Picking is a very rad thing but also so very very diverse. There is an entire world of information on so many different aspects or concepts and an equally vast number of techniques. Let alone the variations and evolutions throughout the years as styles and ideas develop. As a general rule, here are some of the main areas I suggest to everyone just for a general sense of understanding:
Fairly obvious, this style of picking is dominantly strumming or striking the strings in a “down” direction. Most of use it as our primary picking style when we start out. It just seems to be the most natural to us as we attempt to navigate through this new instrument. In a musical context, there are some great things you can use this style for… great emphasis on aggression or “attack” is what I personally use the downstroke for. A couple fantastic songs to check out that use this are: Master of Puppets (Metallica) or Revolution is My Name (Pantera).
Easily put, its the combination of downstrokes and upstrokes. One after or “alternating” the direction is what gives this style of picking its name. This is where a lot of speed can be applied to get the super fast sounding rhythms and “riffs”. This is also a perfect style of picking to work out your scale exercises and work on synchronizing your hands a bit better. When it comes time to solo, you’ll more than likely being using this method of picking to help you gain speed, accuracy and dynamics!
I often describe this as 1/2 way between alternate picking and sweep picking. This style starts out as an alternate picking method but quickly adds one extra stroke in to give it a very cool feel and rhythm to it. We often describe it by pick direction so the easiest example would be: Down, up, down – down. The final down stroke carries through to next string. This helps to get an uneven amount of notes (eg. 3 notes per string) and opens up more possibilities for scales and solos.
This is the style of picking I have easily spent the most amount of time with. It allows the player to voice every note of a chord individually and get this “swooping” or “sweeping” sound across many strings while you do it. Imagine what can happen when you add a little bit of theory knowledge to the move… sheer madness. If you want to hear a wicked example of sweep arpeggios check out this video:
This is a cool name given to a technique that still bewilders me. It’s often referred to as “Chicken Pickin'” The player uses a free finger (Often the middle finger) to catch a string while alternate picking. It allows for some fantastic sounds and some crazy creativity! There are some fantastic uses of this technique in so many forms but personally, I’m partial to this one: