Develop a Shred Tremolo

The neutral-pickslanted single-string tremolo is the most fundamental pre-requisite I teach for fast and impressive multi-string alternate picking. Getting this up to a fast tempo and high level of reliability is vital. Only once it is mastered can a student move on to pickslanting and multi-string picking. Forget unsightly, tense, and exhausting elbow spasm picking; It's as the saying goes: "It's all in the wrist"!

STEP 1: "Tabletop Test Tremolo"

The very first task is to experience exactly how the wrist yaw picking motion feels and to gauge how fast you can already do it:

- Lay your hand and arm on a desk/tabletop
- Keep your thenar and hypothenar in contact with the surface at all times (see hand image below for the palm anatomy I'm referring to)
- Twitch your hand side-to-side at the wrist as fast as you can (see animation GIF below)
- You may notice that the forearm moves side to side as well (It naturally does this sympathetically in response to wrist motion. This is fine! This is not elbow picking)

STEP 2: The "Hoisted Grip"

The "Hoisted Grip" will allow and encourage your hand to lay flat on the strings. Achieve it like so:

- Rest the pick on the first segment of the curled-in index finger
- Bring the thumb to meet it


STEP 3: The Tremolo

Begin picking a string (G-string as an example) as shown in the animation below:

- Yaw side-to-side at the wrist
- Bring the pick to rest up against the next higher and lower strings, like a wrestler bouncing off the ropes
- Do not allow the index finger or thumb to contact any of the strings at any point during this motion (see above)

These three tips will guarantee that you are indeed wrist yaw picking side-to-side with a neutral pickslant.
(NOTE: the resting up against the neighboring strings, AKA: "Rest Strokes", will naturally disappear as you speed up and your motions become smaller, but definitely do use them during the learning phase, these are your 'training wheels')

What now?

I imagine you are wondering what the purpose of this is?
Well, once the neutral-pickslanted tremolo has been established and developed to a fast tempo (150bpm to 200bpm 16th notes), you are then ready to move onto Downward pickslanting (DWPS)/Upward pickslanting (UWPS) and eventually 2-way pickslanting (both).
It will please you to know that the picking motion never changes - it's always this side to side wrist yaw you've developed.
In fact, the only difference between neutral pickslanting and DWPS/UWPS is the slight clockwise or counter-clockwise forearm twist respectively.

This is why I push students so hard to develop the neutral-pickslanted tremolo.

It is worth saying, that although this is the method I use and teach (and have come to recognize as the best and most effective), there are certainly other ways to pick! For instance, I used to use the Yngwie-style "Forearm Rotational" technique, and had huge success with it (apart from the fact it can't be used to play UWPS). While I urge you to implement the above technique, I more so urge you to find what works best for you as an individual. 

If you want help with technique, join my Discord and get chatting with me and everyone else:


Shoulder and Elbow Study Animations

The shoulder and elbow are responsible for a lot more than you may think when it comes to guitar technique. In lead guitar, it is essential that we learn and master control over these joints to put them to work immediately. If you aren't using shoulder and elbow mechanics yet - this may be the eye-opener you've been needing! Let's now explore, with animations (see bottom of page), precisely how these joints perform a variety of motions.

Arm String Tracking (animation #1)

"String Tracking" is the term used to describe how the picking hand moves from string to string. Both my sweep picking technique and scalar picking technique rely on the arm to achieve this. By pivoting at the shoulder and flexing/extending the elbow, observe how a slightly positive, piston-like, diagonal, push/pull path is sliced out across the strings, moving gradually up towards the neck pickup and back again. 

Wrist Yaw Picking (animation #2)

If you are familiar with my works, you'll already be aware that my pickstrokes are generated by the side-to-side yawing of the wrist, otherwise known anatomically as "wrist deviation". Observe the animation and notice how the motion comes entirely from the wrist.

Elbow Picking (BAD) (animation #3)

Sometimes it's worth including an example of how NOT to do something. Avoid locking the wrist joint and spasming at the elbow. Sure, the strength of the elbow is mighty, and at first it may seem like it's a great way to pick (because of the undeniable and instant speed one can achieve), but there are many reasons why this is a bad idea:

- Spasming at the elbow will eventually lead to injury.
- Moving the mass of the entire forearm + hand assembly about the elbow fulcrum takes a lot of energy.
- It only seems to work cleanly for neutral pickslanting and upward pickslanting.

