Picking Triplets: Standard Alternate or Economy Picking

Khepera

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I've been working quite a bit over the past few months on picking triplets, I'd say about 4 months or so now, and to this day I am still struggling with picking triplets to a click between 105BPM-120BPM. My muscles are programmed to do all of my picking economy style, that is starting the first pick stroke as down when moving down the strings and starting up moving upwards as I was under the impression that doing alternate picking economy style was better for speed and to make transitions to strings quicker. Yet I don't know if it is actually helping me or if I am only halting my progress by picking this way, because after all of this time, I am getting nowhere it seems.

What are your thoughts on standard alternate picking vs economy picking, what would you feel is better suited to triplets? I am working towards building my tremolo picking skills and I want to nail triplets so that I can start working on quads.

I've been working on Frank Gambale's chop builder alternate picking triplet exercise
 

Hollowway

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Dang, I’ve been wondering the same thing myself. I’m learning a song now that’s fast, and has all these sixteenth notes. So I’m I’ve been practicing the first 10 bars or so, and then I go to the next section, and it’s sixteenth note triplets, which means I need to rethink the whole thing.

Generally, to answer your question, I think the best thing to do is to become well versed in alternate and economy picking, and then play around with both for a particular song/passage for what feels right. I’ve forced alternate picking, only to find I play stuff better economy, and vice versa.

Generally speaking, in and of itself, I prefer doing alternate picking for triplets on a single string. But, like you, I’ll change that to a combination of alternate and economy if I need to move to another string.
 

Khepera

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Generally, to answer your question, I think the best thing to do is to become well versed in alternate and economy picking, and then play around with both for a particular song/passage for what feels right.
I've been thinking that too. Funny enough, I seem so rigid in economy picking that I think it might be difficult to break the habit of always doing it. My picking hand would probably automatically start economy picking whilst trying to alternate pick. How is that for you do you find? Do you have any issues switching between styles?
 

Hollowway

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I've been thinking that too. Funny enough, I seem so rigid in economy picking that I think it might be difficult to break the habit of always doing it. My picking hand would probably automatically start economy picking whilst trying to alternate pick. How is that for you do you find? Do you have any issues switching between styles?
Exactly the same experience here. So now I only practice in alternate and economy (with intention), and just force myself to do it. But when I'm playing and learning a piece, I just do what seems natural. Overall, I think economy picking makes the most sense. So I don't switch between styles, unless I'm just practicing and forcing it. When I'm learning a piece, I'll tend to mess around with a couple of different methods, but usually fall into something that feels right.

The one huge advantage alternate picking has is it's MUCH easier to get the rhythm of a piece down, because the downstroke is going to be on a beat count. So that can throw me off a little, when I'm learning something. But once I can feel the rhythm internally, that isn't as much of a problem. So learning pieces I already know the music too (like, songs I've listened to a lot) is easy, but new material that I don't know takes a while to get that overall rhythm going so I can just "feel" it.
 

c7spheres

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I personally find triplets more difficult. - I think of alternate picking as 'the standard', and economy as an afterthought and only when it's required.

- What I mean is I alt pick everything except when doing a down stroke required riff or when a passage requires economy picking (excluding finger style). - I know that the phrase usually needs economy picking when alt picking isn't working quite right and it forces me to stop and look at the riff and think about it a bit, then I work out the picking it should be and try to keep it in mind when I do that type of combination again. which is usually forgotten but somehow falls in place anyways. I just make sure to get it down a few times.

- What it comes down to is to get so good at alt picking it doesn't matter if you mess up so you just auto-flip and correct when possible, first In your mind when it happens to keep it under control, then in the picking later in the phrase/song. - Most of the time everything starts with a down stroke but it needs to be able to flip-flop to accomodate for anything that happens, ultimately. 4 note per string and string skipping scale exercises can help take it to the next level too. Two string triad arpeggio exercises will get you there too. What essentially happens is your doing both alt and economy at the same time and it can change up at anytime if you mess up. If something is critical to the riff or phrase then make sure to do it exactly how it should be. No half chugs where there should be chuggin' chugs. -

- For single string riffs pay attention also to the right hand pressure, especially if using a float trem. Depending on the riff things get more intense pressure as you speed up usually, like an engine running, sometimes you might need to get lighter or vary it too. Pinch pressure and attack on the pick has the same rules. Watch your elbow isn't moving out of control or to tense too. You can feel it all come together when it's working, when you feel it try to hold on to it and remember so to get back there faster when it isn't working for you. The entire thing has it's own pulse which once you feel it will leap you forward pretty quickly.

