Alternate PickingFast Guitar Picking

Alternate picking is the way you pick single notes on a guitar most of the time. Mainly this is for speed and to set yourself up for the next note.

A lot of the time in this style picking the up beat and stroke of the pick is an eighth note. Using a metronome will tighten up your timing.

A good way to start training your picking hand is to use some slow simple picking, you don’t even have to finger any notes.

Just start playing a note with an down up motion in time with the metronome. Play in time and don’t worry about speed that will come with accuracy.

Here is a link that will take you to my metronome page where you can find some tips on how to use one.

How to Use Metronomes

The Down Stroke
Alternate Picking

  • Make sure you are holding the pick right. The tip should extend past your thumb and index finger about a quarter of an inch(a little less than the thickness of a CD case).
  • The pick tip should extend past the string but your thumb or index finger should not touch the string. (Don’t allow to much pick to stick out past your thumb either)
  • The pick should be Parallel with the strings. (The tip should be pointing straight in not aimed down or up.)
  • The action should come from your “arm” and not your wrist.
  • Don’t twist your wrist to play the note, move your arm from the elbow. (This may seem awkward or stiff but it will feel natural after some practice.)
  • You “will” see your wrist move some(this is natural) but the main action should come from the forearm.
  • When you pick a guitar string you should push through the string and not strike it like a piano key.

Here is a link for holding a pick. To some of you this may sound stupid but it can help your playing when you get into more advanced things.

How to Hold a Pick

Single Notes – Alternate Picking

The first way you should learn is to play one string and stop in between the string you played and the one below it.

Practice this until you can control the pick from hitting the string below it.

It may be simple for some of you but not for others. There will be some aspects of guitar playing that will be easy for some and hard for others, this is normal and doesn’t mean you can’t learn guitar. Not everyone learns at the same rate.

The Up Stroke
Alternate Picking

Every thing you do for the down stroke applies to the upstroke but in reverse. The upstroke may feel a little awkward at first but it will become 2nd nature after a bit of practice. Here you want to pay attention to the grip you have on the pick because this is when you will most likely drop it in the beginning.

Concentrate on every little move until you start to do it automatically and check yourself every now and then. It’s easy to develop bad form by being lazy that will affect your playing.

If you can watch yourself in a mirror or better video yourself. Video is better because you don’t have to watch until you review the video. Just like the Pro Football players do on Monday after the Sunday game to see what they did wrong.

String Energy
Alternate Picking

A neat thing happens when you play a string. As you pass through the string it gives energy to your pick movement. This extra juice you will put to use to propel you to other strings and notes.

It’s the rebound force of the string although I don’t know what it’s called in Physics’ terms. It may be inertia, an object in motion tends to stay in motion, I think that’s what inertia is.

We can redirect this energy to our advantage for alternate picking.

This is why in the beginning stopping in between strings with out hitting the other one may be a challenge for some.

A little practice will get this straightened out. Your just stopping motion but in very short distances.

Practice Bar – Alternate Picking

Practice stopping in between strings on the first measure with down strokes and then practice your alternate picking on the 2nd measure.

Practice Bar Audio



Windows Media

Alternating your picking with up and down strokes

Muscle tension will occur when you play guitar. You must pay attention to this tension and relax your muscles until you do it without thinking about it.

Tension will cause mistakes and make your muscles get tired faster. The main thing about muscle tension is being aware of it so you can do something about it.

Your tension can be anywhere it doesn’t have to be in your arm, your shoulders or stomach is a good place like getting butterflies before a performance. Check your whole body and relax. Take a few long slow deep breaths.

As you play you create muscle tension just by doing it. It’s just like exercising but you’re using your arms and fingers.

There will be times in the music where you can relax your muscles. Play a different version of a chord, this changes the muscles you are using.

The more attention you give to this tension now will help your playing later. It’s like muscle memory except you are conditioning your mind and body to react to what you trained it to do. Mind Control.

String Skipping
Alternate Picking

After you can play some eighth notes like in the example above your ready to expand to other strings that aren’t next to the one your playing.

This is where alternating come in handy for speed. This is also useful for playing a picking pattern in a chord much like fingerpicking.

String Skipping Practice List

The following list should be practiced until you can go from any string to any other string without delay.

If you practice these moves slowly and watch your hand and pick to make sure you don’t hit other strings you will have half the battle of playing guitar won.

6 is the top heavy E string

6 to 5

6 to 4

6 to 3

6 to 2

6 to 1

5 to 6

5 to 4

5 to 3

5 to 2

5 to 1

4 to 6

4 to 5

4 to 3

4 to 2

4 to 1

3 to 6

3 to 5

3 to 4

3 to 2

3 to 1

2 to 6

2 to 5

2 to 4

2 to 3

2 to 1

1 to 6

1 to 5

1 to 4

1 to 3

1 to 2

Practice playing these the following ways

Down Stroke – Down Stroke

Down Stroke – Up Stroke – Alternate – Down Start

Up Stroke – Down Stroke – Alternate – Up Start

Up Stroke – Up Stroke

Some won’t be practical for regular playing but good for picking practice.

After you get comfortable with these try playing them with different chords you know and combine two or more together to make a pattern.


How to Make Guitar Chords

Discover how to make guitar chords. These formulas can be used for any major scale. All you need to do is match up the numbers with the notes. Make your own chords.

Not all chords come from the major scale. The minor scales contribute too. You don’t have to remember where they all come from this is just a way of organizing them.

The guitar can be a very versatile instrument when it comes to chords. We can create chords like no other instrument can without getting into electronics.

These formulas come in handy when trying to play a chord in a different place or open tunings.

Major Scale – The Tool

We will use the major scale as the chord building tool. The notes may match up with a major scale and it may not. We are using it as a tool for making chords and has nothing to do with the scales.

Below is a list with numbers that match up with the C scale. You will see numbers in many chord names.

3 notes have two names 2 and 9, 4 and 11, 6 and 13. These notes are the same only one octave apart. It doesn’t matter which octave you use most of the time.

There is a list of major scales at the bottom of this page that you can use for different chord names. For a D chord type you will follow that line to get your notes.

Some notes may be flatted or sharped from the notes you see just change them accordingly.
















Major Chords
How to Make Guitar Chords

Major – 1 3 5

add9 – 1 3 5 9

6th – 1 3 5 6

6/9 – 1 3 5 6 9

Ma7 – 1 3 5 7

ma9 – 1 3 5 7 9

ma7/6 – 1 3 5 6 7

ma13 – 1 3 5 7 9 13

Minor Chords
How to Make Guitar Chords

m – 1 3♭ 5

m add9 – 1 3♭ 5 9

m6 – 1 3♭ 5 6

m9 – 1 3♭ 5 7♭ 9

m6/9 – 1 3♭ 5 6 9

m11 – 1 3♭ 5 7♭ 9 11

m7 – 1 3♭ 5 7♭

m13 – 1 3♭ 5 7♭ 9 11 13

m7/11 – 1 3♭ 5 7♭ 11

mMa7 – 1 3♭ 5 7

m7♭5 – 1 3♭ 5♭ 7♭

m9Ma7 – 1 3♭ 5 7 9

Augmented 5th Chords
How to Make Guitar Chords

An Augmented chord is a chord with a raised 5th. It is written like Caug or C+. The + sign is also used to indicate another note is to be raised like a E7+9. This chord doesn’t have a raised 5th the 9th is raised. If there is no note after the + you raise the 5th 1/2 tone or one fret.

Any major or dominant chord can have a raised 5th. Minor chords don’t get a raised 5th because it makes them a major chord. If you raised the 5th of Am A C E to A C F it would be an F chord.

Diminished Chords
How to Make Guitar Chords

A diminished chord is a chord with a lowered 3rd and 5th. It is written like Cdim or C°. This sign doesn’t get used like the + you will only see this on a diminished or diminished 7th chord.

You will notice 2 flats after the 7 in the diminished 7th chord. This is how it’s made. The 7th gets lowered a whole tone. It’s actually a 6th.

