Improving Your Alternate Picking Technique for Country Guitar

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As a country guitarist, have you ever felt stuck in your alternate picking technique? Do you struggle with accuracy and speed, or maybe you just want to take your playing to the next level? Look no further! This article will guide you through advanced alternate picking concepts that will help improve your technique and take your country guitar playing to new heights. From string skipping to hybrid picking, we’ll cover a range of techniques and exercises to help you master advanced alternate picking. So grab your guitar and let’s get started!

Why Alternate Picking is Important for Country Guitarists

Why Alternate Picking Is Important For Country Guitarists
For all aspiring country guitarists, mastering the art of alternate picking is essential. Alternate picking is a technique that involves picking the strings with a strict alternate down-up motion, which is crucial in producing fast, accurate, and fluent guitar playing. If you want to be able to play country guitar licks and solos with ease, then you should focus on improving your alternate picking technique. In this section, we’ll explore the benefits of alternate picking, common problems that come with it, and discuss advanced alternate picking concepts that can take your playing to the next level. Don’t make the common mistakes in alternate picking, check this article and improve your skills with our exercises.

Benefits of Alternate Picking

One of the benefits of alternate picking for country guitarists is the ability to play fast and complex phrases with more control and consistency. When using alternate picking, each note is picked with both an up and downstroke, allowing for a more even flow of notes and reducing fatigue in the picking hand. This is particularly important in country music, which often features intricate and rapid guitar solos.

Another benefit of alternate picking is the ability to execute smoother string changes. When switching between strings, using alternate picking ensures that there is no delay in the rhythm, and each note is played with even volume and tone. This is crucial for maintaining the flow of a solo or riff and keeping the listener engaged.

Additionally, alternate picking allows for greater dynamic range and expressiveness in a player’s sound. By controlling the dynamics of each note through picking technique, a guitarist can add nuance and emotion to their playing. This is particularly useful in country music, which often features a wide range of dynamics and varying levels of intensity.

Finally, alternate picking is an important aspect of building technical proficiency on the guitar. By developing the ability to alternate pick cleanly and accurately, a guitarist is able to open up a wider range of playing possibilities and take on more challenging material.

By incorporating alternate picking into their playing, country guitarists are able to improve their speed, control, and expressiveness on the instrument. For more information on improving your alternate picking, check out our guide with helpful tips and exercises.

Common Problems with Alternate Picking

One common problem with alternate picking for country guitarists is the tendency to focus solely on speed instead of accuracy. Speed is certainly important, but it does not trump precision and correct technique. Another issue is a lack of consistency in pick strokes, which can lead to uneven or choppy playing. This is especially true when playing complex licks or solos. Consistency in pick strokes requires diligent practice and attention to detail.

A third issue is improper wrist or hand positioning. When the wrist is too tense or the hand is in an awkward position, it can be difficult to move the pick smoothly across the strings. Proper technique and posture are crucial for optimal picking ability. Lastly, some guitarists may struggle with string noise or unwanted string ringing when alternate picking. This issue can often be alleviated by adjusting the angle of the pick as it strikes the strings, or by muting unused strings with the fretting hand.

If you’re experiencing any of these common problems with alternate picking, don’t fret. With dedicated practice and a focus on technique, you can overcome these obstacles and improve your playing. For more information on alternate picking in country music, check out our article on country alternate picking, where we dive deeper into this essential technique for country guitarists.

Advanced Alternate Picking Concepts

Advanced Alternate Picking Concepts
When it comes to becoming a proficient country guitar player, it’s essential to have a strong foundation in alternate picking. As you progress in your playing, you may find yourself wanting to take things to the next level. This is where advanced alternate picking concepts come into play. By incorporating these techniques, your playing can become more dynamic, intricate and nuanced. In this section, we’ll explore some of the most useful and challenging alternate picking techniques for country guitarists to master. Whether you’re looking to add some flash to your solos or simply build your skills, these concepts will take your playing to the next level.

