Downpicking Technique | Hub Guitar

Downpicking Technique

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Let's talk about down picking.

Depending on the player, down picking will tend to have a bit of a different tone than up-picking. And like every picking technique, it will tend to work better for certain patterns than others.

And the first step to unlocking these patterns is to master the picking technique that will help you to discover them. So let's take a look at some downpicking exercises.

First of all, most alternate picking exercises can be played as down-picking. So if you're familiar with the standard alternate picking exercise that goes across all strings in a "1-2-3-4" pattern, you can play that with down picking, too.

You can also play exercises that emphasize moving down across the strings, or staying on the low strings. I'm going to give you couple examples of those. Here is the first exercise. So here is the first exercise, you can repeat them as many times as you like. Here is second exercise. So in addition to those exercise, of course you can make up as many as your own exercise as you like, and try to really explore what situations make strict downpicking seem a little more appealing and what types of patterns and what kind of things can come out of that.

How to Downpick

  1. Pluck all notes on all strings with a downward motion.
  2. While not as efficient as alternate picking, this technique produces a strong tone and is useful in many cases.

What is Downpicking?

Downpicking is simply the technique of picking using downstrokes. It is one-half of the alternate picking technique.

Disadvantages of Downpicking

Downpicking has the disadvantage of being mechanically inefficient. Every time you pick down, you must return your pick to the starting position to pick again (unless you are changing strings). However, there are some benefits to practicing your downpicking. The first is that you may notice that practicing downpicking and up-picking separately helps you to improve your alternate picking. And the second is that downpicking will tend to have a different tone than up-picking or alternate picking. Ultimately, good picking involves a combination of multiple picking techniques. Isolating these different techniques will help you to master them more effectively.

Uses of Downpicking

This technique can also be useful for playing passages that are not dense with notes but which have a complex rhythm such as sixteenth note syncopationSyncopation refers to an emphasis on playing notes in between pulses of the beat, as opposed to playing notes on top of the beat. or triplets. In these situations, a simple alternate picking pattern can actually make it harder to hit the right notes.

Try playing these exercises at an up-tempo. Be sure to discipline yourself to use only downstrokes. While most players would probably play these using some upstrokes, the purpose of this exercise is to focus on the down stroke, so stick to it!

Downpicking Exercises

Exercise 1

Downpicking exercise in a contemporary musical style.

Exercise 2

Downpicking exercise in a blues style.

Exercise 3

A supplemental exercise; this is not in the video.

Downpicking using chromatic notes.

Key Tasks

  • Try playing and/or improvising some other basslines and grooves on the lower two strings, using mostly downstrokes.
  • Find some exercise or repertoire piece you would normally use alternate picking for, and try playing it with all downstrokes.
As the creator of Hub Guitar, Grey has compiled hundreds of guitar lessons, written several books, and filmed hundreds of video lessons. He teaches private lessons in his Boston studio, as well as via video chat through TakeLessons.

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