Suspended Chords
How to Make Guitar Chords

sus2 – 1 2 5

sus4/9 – 1 4 5 9

sus2/6 – 1 2 5 6

sus4/6 – 1 4 5 6

sus4 – 1 4 5

sus4/9 – 1 4 5 9

sus4/6 – 1 4 5 6

7sus4/6 – 1 4 5 6 7♭

7sus2 – 1 2 5 7♭

13sus4 – 1 4 5 7♭ 9 13

Dominant Chords
How to Make Guitar Chords

These chords are built from the 5th note of the major and minor scales. They all have a flatted 7th.

7 – 1 3 5 7♭

9 – 1 3 5 7♭ 9

7/6 – 1 3 5 6 7♭

11 – 1 3 5 7♭ 9 11

7/11 – 1 3 5 7♭ 11

13 – 1 3 5 7♭ 9 13

Altered Chords
How to Make Guitar Chords

Altered chords are chords that have altered 5, 9th or 11th notes in them. There is one chord where the 13 gets lowered but this is the same as raising the 5th.

The 5th can be raised, lowered or both in the same chord.

The 9th can be raised or lowered. You usually only see one of these changes in this type of altered chord.

The 11th can only be raised. If it was lowered it would be a major 3rd. The raised 11th is the same as a lowered 5th. They are both the same note.

Octaves and Chord Building

In chord construction octaves don’t matter as far as the effect of the note on the chord. An 11 and 4 both give the suspended sound. The same is true of the 2 and 9 and the 6 and 13.

♭5 – 1 3 5♭

7♭9 – 1 3 5 ♭7 ♭9

7♭5 – 1 3 5♭ 7♭

7♯9 – 1 3 5 ♭7 ♯9

7♯5 – 1 3 5♯ 7♭

7+11 – 1 3 5 ♭7 ♯11

7♭5♯5 – 1 3 ♭5 ♯5 7♭

9+11 – 1 3 5 ♭7 9 ♯11

+7♭9 – 1 3 ♯5 ♭7 ♭9

+7♭9 – 1 3 ♯5 ♭7 ♯9

9♭5 – 1 3 ♭5 7♭ 9

9♭13 – 1 3 5 ♭7 9 ♭13

Key and Chord Notes

Guitar Fretboard

If you need to learn the guitar fretboard better to use this info go to my fretboard page below. You can learn where these notes are and there is a link to some very good software for making it easy to learn the guitar notes.

Guitar Fretboard

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E Flat Minor Scales

E flat minor scales are related to the G flat major scale. This is a hard key to read music in if you aren’t a good reader. It has 6 out of 7 notes flatted.

The sharp version isn’t much easier to read, D sharp is equal to this scale in pitch but written different. This has 6 out of 7 notes sharpened.

Flatting the 3rd of the E flat major scale results in an E flat melodic minor scale.

Chords in the E Flat Melodic Minor Scale

E Flat Harmonic Minor Scale

This is written in the G flat key that’s why you see the natural sign next to notes. This symbol is called a natural and changes the note from what it calls for in the key signature.

Lower the 3rd and 6th note of any major scale to make it a harmonic scale

I hope you found this page useful.


Major 7th ChordsA Must Know Chord

The major 7th chords are a very smooth sounding. They are also very easy to make from the major scale. You are only adding one note to a major chord.

Two Chords in One

This chord is actually a combination of a major chord and a minor chord.

The C maj7 chord notes are C-E-G-B

The C major chord notes are C-E-G

The E minor chord notes are E-G-B

This applies to all major chords. If you make a minor chord(Minor 3rd + Major 3rd) from the 3rd of a major chord and add it to the major you will have a major 7th chord.

There are two notes which are common in both chords. If you didn’t understand the major and minor 3rds check out these pages to learn about them.

Music Intervals
Major Scale Primer.

Major 7th Chords
Where Do They Come From?

Two scales you can find these chords in is the major scale and the Harmonic minor scale.

Every major scale has two major 7th chords in it built on the 1st and 4th notes.

The Harmonic minor has one built on the 6th note.

Major Scale – maj7th Chords


I Chord


IV Chord

























































The G♭ma7 is the same as the F♯ma7 chord but written different.

The same is true of the C♭ma7 and the Bma7

Major 7th Chord Diagrams

1st Position Forms

The above chords are movable like the ones below. You just have to move them up or down the neck and keep track of the root.

