2. Synchronization is key! Always try to pick a note at the exact moment it is fretted.
  3. Always try to pick from the wrist and fingers of the picking hand, don’t use the elbow joint to move the hand up and down.
The next step will be to incorporate "speed bursts" into your practice. This is a "jogging, sprinting, jogging" approach that will help you in the development of speed. When playing a speed burst you double the written rhythm. The triplet based examples will become 16th note triplets (six notes per beat) and the 16th note examples will become 32nd notes (eight notes per beat). When attempting this, try to seamlessly switch between the slower and faster rhythms without breaking your momentum. Start at a slow enough metronome setting so that you can play the faster rhythms cleanly. Eventually you will be able to sustain playing faster rhythms for longer periods of time.
Chapter 6: (21:25) Wrap Up Thanks for watching, and be sure to get a good handle on this technique before attempting later installments of this series.

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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.


rogerfunkrogerfunk replied on May 21st, 2016

Looks a little like Tom Petty

rockinannierockinannie replied on April 7th, 2016

Pretty funny that this is a "speed" section, as he speaks so slowly. And, please learn to teach without saying, "uh," as it is so distracting to the lesson! Sorry, but the lesson was so slow, it lost me.

wardyr1wardyr1 replied on August 11th, 2014

Is it a stupid question to ask what would be a reasonable speed to attain for 16ths and triplets? Speed has always been a very major weakness of mine and I want to address it now. Apologies if this has already been covered :-)

Damien LeeDamien Lee replied on May 13th, 2014

At the beginning you can see the camera man in the bridge of his guitar.

Marc_XMarc_X replied on April 14th, 2014

Nick, great lesson, my man. After reading your bio, I'm jealous. You've learned so much in your travels. Doing just what you said and that's practicing the technique.

nlonguk02nlonguk02 replied on December 8th, 2013

Great lesson! Thanks, Nick.

xoloschampionsxoloschampions replied on December 18th, 2012

hey dude the music notation for the lesson is wrong.. you guys should check the music notation carefully

handsfromasshandsfromass replied on October 30th, 2012

vibrato at the end of everything haha

manipickmanipick replied on September 29th, 2012

These exercises are great and I really feel like I'm improving from them but they are killing my left hand.Is this just case of me doing it wrong,or does my hand have to get used to the repetitive stretching.

hayes grayhayes gray replied on January 6th, 2013

My left hand hurts when I do them too. I started looking at how I was fingering the exercises and by slowing down and changing how I finger the notes I was able to alleviate some of the stress.

dov690dov690 replied on January 13th, 2012

Hey guys, do you put your metronome on 120 for the 15 minutes daily practice? I try today, with the triplet there's no problems, but with 16th notes I have some issues...I can play pretty fast picking licks, but I can't play these for too long!

ianjfianjf replied on December 31st, 2011

Great lesson! But I too would have similar questions. Is the goal of these exercises to achieve proper technique with these 15 exercises on the G String up to say 120BPM then move onto the next lesson in the series, or is it once you can play these 15 excercises at a moderate speed move onto next?? I think the goals need to be defined just a little more for these great exercises... Why is there no answers to the other questions above??? Thank you.... Ian.

emmanuelstarchildemmanuelstarchild replied on July 11th, 2011

Can I anchor my pinky on the pickup ring of my guitar?

stringthingstringthing replied on February 17th, 2011

Wanted to ask about the speed and technique drills. First my left hand tires pretty quick after a couple of minutes of drills, is this normal? Second should I be more concerned at this point with speed or endurance? Thanks

crimsonpigmentcrimsonpigment replied on October 27th, 2010

dudeee! u taught me at woodsy's good job man!

liran135liran135 replied on October 6th, 2010

Hey Nick.. before watching this lesson, I watched alot of videos here with the streched 1-3-4 finger position. now I got used to it and I was wondering if I should practice with the streched 1-3-4 position? or to start getting used to the 1-2-4 instead?

hayes grayhayes gray replied on January 6th, 2013

Mix it up. It can only help your finger dexterity in the long run.

firstdogfirstdog replied on June 2nd, 2010

great lesson. But you've got to explain how to get to the really fast picking - inch the metronome up and make this a slow steady progress? tighten up and burst into it? both? how long should this take, what worked for you? where's the light at the end of this tunnel?

davidbrucedavidbruce replied on August 31st, 2010

What answer did you get from this?

