Economy Picking Exercises | Hub Guitar

Economy Picking Exercises

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Hi, this is Hub Guitar.

Economy picking is a very important technique. In fact I think it may be underemphasized. People talk a lot about sweep picking and alternate picking but it doesn't seem like there's as much talk about economy picking.

So the idea behind economy picking is two consecutive notes played on two adjacent strings should either be both down picking or both up-picking. That's because it's much easier to play two strings with the same kind of motion.

That's because it's much faster and easier to do it that way. In fact, if you're not careful you can play the second note too fast.

The simplest method to practice economy picking is to practice three-note scale patterns using strict economy picking. So on the way down, you pick down-up-down. The last down connects to the first done of the next group by crossing the strings.

On the way up, you'll pick up-down-up to reverse the pattern.

Just make sure that you're clear about what kind of rhythm you're practicing the scale with. If it's eighth notes, don't start turning into a triplet pattern. Don't let the shapes of the patterns on the fretboard dictate the rhythm of the music you play.


How to Use Economy Picking

  1. Economy Picking works best for patterns that have three notes per string such as the 3-Note-Per-String Major Scale Fingerings
  2. Economy Picking combines some of the advantages of sweep picking and alternate picking, with notes repeated on a single string using an alternating pattern, but with notes that move to a neighboring string using the same pattern for a follow-through motion.

What is Economy Picking?

“Economy picking” is named to reflect that any kinetic energy, once spent, can be used to its maximum potential. Every time you reverse the direction of your picking hand from down to up or from up to down, energy is spent. In economy picking, we will continue that motion until we actually reverse direction. Essentially this means that if we have just played a note with a downward motion, and our next note is on a new string that is lower towards the floor than the string we just plucked, we will continue the picking motion downwards. If we have just picked a note upwards and the next note is on a string higher towards the ceiling than the note we just plucked, we will continue our motion upwards. In addition we will try to line up these opportunities as much as possible to economize how our energy is spent.

This technique is often practiced with patterns of three-notes per string as these allow for smooth and continuous economy picking. You can review all 3-note scale patterns for more practice material.

3-Note Scale for Economy Picking

a sharp, b flat
f natural
fret tile
a natural
e natural
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g natural
d natural
a sharp, b flat
f natural
c natural
g natural
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a natural
e natural
c natural
g natural
d natural
a natural
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a sharp, b flat
f natural
fret tile
fret tile
fret tile
fret tile
fret tile
fret tile
fret tile
fret tile
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Economy Picking Pattern

Ascending pattern: DOWN, UP, DOWN
Descending pattern: UP, DOWN, UP

This F-major scale economy picking exercise, starting on Fret I, will have two picking patterns: ascending and descending. As we ascend, we will pick down-up-down, and then at the moment of switching to the next string, we will follow our motion downwards, picking down-up-down once more. Notice that this is more efficient than arbitrarily reversing our direction with each stroke. Once we’ve reached the highest note on the first string, we will play the scale again, but this time descending. Now we will use an up-down-up picking pattern, following through with the upwards stroke to the next string each time.

The result of this is that every third note that is played comes with a fourth note that is almost “free” from an energy perspective.

Variations

Key Points

  • Practice slowly to learn the fundamental motion. Observe your hands.
  • Though this technique is useful, do not neglect alternate picking and sweep picking. In the end, all of these techniques may be used together to provide a range of options.
  • Be sure to focus your attention on the picking hand. You should be looking at it as you play.

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