Tag Archives: economy picking

Economy Picking Licks – This is my solution to the Problems

Economy Picking is a great strategy if you play the phrases that are the most difficult on the guitar: 1 note per string structures like arpeggios.

You do however have to be careful with timing and phrasing when you work with this technique. It can really mess up the groove and does not really lend it self to good phrasing.

How To Learn Economy Picking

In this video I am going to go over some of the ways that I use Economy picking in my playing. I will go over 5 Economy Picking Licks, both Modal and II V I. For each lick I also have an exercise and some suggestions on how to achieve good phrasing and timing while working with this technique.

If you are familiar with my playing you will probably have seen how often I use economy picking in my playing and rely on it for cascading arpeggios, fast diatonic triad runs etc. All solid material that you want to have in your vocabulary.

Lick #1 Modal Cascading Arpeggios

The first example is on an Am7 chord using the Dorian sound. So the notes of the G major scale.

Three things to notice about this lick:

  • The Arpeggios are Em7, Cmaj7 and Am7 (so diatonic arpeggios in 3rds distance)
  • The Lick divides the bars in 2 beats, 3 and 3 beats
  • The first and highest note of each arpeggio is a down stroke (and an accented note)

Practicing Descending Arpeggios

In order to get this type of playing into your fingers it is useful to just take one simple arpeggio shape and work on getting that precise, well articulated and easy to play.

Practicing the exercise here below is a great way to work on this:

Here the repeated arpeggio and switching between alternate picking and economy let’s you develop the economy and always reference the clear articulation of alternate picking. 

Lick #2 – Forgotten 2-string Triads

Using sweeping or economy picking on two strings is something that is often overlooked, but it is a great approach to play patterns like this.

The lick below is using this technique to play diatonic D altered scale triads: Ab, Bb and Cdim. Really spelling out the altereations on the D7alt.

Notice how the alternate picking is turned around on the Em7 arpeggio in the first bar. While it is good to keep consistent with down strokes on down beats it is something that you will deviate from along the way whenever it is better for the phrasing and the execution of a phrase.

Practicing 2-string Triads

The exercise below is again taking a single triad and then working on getting that to be easy to play. Then you can move on to diatonic triads up the neck.

Once this is easy then try moving on to this exercise:

Lick #3 – Polyrhythmic ideas with Economy Picking

As you already saw in the previous examples arpeggios can be really useful in creating patterns that move on top of the beat. Both with 3 and 6 notes.

This example is using 4 notes but is changing the rhythm so that the arpeggio is 3 8th notes long. This gives the phrase a dotted quarter note effect that nicely breaks up the song.

The lick is using one arpeggio on the Am7 that is changing the top note. The two arpeggios are a first inverion Am7 and a Cmaj7. The arpeggio is voice-lead into a D7 altered (where it becomes a Cm7b5 arpeggio.

Lick #4 Quartal Harmony 

Another type of arpeggio that is a great addition to especially your modern jazz vocabulary. In this lick I am using descending 3-part quartal arpeggios on a II V I in Bb. Again making use of the 3 note groupings.

The Al Di Meola exercise

The technique I am using here is derived from a technique that a student of mine came with off an Al Di Meola video.

I don’t remember if it was the ascending or the descending version of it, but these two exercises demonstrates the principle for 3 string patterns.

Lick #5 Modal Pentatonic Patterns

Besides arpeggios Economy picking works really well for patterns in the pentatonic scale. Very often Pentatonic patterns consist of 1 note per string ideas which is ideal for sweeping or economy picking approaches.

In this case the pattern is 2 strings and the picking pattern is similar to the triads in Lick #2

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Altered Scale – 3 Great Pentatonic Solutions (Easy And Powerful)

Finding good ideas for using The altered scale can be difficult and often we end up just running the scale and not really making any interesting melodies.

In this video I will go over 3 pentatonic scales you can use when improvising over an altered dominant which is a great way to get some strong and interesting melodic ideas. Pentatonic scales are a great and easy to use resource on the guitar and as you will see you can do a lot with them.

