Alternate picking vs directional picking

I used for about 30 years only alternate picking, now I’m discovering the directional picking tecnique.

It is hard to change my “muscle memory”, but after some months of practice I find this tecnique very efficient especially playing 3NPS scales. The movements are always the same on every string.

I have some little difficult playing fast on the first strings (E,B and G) but I think it dependson the pick’s angle.

Do you have some experiences about that?

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If I understand right, you are talking about the “economy” picking. The Sweep Picking workout has some exercises that would fit the bill, where @kiko combines scales with arpeggios and those are great for practicing this stuff. He also explains there why he doesn’t like that approach for playing scales. :slight_smile: I did use the technique when I was starting to learn, but I’ve completely gotten rid of it. Alternate picking just makes it a more even movement, it feels like it’s easir for my brain. Switching so fast between alternate and those mini-sweeps between the two adjacent string just disrupts the whole thing for me. But I believe Steve Vai is big fan of it, so the technique obviously is working, just not for everyone. :smiley:


Yes I mean down-up-down (the first 3 notes of the scale) and then down again (continuing the movement) on the next string repeaiting the same movement for all the strings.
Why Kiko doesn’t like that approach for playing scales?
It seems very efficient playing 3NPS scales

From what I recall from the top of my head, he says in the lesson something similar to what I said. Disrupting the alternating motion just reduces the fluidity or continuity of the movement. He also says that since he’s left handed the right hand stuff was always harder for him and this what works best for him. I’m right handed, but still prefer alternating whenever I can. I guess it’s a matter of preference and habit. :slight_smile:

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Of course, I think that everyone has their preferences. For example the picking hand of Marty Friedman, no guitar teacher would teach it :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:


@peirceandrea I understand what you mean about Marty Friedman. I saw this video recently and it explains what you just said.

It also kind of confirms what nexion218 was saying… Each of us can use what works for us. When it comes to picking, there are no universal rules as to which type of picking can be used when. That’s basically the idea.

Kiko’s workout strategy program provides us with some “tools” (alternate picking, sweep picking etc.) and it’s always good to have extra tools to work with (especially when it helps your muscles work differently…) but there are no obligations attached to them as to when to use them or not.

I’ve noticed that Kiko has basically the same conception as Marty Friedman in this video which could be summed up like this :
“Find your own personal way of expressing yourself with the guitar but don’t be limited by shape-learning”

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For me, alternate picking is more natural and easier for my brain because I just need to do a constant up and down motion. Also, I can feel the pulse or rhythm more.

I’ve tried economy picking but it’s quite hard for my brain because I need to think that the direction of the picking changes depending on the number of notes per string. For example, if it’s odd number then it’s the same picking direction while if it’s even number then the direction changes. Also, it’s harder for me to feel the pulse or rhythm.

Also, it depends on the phrase if it’s easier or harder to alternate or economy pick it.

As for Marty, one thing I’ve noticed is that he’s more of an economy picker in terms of when the direction of the phrase is going towards the high e string. I believe this is because of his right hand position or picking technique. But when the phrase is going towards the low e string instead of doing a continuous upstroke, like in conventional sweep or economy, he’ll do a fast down picks on it instead.

Like what have been discussed in here, it will always depends on the player on what he prefers and what’s more comfortable for him/her.

When I read directional picking I was like “wtf, what is that? First time I listen to that term”. Now I understand xD.

I do both, each works for me at different scenarios.

With economy picking you have to pay attention the down strokes are not being accentuated.


Same with me! :slight_smile: You just let the motion fly on autopilot and care about muting, clearing the strings without noise and the left hand. Too bad I overdid the alternate picking workout and I’m on a strict legato diet until my right arm heals… :frowning:


Yes true, the downstroke is hard at the beginning

Yes I undertstand, but with alternate picking when the first note of the triplet is a downstroke, on the next string is an upstroke, then downstroke again, then upstroke and so on.

