When do you (personally) choose to alt pick vs economy?

I’m coming from a place of alternate picking absolutely everything. Even when it might make more sense to pick directionally. I’ve since run into some hangups, literally, with my pick getting stuck etc and I’ve started to use direction/econ for those parts.

So that made me wonder. How do you guys personally decide when to sweep little sections – if you do. Could doing both alt and econ in diff spots cause brain confusion? Or is this a totally normal thing every player does and I’m dumb for not realizing it sooner?

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I have a rule of thumb: use Economy with odd numbered notes per string (1,3,5, etc) and Alternate with even numbered notes per string (2,4,6, etc.). There are a few scenarios where that rule doesn’t fit, like phrases with 1 note on an adjacent string, string skipping, pedal point licks - these are usually Alternate picked. A well timed legato slur can fix any other tricky problems.

Depends on the phrase in question - the meter, note values, the actual physical arrangement of notes on the fretboard, fingerings, etc. Some phrases are amenable to being swept, some alternate picked, some only downpicked. Some need hybrid picking (chords where you need to avoid hitting a note in the middle). And so on.

There are sooo many scenarios that for these kinds of questions you always need a specific example.


I alternate pick everything unless it’s a “rhythm” guitar part (then I try to only downpick).

For me, I feel it’s best to alternate pick things that have to be in time, thats the main benefit of it, even timing. But for everything else, economy, or just letting your mind go, and not focus on the right hand is the best.
I think there really is a two worlds type of thing going on in guitar technique, the left and the right.
The right provides that energy and timing, but the left is where all the music is truly going on.

Troy even just posted about this:

I find alternate picking is a useful technique that is overhyped, like talking correct English, you sound silly constantly using “correct” English. I’m still trying to get over the allure of alternate picking. It’s actually quite hard, I feel like I’m not working hard enough… But the techniques that Just Work, are the best. I find downward pickslanting to be the natural way for me, it just work, downward pickslanting with pulloffs just always works, I feel it should even have it’s own Name, as it works so well for guitar.

Alternate picking for me has always been hyped up as the best way, and manliest way in a sense lol Like if you don’t pick every note you’re not playing the best.

I actually find alternate picking very dull musically, it’s great for timing, but it takes away all the character from our different personalities. Alternate picking for me has become a gym excersice rather than a tool for playing the notes I want.


I feel this way also. Truly flawless legato is breathtaking, but everything in between sort of feels like “cheating.”

If it is 2 or more NPS, I will usually just alternate pick.

If it is 1 NPS, then it is time to be clever around that area, and sweeping might be part of a solution.

Picking is hardest with 1 NPS.

I just have a few economy moves trained in - I use them like words - I put them in as inspiration calls…same with alternate picked chunks (i.e 6’s etc) and some half legato/picked things. No rules that are mechanical in nature. Just improvised chunks made from my curated vocabulary that I try to expand by lifting anything I find inspiring.

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Idk if it’s the same for you, but I feel alternate picking is actually very limited, everything seems to need practice to get it working, where as a single pick slant with some legato lets you navigate the fretboard with little thought.

I think it’s counter intuitive, as you’d think just up down up down, would lessen the concentration needed to pick, But in my experience it is actually hard to keep it up while focusing on what you’re fretting, I find the single pickslant, for me downward pickslanting, to require far less mental thought.

with legato you’re putting half the picking work into your left hand, the hand you’re actually trying to focus on, I think that makes it so much easier to play, and almost to easy, like you’re cheating…


Alternate picking is like a hammer and economy picking is like a screwdriver. They’re both great tools, they just have their own uses. I choose one or the other when it makes sense to, based on the feel/style/articulation required for the phrase I’m playing.

If I’m playing Eric Johnson type licks, I economy pick a lot because that’s the easiest way to authentically get his vibe happening. It feels like less work too. It also sounds more like him than if it were completely alternate picked. For example, Joe Bonamassa sounds like EJ until you really listen hard. He doesn’t do the same type of economy ascending runs and the articulation is just different enough sounding to know it’s not EJ. Even though some of his note choices are pretty similar, the sound of the notes is different. It’s subtle and in no way a knock on him.

