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:


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!






The truth about "elbow picking"

"Picking from the elbow", "elbow picking", and "arm picking" are some terms for what is considered by most lead guitar players to be taboo when it comes to picking technique.
So why do so many beginners automatically start picking from the elbow when they attempt to increase their picking speed? Simply put, the brain and body work together to find the easiest and quickest way to produce results. Usually this is fantastic! But unfortunately in this case, elbow picking turns out to be the quickest and fastest way for a beginner to start tremolo picking. They get results and the bad habit is reinforced. This article will explain why you should avoid locked wrist elbow picking, but then surprisingly it will explore how a combination of wrist and elbow is actually a very synergistic method.

The motions

On the left you can observe what I refer to as "side-to-side wrist" picking in my popular ebook PDF "Lead Guitar Practice Methodology", and on the right you can see how "elbow picking" works. When pivoting from the wrist, the side-to-side motion is very precise, efficient, and easy to do. Very little mass is being thrown about the fulcrum (wrist).
Compare this with pivoting from the elbow, where the entire mass of the forearm has to rapidly move about the fulcrum.

The case against strict elbow picking

Locking the wrist and pivoting purely from the elbow is a disaster for many reasons:

First, elbow picking genuinely risks tendon injury later in life.
One could assert "[insert guitarist here] picks from the elbow and he/she has never had an injury!"
In response one could argue that "[insert person here] drank and smoked all their life and lived to 100!"
Individual exceptions can and will occur, but on the whole, elbow pickers are putting themselves at risk.

Secondly, it breeds tension and is pure overkill. Why? Because firing large muscles in order to move an entire forelimb back and forth is wasted energy. It actually takes very little force to pick a note. Using the arm to pick is overkill, akin to attempting to sign your name on a document using a house painting brush.

Third of all, elbow picking lacks the precision of the wrist.
One could argue "[insert guitarst here] picks super fast and with complexity!"
I have seen these guitarists' picking hands up close in slow motion and I can tell you that they aren't as clean as you'd think. Strings are often sloppily clipped by the pick as it travels over during string crosses - something I make a huge effort to avoid for the sake of purity. The challenges of pickslanting are very troublesome when approached with a locked wrist and pivoting elbow.

The secret synergy

Although I fervently try to stick to pure "side-to-side wrist" picking for the sake of purity and "good form", continuing to elbow pick but also freeing up the wrist creates a synergistic relationship which many famous players use with great success to shred like mad! Have you ever noticed how players like John Petrucci play with the wrist up to a certain speed, and then inject elbow motion to take it to the next level? Let's take a look:

The wrist is freely picking side-to-side, but now the elbow picking creeps in, too. They both work together to execute the pickstokes. The reason these motions complement each other in such a way is because both "side-to-side wrist" picking and "elbow picking" operate along the same axis. They both move the pick along the same line through space. Energy provided from one fulcrum feeds the other, and vice versa. Rest your arm on a table and pivot at the elbow. You will notice that if the wrist is relaxed, it will pivot passively in response. That's evidence of this wrist and elbow synergy.

In summary

Don't pick purely from the elbow with a locked wrist. I recommend you use the "side-to-side wrist" picking method outlined in my ebook PDF "Lead Guitar Practice Methodology" as default. I can pick with pure wrist at about 240bpm 16th notes. Which in all fairness is about the fastest I've ever needed to play. With elbow assist I can get up to 280 - 300bpm. Because of the strength of the muscles involved, you will always play fastest with an elbow pivot assist. This is just a fact. Nevertheless I must urge you to resist the temptation for as long as possible.

Purchase and download my ebook PDF right now for just $15USD! Check out the trailer and description in this promo video to see if it's for you:



Diminished Scale Picking Patterns

The diminished scale is another very interesting scale. It's a neverending repeating pattern of whole tone, half tone, whole tone, half tone etc. For this reason there are only two main scale positions, as opposed to the 5 positions of the pentatonic scale or the 7 positions of the major scale. It also sounds terrifying in a heavy metal solo and is great for working all 4 fretting fingers as you will see. I will now take you through the 2 main scale positions, and then I will show you 3 of my favorite diagonal shapes.

Whole-Half Diminished Scale

Starting on the 7th fret, try out the Whole-Half diminished scale. It's called this because from the root note, in this case B, we play a whole step ahead (2 frets) followed by a half step (1 fret) after that. This pattern repeats endlessly.

Half-Whole Diminished Scale

This is the second position and therefore starts on the second note of the first scale shape, the C#. This is the same idea as before but flipped around so that we begin with the root note, followed by a half step, followed by a whole step, and so on.

Whole-Half Diagonal

Because of the repetitive nature of the diminished scale, you can arrange your fingerings into really interesting diagonal shapes like this. This one is exclusively the "Whole-Half" fingering.

Half-Whole Diagonal

This one is exactly the same as before except instead of using the "Whole-Half" fingering on the B (7th fret), we will be using the "Half-Whole" fingering on the C# (9th fret)

Wide 2-nps Custom Diagonal

Here is a custom, wide, diagonal position which is a favorite of mine. It begins on the B (7th fret), skips the whole step and the half step to land on the fourth note. I then shift this pattern up and across diagonally. Wow what a sound!

Be sure to bust out these evil scales next time you encounter a heavy open E riffing breakdown!
Check out the video lesson below for the playthrough



Min7 Alternate Picking Patterns

Last time I showed you how a Cmaj7 arpeggio could be arranged into useful picking patterns. Now, staying in the key of C major/A minor, we will be moving on to the Amin7 arpeggio. The notes and intervals contained in the following two picking shapes make up the arpeggio:

A, C, E & G.
R, m3, 5th & b7

A root, minor 3rd, 5th and flat 7 makes up a minor 7 chord/arpeggio.

Shape 1:

Shape 2:

Here's a bonus - because Dmin7 and Emin7 chords are both in the key of C major/A minor, you can play the exact same patterns for those arpeggios as well. This fact makes the arpeggio picking shapes extra useful.

Here is a descending run which I created by blending the Dmin7 and the Emin7 shapes together:

To hear these shapes in action (+ some bonus music theory) check out the video I made for this lesson:

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