Discover the Secrets of Economy Picking

economy pickingEconomy picking is not how you learn to play guitar when you’re on a budget … ;-). Economy picking is a combination of the techniques used in sweeping and alternate picking.

Frank Gambale is an Australian guitarist, who is credited with pioneering modern economy picking techniques.

He developed a system that could be applied to scales and arpeggios by making use of an odd number of notes when moving vertically on a string.

On the other hand, an even number of notes is utilized when there is a need to move horizontally along the fretboard. In some cases, extra notes would be added to the scale or arpeggio, making it slightly chromatic.

Basically, the technique requires you to be economical with your hand movements, so that you can pick faster, with better accuracy.

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How to Apply Them to Your Practical Playing

Using regular melodic scales is a good way to to practice economy guitar picking techniques. You need to work out your starting pick motion, so that as the notes of the scale progress across the strings, you will be able to sweep across from one string to the next.

This means you “work backwards” from the string transition point, so that you discover which motion you start with when playing that string. This is what differentiates economy picking from alternate picking. Instinctively, you would normally start with a down stroke, but because of the added sweeping technique, you may need to start with an up stroke.

Once you have worked out your stroke sequences for a scale, try playing the notes in triplets, and gradually speeding them up. This will help you recognize patterns of strokes and anticipate which strokes to use when playing songs.

If you have only used alternate picking until now, economy picking will feel broken and non-rhythmic to begin with. You’ll soon notice, though, that when you are trying to play a fast song, keeping the same stroke direction to change strings is faster, and just makes more sense.

3 Notes Per String Exercise Across The Fretboard

Economy Picking Exercise

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This exercise is relatively straightforward as the notes have been designed to flow along to the motion of the picking hand. However, things may not always be this clear-cut in real life and sometimes, you might get the odd note that stands out like a sore thumb.

I will show you how to tackle such issues in the next exercise.

Adding Slurs to Your Picking Routine

At first this exercise may seem a little clunky and alternate picking may seen to make more sense. However, I want you to stick to playing the notes as shown in the tabs below. After practicing for a while, your hand will begin to understand!

Learn Economy Picking Exercise

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4 Tips to Keep in Mind For Better Economy Picking

Tip #1 – Make sure you are holding the correct part of the pick. Ideally, you should only leave the area overhanging your thumb slightly exposed. Showing too much of the pick will only slow you down due to the lack of control.

Tip #2 – Make sure you angle your pick slightly upwards if you are moving down strings, and slightly downwards if you are moving up strings. You will be ‘stroking’ the strings more than plucking them.

Tip #3 – If you are used to normal alternate picking, it can be tricky to break the habit of using different strokes when crossing strings. Take your time to break down new songs you are learning into the appropriate sweeping and alternate picking sequences.

Tip #4 – Make sure when you do use the technique, it is being used correctly and that it actually improves your playing. Sometimes, it may be too hard to integrate economic picking into your playing and it may not suit the style of music. If that’s the case, don’t use it.

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