If I wanted to play more Al Di Meola type licks, I would not economy pick. And the reason isn’t just because I can imagine Al shaking his head in disappointment because he thoroughly believes (as per his instructional video) that sweep picking is a shortcut. The reason would be that I wouldn’t produce the same machine-gun style articulation I’d expect to hear if I’m imitating him.

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It’s interesting how what we grow up playing influences our individual techniques.

For example, I first started out wanting to be a singer/songwriter, so the vast amount of my playing involving arpeggiating open and barre chords. So for me, alternate picking 1NPS isn’t that difficult. I actually am better able to do that than speed pick 3NPS runs, as ridiculous as that is. Although I’m still no Steve Morse

I actually prefer Joe’s playing of EJ type runs over EJ’s. To my ears it sounds like Joe is picking more notes than EJ is, and I prefer that sound for whatever reason.

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He probably is. We know EJ uses pulloffs when needed to conform to his “system”. I’m nowhere near as familiar with Joe Bonamassa as I am with Eric Johnson, but most of what I’ve seen of Joe, I just don’t remember seeing much legato.

I think another thing that makes EJ sound like he’s not picking as many notes is actually the fact that he uses so much economy picking. There’s this extra smoothness on a lot of his downward sweeps. It could be the notes slightly bleed together. Compared to strict alternate picking, I could see where even phrases where EJ uses no pulloffs/hammers but does use economy could have that impact of not all the notes being picked.

I think you’re right and this is probably the crux of why I prefer Joe’s playing. I’ve always preferred the sound and attack of alternate picking. I’m not a fan of Yngwie’s music at all, but I could sit and listen to him play for days.

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To be honest I just find economy picking to be completely unnatural. Like trying to run with two right steps! Some people can get great result through with it.

Alt picking for me.

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I guess it’s just different strokes different blokes…

I like alternate picking, but it requires to much focus for me. Using a single pick slant and using pulloffs seems far simpler in practice for me.

I am left handed, I wonder if that makes a difference? What are you?

Upsides and downsides to both in my opinion.

I played economy only for a couple of years and I became super speedy with it but I felt like I hard to work quite hard to keep everything sounding clean.

Then I became an strict alternate picker and I liked that I could pick anything I wanted (and always start on a downstroke) but I found the sound became quite abrasive after a while.

Now I’ve switched to Yngwie’s asymmetrical approach. I get the mix of economy, alternate and legato where I really think you get the best of all approaches; a really organic sound I like with lots of variation and a super simplified approach to playing anything :smiley:

Honestly I’d have a go at everything and see what sticks for you!

I often look at Jacky Vincent as the pinnacle of picking technique and he economy picks everything apart from licks where you HAVE to use alternate picking (always using inside picking) and his playing looks incredibly effortless, maybe you could give that a go?

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What is that btw? I read before it’s economy going down and alternate going up? I can’t remember :frowning:
And if that video is truly live… fkin hell lol I might need to give him more attention. (Jack)

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Use an USX motion and apply these rules:

Odd = Economy
Even = Alternate

Odd = Alternate and Legato (For a 3pns scale think, downstroke, upstroke, pull-off)
Even = Alternate

Ascending is easy because for your string changes you get a mixture of upstrokes escaping and economy picking with your downstrokes

Descending is pretty easy as well but your basically forcing you’re picking to always have upstroke escapes. You either naturally change strings after upstrokes or if it’s going to change after a downstroke you’d negate it by using a pull off. Instead of down, up, down, string change, it becomes down, up, pull-off, string change :smiley:

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When I was 16, a guitar teacher first taught me economy picking, although not explained particularly well and apart from some Frank Gambale VHS, I couldn’t find answers to my problems (getting stuck in the strings, weak articulation, very hard to control timing etc etc)

Not wanting to feel like I was “starting again”, I stuck with economy picking for nearly 20 years, but was never comfortable with it.

Once I came across CTC, I decided to try alternate picking. The simple but very effective idea of starting with speed is something I was always afraid of doing. Which might help explain why I never gained control of economy picking.

Anyway, I was messing around with economy picking the other day, with the idea of starting with speed, and it seemed easy, at fast speeds. I really wish I tried starting with speed two decades ago…

So I wonder, is it worthwhile learning both, or is it actually more confusing for muscle memory to be practicing both?

Sorry I realise that is not the question you were asking, and in fact, I just asked another lol.