Elbow Accents (animation #4) 

You don't have to rule elbow picking completely out of your picking technique, however. I, and many wrist pickers like me, use the elbow to assist with accenting. See the animation below where a loop of four pickstrokes is being played. The wrist is loose and yaws the whole time, but observe how the elbow lifts the forearm up on every other upstroke and then smacks down hard on that first note (ONE...two...three...four...):

- With a loose and yawing wrist, slam the forearm down using the elbow to accent the first pickstroke (ONE...).
- Wrist yaw pick the next two pickstokes. (two...three...)
- With a loose and yawing wrist, raise the forearm up using the elbow to perform the final stoke of four, in preparation for the hard downward forearm accent again (four...).


The sheer speed and tightness you can get with elbow accenting is phenomenal.

Wrist Yaw Picking 6S (animation #5)

This animation demonstrates how to combine wrist yaw picking and string tracking to traverse 6 strings. If done correctly, the hand will feel like it's picking just one string the whole time. In reality, the string is simply changing underneath the picking hand. In a downward pickslant:

- Wrist yaw pick the first 4 strokes (one...two...three...four)
- String track the distance of one string by pivoting at the shoulder and flexing/extending the elbow.
- Wrist yaw pick another 4 strokes (one...two...three...four)
- String track the distance of one string by pivoting at the shoulder and flexing/extending the elbow again.

and so on across the remaining strings.

Elbow Accents 6S (animation #6)

Finally, try combining the elbow accenting mechanic with string tracking across 6 strings. In a downward pickslant again:

- With a loose and yawing wrist, slam the forearm down using the elbow to accent the first pickstroke (ONE...).
- Wrist yaw pick the next two pickstrokes (two...three...)
- With a loose and yawing wrist, raise the forearm up using the elbow to perform the final stoke of four, in preparation for the hard downward forearm accent again (four...).
- String track the distance of one string.

Repeat across the strings.


40 Repeating Patterns

40 Repeating Patterns

Why learn repeating patterns?
- They can fill in space in a jam - buying you time to plan ahead.
You’ll find that once you’ve learned enough of them, they act somewhat like “rest stops” along the fretboard where you can bust out reps until you figure out where you want to go next.

- They are memorable. When used in a song/recording, you can be confident your listeners will remember that part and look forward to it.

- They draw attention and bestow significance to your leadwork. Repetition is not exclusively a poetic writing tool (used purposefully to add emphasis, for example: “very, very good”), it can also be used in music for the same effect.

What's in the ebook PDF?
- A study of what repeating patterns are, how they're used, and why they're useful
- Technical pickslanting instructions and diagrams to make sure you can navigate string crosses
- 1, 2, and 3-string repeating patterns using a variety of techniques in a variety of styles (Blues, Rock, and Metal)
- Repeating Pattern Combos where we mix and join patterns together to create guitar solo sections





Declan McDaid's Picking Approaches

In this article, musician and tutor Declan McDaid shares his picking tips and approaches, including: pick choice, single string picking, and multistring strategies (alternate picking and economy picking). Along with tabs and explanations, this is sure to iron out a few creases in your technique, and get you thinking about how you can make your playing more economical.

Pick Choice

Choosing the right pick, how to hold it, and our picking approach are all factors which greatly affect our ability to pick, but where do we start to get our picking hand to effortlessly nail those licks?

The first factor which must be considered is the type of pick you are using. Ideally a thicker pick (1mm upwards) is what I recommend. We do not want the pick to bend when picking through the string. Any movement in the pick when doing so can lead to inaccuracies due to not having full control of the pick. A pick that has a sharper tip is also highly recommended (look at Dunlop jazz III picks for an example). Such picks allow you to cut through the string a lot easier due to the sharper tip, compared with a more rounded pick, which most people use when they first start playing. You may also benefit from choosing a smaller pick, as these can help limit the amount of plastic travelling across the string when picking.


The next factor to take into account is how to hold a pick. Too many times I’ve seen players hold their pick with their thumb and middle finger, or thumb, index, and middle finger. Although I do believe there is no “correct” way to play guitar, I do think you are doing yourself a disservice if you hold your pick like this. Try holding the pick with just your thumb and index finger (again using a smaller pick will encourage this as you will find it difficult to fit your thumb, index, and middle finger all onto the small surface). Aside from feeling less clumsy, it will also free up the middle finger for other techniques such as tapping or hybrid picking. When holding the pick, try to show as little of it as possible. This will mean picking the string will be easier as there will be less pick traveling through the string. Finally, pick angle must be considered. I recommend angling the pick towards the guitar neck (between 10-30 degrees) to allow you to transition more smoothly from string to string.

Exercise #1: Single string picking

Here is a single string alternate picked E harmonic Minor lick that is a great exercise for working on your single string alternate picking. Practicing quintuplets (5-note groupings) is great for focusing on single string alternate picking. For each pattern you are alternating between starting on a down stroke and an upstroke. If you find while playing this pattern, that you aren’t starting on those pick strokes, then there is an area in you alternate picking that needs investigation. Slow it down until you are confident you are strictly alternate picking.

