5 Tips To Better Picking

Lead Guitar

View Category

In this lead guitar lesson, we're going to talk about 5 tips I have for better picking on the guitar. This is a pretty subjective topic, so I'm going to show you some of the things that worked for me to improve my picking over the years.

1. Experiment, Experiment, Experiment

Everyone's body is different, and there are many styles of picking out there. You'll have to experiment to find what works best for you and your anatomy. Picking technique can be broken down into 3 main parts that I'll go over here.

Pick Grip: Experiment with holding your pick between your index finger and thumb, or with two fingers and your thumb. Try pointing your fingers straight at the guitar, or at a slight angle. See what works best and is most comfortable for you.

Picking Angle: There are a couple of ways you can angle your pick. Try angling your pick upward like Marty Friedman or Shawn Lane. People like Paul Gilbert and John Petrucci use more of a downward angle, so try that too. See which method works best for you.

Movement Method: The general method for moving the pick is another subjective area. You'll have to find a good combination of moving your fingers, wrist, and arm to find what feels most natural to you.

Pro Tip: Some players will allow their picking hand to float freely while picking. Try finding an anchor point on the guitar like the bridge or body to improve your picking accuracy.

2. Start With Single Strings

One of the hardest parts of going through a scale or a lick is changing strings. Start off by getting rid of that challenge. Take a little time each day and focus on picking just one string. Remember that all the strings feel a little bit different so make sure you go through and practice picking each one.

Pro Tip: Break this exercise down into just downstrokes, just upstrokes, and alternate picking.

3. Play Slow & Fast

When you play slowly, you're programming your technique, which is important. But you'll also need to push yourself if you want to play faster. Try reving your picking by starting slow, then bring the speed up, then back down, then up, over and over. Really focus on accuracy here.

Pro Tip: A great way to improve speed is to use a metronome to keep track of your progress and get you used to playing in time.

4. Work On Changing Strings

A good exercise for getting this down, is choosing two adjacent strings, and playing one with a downstroke, then the other with an upstroke. Repeat this over and over at different speeds. Try switching which string you're upstroking and which one you're downstroking.

Once you've got that down, you'll want to apply it to a scale or lick. Try taking a small part of a scale that covers two strings and work on playing through it cleanly and consistently.

Pick Slanting: Slanting your pick upwards when you travel up strings, and downwards when you travel down the strings. It creates a rolling motion instead of a hopping motion from string to string.

Economy Picking: Alternate picking requires you to alternate your picking up, down, up, down, etc. Economy picking uses the direction your traveling to the next string to make it more natural. For example, if you play down, up, down on your B string, and you were going to your high E string, you could continue the last downstroke on the B string and play a downstroke on the E string. This adds to the fluidity of your playing and will make it easier to play faster.

5. Practice To Music

A lot of guitar players fall into the trap of just practicing technique over and over without applying it to music. As soon as they're put in a musical situation, the techniques don't do any good.

There are a few ways you can apply what you're working on to music: Jam with friends, play along to a jam track or a favorite song, or write a new song or riff.