Guest Article: Mark White
Directional Picking as Opposed to Alternate Picking
I used to use alternate picking exclusively, up, down, up, down, up, down, no matter what, up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down, all the time. But what I was doing, on a three note per string lick or run, was, on the low E string, (the one closest to the ceiling when you are playing) down, up, down, then I would jump over the next string, the A string, and continue the pattern, up, down, up, then jump over the A string and continue that pattern for the rest of the strings always keeping the up, down, up, down, pattern going. This was causing my two hands to be severely out of sync and is what was causing my playing to sound sloppy.
This is what I was taught back in the day when I lived and played in Southern California. What this did was caused me (unknowingly) to play very sloppy, with my two hands totally out of synchronization. It was also a cause of NOT allowing me to be able to increase my speed of playing and of not playing articulately.
Then one day, a few years ago, my mentor was watching me play and suggested that I use “Directional Picking.” He then showed me how to play directional picking in which (on the same three note per string lick or run) you would, starting at the lowest (in pitch) E string (again the one closest to the ceiling) play down, up, down, then down again on the next string with both of those last two down motions all in one motion. Then repeat this process for all the other strings.
It took me a week to ten days to get this new pattern down, since I had alternate picking thoroughly entrenched in both my muscle memory and in the neural pathways that I had established deep in my brain. But after a week to ten days, I was playing much faster (my speed went from 250 notes per minute to 432 notes per minute) AND I was playing much more cleanly and extremely articulately. Now I can’t even go back and demonstrate how to play with alternate picking. My speed has steadily increased, and my two-hand synchronization has gotten way better since then.
I now use Directional picking instead of alternate picking exclusively. Whoever said “The quickest route between points A and point B is a straight line” must have had directional picking in mind because of the mostly straight line that you pick in. Directional picking is, in my humble opinion, the most efficient way to pick the guitar. I think that if you are currently using alternate picking, that if you will give directional picking an honest test for a week or two that you will have similar results as to those that I experienced. I hope that this article has helped your guitar playing get faster and more articulate like mine did when I started using it and I continue to enjoy being able to play guitar at a much higher level than I had ever dreamed I could.