More Picking Q/A

How do you skip strings using fast alternate picking?

On Sat, 13 Apr 1996 wrote:

> I've got some questions for you and I really hope that you will answer
> because nobody seems to talk about 'em.
> I've been praticing alternate picking for a while, but I found a problem when
> I play phrases like this one:
> e|-----------------------------
> B|-----------------------------
> G|---------------5-------------
> D|------5--6--8-----8--6-------
> A|-----------------------------
> E|-----------------------------

>         d  u  d  u  d  u
> The problem is that, when I play it at high speed, and I can't control
> every single stroke, I can't help hitting the G string when I should pass
> over it to play the upstoke, and this sometimes produces a little but audible
> noise. What can I do? Should I pratice slower, or is there anything wrong
> with my wrist position, and/or pick grip?

The strategy is to lift the pick over the G string before the upstroke
(I know this is obvious, but it's important to focus on the root of
the problem).  There are many ways to accomplish this.  What works
best for my because of my wrist (and arm) based picking is to use
inverted U motion to clear strings when reaching for the far side of
them.  This works well when trying to pick down strokes on the 6th string
followed by upstrokes on the 1st string.  The motion is with the pick
perpendicular to the front of the guitar (plane of the strings) with
a continous motion down and away from the guitar on the down stroke,
bringing it back towards the guitar once it has moved halfway down to
the next string to be plucked.  When playing very fast, the hand hops
away from the guitar slightly, in a half sin wave (it would be circular
if not for the in-out motion being twice the frequency of the up-down
motion.  In playing only upstrokes or downstrokes on one string, the
motion becomes circular because the in-out and up-down motions have
the same frequency).

You might want to create etudes for yourself where you isolate this
task in the following manner:  Play the D and G strings alternately
with down and up stroke picking, starting slowly and increasing
speed as comfort and accuracy allow.  Then repeat, only skip an
additional string e.g. D to B and/or A to G.  Continue down this path 
until you are confortable with E(6th) to E(1st).

For getting used to mixing up the upstroke and downstroke on the top
string, try a three note alternate picking pattern, one note per




Once you are confortable with this, skip strings as before.

> Another question is about string muting: how can I avoid the strings
> from ringing when I play things like tapping and string skipping?

The strategy here is to
  1) prevent the quiet strings from getting energy
  2) use muting with right and left hands.
     (See my interview with Steve Morse for more on muting:

> And what do you think about economy picking?

That's a broad question.  Generally I'm for economy of motion for
both hands if it does not detract from the end result (sound).
I use sweeps for the 64th note Paganini passages sometimes.
Other times I use alternate picking in conjuction with hammer-ons
and pull-offs.  It all depends on where the accents need to go
and the phrasing desired.

Hear some audio samples of fast picking on STRAD TO STRAT (Try flight of The Bumblebee).