Alternate picking is an important skill for any guitarist for playing fast and for playing with precision.

If you can’t alternate your picking with a plectrum then don’t worry, we’re here to help. If you’re looking to play better guitar solos, improve your melody or just generally improve your playing proficiency alternate picking is a very valuable thing to learn.

Alternate picking is just the technique of picking guitar strings with a plectrum up and down. Sounds simple right? Well it is but like any technique it can take time to get used to it and become proficient at doing it quickly without thinking.

Get Started

Start simple and don’t worry about your fretting hand. Focus on picking an open string or keep a finger on one fret so that you can focus all of your attention on picking.

Start off slowly so your finger Can adjust to picking the string both ways. You may find that as you start you need to adjust how you’re holding the plectrum depending on how you’ve been playing before.


As with anything else, practising the technique is key to mastering it. Once your starting to build up speed with your picking you can start expanding on the technique.

Try changing the tempo as you play to build proficiency. Play with the timing with a shuffle beat or syncopation to get more used to playing to a melody rather than a straight beat.

Once it’s becoming natural start using your fret hand too. Start simply by playing up a scale on one string whilst alternate picking and do it at a speed that feels comfortable as you build up your skill.

Once playing up and down with a plectrum starts to feel comfortable then the challenge really starts – alternate picking between different strings. This may take a bit more practice to stop feeling clumsy but give it time. (For larger arpeggios you’ll probably find sweep picking is much easier than alternate picking.)

Dedicate some time each day to practice all the different elements of alternate picking and soon you’ll find yourself plucking all 6 strings both ways completely naturally.

Apply It

Once you’re starting to feel fully comfortable alternate picking then it’s time to start putting it to use.

Play along with some songs you like or jam with your band. Put it to use in the context of a song and you can really put your new skill to use.

You’ll notice that the more natural alternate picking becomes the more accurately you’ll be able to play, not to mention how much quicker you can play with up and down strokes.

The quicker and better you want to get the more you need to practice. However even with a basic alternate picking ability you’ll notice how much better your playing will become.