Tag Archives: solo

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[Guitar student’s before & after] Alternate Picking

睇睇呢位同學點様改善佢彈16分音嘅 Alternate Picking 技巧。  留意影片中佢嘅PICKING 方向!

Alternate Picking is an essential skill for all guitar players.  It gives us a consistent feeling of rhythm and is a great way to achieve better control of time.

Here’s a quick sketch showing how we normally play continued 16th notes (4 notes to a beat) with alternate picking.   I only show the first beat here because it is the same for the other beats.  All down beats ( in 16th notes, it means beats 1, 2, 3, 4 and all ‘ands’)  are played by down strokes while all the off beats (e, a) are played by up strokes.


In some situations, such as when you are crossing strings or playing notes in groups of 3, students may be distracted and neglect this picking pattern.  The repetitive arpeggios in the end of “Hotel California” is an example.


Watch this video and see how my student corrected his mistakes and made some good progress in learning alternate picking.

In the [Before] part of the video, the student neglected the normal alternate picking pattern.  It is understandable because the arpeggio notes form a series of ‘groups of 3’ and, it seems more natural to play a down stroke each time you go back to the first string to hit the high note.


I advised the student that we should insist in learning the alternative picking (down-up-down-up) patterns and keep focusing on the consistent “down up down up” rhythm that it formed in your right hand.   Do not be distracted by the grouping of notes and the need to cross strings!  It is a little tricky at first, but you will feel more natural as you progress.  Just focus and practice slowly.

That is:

My student came back after one week and showed me his progress. Watch the [After] part of the video and see how he executed the normal alternate picking pattern.  You will notice how his overall timing improved.

As a beginner, you may think this is insignificant because it takes lots of practice and may not ‘sound’ so much different after all.   My advice is that once you form the habit, it opens the door for you to play thousands of great riff and solos with better control of time.  Alternate Picking is not the only way to pick, but it is an essential foundation of our playing.



Each episode of “Guitar students’ before & after” captures how my students, especially beginners, improve on certain aspects in playing over time. I mainly focus on correcting mistakes, solving problems and explaining skills that are easy to be overlooked. My aim is to let guitar learners understand and fix their own problems by watching how other students did it. Potential students can get a feel of what kind of improvement they can take home after each lesson. No fancy playing and killer licks here. Just real life students showing how they are making progress a little at a time.

Adding vibrato to a bent note

“…you’re essentially bending and releasing so it’s essential to continually reach target pitch accurately (you don’t need to drop back a whole tone each time though; a semitone often sounds better). The bending motion should come from a rotation of the forearm, rather than from the fingers alone.” (from “Bend it like Hendrix!” by John Wheatcroft, Guitar Techniques Oct 2011)

Bluesy rock guitar lick using thirds and sixths intervals

Check out this two-bar bluesy rock lick based on the use of thirds and sixths intervals.  As shown in the video, it works well as a fill-in to a rock riff! 



Breaking it down

The lick is in A Dorian scale (A B C D E F# G).  It starts with two nice sounding “minor thirds” intervals (E,G and F#,A in beat 1 to 3 of first bar) played back and forth. I like to highlight the beauty of the Dorian scale this way, which is the major sixth (F# in this case). 

Then it moves up the neck playing a series of sixths along the scale (from beat 4 of first bar till the end) .  Sixth is another cool interval that fits the blues rock context very well.  

Rhythm-wise, the lick is based on 16th notes but in “group of three” arrangement .  It is helpful to strictly follow alternate picking (down strokes on main beats, I.e. “1 and 2 and..”, up stroke on off beats I.e. “e” and “a”) to be rhythmic sound.

Gears: Quite a heavy distorted tone using AMT bulava pedal on an HnK amp!