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This be a really dumb question, but sometimes there's a problem passage that keeps being a thorn in my side forever. And I do mean forever, because I've probably messed with this song for decades. If you haven't head this song, suffice to say there is a point in the intro where the player must pick strings 4-3-2-1-2-3-4-3-2-1-2-3 ... on and on. Its not super fast, so many techniques could be used to play it. But it seems I can't play it reliably. So I'll often goof it up too, and you don't get 2nd tries at an intro ;-). So I've approached it all the following ways trying to get it right, and all have slightly different issues. I'm curious what all of you would think is the easiest, the most difficult, and most important, the most likely to succeed in the end. All these assume the above 4-3-2-1-2-3 repeating string pattern.

  1. Flat picking, UP-DN-DN-DN-UP-UP
  2. Flat picking, always alternate - DN-UP-DN-UP-DN-UP
  3. No Pick - Fingers T-1-2-3-2-1
  4. Hybrid (Pick held with thumb and 1st finger) - Pick - 2-3-2-3-2
  5. The actual "right" way, which maybe I don't even know about yet.

If it makes any difference, #3 seems most promising, though I pick up the pick again for the rest of the song. The "Hybrid" approach is one I WISH worked well for me, as Steve Howe does it so well. But my fingers get tied in a know trying that approach with this passage.

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    If you've been trying for years, there's the simple possibility that you have learned your mistakes - which is a hard one to get out of.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 19:52
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    Greg Lake learned cross-picking from Robert Fripp, possibly the most technically-accomplished crosspicker of all. I can't play anything this complex, either, but I believe it was all done with the pick.
    – user1044
    Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 20:14
  • Thanks @Tetsujin . Maybe I have learned my mistakes, undoubtedly the result of learning the wrong way. I wish I could re-learn everything the way i approach things now, but it may be too late.
    – Randy
    Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 20:38
  • @Wheat Williams - I probably should look for some tutorials on Youtube. Even though Greg didn't make on, maybe I'll be able to glean some examples of what works and what doesn't.
    – Randy
    Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 20:38
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    Here is another interview with more details: forbassplayersonly.com/interview-greg-lake
    – user1044
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 3:54

2 Answers 2

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There are certainly no dumb questions when it comes to overcoming technical obstacles. While you should try different approaches and use whatever works best and sounds best to your ear, going to the source to find out what technique a player actually used to accomplish a particular passage provides tremendous insight, and also will get you closest to reproducing subtle aspects of the performance, which ultimately enhances your own abilities.

If you haven't already, check out this YouTube video of Greg:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Fe0rKO9Of6s (sorry, I did not initially see the post by romans-8-31-39)

While the video does not provide a good close up of the intro, my opinion is that it appears he is using strict alternate picking for the rapid arpeggio picking starting around :13 (DN-UP-DN-UP-DN-UP). Later on in the video there are some close ups (around :25) and full view shots (:37) where he is clearly using strict alternate picking for similar types of passages which are played in time, which would be consistent with what he appears to be doing during that passage in the intro.

Hope that helps!

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  • I appreciate that. Interesting that when I first attempted this song many decades ago, I settled on alternate picking across the strings too, and it sounded much better than other patterns I had tried. But, it was at the expense of what I've come to see as too much tension. That is, I would have to tense up so much to alternate pick this, I recently started experimenting with the other patters I posted, as I re-visited the song. I'll look again closely to try to see if he really is playing that way. Interestingly, I've had better luck lately putting the pick down and using my fingers for this.
    – Randy
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 1:22
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Odd that an edit to one the comments brought a note to me about this 9 year old thread, but anyway I eventually came up with a solution for playing this intro that was so weird I was sure it was just crazy. I put the guitar pick down, and using my thumb and middle finger, found I could quite easily pick the notes just alternating that thumb and finger, while moving my hand along the path of the strings. I finally asked on a finger picking group if this was a crazy idea and found that while other "pickers" do the same thing with their thumb and first finger, it was actually a very common approach. And I've since found that I can extend this method to pick across 5 strings, to make nice tidy 8 note patterns. Since then I've stuck a small rubber clip to the guitar so i could conveniently "park" my pick to do the intro, and easily grab it again for the rest of the "beginnings" song.

I realize its not good to make a habit of answering your own question, and I realize that I might be the only one this method worked so well for. But it did work so well for me, I figured I'd add it as my chosen answer. Never know when something weird will help someone else!

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    "I realize its not good to make a habit of answering your own question." AFAIK, this is encouraged at StackExchange. There are many question that ultimately are only answerable by you.
    – Yorik
    Commented Feb 6 at 22:33

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