1. String Skipping

One of the most essential techniques for guitarists is alternate picking, which involves using a combination of upstrokes and downstrokes to pluck the strings.
String skipping is a variant of alternate picking that involves skipping over adjacent strings while maintaining a consistent picking pattern.
This technique can add an innovative, fresh sound to your country guitar leads and riffs.
To master string skipping, a few exercises can help improve your technique, such as the following:

Exercise Description
Skipping Down the Strings This simple exercise involves using alternate picking to skip from the low E string to the D string, then to the A string, then to the G string, and so on. Remember to keep your picking hand moving even when you’re not picking a string.
Skipping Up the Strings This exercise is similar to the last one, but instead of moving down the strings, you move up them. Start with the high E string and skip to the B string, then to the G string, and so on.
Skipping Across the Strings This exercise involves skipping across strings and skipping a string in between each note. For example, you could pick a note on the A string, then skip the D string, and pick a note on the G string. This can be challenging at first, but it’s a great way to develop your string-skipping skills.

By practicing these exercises regularly, you’ll start to notice improvement in your string-skipping abilities. When it comes to applying string skipping to your country guitar playing, try incorporating it into simple licks or riffs to add some complexity and interest to your playing. For more information on alternate picking in country music, check out our article on alt pick country music.

2. Crosspicking

Crosspicking: Another advanced alternate picking technique that country guitarists use is crosspicking. Crosspicking involves playing a repeating pattern that alternates between two or more strings using both upstrokes and downstrokes. This technique provides a rolling effect and allows for fast and smooth playing.

To start practicing crosspicking, you can begin with a basic pattern that alternates between two strings. Here’s an example using the G and B strings:

Beat: 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and
G string: up down up down up down up down
B string: down up down up down up down up

Once you’re comfortable with this pattern, you can start adding more strings and notes to create more intricate patterns. One way to do this is by incorporating arpeggios and chord shapes into your crosspicking patterns. For example, you could try a pattern that alternates between a G major arpeggio and a C major arpeggio:

Beat: 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and
G string: up down up down up down up down
B string: down up down up down up down up
High E string: down up down up down up down up

Like all alternate picking techniques, crosspicking requires practice and patience. Start slowly and gradually increase your speed as you build muscle memory and develop the right technique. With practice, you’ll be able to use crosspicking to add a unique and impressive sound to your country guitar playing.

3. Economy Picking

Economy picking is an advanced picking technique used by many country guitarists to play fast and fluid lines with minimal effort. It is a combination of alternate picking and sweep picking, and involves using a sweeping motion to cross strings when changing direction.

How Economy Picking Works:

Economy picking is a technique in which the pick is angled in such a way that it is able to pick through multiple strings in a single direction with minimal up and down motion. This allows the hand to move more efficiently through the strings, making it easier to play fast licks and lines.

Economy picking is all about minimizing unnecessary picking motion, and instead using sweeping motions to move across the strings. For example, if you’re playing a lick that involves playing the notes on the 5th, 4th, and 3rd strings, you would downstroke the first note on the 5th string, and then sweep the pick across the strings to play the notes on the 4th and 3rd strings with the same downstroke.

Here’s an example of a lick using economy picking:

String Fret Picking Direction
5th 9th Downstroke
4th 7th Sweep Down
3rd 6th Sweep Up
4th 7th Sweep Down
5th 9th Upstroke

Benefits of Economy Picking:

Economy picking is a very efficient technique that allows for faster and more fluid playing. It can help with accuracy and reduce the amount of effort required to play fast lines. Economy picking can also help you play more complex licks that would be difficult to execute with alternate picking alone.

Common Problems with Economy Picking:

One common problem with economy picking is maintaining evenness and smoothness across all strings. You may find that you have difficulty making the sweeping motion feel natural and even when transitioning between strings. It’s important to practice economy picking slowly and pay attention to the motion of your picking hand to ensure that you are executing the technique properly.