0427owen0427owen replied on August 3rd, 2010

good question

kimmokimmo replied on July 5th, 2010

Is there any videos on the proper, or best way to hold the guitar pick?

iceboundd88iceboundd88 replied on June 28th, 2009

your helping me get better and better every day thanks man.

lukacar24lukacar24 replied on January 25th, 2009

k ill do this like 2x15 mins a day :)

skelligskellig replied on June 18th, 2009

Awesome Nick; Picture with Petrucci was a very good sign for me!

jasgp78jasgp78 replied on January 12th, 2009

Just one more question. How many bpm in the metronome would you call an acceptable speed for this exercises? Shall I keep speeding it up until lightspeed or so, or do I understand that it'll be alright at...

jasgp78jasgp78 replied on December 30th, 2008

Same to me. Fifteen minutes everyday. Thank you! :)

chingolingochingolingo replied on November 9th, 2008

g strings rule lol

alec morrowalec morrow replied on July 28th, 2008

okie dokie artichokie my chicken

ronin808ronin808 replied on July 22nd, 2008

Need to practice this alot man thanks!!

kevinacekevinace replied on July 21st, 2008

Great lesson Nick...well done!

itsmekeuhitsmekeuh replied on July 19th, 2008

Hey Nick, that is exactly what I have been doing since a while, although not a daily routine. Great lesson. Looking forward for the legato and sweeppicking stuff. This one is going to be a 15 minutes daily practice from now on

rhoadsfreakrhoadsfreak replied on July 19th, 2008

Great lesson Nick. Definitely something I need to work on. Can't wait for more but a lot of work to do on this one first.

Speed and Technique

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

This exercise-heavy series serves to improve your playing dexterity, coordination, synchronization of your left and right hand, and speed building in the techniques of alternate picking, sweep picking, and legato.



Lesson 1

Alternate Picking Part 1

Nick starts his series with Alternate Picking part 1. Improve your timing, speed, and execution with this important lesson.

Length: 21:23 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 2

Legato Playing Part 1

Nick lays down the building blocks for legato playing. Strengthen and improve your left hand skills in Legato Part 1.

Length: 12:53 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 3

Sweep Picking and Arpeggios Part 1

Nick lays down the building blocks for sweep picking. Precision and relaxation are crucial when it comes to this technique.

Length: 21:27 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 4

Alternate Picking - Part 2

Alternate Picking Part 2 will build up your technique by adding a second string.

Length: 21:23 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 5

Legato Playing - Part 2

Nick takes Legato playing a step further with more advanced examples such as full scale patterns.

Length: 33:43 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 6

Sweep Picking and Arpeggios - Part 2

Nick teaches you some new sweep picking licks and demonstrates how to connect arpeggios together.

Length: 24:48 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 7

Alternate Picking Part 3

Nick covers 5 practice sequences in the key of A major that will beef up your alternate picking technique.

Length: 36:18 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 8

Sweep Picking part 3

Nick teaches the basics of sweep picking with exercises that have helped him.

Length: 22:18 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 9

Pentatonic Sequences and Techniques

Nick teaches exercises and techniques for the B Minor Pentatonic scale.

Length: 21:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only

About Nick Greathouse View Full Biography Nick Greathouse was born on December 11th, 1980 in Canton, Ohio. He was exposed to many different musical styles from a very young age. Growing up in the "MTV generation" some of his earliest memories involve watching Van Halen, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, and Guns n' Roses with his brother and cousin. His mother played piano, sang and filled the house with the sounds of singer-songwriters Cat Stevens, Jackson Browne and Elton John and his father was always listening to country music along with classic rockers Tom Petty and Bob Seger. He never had to look far to hear great music.

Though he was constantly surrounded by music, it wasn't until Nick heard his first Beatles album (Revolver) when he was 10 that he became interested in being a musician. Shortly thereafter, his older brother got an electric guitar which Nick began to play (while his bro was out of the house!). The moment his fingers touched the strings for the first time, he was hooked and had to have one of his own.

Throughout high school Nick took guitar lessons and would jam with his friends as much as possible, his skills on the instrument improved significantly. He would spend hours with his cd player learning Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix songs by ear. But after hearing Steve Vai's album "Passion and Warfare" guitar playing became an all out obsession.

After high school, at age 18, Nick began teaching guitar lessons at a local music store. He also entered the music program at Kent State University where he studied classical guitar with George Bachmann. During this time he performed many solo guitar recitals and also played with the guitar ensemble. When he honed his reading chops to a high level he started playing in pit orchestras and band for local theaters.

Nick took a break from Kent in 2004 when he moved to Hollywood, California for a short time to study at Musician's Institute (GIT). While there he had classes with Daniel Gilbert, Joy Basu, Tom Kolb, Carl Verheyen, and his private lesson instructor Jean-Marc Belkadi.

Nick returned to Ohio in order to finish his college education. He joined a local metal core band called Last Second Decision which was formed by his brother. During his tenure with Last Second Decision Nick began taking lessons from one of his heroes, Cleveland based guitar virtuoso, Neil Zaza. They became fast friends and since then Nick has gone on to perform with Zaza numerous times including television appearances, local club gigs and the holiday spectacular "Neil Zaza's One Silent Night" at Cleveland's Playhouse Square. Nick also appears on the 2007 CD "Neil Zaza's One Silent Night: A Night at The Palace".

Nick is a graduate of Kent State University (BA Music) and continues to teach privately at a music store in Kent, Ohio and also at his home. He is very excited to be a part of the JamPlay team!

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