The Sound of Pentatonic Scale in Modern Jazz

I really like to use pentatonic scales in my playing to get some more modern sounding ideas, which is also where the pentatonic scale is mostly used, but it is overall a very effective tool.

Connecting to the basic G Altered Scale

G7 altered is the same as Ab melodic minor:

Ab Bb B Db Eb F G Ab

We have one straight minor pentatonic scale:

Bbm – Bb Db Eb F Ab Bb

That’s what I am using here in this next example.

In example 2 I am first playing the scale as a 2nd position minor pentatonic.  I also use another way which is to play it in a 3-1 pattern.  This has 3 notes on one string , 1 note on the next etc. That is written in the 2nd 2 bars of example 2 here below.

Next lick another type of pentatonic scale that works really well for melodic minor sounds and especially the Altered scale. I will also go over some useful exercises to combine legato and picking for playing fast in the pentatonic scale.

The altered lick using Bbm pentatonic

Here below is the lick using the Bbm pentatonic scale. The first part is just runing up the basic scale position. in the 2nd bar I use 2 different 3 note per string patterns and then resolve to the G on Cmaj7. The line is closed with a small fragment from an Em pentatonic.

Abm6 Pentatonic

Abm6 pentatonic is a very good choice for a pentatonic scale in the altered scale. In fact it is great fro most chords you come across in melodic minor.

Abm6 pentatonic: Ab B Db Eb F Ab 

You can play that like this:

Connecting it to the tritone substitute

You can also look at it the scale as a Db7(9): Db F Ab B Eb which is how I am using it here.

Ab B Db Eb F re-ordered is Db F Ab B Eb

which is a Db7(9) arpeggio.

The example here below starts with a Db7 arpeggio and ending on the 9th in the 2nd bar two octaves higher. From here it resolves to the 9th on Cmaj7 and ends with a short lick on the Cmaj7.

Mixing legato and picking

This lick relies on mixing legato and picking. I find that those two are really cornerstones in my playing and it makes sense to have exercises where you mix them so that you can solve problems for your right hand with legato.

Here below I included an example of an exercise like this using the Abm6  pentatonic.

Let’s have a look at a more exotic but also effective pentatonic scale for altered dominants, some economy picking and how an E7sus4 chord works great on a Cmaj7.

The Eb major b6 pentatonic

This is the Eb major (b6) pentatonic scale: Eb F G Bb B Eb

It is  a great scale to spell out the sound of  melodic minor because it has the augmented triad from B included.

Constructing the scale

Since we are using the scale over a G7 altered it makes sense to connect it to a Cm pentatonic scale. You can construct the scale by taking a Cm pentatonic replace the C with a B. That makes it easier to find fingerings:

Major b6 pentatonic scale example with economy picking

The example using this scale is making use of an economy picking pattern in the first bar. I am using the economy picking to play the 3 note patterns in bar one branching into bar 2.  From there it starts with a small scale pattern resolving to the 3rd(E) of Cmaj7.

The arpeggio on the Cmaj7 is an E7sus4 which works great for that sound. It is also a part of the Em pentatonic scale I am using on that chrord.

Using pentatonic scales in Jazz

The way I work with pentatonics is mostly to get a different sound than the standard blues phrasing, they work great for some open sounds and different melodies. How do you work with pentatonics? Leave a comment and be sure to also check out the ideas that are discussed in the comments because often there is a lot of interesting information being shared.

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Altered Scale – 3 pentatonic scales

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Picking Techniques beyond Alternate Picking

Alternate picking is the core of what I use when I play jazz guitar. But there are other strategies that I combine alternate picking with to make it easier to play faster phrases. This video is on how I use sweeping and economy picking to play certain arpeggios and jazz phrases.

In the end a good technique is going to be a combination of several techniques and should be a tool set that you rely on to help you get the phrasing that you like. In the end we have to let the music rule the technique and not the other way around.


The construction of the lesson

The way this is build up is that I have three examples with some different techniques that I break down and give you some exercises to work on the picking technique strategy in that example.

