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

I feel one supports the other - practice phrases you love the sound of regardless of the ‘alt vs economy’ detail. I don’t think your muscle memory will get confused, you will increase it’s vocabulary…effectively.


A few months ago I convinced myself that true alternate picking requires a double-escaped motion, or playing 1NPS is otherwise impossible. So, when people say that they “alternate pick,” does this mean that they (1) have a double-escaped mechanism, or (2) never play 1NPS? :thinking:

I don’t have a good double-escape and often play 1NPS; I have to fall back to efficiency picking all of the time. Indeed, I view efficiency picking as an escape-hatch for not having a double-escaped motion. Efficiency picking is very robust and comparatively difficult to mess up—an added virtue—so I don’t stay up at night wishing that I had a good double-escaped motion. (I even switch between upward- and downward-escaped motions without being double-escaped.)

I’m left handed as well! And I play left handed. It’s a decision I regret fairly often, but I do like being unique.

Jacky’s playing is obviously amazing, but there’s something in the sound of his speed picking that I just don’t like. I’m not sure what it is. It almost sounds kind of…sloppy? Maybe it’s just too fast? I can’t put my finger on it but I’ve heard it in other players also.

There’s a guy on instagram…who of course I can’t remember the name of right now…who has the best sounding speed picking I’ve ever heard in my life. I’ll update this later if I can find him. He plays a dark colored custom arch-top PRS with F-holes and is almost always playing clean.

My short answer would be - do whatever gets the job done and sounds good.

My longer answer would be - what is causing the hang-up in the first place? Is it something that you can do sometimes and not others? (In which case it would be worth working on it) or is it something on the furthest edge of of what is possible? (in which case I would use economy if it provides a level of reliability and avoid spending countless hours chasing that elusive piece of a lick).

I think I know what you mean, when you really get cooking with economy it feels like you’re gliding across the strings and it can become so fast that the notes almost start to blur into each other.

I think you tend to get less of that with alternate picking due to it’s more abrasive machine gun sound so perhaps you have more of a preference for that style :slight_smile:


I think Troy has some really interesting points in the video above about how some things are easier with economy than alternate and vice versa. He talks about it from memory in volcano seminar as well with some of that blindingly fast Yngwie stuff that would be nearly impossible with alternate. I have found trying to play some of the Yngwie circular Alcatrazz stuff really, really challenging as an alternate picker - and I know Ynwgie is using economy for them. I sense (if you could do it) economy would be easier.

Either style though doesn’t (in my opinion) lend to better hand sync. There is no avoiding the work that needs to go into that aspect of your playing.

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Emil Werstler? I’m basing this on PRS and super accurate picking.

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I play right, handed. Yet I feel I’d play better left handed, my left is weaker but more accurate, and right feels stronger and faster but less delicate…
I feel I’d play better lefty, but I can’t really spend another 5 or more years trying it out…
what is your strongest hand?

Yes! That’s him! I just love his playing. It’s so fluid and wonderful.

I’m a natural lefty although I do some odd things right handed. For example, I bat, golf and play hockey from a righty stance, but I box in a southpaw stance.

I write and throw left handed and all of the other normal things, and I’m left footed as well (important during my soccer days).

I never once for a second considered playing righty. I started very young and am entirely self taught, and I bristled early on at suggestions that I play right handed. Very anti-authority as a young man. It’s something I regret quite a bit now when I walk into guitar stores and can’t find anything worth playing.

Sounds good! I’ve come up with an arpeggio sequence to work on which has some 1nps and 2nsp combinations. All pickstrokes are swept so it’s good practice to try get control of the sweep!

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Generally, economy picking for maximum speed, alternate picking for precision. Economy picking feels more slippery and uneven, although being faster, you pretty much feel in time by starting and ending licks on the appropriate beat. Whereas pure alternate seems to allow you to have every note be an almost exact subdivision.

I also saw a Jeff Loomis masterclass a while ago where he said he specifically alternate picks ascending and economy picks descending because he could never figure out alternate picking on the descend. Makes me wonder just how frequent “true” alternate pickers are when you have monster players like Loomis who said he could never do it, and guys like Yngwie who don’t even do the lauded “true alternative picking” thing at all except for specific licks.

