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Prospect Music Lessons

Picking Exercises

Developing an accurate, relaxed, and quick right hand picking technique is crucial for guitarists, bassists, and mandolin players. Whether playing fast lines or slower in-the-pocket grooves, if the right hand can’t keep up you’re toast! Here’s some exercises you can do to help get that speed and feel!

Tremolo Picking

Tremolo Picking is basically just alternate up-down strokes on one string at fast speeds. You might be familiar with surf-rock guitarist Dick Dale’s version of Misirlou that was made famous from the movie Pulp Fiction. If not, check it out, it’s a great example of Tremolo Picking. So, how do we get our right hand to do that?

Start by setting a metronome at a slow to moderate tempo and try playing four alternating strokes per click (down, up, down, up). If this is difficult to lock in, try only two strokes per click (down, up). Find a tempo that you can reasonably do for a long time with little trouble. Now, take a look at your right hand and start to make some adjustments. Try to keep the pick close to the string – over shooting the string will only give you more distance to come back and will slow you down at faster tempos. Also, are you using your whole arm? Most of the motion should come from the wrist and forearm rotation. Try to keep the arm more stable and focus on these movements. Once you fix these issues, turn up the metronome a little bit (no more than 5 bpm) and see how you do! If you notice these bad habits start to creep back in, fix them at the next tempo, rinse, and repeat!


To work on relaxation of the right hand, try strumming all the strings at a fast tempo with a strong but relaxed feel (it’s much easier to play relaxed when you’re not worried about accuracy!) Try to gradually reduce the number of strings you hit while still keeping that relaxed strum. Eventually, you want to be able to keep that same relaxed feel on one string. Use the metronome to build up to faster tempos, but all the while keep an eye on your arm and stay relaxed!