I was learning (jazz) guitar for 4 years. There was some pause, but now I am back in track and learning again for 6 months. I do some 0.5-1 hours/day scale and pattern practice with a metronome, then learning tunes using backing tracks, transcribing solos etc. I am not a professional so I am doing this for fun not for a living. However this does not mean I would not like to be a great musician. (in my dreams)

I have no good technique at all. With 160 I can play (almost) clear eigths (I mean: 320 notes per minute) and with 110 I can play (almost) clearly triplets. Some of my practice patterns have heavy string changes and I noticed that my progress is stuck (in meaning of speed). I never practice faster than my (almost) clear play capability. My priority goal is to produce clear and enjoyable sound and not the speed. However this tempo is way far from what we call "speed", and limits me in many ways.

Problem: In the last 3 months I was stuck with this tempo. Well it became clearer and also became easier to play, but not faster.

Q1: Is it possible that my alternate picking is a problem, or this speed is hopefully far from the limits of the alternate picking?

Q2: My goal is not Al Di Meola, neither Metheny, but I would like to play most Wes Montgomery solos without technical difficulties. Should I stay with alternate or is it recommended to relearn economy whatever it costs?

Q3: In case I decide, how is it possible to relearn from alternate to economy? Seems to be impossible, especially when picking up and changing from a higher string to the next lower.

1 Answer 1


I think it would be a great mistake to "forget" the alternate picking technique that you learned and start all over with economy picking. What you should probably due is two things: first, work on and improve your alternate picking technique. You definitely haven't reached the limit yet. The second thing you should do is add other techniques to your picking for situations where alternate picking becomes extremely awkward. Such cases are skipping one or more strings, or playing consecutive notes on adjacent strings. (Note that alternate picking can be used even in these situations, but most players would find it uncomfortable).

For notes that are several strings apart you could try to use hybrid picking, i.e. use your right hand middle or ring finger to pluck the note on the higher string. E.g., if you play a line where the notes alternate between the d and the high e string, play the notes on the d string with the plectrum, and the notes on the high e string with your right hand middle (or ring) finger. Eric Johnson is one of the many players you use that technique in a quite impressive way.

If you play only one note per string and then move to the next string, you might want to try economy/sweep picking (also called raking), i.e. play all notes with downstrokes when moving towards the higher (thinner) strings and vice versa.

Note that almost all accomplished players combine different right-hand techniques to get the most efficiency and fluency. Of course there are exceptions (such as Frank Gambale, who exclusively uses economy picking), but in my experience, it is advantageous for most players if they don't try to play everything with only one technique.

  • Comprehensive answer! +1. Even when strings are adjacent, and certainly going over one string, I found myself using pick and finger, not on purpose, but maybe my fingers did some thinking for themselves. It also works well if the finger-picked string needs a percussive snap, harder to do with a pick.
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 17:40

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