Economy picking is the dark art which combines sweep picking with alternate picking
It is a way for the pick to move to and from notes on adjacent strings in the shortest distance (sweep picking) and also collect other notes that fall along the length of single strings (alternate picking) and is an alternative for playing scale shapes which produces note configurations and phrases which would be extremely difficult to pull off with other techniques. The easiest description would be this scenario –
There are 7 notes to play across 3 strings. 3 on the low E, 3 on the A & a last ‘exit note’ on the D. These could be alternate picked but where Economy Picking comes into it’s own is that it cuts down the pick’s distance when crossing strings to it’s shortest possible journey – as the crow flies. The 3 low E string notes are played down, up, down with the pick and then to cross to the first note on the A string the pick performs another down pick (the shortest distance) in the way that a sweep picked arpeggio is played. So the complete picking pattern of the 7 note run described above would go –
Low E – Down, Up, Down
A – Down, Up, Down
Exit Note On D – Down
(See here for a description of how to move from string to string using a sweep, it is the pick falling to the next string not performing two separate individual down or up picks)
So I’ve compiled some economy picking exercises which have helped me build the technique. Don’t make the mistake that I made when I first discovered economy picking, it is not a replacement for alternate picking that is, in some way, easier to build speed with (although the players I have seen who are proficient economy pickers do seem to play at high speed in a way that seems far more effortless than practically any proficient alternate picker I’ve seen) it is a technique all of it’s own with pros and cons. So it is a new addition to the player’s arsenal rather than an easy replacement for other areas that require equal amounts of practice time.
The nature of the technique means that the pick needs an odd number of notes to continue in one direction (ascending or descending) and an even number of notes to change direction (ascending to descending or vice versa) e.g. The 7 note run example in paragraph 2 could change direction and descend back down to the E string by adding a second note to the D string and changing direction to descend the strings.
Economy Picking Lesson
My demo –
A simple 2 string, ascending/descending exercise. This utilises a favourite trick of mine (influenced by John Petrucci’s Rock Discipline) which is to combine 16th notes & 16th note triplets over the course of a 1 exercise repetition. I think this also helps with the relaxed feeling necessary for efficient economy picking. This is best practiced by playing the exercise across each pair of strings for an equal amount of time. Around 2 minutes each should do.
My demo –
A 4 string development of Exercise 1. This is Exercise 1 developed to include 4 strings. It is a good idea to practice across different sets of 4 strings. For example – 2 minutes on Low E to G and then 2 minutes on D to High E.
My demo –
6 string, full scale shape ascending/descending pattern. There are many permutations that can be made of the exercises I’ve created in this post and I will attempt to flesh those out in this category of the site so feel free to use the provided backing track as fertile ground to flesh out new exercises and musical ideas of your own (I’ve made sure there is plenty of time to do so). This final exercise uses full 3-note-per-string major scale shapes (a subject I’ve yet to post on) and ascends and descends 2 of those shapes across all 6 strings.
Remember if this is too fast to start with follow the steps in this post and start at a slower tempo with a metronome and timer and view playing to the above backing track as the end product to build up to.
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