Small sweeps for 7th chords 

The first example has two different applications of economy picking or sweeping. The firs is a standard sweep of an Abmaj7 arpeggio. The 2nd is used twice to add some more dramatic movement with the arpeggios in the bar.

Here I will focus on the second approach. The idea is to use a down stroke for the first note in the arpeggio and then add a pull off to give your right hand time to easily make the sweep of the last two notes.

To work on this idea it is probably a good idea to first spend some time with just getting your right hand used to the movement. I demonstrate this in the video as well.

If you want to go on further you can do the exercise shown here below:

The opening of the example is using a slide to make it easier to speed up the phrase. That is another thing that I use a lot in combination with all the chords

Economy picking triads in string combinations

The opening part of the second example is using a pentatonic scale layed out in a 3-1 pattern on the neck. That way of playing a pentatonic scale makes it really easy to play certain types of melodies (for me anyway).

The picking of this phrase is a bit tricky and I start the phrase with an up stroke. If you have a phrase that is difficult to play then it can be a good idea to check what it feels like and how it sounds if you reverse the picking.

In this case it really helps me with playing the phrase fast enough, and I also talk about this idea in the next example.

The main focus in this example is playing triads. The 2nd bar of the example contains two triads, one is 1 note per string and one is a 2-1 fingering (so 2 notes on one string and 1 note on the next).

The Triad Picking strategy

The triads I am concerned with in this lesson are the descending triad arpeggios. The idea in the 2nd bar is to start the triad with a down stroke and play the rest with upstrokes. 

The way I do this it feels like a more balanced way to play them than having to “reverse” the picking if I play several triads.

You can work on the 1 note per string variation using this exercise on the middle string set:

The two string version of this exercise could be something like this.

If you get more used to this approach it is really useful to try to play a scale position of diatonic triads.

Turned Around Sweeps! The surprising solution

The idea in the beginning of this example is to play 3 note patterns with one note per string and then use a specific picking idea that if you try if for the first time seems counter intuitive.

In this example I am using the approach on the first two arpeggios in the example. First an Abmaj7 shell voicing and then a quartal arpeggio from Ab.

I discovered that I use this approach when I was explaining and slowing down an example for a student, but I find that the idea works extremely well.

The strategy is to start with an up stroke and then go down and up on the next two notes. This is in fact all alternate picking, but if you repeat it then we get two up strokes after each other. One at the beginning and one at the end.

The advantage is that the last note is setting us up to move back and get the first note in the next one. This is mostly useful if you are repeating 3 note patterns like I do in the example here below.

To work on this approach you can do the exercise of diatonic shell voicings shown here below:

Putting it all together with techniques

As I mention in the beginning the best strategy for me is to have a lot of different options with picking and then try to find a combination of what is playable and what sounds good. I think this should be the main priority when working with technique. in my opinion.

Of course you can also tell that I also use legato very often as a part of the strategy. If you are interested in a video on this then leave a comment on the video on YouTube. Maybe I should do a video on that.

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Picking Techniques Beyond Alternate picking

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

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Legato technique for speed and phrasing

Most good players will mix up different techniques and use a combination of all the things they know to play lines efficiently but also with the best possible phrasing. It is important to realize that different types of legato techniques such as hammer ons and pull offs and slides have an important role in not only how to technically execute a phrase but also how it is going to sound.

In this lesson I will go over 3 lines and discuss how I play them and why to demonstrate how I apply several different legato and picking techniques in my playing. I will then give you some suggestions for exercises that you can use to combine several techniques in one exercise.

The lines

All the examples in this lesson are in the key of F major. THe first 3 lines are II V I lines with an altered dominant. The rest are F major scale exercises.

There are two reasons why  I might use a technique, it can be a question of phrasing so that the technique makes it easy to accent a specific note or it can be because it is helping me play the line.

It is very important to remember that both of these criteria are important. If you don’t choose the right technqiue you might not be able to play the line, and if you don’t think about how your technique makes the line sound you might ruin the line in that way. Both are very important considerations.

You can sum up bop phrasing in pretty much one sentence:

As I was taught by my teacher Peter Nieuwerf:  “In a bebop line notes that are higher than the following notes and not on the beat can have an accent”

Of course it is not completely black and white, but it is for the most part true.

