Alternate Picking C Major

We’ve done loads of chord work so far in this lesson, so let’s switch it up now with some scale work! Everyone’s favourite, right? :)

First of all - DO NOT attempt this until you’ve mastered the C major scale from the previous lesson. In Lesson 9, we learned the C major scale using all down picks. Before attempting it with alternate picking, make sure you can get through the scale comfortably and accurately, even if that means keeping the tempo down for the moment. Also, it should be memorized! Believe me - you’ll need this committed to memory when we get into improvising solos, and that’s where the real fun happens.

Alternate Picking

As the name implies, alternate picking involves alternating between down and up picks rather than using all down or all up picks.

When starting off, go really, really, REALLY slowly! Remember - this isn’t about speed. It’s about building certainty in your mind so that it knows exactly what it’s supposed to be doing, however fast or slow it does it. Funny enough, this will actually help you progress faster! They say slow and steady wins the race, and that’s very true here.

How To Practice

Not to flog a dead horse, but PRACTICE SLOWLY. You want to get it right straight from the start so that you don’t form any bad habits or commit the wrong things to memory. This will only make things more difficult for you going forward! It’s very hard to unlearn things once you’ve locked them into your head.

Something that helps is saying the words “down’ and “up” as you’re picking. Hearing it out loud helps you to stay focused on what you’re picking hand is supposed to be doing without getting distracted and falling back into all down picks. You're also a lot more likely to notice if you say down but your hand does an up pick.

Also, you can have anchor notes within the scale or markers that can help keep you on track as you progress through the scale. For instance, if you know that a specific note on a specific string is supposed to be played with a down pick, you’ll be able to readjust if necessary once you get to it rather than continuing to play the scale using the wrong picks. But ideally, you won't be making mistakes - so you should be just checking that you're still doing it right ;)

Finally, practice deliberately and keep in mind the particular thing you’re practising. In this case, you should be hyper-focused on your alternate picking. Everything else is secondary to that, even if it means not focusing on other things, like increasing your speed or knowing the notes in the scale. At this point, you should know the scale itself well enough that your fretting hand is working automatically and doesn’t require too much attention or effort on your part.

For a bonus, try to keep your tempo consistent, whichever speed you choose. While it’s not necessary, you’re welcome to use a metronome if you’re comfortable doing so.

Beyond that, just keep at it! This is one of those things that seems intimidating at first, but once you get going with it, you’ll get it down faster than you think.

Lesson 10: Weak G Bamba