Another common issue is timing. Economy picking requires precision timing and rhythm to ensure that the sweeping motion stays in time with the music. This can take some practice to master, so be patient and start slowly.


Economy picking is an advanced technique that can take some time to master, but it’s an essential tool for any country guitarist looking to play fast and fluid licks with ease. By minimizing unnecessary picking motion and utilizing sweeping motions, you can play faster and more efficiently. Practice slowly and pay attention to your picking hand to ensure that you are executing the technique properly.

4. Hybrid Picking

One of the more advanced alternate picking concepts for country guitarists is hybrid picking. This technique is a combination of using a pick and your fingers to pluck the strings. It is commonly used to play intricate licks and arpeggios that would be difficult with only a pick. Here are some key points to keep in mind when practicing hybrid picking:

  • Use the pick and middle or ring fingers – Hold the pick between your thumb and index finger and use your middle or ring finger to pluck the other strings. This allows for greater speed and dexterity when playing complex patterns.
  • Choose the right finger for the job – When hybrid picking, use your thumb to hold down the lower strings and use your fingers to play the higher notes. Consider the pattern of notes you will be playing and choose the most efficient finger for each note.
  • Practice string skipping – Hybrid picking is especially useful for string skipping. Practice playing a scale or lick using only hybrid picking, skipping strings where necessary. This will improve your accuracy and finger dexterity.
  • Incorporate hammer-ons and pull-offs – Hybrid picking allows for the use of hammer-ons and pull-offs while picking with a pick. This creates a more fluid and connected sound when playing fast patterns.
  • Start Slowly – As with all advanced techniques, it’s important to start slowly and build up speed gradually. Focus on accuracy and timing, and gradually increase your speed as you become more comfortable with the technique.

Hybrid picking is a valuable tool for country guitarists looking to add complexity and speed to their playing. With practice and patience, this technique can become an integral part of your playing style. Remember to choose the right finger for each note, incorporate hammer-ons and pull-offs, and practice string skipping to improve your dexterity. With these tips and techniques, you’ll be picking up speed and complexity in no time.

Exercises to Improve Your Alternate Picking

Exercises To Improve Your Alternate Picking
Now that you understand the importance of alternate picking and have learned some advanced concepts, it’s time to put them into practice. These exercises will help you improve your alternate picking technique and take it to the next level. By incorporating them into your practice routine, you’ll develop greater speed, accuracy, and control in your playing. So grab your guitar, warm up your fingers, and let’s dive into some challenging yet rewarding exercises.

1. String Skipping Exercise

One of the most challenging aspects of alternate picking is string skipping. This technique involves skipping over one or more strings while maintaining a consistent picking pattern. By incorporating string skipping into your alternate picking practice routine, you will develop greater dexterity and control over your picking hand.

A string skipping exercise:

String Pick Direction
High E Down
Low E Down
High E Up
A Down
High E Down
D Down
High E Up
G Down
High E Down
B Up
High E Up

Begin by playing this exercise at a slow tempo, gradually increasing the speed as you become more comfortable moving between strings. Focus on keeping your alternate picking motion consistent, even when skipping over strings. This exercise will challenge your coordination and timing, so it’s important to stay focused and diligent in your practice.

Remember to keep your movements small and efficient, and avoid any unnecessary tension in your picking hand. By incorporating this string skipping exercise into your daily practice routine, you’ll develop the skills necessary to incorporate string skipping into your country guitar licks with ease.

2. Crosspicking Exercise

To improve your crosspicking technique and control, try incorporating the following exercise into your practice routine.

Crosspicking Exercise:

Measure 1: Measure 2: Measure 3: Measure 4:
—————— ————5—- ——5-7-8——- 5-7-8————-
—————— ——5-7-8——- 5-7-8————- ————5—-
——5-7-8——- 5-7-8————- ————5—- —–5-7-8——–
5-7-8————- ————5—- —–5-7-8——– ——————

Start by picking the first note with a downstroke, then the second note with an upstroke, and so on, repeating this pattern throughout each measure. This exercise utilizes string crossings, which help train your picking hand to switch between strings smoothly and accurately.

