Beginner Alternate Picking

Learn how to alternate between up picks and down picks.

View the full lesson at Beginner Alternate Picking | JustinGuitar

This is a good speed exercise I just added to some grade 2 practice. I’ve been struggling with eye of the tiger (the one guitar just hitting the c note on 5th string) and I do ok with alternative picking, but if I want to be faster, this is the proper technique. Thanks a bunch for clarifying proper technique for alternate picking on single string to increase speed and it helps with accuracy as well.


This one has me a little bit confused.

I’ve watched the video a couple of times and luckily my pick action was always a bit angled so that’s cool. I’m literally just combining this with a sort of Chord Perfect exercise - angled alternate up and down picking on each played string on each chord we’ve learned so far for a few minutes. Is that…it?

I’m not questioning the process as I’ve already seen how much it’s working in other areas. Just checking my interpretation isn’t off.

First I thought I was “flat” picking with no slant, then I tried it with too much slant and I got a weird scraping sound as the pick edge interacted with the wound strings, and then I went back to what I was doing and realized it had a slight slant to it anyway! Lol. I guess the moral of the story is don’t overdo the slant.

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Flat in this sense describes the flat face of the plectrum.

Thumb picks tend to have a slight curvature to them.
Pleactrums are flat.

In use, you do not want to be striking the strings ‘flat’ - i.e. at a perpendicular.

Cheers :smiley:
| Richard_close2u | Community Moderator, Official Guide, JustinGuitar Approved Teacher


I have two questions:

  1. I understand that there are many ways to alternate pick depending on the person and what’s comfortable for them. Justin mentions Downward Pickslanting (DWPS) in the video but is he using that here? From Justin’s video, I interpreted “angling” as slightly angling the pick towards the fretboard from a parallel position. Lets call this the horizontal angle of the pick. However I see that the vertical angle (the pick angle towards the floor or towards the roof) remains neutral. From what I understand about DWPS should’t there be some sort of a downward angle vertically as well as the slight rotation (horizontal angle)?

  2. When I tried picking with a horizontally angled pick, I noticed the pick glides between the strings a lot smoother when going up/down and I’m able to pick faster.

    However I also did noticed that when angled, opposed to flat, “the sound of the pick hitting the string” is significantly louder and more noticeable (a rubbing sound) on the 5th and 6th string. Is this common?

    Demo 1: alternate picking (flat pick)
    Demo 2: alternate picking (angled pick)

    I think the sound comes from the sides of the pick (edge of the pick) that normally doesn’t hit the strings gliding against the guitar. I tried playing around with different picks, and I noticed the jazz master III was the only pick that didn’t produce this rubbing sound when angling the pick.

Thank you!

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This is a great question and it’s too bad there hasn’t been a response to it. I have the same or similar question. After watching this lesson I went back and rewatched the original lesson on “up strums” to see if it was covered there.

If I lay the pick flat against the strings (horizontal angle by the above poster’s description) and have the pick perpendicular to the guitar body (vertical angle by the above poster’s description), then I am doing it wrong because the pick is extremely flat. Ok, so Justin seems to “lift” the edge of the pick closest to the bridge so that the edge closest to the nut is the only part of the pick contacting the strings.

My additional question is this: If I maintain this pick angle, then on the up strum it would be the bridge side edge of the pick that is contacting the strings - which is very awkward. Shouldn’t I be doing a slight wrist rotation so that it is the same nut side edge of the pick making contact on the up strum just as it is on the down strum?

Tilting the front of the pick toward the fretboard feels extremely awkward for my hand / wrist unless I tilt it by curling my index finger back toward my hand and bending my thumb at the knuckle, but then I’m not really holding the pick “correctly” anymore, and it still feels pretty awkward and also the pick pushes uncomfortably against the fleshy bit next to the fingernail on my index finger.

However, I if I tilt the pick away from the fretboard, I can do that just by straightening my thumb a tiny bit and slightly rotating my wrist up/back - it feels much more natural for me this way and still sounds fine.

Anyway, not sure how correct that is, but if tilting forward feels super awkward for anyone else, try tilting it the opposite direction and maybe it will feel a lot better for you, too.

Re: #2, yes, I get the same sort of rubbing/scraping noise when I angle the pick, and you can even hear the same kind of sound in the video when Justin is showing how to do it.

It seems to be an inherent kind of quality to the sound when angling the pick, but it’s not nearly as noticeable when playing a song vs doing this kind of practice where we’re just alternate picking on open string after open string.

It looks as though Justin is using a stiffer pick than the very thin one we’ve used for strumming. Am I right?

You’re correct Peter. Justin is using an Dunlop Orange Tortex pick. They are .60mm. If you have a thicker pick you will find Alternate picking quite a bit easier than the thin nylon picks recommended for beginner strumming.

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