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It was a real eye opener to me when I saw how Yngwie sweeps through to the next string when doing 2 string licks on the high B to high E. I feel the same way about economy - feels uneven to me too. As I described above it feels to me like you are trying to run with 2 right steps then a left!

I just have not been able to get the precision I am after using it.

@Lindecraft I get your train of thought, but I’m guessing those guys developed great technique and phrasing that never really required them to develop “all facets” of alternate picking. Pretty sure at this point @Troy has collected “empirical evidence” with his magnet rig of plenty of players doing pure alternate picking. I mean, I can do it myself without inherent talent.

This is because Jeff uses 2:00 wrist motion which with his arm position is DSX, like Andy James. And those players will do upstroke sweeps when possible.

The little knowledge we have uncovered goes a really long way to explaining things that would otherwise be completely opaque if you had to figure it all out on your own.

Re: “true alternate”, USX is alternate. DSX is alternate. It sounds like you mean the ability to do both escapes. Which is fine but one is not really better or worse. Just as one of many examples, the fastest pentatonic players are all single escape players, usually USX like Wylde and the Gypsies but sometimes DSX like McLaughlin or Andy Wood.

People find their way to these techniques through the repertoire. Almost every bluegrass guitarist and classical mandolinist has some amount of double escape. The repertoire is not possible otherwise. In rock it all started with fast blues so it’s no surprise why we see the techniques we do.

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About “true alternate,” I’m more referring to the fact that in some circles, at least that I’ve seen, there was (don’t know if there still is) this idea that anything other than every note being played with alternating up and downstrokes (no pull-offs, no economy) was somehow “cheating” and that “the real greats use real alternate picking.” Kind of in the same vein of the idea that using lighter strings, usually anything less than 10’s, was for “people who aren’t good enough or dedicated enough to use the better tone on the harder to play strings.” I’ve seen that one used in arguments about who “better” players are.

What I meant to get across, probably poorly, is that I’ve seen people implying or even stating outright that people trying to learn are not good enough or not practising hard enough if they can’t play every single note with alternate picking, even though a lot of the famous players who allegedly do actually don’t. Maybe it’s different now, or maybe I was just in some bad forums and met some immature people, but it seems like the guitar community has been very elitist and combative over things like this.

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That’s just guitar elitism, or simply a dick measuring contest.
I seen that type of talk on various forums over the years.
The way I see it is, it doesn’t really matter how you get the notes out, alt picking, economy, legato, combinations of different methods etc. In the end, if it sounds how you want it to, then it’s correct.

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Where do you encounter this, is this is a jazz thing? This sounds like something I would have heard back in the 80s, when nobody knew anything about how picking worked. Because even if you did want to be macho about “picking all the notes”, this particular attitude is technically ignorant. The simplest picking motions you can make are single escape motions, and the simplest phrases you can play on a guitar are “pure alternate” phrases with one kind of escape and even numbers of notes per string. You don’t really get a medal for picking all those notes, it’s literally your first step in learning picking.

Nowadays, we prefer more sophisticated biases like “double escape is better than single escape”, i.e. “you suck if you can’t play one note per string”. At least those take more technical explanation to refute!


I’ll cast the blame where it lies:

Al is the man, and we all love him around here obviously. That part of the video always rubbed me the wrong way though. Rant: I actually had a decent elbow mechanic going when I was 15. I bought Al’s instructional video when I was 16 and was crushed to find out I’d been playing the ‘wrong way’ lol. I spent about a whole year trying to rid myself of all elbow movement. Even watching myself in a mirror, because the elbow would creep into my playing quite subconsciously. I’ll stop my bitter old-man whining now lol

This is a fun video. I’ve always favored dark sounds and ever since I heard SRV used ultra heavy strings I thought I should too. I was surprised the tones I liked more in Rick’s video were the 9’s !

Thank God we live in the age of information and can finally rid ourselves of all the dogma! Rick and Troy are national treasures.