Exercise #2: Inside picking

This E minor lick will allow you to focus on "inside picking". "Inside picking" is where the pick stays on the inside of the strings when changing strings. Notice how the last pickstroke on the high e string is a downstroke and the first on the b string is an upstroke? I imagine inside picking to be like a wrestler running between the ropes, comparable to how the pick goes between the two strings when changing.  Looking for opportunities to inside pick rather than outside pick (which, conversely, is when the pick plays on the outside of the strings) should help you achieve easier string changes when alternate picking.

Exercise #3: Economy picking 3-note-per-string scales

I generally try to avoid outside picking wherever possible. For 3-note-per-string modal shapes this can be difficult to do because if we are strict alternate picking (when ascending) we end up outside picking crossing every other string, due to the odd note groupings (See tabs below):

Economy picking is the easiest way to circumvent this outside picking dilemma. When traveling from one string to the next, we are going to continue hitting the next string with another downstroke, as we are already travelling in that direction (See tabs below): 

Coming back the other way would look like the following (don't forget to apply this concept to all other modal shapes and positions):

Exercise #4: Economy picked pentatonics

This final exercise/lick (in E minor pentatonic) really helped me hone my economy picking skills. Take this idea and try it though all 5 positions. Notice when descending from the high e string to the B string, I am not economy picking. Considering my picking strategies, it would not make sense to economy pick here as inside picking works just fine for that string change.


It’s clear there are multiple factors which affect your picking. In order to have a great picking hand, I do believe each and every single factor requires intense scrutiny. If we do this to every aspect of our picking, it will all add up. Through these 4 exercises, we have covered: Alternate picking, inside and outside picking, and economy picking. I would recommend against becoming too attached to any one single approach. Every lick needs to be looked at on an individual basis. Some licks simply work better with alternate picking, and some work better with economy picking. Sitting down and thinking about the best approach will save you hours of practice. Practice smarter and always approach any lick in the most efficient way possible. 




40 Developmental Alternate Picking Exercises

40 Developmental Alternate Picking Exercises

You need these exercises
To improve, you need to use focused and targeted exercises to overcome technical hurdles and keep your progress charging forever forward. This couldn't be more true when it comes to one of the most challenging of all lead guitar techniques: alternate picking. Work through these 40 developmental alternate picking exercises to take your picking hand acrobatics to the next level!

What's in the ebook PDF?
- "Picking hand isolations" ("PHIs") to isolate and perfect the picking hand.
- Single string exercises, not only to develop a stable tremolo, but to establish synchronization as well. 
- 2-string exercises to introduce the challenges of multi-string playing.
- 3-string exercises and beyond (up to full 6-string exercises).
- A variety of scales, sequences, hops, skips, and tricky maneuvers to truly ensure your picking hand gets tied up in knots!






Guide to the perfect pickstroke

Here's some advice that I've learned from observing my own practice sessions over the years regarding how to achieve the perfect pickstroke. What do you think of when you imagine the perfect picking technique? Fast picking runs? Small and visually effortless motions? Long tremolos of near-endless and seemingly frictionless stamina? I have three rules to share with you which if followed, will allow you to achieve a pickstroke capable of producing such results.

It doesn't matter which of the two methods you use to generate your pickstrokes:

Nor does it matter which pickslant you happen to be using at any given time:

Instead, the focus of this article is on developing a fast, accurate, reliable, and effortless pickstroke time after time. Every time. Here are the three rules!

1. Use tiny pickstrokes

The larger your pickstrokes' breadth, the less control you will have over how much of the pick contacts the string for each pickstroke. As such, the resistance the pick encounters at the point of contact with the string (pick/string resistance) will be wildy unpredictable. That means that tiny pickstrokes and picking depth are directly related to each other. In addition, large pickstrokes will slow you down as the pick has a greater distance to travel through the air after/before every pickstroke. Attempting to increase speed without reduction in picking breadth results in tension. Tension results in failure. Keep those pickstrokes tiny!

2. Use just the tip of the pick

Only the tip of the pick is needed. The more plastic you have to muscle over a string, the greater the pick/string resistance will be, and the tenser and slower you will be. Beginners tend to use a lot of the pick because they are subconsciously afraid of missing the string altogether. But as you progress you must move away from this. Only use the tip. Don't even think of it as "picking" the strings. Think of it as "tickling" the tops of the strings.