As you become more comfortable with this pattern, try increasing the tempo gradually while maintaining accuracy and evenness in your picking. You can also vary the exercise by playing it in different keys or with different chord progressions to challenge yourself and develop your crosspicking skills even further.

3. Economy Picking Exercise

An important technique for any country guitarist to master is economy picking. This technique involves using a combination of downstrokes and upstrokes in a way that allows for greater speed and efficiency of movement. Here is an economy picking exercise that will help you develop this technique:

String Fret Picking Direction
High E 12h15 Down
B 12p11 Up
G 14h12 Down
D 14p12 Up
A 12h14 Down
Low E 12p11 Up

To begin this exercise, start on the 12th fret of the high E string and use a downstroke. Then, quickly move to the 15th fret and perform a hammer-on. Next, switch to the B string and play the 12th fret with an upstroke, followed by a pull-off to the 11th fret. Continue this pattern, alternating between downstrokes and upstrokes as indicated in the table.

The key to successful economy picking is to use sweeping motions when changing strings. This means that when you move from one string to the next, your pick should brush across the adjacent string without stopping. This technique allows for greater speed and fluidity when playing fast licks or runs.

Remember to start slowly and gradually increase your speed as you become more comfortable with the exercise. Practice with a metronome to keep your timing consistent and focus on accuracy and tone. By incorporating economy picking into your playing, you’ll be able to achieve greater speed and efficiency, making your country guitar solos and licks sound smooth and effortless.

4. Hybrid Picking Exercise

One of the most versatile and effective alternate picking techniques for country guitarists is hybrid picking. Hybrid picking involves using the pick and one or more of the fingers on your picking hand to selectively pluck strings, creating a unique and dynamic sound.

To get started with hybrid picking exercises, try the following exercise:

Step Instructions
1 Select a simple chord progression in a key you are comfortable with. Set your metronome to a slow and steady tempo.
2 Using a hybrid picking technique, pluck the 3rd, 2nd, and 1st strings in succession. Use your pick on the 3rd string, your middle finger on the 2nd, and your ring finger on the 1st.
3 Next, play the same strings in reverse order: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Use your ring finger on the 1st, your middle finger on the 2nd, and your pick on the 3rd.
4 Repeat steps 2 and 3, gradually increasing your speed until you reach the desired tempo. Focus on smooth and consistent plucking, and keep your fingers close to the string to minimize excess movement.
5 Once you have mastered the basic exercise, try incorporating it into your country guitar playing. Experiment with different chord progressions and rhythms, and try using hybrid picking to add color and texture to your solos.

Remember to be patient and persistent when practicing hybrid picking exercises. As with any new technique, it may take time to fully integrate it into your playing. But with dedication and practice, you will soon be using hybrid picking to add a new dimension to your country guitar sound.

Tips for Applying Advanced Alternate Picking Concepts in Country Music

As you become familiar with advanced alternate picking concepts, you’ll find that they enhance your playing and add more flavor to your country guitar licks. However, it can be challenging to apply these concepts seamlessly into your playing. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of essential tips to help you master the art of advanced alternate picking in country music. These tips will help you improve your technique and make your playing sound more polished and professional. So, grab your guitar, and let’s dive into these helpful tips together!

1. Start Slowly

When it comes to applying advanced alternate picking techniques in country music, it’s important to start slowly. Rushing into these techniques can lead to sloppy playing and a lack of proper technique. By starting slow and gradually building up speed, you’ll be able to develop proper muscle memory and control necessary for successful alternate picking.

Why Starting Slowly is Important

Starting slow allows you to focus on accuracy and technique without being overwhelmed by speed. Additionally, it helps prevent injury or strain on your hand and wrist. By building up gradually, you’ll also be able to track your progress and see improvements in your playing.