- As for triplets specifically I see them in fundamentally three or four ways, though techinically there's other ways. I see them as a mechanical robot division of the pulse into 3rd's, a faster first 2 with a big space until the third one, the mirror image of that one with the big space first instead, and similar versions of those that gallop more than being robotic/tight. Then the several 1 and 2 rest combinations that follow as well. I know the theory but I'm talking fundamentally it works out, everything else can be a 1,2,4 combo. Aside from that with everything I just said, combos also having an approximate 0-15% swing variation on either side of the beat, othewise if you go further it just becomes a different note from the previous combinations anyways and you'd being calling it that if it were. - I base bpm off my fastest playing ability though and how I think so I usually have it around 70 or 74. It's because I base top speed on 32nd's, though I don't really count them, just feel them. 16th's stuff is the highest to actually count, imo and 32nd's for analysis.

- All that being said, I mostly play slow stuff, but I try to keep my chops up. Playing really fast is hard and requires olympic athlete maintenence after awhile to keep it up, playing really slow is also really hard too in a different way. Slow triplets at 60bpm is hard. I just make stuff up and play now though because it's more fun and freeing.

- Another important factor is playing unplugged vs amp. Get it down unplugged first on various guitars/feels, then dial amp in to the dynaimcs and responce and tone you want. If it ain't popping or feeling how you want it's harder to make it come out, so if you're not there yet you can't know if the amp is dialed in right to begin with for it. I'm talking roundabout way, you sound much closer, but I'd still say unplugged is the best way at first, then amp dialing. Hope this helps some.
 

Hollowway

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For reference, here's the piece I'm working on. Note how the first few passes of this bar are sixteenths, and then measure 13 shows up to separate the men from the boys. (For reference, I'm one of the boys.) The song is Veil of Maya Vicious Circles.

Screen Shot 2022-08-19 at 7.18.35 PM.png
 

Khepera

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I only practice in alternate and economy (with intention), and just force myself to do it. But when I'm playing and learning a piece, I just do what seems natural. Overall, I think economy picking makes the most sense. So I don't switch between styles, unless I'm just practicing and forcing it. When I'm learning a piece, I'll tend to mess around with a couple of different methods, but usually fall into something that feels right.
I think you're right in that it's important to play what feels right.

What essentially happens is your doing both alt and economy at the same time and it can change up at anytime if you mess up. If something is critical to the riff or phrase then make sure to do it exactly how it should be
That's what I want to get at here I think is to be able to just change it on the fly without having to mentally focus on it

pay attention also to the right hand pressure, especially if using a float trem. Depending on the riff things get more intense pressure as you speed up usually, like an engine running, sometimes you might need to get lighter or vary it too. Pinch pressure and attack on the pick has the same rules. Watch your elbow isn't moving out of control or to tense too. You can feel it all come together when it's working, when you feel it try to hold on to it and remember so to get back there faster when it isn't working for you. The entire thing has it's own pulse which once you feel it will leap you forward pretty quickly.
I have actually noticed this. What I have been experiencing and noticing as well is that, when I grip the pick with tighter pressure and I pick with hard attacks in the faster BPM ranges I noticed that I am able to execute the triplets more accurately to the BPM. There is no elbow movement from me, movement is purely in the wrist.
As for triplets specifically I see them in fundamentally three or four ways, though techinically there's other ways. I see them as a mechanical robot division of the pulse into 3rd's, a faster first 2 with a big space until the third one, the mirror image of that one with the big space first instead, and similar versions of those that gallop more than being robotic/tight. Then the several 1 and 2 rest combinations that follow as well.
I see what you're saying. Actually when I first started triplets I was doing them quite fast, rather than picking in even divisions of 3. By fast I mean that after I had completed each triplet for each beat, there was a slight rest after the 3rd stroke, or just letting the 3rd stroke ring a bit before the next beat. I actually seen this as doing it improperly, as I wanted to divide the beat into 3 notes evenly, so I started practicing with even divisions to be more in time, mechanically I guess. If this is true like you say and you tend to see triplets in different ways, then what I was doing before isn't necessarily a bad thing? To me it felt like cheating, like I was somehow subconsciously trying to avoid learning to do triplets the 'proper' way, haha.

Oddly enough when I was young, gallop picking was the most natural thing for me to do !

Slow triplets at 60bpm is hard
It can be, yes. I find that if I just do nothing but pick in even divisions of 3 going down the strings and then going upwards, and not fretting anything, and just doing this for 10 minutes straight really helps that muscle memory and feeling sink in much more quickly. After that I'll start fretting the triplets and I feel that it's so much easier because I'm already in the groove.