3. Relax

Wait. This isn't just some carelessly spouted nonsense. It's absolutely necessary, I promise! Like my brother Gus the drummer says: "tense muscles are slow muscles". If you are tense, even just a little bit, your muscles will fight each other to some degree. For example: If you are doing a downstroke but your muscles are already tensing up preparing for the upstroke, your downstroke has been tainted by tension - ruined! Relaxation is something that needs to be practiced just like everything else. You must be consciously aware of it.


Combine these tips

Next time you're practicing an exercise or picking pattern, make a point of checking for the above three tips. Consciously ask yourself:

1. Could my pickstrokes be smaller?

2. Could I use less of the pick?

3. Can I relax any further? (without literally dropping the pick and collapsing)


I do this quick tri-check every practice session of every day. I hope it will help you like it has helped me.


Check out my PDF "Lead Guitar Practice Methodology" if you want more hardcore scrutiny like this!



Japanese Scale Picking Patterns

Get exotic with the Japanese Pentatonic scale! Like the standard pentatonic scale, the Japanese pentatonic also has 5 box positions. This lesson also includes diagonal picking patterns to aid your horizontal playing and fretboard vision. This lesson will be in the key of A Japanese Pentatonic.

Box Shape 1
This is the first box shape for the A Japanese Pentatonic scale. You should note that it is actually the exact same scale as the A Natural Minor. The only difference is that the minor thirds and flat sevens have been removed (grey notes).

This means that you can use the A Japanese Pentatonic scale over a standard A minor progression!

So starting on the 5th fret play the black notes up and back down again.

Box Shape 2

Here is the second position. Play this on the second note of the previous position, the 7th fret. The tricky part with this position is the pinky finger roll you have to perform when crossing between the G and B strings.

Box Shape 3

Carry on playing through the box positions. Begin this third shape on the second note of the second shape. Start with your second finger followed by the pinky to make the change to the A string easier.

Box Shape 4

This second-to-last box position is otherwise known as the "In Sen" scale. Starting here on the E, the 12th fret, play this scale instead of E Phrygian for an instant exotic sound.

Box Shape 5

And this is the fifth and final box position for the A Japanese Pentatonic scale. Now let's step it up a notch with some diagonal picking patterns!

Diagonal Picking Pattern 1

Starting back on the root note, the A (5th fret), we take the first two strings of the first box position and repeat the pair diagonally to slice right across three box positions. It's a great way to get around the neck and is an easy pattern to remember.

Diagonal Picking Pattern 2

This next diagonal picking patterns begins where the second box position is. This one is a bit of a wide stretch but the pattern is interesting and covers 11 frets of space. This slices right across and up to the fifth position. And again we have a pattern on a string pair which is repeated and moved up diagonally. Easy to remember.

Diagonal Picking Pattern 3

Here's that "In Sen" scale again. This pattern spans a big 11 frets like the previous and slices up to the top of the second box position of the next octave.

I hope you enjoyed this lesson.
Check out the video below to see and hear the patterns being demonstrated



Alternate Picking Exercises

Alternate picking for the lead guitar is where the picking hand executes alternating pickstrokes to play passages of notes. This down, up, down, up pattern is kept constant no matter what pattern the fretting hand is fingering or how many strings may be involved. This technique, while very tricky to master, can lead to a powerful sound and blistering high speed playing.

But a high level of picking hand accuracy must be established and synchronisation must be developed so that the two hands work together perfectly in time.

Work on these five looping exercises and begin developing your alternate picking technique right now!

Exercise 1: "PHI (Picking Hand Isolation) skipped all strings"
This works purely on the picking hand accuracy. Mute the strings by gently resting your fretting hand fingers across the strings. Rest your picking hand near the bridge and begin picking through the skipped pattern. This may be tricky at first and you may accidently hit the wrong strings as you skip. Slowly work on it until it is clean and you no longer make mistakes.


Exercise 2: "Back n Forth 2-string combination"

This is an absolute favourite of mine. It contains ascending and descending groups of six with parts changing direction. So many useful movements are encountered in this exercise.


Exercise 3: "Nimble Fingers single string sync"

This goes back and forth on one string bouncing between finger pairs to really get your hands synchronised together. Remember to give this a go on other strings too, not just the one string shown here.


Exercise 4: "Fmaj7 fractured 4 finger arpeggio"

Take this one very slowly. It’s an absolute minefield of potential mistakes. But that’s good, because once you get comfortable with it… that means you have improved! This is all string crosses and skips. If you can develop skill with this then most other exercises will seem much easier by comparison.


Exercise 5: "F6 skipped arpeggio"

This outlines an F6 chord. Apart from sounding cool, this forces you to cross to a string, then back, then skip over a string. All one after another. And will further improve your accuracy and string crosses.

Check out the video to see and hear these exercises in action!




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