Basic Guitar Picking Technique – Lead Guitar Lesson #2

Welcome to video #2 of the Lead Guitar Quick-Start
Series. In this lesson, we’re going to go over some basic technique for your picking
hand. We’re going to start out with some kind of universal picking tips and we’re
going to learn all about downstrokes and upstrokes. Once we have those two things down,
we’re going to put them both together, downstrokes and upstrokes, for something called
alternate picking. That’s really important. All of the things we’re going to discuss
here are really critical for your career as a guitarist because you want to make sure
you get started on the right foot and don’t develop any bad habits for your picking hand.
Let’s just get started talking about the type of pick you’re going to be using. Now, I
would recommend to you as a newer guitar player or newer lead guitar player that you start
with just a regular shaped medium pick. That way you can kind of get a feel for it and
just decide if you want to go thicker or thinner depending on your own personal preference
and the style of music you’re going to be playing. Personally I like a bit of a thicker
pick just because of the type of music I like to play and the style I’ve developed over
the years, but take some time. Experiment with picks and find out what works best for
you. The first kind of universal strumming tip
that I want to give you is to relax. A lot of guitar players tend to tense up because
they’re just concentrating on picking so hard that they don’t realize that they’re
tensing up. That’s bad for two reasons – #1 it makes your playing less efficient and #2
it can kind of lead to injuries over time if you’re not careful. If you feel any excess
tension in your picking hand, just stop. Shake your hand out and start over and make sure
you’re as relaxed as possible when you’re picking. The next tip I want to give you is tied directly to the first one, and that’s don’t just
look your wrist and pick from your elbow like this. Again, this can be really inefficient
and it can hurt your elbow after a while if you’re not careful. A lot of newer guitar
players do that. They tend to lock their wrist, pick from their elbow and use all down strokes.
Don’t let that be. Make sure you relax and get some of your wrist in there too.
The next tip I have for you is to use small efficient motions with your picking, and by
that I mean only pick the string enough as much as you need to make the string sound.
Instead of making big sweeping motions like locking your wrist like this, watch this;
just really small efficient motions. Most of that motion is coming from my wrist and
my elbow is helping out a bit. If you use big sweeping motions like this, your picking
is going to be really inefficient and when you go start learning scales and faster passages
and things like that, it’s going to be a lot harder to get your picking done on that
kind of stuff. If I use small efficient motions, as soon as I make a downstroke my pick is
going to be right there ready to come back and make another downstroke, right?
So let’s talk about pick grip for now and we’re kind of getting into the area of subjective
picking technique but that’s okay. There are no rules. You’re going to have to experiment
with your pick grip and find out what works for you. Generally, stick your pick out there
facing that way. That way if you’re watching the video. Stick your thumb on it as comfortably
as you can and then just come down on it with your finger. Now, depending on your hand and what’s
comfortable for you, your finger may be curved in like this and maybe more straight like
this or maybe the complete other way around. It doesn’t matter. I’ve seen great players
use all different kinds of pick grips. You’re just going to have to experiment with what
works for you and what you’re comfortable with.
Picking angle, the angle you pick the strings up, is another really subjective part of technique
that you’re going to have to experiment with yourself and the grip that you choose
to use on your pick is going to affect the angle that you pick the strings with. Most
people pick with a kind of downward angle like this. Some guys use more of a flat angle
right here parallel with the strings. And some people angle the pick upward. What you’re
going to have to do is kind of play around with it and experiment, see what feels comfortable
for you and see what works with your style of playing.
So let’s get into some actual down strokes. Get your pick into your preferred picking
grip and angle, and just come rest it on the high E string, this side of the high E string
closest to you and just push down through the string just enough to make the string sound really
relaxed with your wrist. Do that over and over again, remembering all the tips we’ve talked about for your picking so far. This may take days, weeks, months, years, to develop.
I still work on my picking all the time. That’s okay. Just start getting comfortable using
downstrokes. Another thing that you’re going to want
to do is make sure to practice your downstrokes on all six strings because the thin strings
they’re way different than the thick strings as far as picking down stroke. Take some time
on every practice session for the next while. Start with the high E string. Do that for
a while. Move on the B string and so on, for 30 seconds or a couple of minutes on each
string; small efficient motions. You’re also going to want to experiment
with where you hit the strings. I’m pretty consistent as far as where I hit the strings.
I keep my hand on the back here pretty close to the bridge and that’s where I pick the
strings, usually right above this middle pickup on my guitar.
A mistake that I see a lot of newer guitar players make is they only use downstrokes
when they’re practicing. Don’t let that be you. You’re going to want to use up strokes
in your playing too. Take your pick and place in on the high E string again, but this time
place it on the side that’s closest to the floor and just pull up, twitch your wrist
up just enough to make the string sound, keep it relaxed and efficient.
So remember all those tips – stay relaxed, use small efficient motions and when you add
this into your practice time, don’t forget to do that on all six strings because again
all the strings feel different because they’re different thicknesses, right? Start on the
high E string. Go on to the B string. Spend a good minute or two on each string, all the
way down to the E string. Upstrokes can be a little bit harder for
newer guitar players, I think part of that is because they tend to start with downstrokes
and get most comfortable with those first and kind of ignore the upstrokes but work
on them. They may be a little bit slower to come but if you practice them, you can get
your upstrokes sounding just as good as your downstrokes.
Once you get your down and upstrokes together and you’re getting comfortable at doing
both of them, you can put them together for a technique called alternate picking and all
alternate picking is when you go down, up, down, up without ever repeating a down or
an up, two of those in a row. Basically come into your high E string, down, up, down, up,
down, up. And this is where efficiency of motion, really small motions really gets important
because if you have a big sweeping motion with your downstroke, it’s going to take
you a lot longer to get back to do that upstroke ,so small motions really are important
here. Again you’re going to want to practice this
on all six strings, especially for alternate picking. It feels way different on the 6th
string than it does on the high E string. Practicing with a metronome or some kind of
a constant steady beat is a really important part of developing your picking and your overall
sense of time. If you don’t have a metronome, that’s fine. There are a lot of websites
out there with free metronome apps and stuff like that. I use my phone all the time for
my metronome when I need one. One thing that you’re going to kind of watch
is to not be over zealous on setting the metronome tempo. Don’t want to set it too high. The
goal here is not to get real big speed at first. The goal here is to make your picking
very clean and even. Set the metronome to a speed that you can keep up with. That way
you can really work on your picking technique. Let’s try 70 beats per minute. What we’re
going to do is we’re going to do is work on our downstrokes then our upstrokes and
then we’re going to put them together to work on our alternate picking. This can be really challenging but it’sreally worth the work. Don’t get discouraged if you’re not great at it right away. Doing exercises like this and developing your timing
can really take you from just your average guitar player to someone that people really
notice and say “that guy’s really been working on his timing.” I still work on
my picking all the time on a regular basis too. Try to remember everything we’ve talked about on this lesson as we go to the rest
of the videos in the Lead Guitar Quick-Start Series In the next lesson, we’re going
to put everything that you’ve learned about your left and right hand technique together
to play through your first scale, the major scale. If you have any questions regarding
picking hand technique, leave them below in the commenting system and I’ll get back
to you there. You can also just email me, [email protected] I’ll see you in the
next lesson.