I have started looking into Joseph Alexander's Complete Technique for Modern Guitar where economy picking is recommended. Before starting to practice, I want to understand the logic behind economy picking, and both according to the book as well as to the Wikipedia definition, it seems to be as simple as the following:

  • When picking multiple notes on a string, alternate picking is used.
  • When changing to a new string, picking is in the direction of travel.

However, in one of the examples in the book, I see two consecutive upstrokes on the same string. Following is the section where it happens, at the beginning of the 2nd bar:

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It seems to be caused by the fact that the 1st note of the 1st bar is played with a downstroke, but when repeating it in the 2nd bar, the same note is played with an upstroke due to economy picking. However I do not understand why the 2nd note is also played as an upstroke. What the rationale behind this pattern with two consecutive upstrokes on the same string? Shouldn't the first 4 notes in the 2nd bar become up-down-up-up according to the way economy picking is defined?

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    Going on the assumption that the author and his publishing company did not make an error printing this exercise I have to say that this seems very awkward and counterintuitive to me. I believe @Lazy is right in that the intention is to keep downstrokes on the beats. The final 2 downstrokes in bar 1 create an awkward situation of having to play 2 upstrokes on one string in bar 2 to get back on the beat. I believe altérnate picking for steady 8th notes is much more efficient and easier. The direction of the pick always tells you where you are. What is economized with this system? Beats me. Mar 2, 2023 at 5:03

1 Answer 1


I think the intention here is try to keep beats on downstrokes and offbeats on upstrokes. The concept here appears to be avoiding picking in the contrary direction your hand moves to reach the new string. Also playing the penultimate note downstroke might be more economic for moving to the higher string rather than playing an upstroke.

I think in this sense picking style is much like bowing on a violin: It is all about finding a compromise that works for you.

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    There's never going to be a perfect solution to picking. As a teenager, I spent many, many hours working out the optimum (for me) picking for every song I played, and some just didn't fit the mould. Compromises just had to be made. Years on, I don't think about it - much.
    – Tim
    Mar 1, 2023 at 15:46
  • @Tim Well, sometimes there is a perfect solution. But not always ...
    – Lazy
    Mar 2, 2023 at 8:22

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