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Jazz Guitar Lessons

Improve Your ‘Picking’ Strategies



Jazz guitarist and educator, Chuck Anderson offers some ways to improve your picking.

Most guitarists have the impression that alternate picking is the way to go for speed. Sometimes it is and sometimes, it’s not. It all depends on the notes per string, the string order, the rhythm, and the effect you want.

Realize that picking has four pairs: down – down, up – up, down – up, up – down.

In general, alternate picking is used on notes on the same string and consecutive picking is used when you cross strings. The only time alternate picking is used in string crossing is if the movement from string to string is contrary to the direction of the pick. For example, if you play a note on string two with an up pick, and if the next note is on string one, you would alternate the pick direction and use a down pick on string one. Also, if you play a note with a downstroke on string four and then pick a note on string five, you would use an upstroke on string five. These guidelines apply whether the string order is adjacent or not. 

In the long run, this is a very creative topic and you always need to stay aware of the effect you want. Generally speaking, downstrokes have more power than upstrokes. Upstrokes, on the other hand, are lighter. 

Seek a picking solution that is efficient and produces the sound and feel that suits the situation and the mood of the music.

More JGT lessons from Chuck Anderson.

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