Alternate Picking - Three Note Patterns Across Strings

Guitar Lesson

Hard
51

In this guitar lesson, you will start the very important journey of becoming proficient at alternate picking across strings, which is the most challenging aspect of alternate picking.
Guitar Lesson Objectives:
  1. Learn common three-note-per-string patterns across two strings
  2. Develop speed and accuracy alternate picking across strings
  3. Develop muscle memory in your fretting hand of three-note-per-string patterns across strings
  4. Apply the lesson material in a practical, musical example
Ok, got it - just take me to the exercises for this lesson!

In the previous guitar lessons Absolute Basics and Three Note Patterns I started you off in the land of alternate picking by having you play some simple exercises meant to build your speed, accuracy, and dexterity. At the same time, the exercises were also designed to build your fretting hand's muscle memory so that your fingers become naturally accustomed to the sorts of patterns that you will encounter in your playing. Most exercises just had you playing patterns on one string, though the final exercises in each guitar ventured into some more difficult territory to give you a preview of alternate picking across strings.

The next step in your journey is to solidify your ability to alternate picking across strings. You got a taste of this in the final exercise from the Three Note Patterns guitar lesson. Now we are going to go more in depth, by showing you the most common three note patterns across two strings. The beauty of this is that once you master these patterns, you will have the skills to play just about anything on the guitar. You see, regardless of whether you are playing across 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 strings (ok, I guess some guitarists are now playing 8 string guitars) one you are proficient playing across two strings, you already have the foundation to tear it up across any number of strings. Well, almost - alternate picking across non-adjacent strings is a different ballgame - but I will cover that in a future guitar lesson as well!

If you mastered the exercises from the previous guitar lesson, you will find that the only challenge in this lesson is performing the string change. So in performing the exercises, 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, and so by mastering these exercises, you will have actually mastered the single hardest part about alternate picking! This is why it is so important to aim for precise execution of these exercises. Do not increase tempo until you are playing accurately and in sync.

You will also note in the exercises that I show two ways to rhythmically play the exercises - one way using eighth notes and another way using 5 note 16th note groupings. Since a lot of people are using my guitar lessons to build their speed, it comes in handy to practice exercises in a way that lends itself to building speed. So once you get to the point where you are ready to take it up a notch, set your metronome to a comfortable tempo and play 5 notes a beat. Once you are playing 5 notes a beat at tempos greater than 140 than you can consider yourself as having mastered the exercises.


The idea behind this lesson is to consider three note patterns across two strings that come about in diatonic scales. This requires us to start on each note of a Major scale, and count 6 consecutive notes, and see how these notes end up being arranged on the fretboard. For example, let's consider G Major, which has the notes G, A, B, C, D, E, F#. Let's start down at the 3rd fret, B string, which is a D. If we start from D and build each 6 note pattern across two strings, we see the patterns shown in the fretboard diagram above.

What we find, is that there are 6 unique patterns (which we will focus on in this guitar lesson), because the pattern starting from D is same as the one starting from G (which incidentally is the result of the similarity between the Major (Ionian) and Mixolydian mode of a given key). This realization can go a long way in developing your visualization of the fretboard. This coupled with my scale guitar lessons will develop in you a great degree of freedom to effortlessly navigate the fretboard!

All the exercises in this guitar lesson will be in the key of G Major which has the added benefit of reinforcing a key and its scales in your mind. My scales and modes lesson will go far deeper into this topic, but at least for now you will have a head start, and your ears will already start becoming adapted to the special sounds of scales and modes!


Exercises in this Alternate Picking Guitar Lesson

Alternate Picking - Three Notes Across Strings, Pattern 1

Hard
67

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

Alternate Picking - Three Notes Across Strings, Pattern 2

Hard
15

In this exercise, we continue having you play yet another three note pattern across 2 strings with alternate picking.

Alternate Picking - Three Notes Across Strings, Pattern 3

Hard
9

In this exercise, we continue our three note across two strings alternate picking studies.

Alternate Picking - Three Notes Across Strings, Pattern 4

Hard
11

In this exercise, we continue having you play another three note pattern across 2 strings with alternate picking.

Alternate Picking - Three Notes Across Strings, Pattern 5

Hard
8

In this alternate picking exercise, we move forward with three note patterns across 2 strings.

Alternate Picking - Three Notes Across Strings, Pattern 6

Hard
14

In this alternate picking exercise, we come to the last of three note patterns across 2 strings.

Alternate Picking - Al DiMeola, Paco de Lucia Example

Hard
21

In this exercise, we wrap up the three notes across strings guitar lesson with a great real world example of the concepts you learned.