How to Start Slowly

To start slowly, begin by practicing alternate picking on a simple scale or pattern. Set a metronome to a slow tempo and practice the pattern at a comfortable speed. Once you can play the pattern with accuracy and control, increase the metronome by a few beats per minute and play it again. Gradually, increase the tempo until you’re playing at the desired speed.

Here’s an example of a simple exercise you can use to practice starting slow:

Exercise Description
Alternate Picking Scale Start by playing a C major scale using alternate picking. Start at the fifth fret on the low E string and pick each note using alternating down and up strokes.
Slow Tempo Set the metronome to a slow tempo, such as 60 beats per minute, and practice playing the scale at this speed.
Gradually Increase Tempo Once you’re comfortable playing the scale at 60 beats per minute, gradually increase the tempo by a few beats per minute and practice again. Keep increasing the tempo until you reach the desired speed.

Remember to take breaks and stretch your hand and wrist to avoid injury. With practice and patience, starting slowly can help you develop proper technique and improve your alternate picking skills.

2. Practice with a Metronome

One of the most crucial elements of improving your alternate picking technique is practicing with a metronome. Using a metronome will help you develop your timing, accuracy, and speed. It’s essential to start slowly and gradually increase your speed as your precision improves.

Below are some benefits of using a metronome in your practice sessions:

Benefits of Practicing with a Metronome:
• Helps you master rhythm and timing
• Enables you to track your progress and improvement
• Helps you avoid rushing or dragging tempo
• Allows you to focus on your technique without worrying about timing
• Helps you build endurance and stamina

When practicing with a metronome, it’s important to keep the following tips in mind:

Tips for Practicing with a Metronome:
• Start Slowly: Begin at a comfortable pace and gradually increase your speed as your accuracy improves.
• Use Different Subdivisions: Practice with different subdivisions (i.e., quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes) to improve your timing and accuracy.
• Experiment With Different Tempos: Vary your tempo to challenge yourself and prevent getting too comfortable at one speed.
• Focus on Your Technique: Use the metronome to focus on your technique and playing with precision.
• Record Yourself: Record yourself playing with the metronome to track your progress over time and identify areas that need improvement.

By incorporating a metronome into your practice sessions, you can significantly improve your alternate picking technique and take your country guitar playing to the next level.

3. Focus on Accuracy and Tone

When it comes to advanced alternate picking concepts for country guitarists, focusing on accuracy and tone is essential. This means paying close attention to the precision and clarity of each note, as well as the overall sound and quality of your playing.

To improve accuracy and tone, it’s important to:

Tip Description
1. Use Proper Technique Make sure you’re holding the pick correctly and using the proper hand and finger positioning when picking. This will help you produce a clean and consistent sound.
2. Practice Slowly Start with a slow tempo and gradually increase your speed as you become more comfortable with the picking pattern. This will help you develop muscle memory and improve accuracy.
3. Listen Carefully Pay close attention to the sound and quality of each note, and make adjustments as needed to achieve the desired tone. Use a clean tone on your guitar to better hear mistakes in your playing.
4. Minimize Tension Avoid tensing up your fingers, wrist, and arm while picking, as this can lead to sloppy playing and poor tone. Relax your muscles and use a light touch when picking.
5. Experiment with Pick Thickness and Strings Try experimenting with different pick thicknesses and string gauges to find the combination that produces the best tone for your playing style.

By focusing on accuracy and tone, you’ll be able to bring your advanced alternate picking concepts to life and create a clean and polished sound that will impress listeners. Remember to take your time, practice consistently, and experiment with different techniques and equipment to find the approach that works best for you.

4. Apply Concepts to Country Guitar Licks

Once you’ve learned some of the advanced alternate picking concepts for country guitarists, the next step is to apply them to actual playing. One great way to do this is by incorporating these techniques into your country guitar licks.

When it comes to writing and playing country guitar licks, there are a few key things to keep in mind. First and foremost, your licks should be melodic and catchy. After all, country music is all about telling a story, and your licks should help to support that narrative.

