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1st measure I know it's down, down-up, down-up, down

2nd measure I know it's down-up, down-up, down, down

but I'm not sure about 3rd measure with the tied notes?

  • 1st measure I'd like down, hammer-on - up, pull-off - down, up. 2nd measure down-up, down-up, pull-off, down? Picking every note sounds dull. Is it the same as "correct"? ;) In other words, it's largely a matter of taste. Tied notes are just long notes which are written as two notes for rhythmic readability or because they cross a bar line. You play the first one and the tied note continues the sound. – piiperi Reinstate Monica Dec 11 '19 at 17:44
  • @piiperiReinstateMonica - in my answer below I've avoided 'extended' interpretation & just gone with 'yes, you do pick every note, you just have to decide which direction'. I think if you're still at the stage you have to think about which direction, then hammers & pull-offs might be a bridge too .. early, if not too far. – Tetsujin Dec 11 '19 at 17:47
  • @piiperiReinstateMonica - for a beginner, pull-offs and hammer-ons maybe are a little advanced, and in bar 2, how and why would you 'pull-off' to the F#? Pull-off from F# to D at the end, more like. Mainly assuming, as a beginner, OP would be using open strings when possible. – Tim Dec 12 '19 at 11:30

Can I make this really really simple?

You wave your hand up & down continuously, in time with the shortest note value, starting usually with a down on the 'one'. Then, when a note comes along… that's the 'correct' direction… so 'ons' become down & 'offs' become up.
The simple repetition of your constant down/up/down is what keeps you in the flow.

The slightly longer explanation is that there is really no right or wrong to this, unless you are copying someone else's playing technique - in which case the way they did it becomes automatically 'right'.
For everything else there is only 'interpretation'… & that allows you to do it any way you like, or any way you find comfortable.

Some music styles have fashionable methods - for instance punk was famously all on the down-stroke, which gave it its aggression.
Once you're past that, everything else is personal choice. Up to you.

As you get more & more practised, you may find the 'down/up/down' becomes virtual rather than real, but it's still there in your head all the time, giving you that easy way out every time a note comes along.

There's the additional factor that, as a relative newcomer reading from score, there's a disconnect between the written page & the 'groove' that comes from playing it. If you heard someone play that & then had to mimic it, the direction would become much simpler, even doing it without thinking.

From comments on the OP - I've avoided 'extended' interpretation & just gone with 'yes, you do pick every note, you just have to decide which direction'. I think if you're still at the stage you have to think about which direction, then hammers & pull-offs might be a bridge too .. early, if not too far.

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  • Great answer at the level of the OP. +1. As a kid, I spent ages working out pick directions, but not in this way - which works well - but in order to pluck the next note most effectively and efficiently. And sometimes it meant moving a note onto another string to accommodate. And it wasn't alternate picking, which seems to have gained more importance than it deserves. However, the up/down method is spot on for strum patterns. – Tim Dec 11 '19 at 17:52
  • @Tim - I recall learning piano & feeling the disconnect that I couldn't visualise what I was playing until I heard the notes I sounded from the score. By the time I started playing guitar/bass, the score was long gone & a different part of my brain was doing the thinking. – Tetsujin Dec 11 '19 at 17:56

A standard approach to learning alternate picking and syncopated rhythms is to always place a down stroke (d) on the down beat and an up stroke (u) on the "and", e.g 1 and 2 and would map to d u d u ... etc.

For the third measure you have notes played on all the back beats, the and's, with one on the first down beat. Think of eight note counting as a sequence

(1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +) and the picking pattern

(d u d u d u d u)

Place an X where a note is to be picked and place it over the d u pattern (dashes are the removed beats since spaces are not respected here)...

(X X - X - X - X)

(d u d u d u d u)

Taking only those letters with an X over them your picking pattern is

(d u - u - u - u)

In fact you do not need to follow this rule. You could play straight eighths all down stroke depending on the tempo and just be at the right place at the right time. Some beginner guitar books teach the student to correlate d and u picking with the down and up tapping of the foot as you sight read. In time this creates a pattern in the muscle memory so that when you are reading a new rhythm you pick follows the foot and you never miss the beat, or back beat in this case. In my experience it's not clear to me that this is the best way to learn since there are so many ways to interpret the picking pattern if it is not indicated. But for a beginner too many options creates obstacles to progress.

If this is an exercise from a guitar book then hammer on and pull off, i.e. slur, would be indicated. I think the intent here is to pick each note.

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