The Cma7 chord root is on the 5th string.

The Dma7 chord root is on the 4th string.

The Fma7 chord root is on the 4th string.

The Gma7 chord root is on the 3rd string.

Movable Maj 7th Chord Forms

The circles with the R in them stands for the root of the chords so you can keep track of what chord you’re playing

Major 7th
Harmonic Minor Scale

Major 7th – Different Symbols

You will see this chord written as Cma7, Cmaj7, CMa7, or CMaj7. They all mean the same thing.

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Symmetrical ScalesEasy to Learn Mentally

Symmetrical scales are fairly easy to learn in your head but not always that easy to play. They usually require you to shift positions to reach all the notes

Learning them will help you learn the guitar neck better and get you changing positions

This movement makes remembering a pattern harder than it has been for the other scales

Chromatic Scale

This scale is 12 notes long and contains every note in one octave

This scale doesn’t come from any other scale like the pentatonic scales come from the major scale it’s just all the notes in an octave.

It usually doesn’t get played using all 12 notes but 5 or 6 notes is common. Paul McCartney uses this scale in quite a few of his song

It gives you a way different way to get from point A to point B or G to C you would use the notes G♯ A A♯ B then C.

The timing can vary. You can also use single notes full chords or part of a chord. Experiment with a G to C chord change and see if you can fit the notes or chords in there

Here is a page with a little more detail.

Chromatic Scale

Whole Tone Scale

This scale is made up of all whole tones or steps, two frets for the guitar.

It’s actually half of the chromatic scale above, only 6 notes long.

Here is a page with a little more detail.

Whole Tone Scale

Diminished Scales

The diminished scale is a combination of the chromatic scale and the whole tone scale.

This scale goes whole tone half tone or two frets then one fret.

It’s good for improvising over altered dominant chords and has some other uses.

Diminished Scale

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Tremolo Picking

I think of tremolo picking as a bumble bee or Hummingbird wings. It’s actually just a fast version of alternate picking. It seems you stay on one note or chord longer but it’s just faster picking.

Al Dimeola is a master of this technique plus many other techniques on guitar.

The Practice Song

There is a song called The Flight of the Bumble Bee written in 1890 by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov which has been used for years as a test of a musician’s playing ability.

This piece can be used for any instrument Piano, Trumpet, Guitar, Violin even the Human Voice.

This style is used a lot in Classical guitar music where a couple notes are played in a tremolo style in the background with your ring and middle fingers while you play a melody using your thumb and index fingers or vice versa. This can take years to perfect for a Classical guitarist.

It doesn’t take that long for other styles where you use a pick or only two fingers.

Here are links so you can hear this song and get the sheet music.

The Flight of the BumbleBee – mp3

Flight of the Bumblebee – Tab

(Opens New Window)

Pop Songs with Tremolo Picking

The song above is for practice and to show off your musical skills but here are some popular songs that use this technique in them.

Dirty Pool by Stevie Ray Vaughan is a very good example of this technique using more than one note.

Another one is Bob Dylan’s song All Along the Watch Tower done by Jimi Hendrix. He uses this technique all through this song in short bursts in his leads.

You will hear most guitar players use this technique in short bursts most of the time unless it’s being used as a back-up like the SRV song above.

Tremolo Practice

The best way to get this technique down is to use eighth notes with alternate picking.

Practice slowly using one note with a metronome until you can maintain a speed without messing up.

After that point you can increase the speed and repeat the same process.

After you reach a point where you feel comfortable with this technique expand your playing to two notes and so on.

Practice Check Points

Your notes must be even and clear. Use a Metronome to work you up to speed and keep your timing good.

Don’t use any magic boxes or reverb when you practice this technique. This should apply to all practice. You want to hear the guitar notes as straight sound. This is what you want to sound good before you send it through any sound altering device.

Those notes might sound boring but this is the best way practice, listen for good tone and volume

This will help all your playing in general and tighten up your timing.

Guitar Speed

There is a software product for increasing your speed on guitar. This is different than the guitar fretboard software on the Guitar Fretboard page. You should know the guitar fretboard fairly well to get the most out Guitar Speed. This software is all about developing speed on the guitar.

