Alternate Picking, Sweeps and Rakes


#1

I was wondering how sweeps or rakes work with alternate picking. It seems to me that both techniques can add texture and efficiency to how I phrase a string of notes but may in fact change where I was with my down-up–i.e., down on the quarter note and up on the eighth note. Am I counting wrong? Or might there necessarily be a hick-up so to speak at some point in the break such that I have to play two up or down strokes to get back on track? Thanks!


#2

Interesting subject. Seems like anytime I break from strict alternate picking, the potential for getting stuck in reverse alternate picking exists. A single set of triplets often leaves me in this situation. I don’t know of any hard rules for how to get back to regular alternate picking, but personally I try to make the adjustment on the first note after the nonconventional picking section (triplet, sweep, etc) is over.

Recently, I’ve been working on an exercise where I employ alternate picking, but everytime I switch strings, I start with a downstroke. It really takes some focused effort, but I think that’s the kind of pick control most of us are after. Being able to slip in and out of alternate picking at will seems like a valuable skill for a flatpicker.


#3

Thanks. I’m not alone on this. I sat with a jazz guitarist for a couple of lessons recently to push along my ability to improvise in old-time and bluegrass mainly. And he said that beginning with a down stroke every time I move from the bottom up or vice versa is good form. Sounds like down-up is the way to go with the caveat to begin with a down stroke when you move between strings. I wonder though what happens when the first note of the new string is an eighth note. I just want to get this right as a general rule or guide line since practicing bad habits can trip you up.

Joe

How do you post a picture with your posts? I’ve looked and can’t figure it out.


#4

I’m certainly not advocating for beginning with a downstroke each time you switch strings when alternate picking. 95% of the time I use regular alternate picking -downstroke on the downbeat, upstroke on the offbeat.

I’ve just been using the “downstroke everytime I switch strings” exercise to increase my pick control. It’s not something I use in my ordinary playing. To answer your question about the exercise, I start with a downstroke on a new string even if it’s on the offbeat eighth note. That’s what makes it so tricky. It really takes some concentration to pull off. I think it’s probably not a great exercise to work on until you have regular alternate picking grooved since it might make things more confusing at first. I’ve been working on it in an effort to make my switches between non-standard picking and regular alternate picking more seamless.

You can add a picture to your profile by going into “User Control Panel”, then “Profile”, and then “Edit Avatar”. You can upload your picture from there. You just need to size it properly (max 240x240).


#5

Howdy, hope you guys don’t mind me pitching in my two cents, it’s my first time posting here. :slight_smile:

Starting with a downstroke every time you change string is really good for playing jazz. All the gypsy players I know of use it, along with straight ahead jazz players like Joe Pass. It does give a certain texture to your lines that works great for jazz, but not so well for bluegrass. To my ears at least, the lilt you get from alternate picking is more pleasing in bluegrass than the lilt you get from gypsy picking. Still, it’s probably not a bad thing to work on. Gypsy licks can sound really cool when thrown into a bluegrass song.

Now, on the subject of getting back in to standard alternate picking after rakes and sweeps on offbeat eighths. If the downstroke sweep or rake is played on a beat where you would normally play an upstroke, the two most natural ways I’ve found to get back in to regular alternate picking are either:

  1. to do two downstrokes in a row after the upstroke immediately following the sweep or rake, as notated here;

[code] E E E E E E E E W
E||-----------5–0-----------|-------------------||
B||--------5--------3–1--0–|-------------------||
G||-----5--------------------|–2----------------||
D||–7-----------------------|-------------------||
A||--------------------------|-------------------||
E||--------------------------|-------------------||

 D  D  D  D  U  D  D  U     D[/code][code]     E  E  E  E  E  E  E  E     W                  

E||-----3–0--3–1--0--------|-------------------||
B||-----x--------------3–0--|–1----------------||
G||-----x--------------------|-------------------||
D||-----x--------------------|-------------------||
A||-----x--------------------|-------------------||
E||--------------------------|-------------------||

    D  U  D  D  U  D  U     D

[/code]

  1. to do another downstroke on the next sring change that immediately follows a downstroke, as notated here;

[code] E E E E E E E E W
E||-----------5–0-----------|-------------------||
B||--------5--------3–1--0–|-------------------||
G||-----5--------------------|–2----------------||
D||–7-----------------------|-------------------||
A||--------------------------|-------------------||
E||--------------------------|-------------------||

 D  D  D  D  U  D  U  D     D[/code][code]     E  E  E  E  E  E  E  E     W                  

E||-----3–0--3–1--0--------|-------------------||
B||-----x--------------3–0--|–1----------------||
G||-----x--------------------|-------------------||
D||-----x--------------------|-------------------||
A||-----x--------------------|-------------------||
E||--------------------------|-------------------||

    D  U  D  U  D  D  U     D

[/code]

Method 1 is the kind of thing an Irish tenor banjo player might do when playing jigs, where as the method 2 is the kind of thing a gypsy jazz player would do. One of these methods should work for you.

Hope this helps, but if you need further explanation, I could make a video showing you exactly what I mean. :slight_smile:


#6

Welcome to the site, Graegwulf. Good info. Nicely formatted, too. The picking exericise I was describing is from a jazz oriented text so what you’re saying makes sense to me. I was mainly using it to improve my pick control. I am so used to alternate picking that I don’t usually think about it, but to pull off this exercise I have to be constantly aware of my pick direction.


#7

Many thanks to both of you. Though the road ahead is long, my alternate picking is fair to midland at about 100 bpm. And I would agree that beginning with a down pick moving between strings is both a challenge at first and beneficial in that it does seem to lend to greater right hand control of the pick while employing alternate picking, more or less. Really I’ve experienced this from practicing this technique. And thank you Graegwulf for the examples and explanation. I will sit with these and work at them. Also, it is very helpful to hear that to your ear alternate picking has a more fitting “lilt” in bluegrass as I am trying to make sense of all this still.

Joe