Alternate Picking - Two Note Pattern 1
Don't let the simplicity of this alternate picking guitar exercise fool you - this first exercise in my alternate picking basics guitar lesson demonstrates some of the pitfalls that guitarists fall prey to, and will also get you comfortable using all your fretting fingers.
You might be wondering if this exercise is a joke, but I would never joke about alternate picking. That is how serious I am. Developing synchronization with alternate picking is of such importance that I even felt compelled to show you these sorts of basic exercises. Once you get past the simple facade of this exercises you may appreciate how the exercise is designed to not only get you started on the right track with alternate picking, but to also develop dexterity in all your fretting fingers. I don't want you to be one of those guitarists that feels like they can only use one of two fingers (unless you have a good excuse), so this exercise will also have you on your way to building the skills needed to play the advanced exercises on this site and more importantly in your own playing.
Anyway, enough talking - get started!
Looking at the tab for this alternate picking exercise , you see there are just two notes - E, and F on the high E string at frets 12 and 13. As shown, you want to start with a down stroke, followed by an up stroke, and repeat.
Now here is where the pitfall comes in. If this is your first time learning alternate picking and you try and play this as fast as you can, you might convince yourself that you are playing it well, but in all likelihood you are losing synchronization. This is because at high picking speeds we can't always detect a loss of synchronization. So let me show you a simple way to check your synchronization:
You will notice that starting at 12th fret is always a down stroke and 13th always an up stroke. If you play the exercise at a tempo that you are not ready for, then you will find that every now and then you are losing sync, playing down strokes on the 13th fret, up strokes on the 12th fret. So just play the pattern in bursts then see if you are back on a down stroke. For instance, play 12-13-12-13-12-13-12-13-12-13-12-13-12. When you get to the final note (the E on 12th fret) are you always 'landing' on a down stroke? If you do checks like these and repeat enough times, and find that you are always landing back on a down stroke at the 12th fret, then you are in sync! If you had poor synchronization then this check would reveal it because in all likelihood on some of the repeats of the sync check you would be landing on the 12th fret with an up stroke.
Apart from synchronization, you should also focus on the various fingerings that I show in the tab. This is by design - by practicing this way, you will get your fingers ready for the more advanced alternate picking, guitar scales, and other guitar lessons. Of course, feel free to mix things up, by playing this exercise in various positions and on various strings. Variation is key on the guitar, so the more variety you add to your practice regimen, the bigger the pay off!
Criteria for Mastery: You can play the exercise at high tempos without losing synchronization between your hands