This is a good product you will get years of use from. Check it out.

Guitar Speed(Opens New Window)

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How to Buy a Guitar..Without Getting Confused

You can get easily confused on how to buy a guitar today. There are so many brands and types it can make you crazy.

Buying your first guitar can be a tough decision. If you are a parent buying the guitar for your child he or she will no doubt want one like the musician who got them interested in the first place, an expensive one right.

There are a lot of good inexpensive guitars on the market today for the beginner or anyone who plays and doesn’t need a name brand.

Buying an Acoustic or Electric Guitar?

If you are just starting to play I would suggest an acoustic because you will hear how the guitar sounds naturally. This is what you should learn first to understand the guitar.

Acoustic with Electric

An acoustic guitar may cost less because you don’t need an amp, although many of the manufacturers are making their acoustic guitars with pick-ups built into the bridge.

Although acoustic guitars are used in country and folk they are also popular in rock music. John Lennon composed and recorded many of the Beatles songs with an acoustic guitar.

Eric Clapton writes many of his songs on an acoustic before adding any electric guitar to them. Layla was written on an acoustic before he did the unplugged album.

How Much?

For most of us it’s how much can we afford that determines this. Although when you use a credit card it doesn’t feel like you’re spending money, until you get your statement.

Don’t spend a lot of money on your first guitar, see if you are going to stick with it first. You may be all enthusiastic now, but when you discover that it can take a lot of work you might put it in the closet till you have more time.

You Want What!

This is especially true if you are a parent buying a guitar for a teenager. They will want the most expensive guitar because the advertisers tell them it’s what they need to be a star.

Buying New Guitar Online

This is a good option because you can cross check prices easy. What you need to do first is see the make and model you want in a local store so you know what you are buying.

If your buying a guitar that has been around like a Telecaster or Stratocaster you have most likely already have seen and played one.

Guitar manufacturers sell look alikes of their top models for less money. If it’s the look you want this can be a way to save money.

I buy strings and other things from SameDay Music and they are a reputable company if you want to check them out. They got their name because they try to ship your order the same day.

Even if your not ready to buy a guitar yet or get a new one you can get an idea of prices for what type of guitar you want.

Acoustic Guitars

Acoustic Guitars

Acoustic-Electric Guitars

Acoustic/Electric Guitars

Electric Guitars

Electric Guitars

Second Hand Guitars

This can be a good way to buy a guitar. Think of it as a used car and check it out good.

Shopping locally is best for a used guitar because you may want to go back and forth between stores or guitar owners before deciding.

Buying Used Guitar Online

I used to think buying a used guitar online was a bad idea, but if you stick with places like Ebay you should be OK. I bought a bass guitar from them and everything was fine.

Ebay – Paypal

Most of Ebay sellers use PayPal and they will help straigten things out too. It’s bad for business for Ebay or PayPal to have customers getting ripped.

Just be careful who you are dealing with because there are a lot of crooks out there.

The main problem is not being able to see the guitar in person. Pictures can be doctored up, but the choice is yours.

Buying Local

Check out your local music store for traded in guitars, your local newspaper, also let your friends know you are looking. Sometimes people have a guitar in their closet that they never learned how to play. Craigslist is another way to find guitars for sale near your home.

Visit different music stores to window shop, try them out and compare prices. Find out the average going price of what guitar you want.

Second Hand Saves Money

A second hand guitar is a good way to stretch your guitar buying dollar by getting a better model that you would not have been able to afford buying it new. Just be sure the guitar is in good playing shape

A little wear isn’t a big concern unless you are fussy. The main thing is how it feels to you and the price, also does it have a case. A good hard case will save a lot of wear and tear if you are going to be lugging it around to other peoples houses to jam or practice.

Know the Prices Beforehand

Know how much the particular model costs new so you don’t pay more than it’s worth. There are a lot of guitars out there that mimic the top manufacturers but are of lesser quality.

Do some window shopping before you go to buy. Most music stores will let you try out some guitars providing you don’t make a habit out of it and don’t buy.

