Beginner Alternate Picking

To kick off Lesson 6, we’re going to be taking a look at alternate picking. Alternate picking is just using alternating down and up picks on individual strings. For now, I just want you to get acquainted with the general idea of alternate picking. We’re not going to be using it too much straight away, but I do want you to just give it a go and familiarize yourself with what's going on and importance of pick angle, because pick angle also affects strumming!

Angling Your Pick

When it comes to alternate picking the angle of your pick becomes pretty important. Try this – hold the pick completely flat against the string and try to pick, down and up. You might find it’s pretty difficult to get a good rhythm going without the pick just catching on the strings and making things all 'lumpy'. When you start picking notes across different strings, holding your pick parallel to the strings will cause many problems including catching the wrong strings by accident and completely missing the string you want to hit.

Instead of holding your pick flat, try holding it at an angle, hitting the string with the edge of the pick than with the flat side of it. You’ll find that the pick glides much more easily across the string and you’ll eventually be able to build up more speed this way. You should find you use one edge of the pick for the down picks and one edge for the up picks.

In and Out

Once you’ve gotten comfortable holding the pick at an angle, the next step is to pick in and out – in, towards the guitar and out, away from the guitar. Again, this isn’t something that you’ll be using a whole lot right now, but it’s a good habit to get into. It will certainly help once you start getting into more advanced playing techniques, trust me! I didn't learn this way but really wish I had.


To practice, just pick a string and get comfortable picking back and forth on it, up and down, in and out. You can practice this on the different strings, too, as picking on the thicker strings will feel different from picking on the thinner strings. Also, alternate between picking with the pick parallel to the strings and then angled so you can really understand the difference between the two and see why it’s much better to master your angle!

Thanks Troy

Much of what I know about alternate picking comes from the most extreme picking nerd that ever lived - a dude based in New York called Troy Grady. He's got a superb website called Cracking The Code which delves deep into picking and the different approaches to playing fast and clean. It's not really aimed at beginners but it's super interesting and the depth to which he (still) studies guitar picking is insane, in a beautiful way. Bookmark this site and when you're done with the basics, you need to go check it out, I am still learning a lot from his adventures and you probably will too!


Lesson 6: G Chord Hacked +