Alternate Picking - Four Note Patterns

Guitar Lesson


In this alternate picking guitar lesson, we enter some dangerous territory by introducing you to 4 note patterns using all fingers. Not many guitarists develop their ability to put all fingers to use, so this guitar lesson will have you moving your finger
Guitar Lesson Objectives:
  1. Develop dexterity of all fret hand fingers
  2. Develop fret hand finger independence
  3. Apply the lesson concepts to the playing of scales and modes
Ok, got it - just take me to the exercises for this lesson!

In my guitar lesson Alternate Picking - Three Note Patterns I started you down the very important path of developing dexterity and independence of your fret hand fingers. I did this by showing you the unique, three consecutive note patterns that come up in diatonic scales, where you spent considerable time practicing dexterity-building exercises. In addition the exercises reinforced common shapes on the guitar which will help develop your lead playing skills. In the previous guitar lesson you were using all four fret hand fingers, but not at once. Now we are going to turn up the gas and really start cooking!

I am not sure why guitarists tend to use only three fingers on their picking hand. And how often do you hear a guitarist defend a habit - be it about technique, theory, etc - by referring to some known guitarist with a similar habit. "So and so only uses the first three fingers." "So and so doesn't know music theory." "So and so doesn't know scales and modes." Who cares about so and so. This journey is about you, and you are aiming to go beyond so and so - having the ability to proficiently use all fret hand fingers can only make you a better guitarist.

A lot of my exercises are based on building skills through repetition, so that the skill will become ingrained at an unconscious level, as well as ingrained into your muscle memory. When this happens, you suddenly find your fingers doing things you didn't expect. You transform as a guitarist when pushing yourself to develop a hard earned skill. I am giving you this prep talk because I know many of you will find the exercises in this guitar lesson frustrating, especially when trying to play at fast tempos. But just have trust in knowing that your perseverance will pay off!

Similar to how we looked at the three note patterns, let's take a similar approach with four note patterns. We will use G Major again, and start from G, giving us G, A, B, C. So on for each note. The below fretboard diagram shows the various patterns that come about when we start on each note of the G Major Scale.


From this diagram, we see that there are only four unique four consecutive note patterns. Do you see that? Notice how starting from G and D are the same, from A and E are the same, and from B and F # are the same. In terms of scales and modes, when considering the first four notes, Major (Ionian) has same pattern as Mixolydian, Dorian has same pattern as Minor (Aeolian), and Phrygian has same pattern as Locrian. The Lydian mode (4th mode of a Major Scale, which in G Major is C Lydian) is the only one whose first four notes are unique. Looking at the fretboard in this way will help you visualize how to launch into scales and modes from nearly any point on the fretboard - allowing you to really take your lead playing to a new level.

So hopefully you already mastered the three note pattern lesson and are ready to move on to some exciting territory by mastering these four four note patterns - let's get started!

Note: Due to the fact that four note patterns require considerable stretching, I start each of the exercises in this guitar lesson from the 12th fret. I say that because whereas in my Alternate Picking - Three Note Patterns all the exercises were in one key, this time around we are taking a different approach.

Exercises in this Alternate Picking Guitar Lesson

Alternate Picking - Four Note Pattern 1


In this alternate picking exercise, you will start the journey of using all four fret hand fingers in playing the most common four note patterns that you will come across.

Alternate Picking - Four Note Pattern 2


In this exercise, you will continue your alternate picking studies of four note patterns, further unlocking your fingers on the fretboard!

Alternate Picking - Four Note Pattern 3


In this alternate picking guitar exercise, we look at yet another common four consecutive note pattern which will continue conditioning your fret hand fingers for the technical mastery that you are seeking!

Alternate Picking - Four Note Pattern 4


Here we have the final consecutive four note pattern in this alternate picking guitar lesson - this one is the toughest, so get ready to teach your fingers to behave like they haven't before!

Alternate Picking - Getting all the Fingers on the Fretboard!


Now that you have practiced alternate picking various four note patterns, in this exercise you will see how the guitar lesson material can be applied in a musical context.