Adjacent Picking vs. Alternate Picking

I’ve always been an alternate picker (alternating up and down strokes for every note) as far back as I can remember. I like the power and tone of the pick on the strings, and I especially like the dynamics of being able to dig in when needed. Adjacent pickers believe in the economy of using a down stroke when moving to the next highest string, and I can see their point. It does make sense when playing extremely fast. But I have 2 reasons for sticking with alternate picking:

1. The adjacent pickers always seem to use alternate picking when descending. So why not use alternate all the time?

2. I’m convinced that there will be times when the picking technique will dictate the choice of notes. An example would be: It feels good to use a down stroke at this particular instant to keep the flow going; therefore I’ll go to the next string.

My theory is this: Any technique that predisposes a melodic choice is actually a hindrance to making music. Alternate picking stays constant no matter which string you use; therefore it’s a more musical choice. There are exceptions, like the way the Gypsy Jazz guys use adjacent picking and it becomes part of the ornamentation of the style.

I have a few lines that require adjacent picking for speed and smoothness, so occasionally I’ll practice those lines using the technique. But as a general rule, I’m an advocate of alternate picking.

By Carl Verheyen

©2010 Carl Verheyen. All Rights Reserved.

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~ by CarlVerheyen on December 30, 2010.

4 Responses to “Adjacent Picking vs. Alternate Picking”

  1. Very cool info Carl.

    Keep up the smokin’ chops, tunes and ear candy!
    Chris Nashvillerocker DiMella

  2. Carl,

    When I was 13 I started with Frank G’s. method of picking. Since, I was so young, it just became part of my right hand. However, with descending, I use standard alternate picking?? I concur with your thoughts- but how can I ‘fix’ it?

    Great post and insight!

  3. Plus it is so much simpler to remember! You can spend hours analyzing ,memorizing,and studying adjacent picking,sweep picking,speed picking etc.when
    all you to know is to alternate! Profound simplicity.

  4. With varying styles, rhythm or line playing mostly it is something in between rather than just one particular picking style. For Carl, playing many lines in his songs alternate picking might overweight other picking styles. Mostly I see Carl using his fingers for picking too. So, finally, his not a pure alternate picker.

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