In the first bar of example 1 the line is based on an Bbmaj7 arpeggio. The first hammer on is there to buy the right hand time to change strings. The pull off on the and of 3 is there for that reason too, but also because it makes the picked note (A) louder than the pull note (G). This gives the A a natural accent.

The Altered dominant line is also using two slides. The first slide on the and of 1 is there mostly for technical reasons while the 2nd from 4 and to the 1 of bar 3 is there to accent the 4 and over the 1. It is quite common to not accent the resolution.

Legato technique for speed and phrasing - ex 1

The 2nd example is using a cascading melodic idea, so it contains 4 descending parts which are all descending patterns. In this excample I am using small sweeps or economy picking where my accented notes are down strokes and the rest are played with up strokes or legato. This means that for the right hand each part of the line is started with a down stroke and then continues with up stroke sweeps of two or three strings. The most difficult thing with these is probably keeping it in the groove timing wise. Notice how this line does not actually fit in the bebop phrasing rule I talked about above, since most of the accented notes are on the beat.

Legato technique for speed and phrasing - ex 2

In the 3rd example it is really clear how you can combine slides and hammer on pull offs so that you can play a lot of notes with very little use of the right hand. This is really clear in the opening of bar 1 where the first two notes are picked but the following three are played with first a slide and then a hammer on followed by a pull off. This type of phrasing makes the lines more fluid and horn like in my opinion.

The rest of the 1st bar is pretty much just alternate picking. At the end of the 1st bar I slide from C to Db which serves to make it easy to play and also helps shift the position up one fret to play the C altered scale. The rest of the altered line uses a single pull of to accent the Bb in a similar way to example 1.

Legato technique for speed and phrasing - ex 3

As you can see in the examples I am not strict about down strokes on the beat or always starting on a down strokes. It is also quite clear that I mix a lot of techniques while playing lines.

Making good technique exercises

The technique that I base my playing on is for the biggest part alterenate picking, so the first thing that I try to combine any technique with is alternate picking. The first thing you work on is probably the standard way of playing a scale or similar with that technique, so if you are working on legato then work through a scale position with hammer ons and pull offs.

The next thing you could try is to use it combined with alternate picking. This can help you keep it in time and also help you already at this point starting to make it fit in your playing in terms of dynamics (mostly if it is hard enough compared to your alternate picking).

One way to do this is shown in example 4 where I play a 3 note per string F major scale and on each string I hammer on between the first two notes and then pick the 3rd. 3 note per string scales are useful for this because they are easy to go through with a system.

Legato technique for speed and phrasing - ex 4

You can of course play this way descending as well using first a pull of and then picking notes.

The reverse option is to pick two notes and then use a hammer on. This model is easier for your right hand since it has extra time to change strings.

Legato technique for speed and phrasing - ex 5

These two ways of playing a scale are useful because they both have a certain sound or flow and they can later become useful solutions because you need to start the next part of the phrase on another string with a certain type of up or down stroke for example.

The same two exercises can be done with slides instead of hammer on/pull offs. Since you are in fact changing positions when doing the slides this is a great exercise to open up how you play the scale and help you keep the overview when practicing.

Legato technique for speed and phrasing - ex 6

The sweeps or economy picking that I use are also useful to incorporate in exercises which mix it with  alternate picking. In example 7 I have written out the same scale position using this technique.

Legato technique for speed and phrasing - ex 7

With all of the exercises that I presented here I’d suggest that you don’t spend hours everyday working on this but more that you take one position and make sure that you can play it in a not too fast tempo with good time and that it sounds fairly equal in volume.

You should also take each of these technques and then just try to play lines over a slow turnaround or II V I focusing on using each technique to explore the way it can work melodically in your lines.

I hope you can use the ideas I went over here to work on your own technique and that you have a new perspective on the usefulness of the technques in phrasing and the advantages of mixing it up when playing.

If you want to study the examples away from the video or article you can download a pdf here:

Legato technique for speed and phrasing

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please feel free to leave on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make thme fit what you want to hear.

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