With economic picking down-up-down on every string. I found it hard at the beginning, now it is better, but I haven’t decided yet which one is better for me :sweat_smile:


Haha! Yes, it’ll be autopilot. And same with me too, I’ve tried 1 month Alternate Picking workout with the notes per string increasing per week. After that, I felt some burn on my wrist, but not a painful burn rather a good burn. Haha! After that, I’ve tried Sweep Picking for 1 week then I’ve decided to go for a Legato diet too for 1 month.

This is the beauty of the techniques. Some are natural for others while for some it’s really a challenge and quite a thinking game.

The challenge I have for economy picking is phrasing of uneven number of notes per string. For example, I have a phrase of 3 notes on A string then I went to 2 notes on D string then I went to 3 notes again on G string. From my perspective, on the A string, if I start on downstroke I’ll also end up in downstroke which is economic going down to D string. But here comes the problem, on D string we have 2 notes which I’ll end up with in an upstroke thereby stopping the economic motion going to the G string because it’s in opposite direction of the phrase. Like what I’ve said on the previous post, in economy picking odd number of notes per string equates to same direction of economy picking while even number of notes per string opposes the direction of the economy picking. This is the reason why it’s hard for my brain. Haha! That’s why I admire people like you who’s economy picking is more natural.

I believed Frank Gambale, which is the master of this technique, reconfigures the phrases or shapes to fit the technique. I also like Alex Hutchings, very great, melodic and soulful player, and he’s a master of economy picking too.

I remember Tom Quayle tried alternate picking too but for him, he said that legato is more natural for him. Steve Vai, I believed, is a proponent of cultivating the techniques that’s natural for us because he believes that in our strengths there’s also tiny or miniscule weaknesses on it which can be polish.

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Of course, but also using alternate picking, there will be a moment where you have to “jump” the string.
(up-down-up…then down to the next string, “jumping” the previous string)
point of view :upside_down_face:
Thanks for sharing your experience

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Yes. Haha! By the way, just to share, I remember I’ve tried to economy pick the intro of Technical Difficulties by Paul Gilbert and my head just explodes as I can’t figure out the direction of my picking. Haha! But, I can’t alternate pick that song too! Haha! :joy:

By the way, thank you for creating this thread! It’s great for sharing our experiences in relation to this 2 techniques. :blush:

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Many big guitar players add a hammer on or a pull off before switching strings to make it easier. Paul Gilbert and Yngwie Malmsteen come to mind. On very fast runs you may not notice it.

In some of my phrases there is a combination of all three, alternate picking, economy picking and some legato notes for switching strings.

Also, I have found that for some stuff economy picking is a must if I want a clean picking in some particular stuff where legato is not possible. Like moving to adjacent strings constantly.

I also analyze when I shoud start with downstroke or upstroke.

I know that analysis can sound convoluted, but it only takes some minutes to figure it out. Afterwards you practice it slow until you get it. Finally, you just continue the way you usually do for all the stuff you practice, so you raise speed.


Yes, that’s right. I believed Yngwie Malmsteen is more of an economy picker than alternate picker. But for Paul, he’s an alternate picker like John Petrucci though like what you’ve said they’re combining alternate picking and legato.

For economy picking, it’s good for 3-1-3 type of phrases and there’s 2 ways I can think of right now to escape the “non-economy” motion. One way is like what you’ve said wherein the end of the phrase you’ll put a hammer on or pull off. The other way is like Frank Gambale wherein he just removes the last note to continue the direction of the picking.

As for me, I don’t really analyze my picking. Haha!

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I don’t know if you have looked in YouTube at a series of videos called “Breaking the Code”.

Guy gets a little bit too anal about, IMO. But there is a good in depth analysis on how many different great guitar players pick.

It is worth a checkout, IMO.


I’ll check this out. Thanks a lot for this @Aram! :slightly_smiling_face:

I still have trouble playing the riffs of “Tornado of souls” in alternate picking. Whenever I try to to play at the right speed I automatically switch to downstrokes (which almost seems like a sacrilegious thing to do when playing any Megadeth song :sweat_smile:) but I just can’t help it for the moment. Whenever I play more than one string at a time I tend to automatically use downstrokes.