Take a guitar player with you if you know one if you are buying your first guitar. Try not to let the sales person you don’t know a lot about guitars if you can.

Don’t get conned into buying a guitar that they can’t get rid of, remember he or she’s trying to make money from selling you a guitar. Don’t buy what you don’t want

Does Everything Work?

If you are buying a used guitar make sure everything works. This is mainly for an electric or acoustic-electric. Ask to plug it in, don’t buy it if they give you a lame excuse why you can’t. This should only happen if you buy from an individual and they already sold the amp or never got one. Find a way to plug it in or forget about it.

Do the volume and tone knobs respond like they are supposed to do. Sometimes people who shouldn’t take things apart do and don’t get everything back together right. Make sure everything works or lower your price if it’s not important to you, a broken or mismatched knob or something.

Buying the Right Guitar

How does it feel to you. Everybody has a different body and a guitar has to fit your body, You can tell by holding the guitar in the playing position. If it doesn’t feel right try some other ones till you find it. In most cases when you find the right one you will feel it right away. A match made in heaven.

Neck Action – How to Buy a Guitar

Don’t judge the guitar only by the neck action alone. Guitar manufacturers make guitars with room for adjustment for any player. You can adjust the action to suit yourself. Just make sure it hasn’t been butchered and can be adjusted.

Listen for good even tone. You should hear both the low and high notes evenly. Every guitar has its own tone, even the same models, its the wood. An acoustic will give off subtle harmonics if you listen closely.

You will learn how to adjust your guitar neck to your liking and style of playing or you can have it done for you at a local guitar shop. Fine tuning your guitar is part of playing.

Electric Guitar Buying Tips

Don’t try out an electric guitar with effect boxes or pedals until you are satisfied with the straight sound and response. These can mask the true sound and also hide fret buzz and other unwanted problems

Straight sound is all you want for checking it out. Remember what you want is good even tone, a good feel and playability.

A good guitar will normally weigh a little more than a cheaper version. The wood can be denser for better sustain on notes. The hardware will normally be a little heavier. It can even be a little thicker without you even noticing. It’s normally a sign of quality construction.

Guitar Pick-ups

Acoustic Guitar Pickups

There are 2 main types of acoustic guitar pick-ups. The first type sits in the sound hole and works very similar to a microphone but closer to the sound than a microphone can be placed.

The second type are called transducers and usually sit underneath the saddle of the guitar. These do not look like guitar pickups you see on guitars. They are small flat ribbon sensors that reproduce the sound of the guitar. Many acoustic guitars come with this feature factory installed.

Electric Guitar Pickups

There are two main types of electric guitar pickups single coil and dual coil or humbuckers. The humbucker

Single Coil Pickups

The single coil pickup gives a guitar a cleaner sound. Fender guitars used to all come with single coil pickups. Now you can find combinations of single and dual coil pickups. The Beach boys are a perfect example of that sound. Jimi Hendrex used a Stratocaster but who knows what magic was done on that guitar to get his sounds.

Dual Coil-Humbuckers

Humbuckers patented by Seth Lover from Gibson uses two coils instead of one. This pickup was developed to help stop the hum that came from single coil pickups, that’s where the name comes from. These pickups have a heavier, thicker sound to them.

Most Gibson guitars use these pickups, Les Pauls, SG’s and others. They are good for loud natural distortion so they are used by many rock and blues artist’s. Eric Clapton uses a Gibson SG on many of his blues solo’s. His work with Cream will give you a good idea of the Humbucker pickup sound.

Active or Passive Pickups?

Passive pickups are the ones that have been around since the beginning of electric guitar. The newer active pickups are like a pickup with an advanced tone control or equalizer. They are supposed to produce less noise but I don’t have any experience working with them. Most players use the passive pickups.

It’s Up to You – How to Buy a Guitar

You can learn how to buy a guitar from what I said up above but…

No matter what I suggest you probably have your mind set on what you want. Buying a guitar is an emotional decision, we all do it.

It’s like buying a car. You can read all the stats you want about a vehicle but if you don’t like the way it looks you probably won’t buy it even it is a better deal.

It’s your image right?

Good Luck

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I hope you found this page useful.