Alternate Picking [Part 2]

Hi all,

Here’s part 2 of your alternate picking lesson.
This week, we are going to look at mixed rhythms in phrases so you get an idea of how to approach them.

Alternate picking involves plucking the string in alternating strokes – Down, Up, Down, Up etc even when changing strings.

I’m now going to add to this that down strokes must happen ON the beat and up strokes happen OFF the beat.

Exercise 1 – Down Strokes

Switch on your speakers and click on this website to open up a metronome and click on ’72’ (found around 10 O’Clock on the circle), this will start the metronome at 72 beats per minute (bpm).

Count along out loud with the click so you can align yourself in time, like this:

1 2 3 4, 1 2 3 4... repeat 8 times.

Now, with your guitar pick play the notes on the TAB below, in time with the click using just down strokes.  Hear what it sounds like: ex_1.mp3


Exercise 2 – Down and Up Strokes

Using the same click, we are now going to count on and in between the click.
We’ll use the numbers on the click as we did before.  In between we shall count ‘and‘ (written as '+') in between the click, like this:

1 + 2 + 3 + 4, 1 + 2 + 3 + 4, etc

Now, with your guitar, play the TAB below in time with the click using down strokes and up strokes.  The down strokes will play ON the click and the up stroke will play in between the click.  Hear what it sounds like: ex_2.mp3


Exercise 3 – Mixed Rhythms

Using the same click, we are now going to mix it up a bit.
If you look at the music below, you will see that not all the notes are of equal timing.


The first note lasts for one beat, which will be played with a down stroke.
The next two are alternating strokes (down, up).
The reason the second note starts on a down stroke again is because it happens on a numbered beat, not an + beat – remember as I said earlier:
down strokes must happen ON the beat and up strokes happen OFF the beat’.

If we counted it, it would be like this:

1  2 +  3   4 + , 1  2 +  3   4 +

Hear what it sounds like: ex_3.mp3

Exercise 4 – Mixed Rhythms and changing notes

Try this phrase below:


Hear what it sounds like: ex_4.mp3

Did you get it right?
If you didn’t, go again until you have – this isn’t a race!
If you did, well done, move to to the next one…

Exercise 5 – Alternate Picking Boogie

Yes, that’s right, I wrote a TAB called the ‘Alternate Picking Boogie’!  I’ve clearly no shame.


Hear what it sounds like: ex_5.mp3

So there we are, a little more on alternate picking for you.
You can of course use the drum beats to practice to, starting with 70bpm and working your way up.

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Happy playing!