Your licks should also showcase your technical prowess as a guitar player. This is where advanced alternate picking concepts really come into play. By using techniques like string skipping, crosspicking, economy picking, and hybrid picking, you can add speed, precision, and nuance to your country guitar licks.

To get started, try incorporating some of these advanced techniques into some basic country guitar licks. For example, you could take a simple pentatonic lick and add in some string skipping or economy picking to make it more interesting and dynamic.

Here’s an example of how you could do this:

Basic Country Lick: Advanced Alternate Picking Version:
E|——————– E|—————————————-
B|——————– B|———-12h15-12-15-12————
G|——————– G|——12h14————-14-12——
D|——————– D|—————————————-
A|—–0h2p0———- A|–0h2————-2h4p2——-
E|–0————— E|—————————————-

As you can see, the second version of the lick incorporates a combination of string skipping and hammer-ons and pull-offs to create a more intricate and exciting melody.

Of course, there are countless variations you could come up with using these advanced alternate picking techniques. The important thing is to experiment with different combinations until you find something that sounds cool and fits the country music style.

Applying these advanced picking concepts to your country guitar licks can help take your playing to the next level. With some practice and patience, you’ll soon be able to incorporate these techniques seamlessly into your playing, creating more dynamic and engaging country guitar solos.


After mastering these advanced alternate picking concepts and incorporating them into your country guitar playing, you will undoubtedly elevate your skills to the next level. It may take time and practice to master these techniques, but the benefits are well worth the effort.

Remember to start slowly, focus on accuracy and tone, and practice with a metronome to ensure your timing is spot-on. The string skipping, crosspicking, economy picking, and hybrid picking exercises that we discussed will improve your speed and dexterity, as well as your ability to transition smoothly between strings to make your playing sound flawless.

In addition, don’t be afraid to apply these concepts to country guitar licks and songs to incorporate them into your playing style. By doing so, you can create unique and impressive solos that will make you stand out from other country guitarists.

Overall, advanced alternate picking concepts are essential for any country guitarist looking to push their playing to new heights. With determination, practice, and these tips, you will surely see progress and achieve your musical goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is alternate picking?

Alternate picking is a guitar playing technique where the player continuously strikes the strings both up and down, as opposed to just one direction, in a consistent and even rhythm.

Why is alternate picking important for country guitarists?

Alternate picking is essential for country guitarists because it allows for precise control over fast and intricate picking patterns often found in country music.

What are some benefits of alternate picking?

Alternate picking can improve your speed, accuracy, and overall technique on the guitar, allowing for more complex and impressive solos and licks.

What are common problems with alternate picking?

Common problems with alternate picking include developing uneven strokes, struggling with string crossing, and losing synchronization between the picking hand and fretting hand.

What is string skipping?

String skipping is a guitar playing technique where the player skips over certain strings while picking, allowing for unique and melodic picking patterns.

What is crosspicking?

Crosspicking is a guitar playing technique where the player alternates between different strings while picking, often creating a rolling and fluid sound.

What is economy picking?

Economy picking is a guitar playing technique where the player uses specific picking patterns to minimize movement and conserve energy when playing fast and complex licks.

What is hybrid picking?

Hybrid picking is a guitar playing technique where the player combines both using a pick and plucking the strings with their fingers, allowing for greater tonal and rhythmic possibilities.

What are some exercises to improve alternate picking?

Some exercises to improve alternate picking include practicing different picking patterns and scales, using a metronome to increase speed, and incorporating string skipping and hybrid picking into your practice routine.

How can I apply advanced alternate picking concepts to country music?

You can apply advanced alternate picking concepts to country music by incorporating them into your favorite country guitar licks and solos, and experimenting with different rhythmic and tonal possibilities.


About the author

Hi there! I’m Jack Little – an avid country music fan with tons of live country performances in the past. I used to play banjo in a country band with my best friend John Peters, who’s a true country harmonica master. Those were great years and I’m still mastering new banjo playing techniques, writing my own country songs and lyrics, and collecting banjos!

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