Alternate Picking - Three Notes Across Strings, Pattern 1

In this exercise, we start getting into some serious territory by having you play a three note pattern across 2 strings with alternate picking.

This alternate picking exercise starts getting you into some pretty serious territory. In my guitar lesson Alternate Picking - Three Note Patterns I introduced you to three note patterns on one string. In line with my building block approach, this exercise takes you to the next logical step, by having you play three note patterns across two strings. 

Alternate Picking - Three Notes Across Strings, Pattern 1 fretboard diagram

As with all my guitar lessons, I always try and relate an exercise to something meaningful. You will never see any of those silly 1-2-3-4 exercises (you know the ones?) on my site. And if you do, it is because someone hacked the site. I want you to build your technique to formidable levels, and I also want you to be equally formidable with your mastery of the fretboard. So as you practice this pattern, take note of how it offers nearly endless possibilities for melodic phrasing. In the theory section below, I relate the pattern to the Natural Minor Scale which plays a crucial role in melody and harmony. So by mastering this pattern your fingers will already have a head start for automatically knowing how to get into a minor mode (no pun intended, though it is a good pun).

Criteria for Mastery: Playing Ex. B, 5 notes a beat, accurately, in good time, at 140 BPM or more

Alternate Picking - Three Notes Across Strings, Pattern 1 Guitar Pro tablature
Download Guitar Pro file

Note: To download and view exercise tab you need Guitar Pro

Guitar Pro: the best tablature editor software

Guitar Lesson Exercise Performance Tips

Performance Tips

If you mastered the exercises from the previous guitar lesson, you will find that the only challenge in this exercise is performing the string change. So in performing this exercise, pay close attention to the places where you will be changing from B to E string then back from E to B. Switching strings is the hardest part about alternate picking, so paying attention to accuracy here will go a long way to unleashing your alternate picking skills!

Note in the tab that I show two ways to play this exercise in terms of rhythm. When starting out, I recommend eighth notes, but because a lot of people using these guitar lessons are aiming to build impressive speed, I thought I would notate the exercise a second way. So Ex. B with its 5 note groupings will be more convenient for keeping time at faster tempos when practicing this. As you can see, the 5 note grouping conveniently fits the exercise across two beats.

As always, focus on clean execution - if I find out you are playing sloppy I will ban you from the site!

Criteria for Mastery: You can play the exercise accurately as 5 notes a beat at 120 BPM or faster


It is worth pointing out that this pattern is the same as the first 6 notes of the Natural Minor Scale.  A natural minor scale can also also be viewed as the so-called Aeolian mode of the corresponding Major Scale, being the 6th mode of the Major Scale. A Natural Minor Scale is defined by the formula W, H, W, W, H, W, W, where W and H stand for Whole and Half Steps. The formula tells us what steps to make from the first note. Applying the formula to E, we would get the notes E, F#, G, A, B, C, D, E. In the case with this exercise, the notes are E, F#, G, A, B, C - the first 6 notes of the scale.

If you were to slide up one more note at the end of the pattern - from the C up a whole step to the D, then you would have a complete E Minor scale. Having this shape imprinted in your mind's eye, and knowing how to extend it by one note to form the complete scale, will do wonders for your mastery of scales and modes across the fretboard - trust me!