Overall, some very good points were made by both of you, and thank you for taking the time to voice your opinions on the matter, and after some thought I think I know what I ought to do. I think I should work on both alternate and economy even though my economy picking is pretty decent, in an even and balanced manner, like, doing 3 reps of triplet exercises using alternate picking, and then balancing it with 3 reps of economy picking. I feel that this is necessary because I'm worried that if I start to practice alternate strictly, that alternate picking will automatically override my economy picking habits. By practicing them evenly I should be able to become skilled at both and be able to use one or the other at will, or at least, that's what I'm hoping for :^)
 

Lorcan Ward

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For reference, here's the piece I'm working on. Note how the first few passes of this bar are sixteenths, and then measure 13 shows up to separate the men from the boys. (For reference, I'm one of the boys.) The song is Veil of Maya Vicious Circles.

View attachment 112830

The positions in that tab could be more comfortable. Mark has a lesson video if you haven’t checked it out already
 

GuitarJack

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I've been working quite a bit over the past few months on picking triplets, I'd say about 4 months or so now, and to this day I am still struggling with picking triplets to a click between 105BPM-120BPM. My muscles are programmed to do all of my picking economy style, that is starting the first pick stroke as down when moving down the strings and starting up moving upwards as I was under the impression that doing alternate picking economy style was better for speed and to make transitions to strings quicker. Yet I don't know if it is actually helping me or if I am only halting my progress by picking this way, because after all of this time, I am getting nowhere it seems.

What are your thoughts on standard alternate picking vs economy picking, what would you feel is better suited to triplets? I am working towards building my tremolo picking skills and I want to nail triplets so that I can start working on quads.
I’m going through the same struggle now! I‘m normally an economy picker also, with a lot of downpicking thrown in. What I found after focusing on my alternate picking over the last few weeks is that I blend both alternate and economy, usually using economy to set myself up for a longer alternative picking run, similar to what you described. I also tend to use one over the other depending if I want to play something smoothly (economy) or with more space between the notes (alternate). So faster, smoother triplets would be better played in economy for me, while alternative gets it a more staccato feel with accents.

I’m working harder on doing strict alternate picking on trips and arpeggios to beef up my technique and try to make it more natural, which is taking some effort. I have to look at my picking hand a lot and force myself into the “sewing” rhythm of alternate. But I’m finding once I get a pattern down in alternate, I can swap back and forth from economy without too much difficulty, just by changing how I hit the first note.

So stick with it, you’re having to break down that muscle memory and relearn it, and the only way is through the grind. At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with developing your style based on economy picking if that’s what you are truly comfortable with and excel at, I’ve largely done the same.
 

Winspear

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Really depends on the note groupings and string changes! Specifically whether it comes out to odd or even picks per string.

If it's DUD strict 3 notes per string and you're always ascending strings, then yes economy picking is going to be ergonomic with the repeated DD string transitions.
In this case, alternate is going to add a challenge of actively switching pickslant direction every string change. Assuming you start on a downslant, your first string transition will be easy (whether ascending or descending), but with the next string being picked UDU, you'll need to change to an upslant to not get caught in the strings for the next transition. Swinging the pick back and forth like this every 8th note (if 16th triplets) is pretty tricky to get used to!

If it's 6 notes per string, then you're ending on an upstroke - with a downslant this makes changing to any string in any direction easy. Economy would work strictly for alternating back and forth between two strings in this case.

As you can see, totally depends on the part. There is no set best way. Practice them all, or just get real good at alt picking with quick slant changes (that is usually going to be the tighter snappier sounding way). Feel free to post some parts for me to breakdown approaches if unsure
 

Winspear

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Btw - why wait for triplet comfort to start working on quads?
Quads are some of the easiest to improve your alternate picking - just get yourself a downslant and go :) Any pattern, any string changes and skips - as long as it's even numbers per string, straight alt picked downslant is one of the most ergonomic things to play, significantly simpler that triplets and the different ways they may be layed out.
 

Khepera

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I can swap back and forth from economy without too much difficulty, just by changing how I hit the first note.
Hmm interesting, so basically when doing your alternate picking, that first note you strike is an accentuated note?

Also, good points made, I find that as I practice alternate more I am able to switch by thinking about it most of the time, so definitely working towards that.

Really depends on the note groupings and string changes! Specifically whether it comes out to odd or even picks per string.

If it's DUD strict 3 notes per string and you're always ascending strings, then yes economy picking is going to be ergonomic with the repeated DD string transitions.
In this case, alternate is going to add a challenge of actively switching pickslant direction every string change. Assuming you start on a downslant, your first string transition will be easy (whether ascending or descending), but with the next string being picked UDU, you'll need to change to an upslant to not get caught in the strings for the next transition. Swinging the pick back and forth like this every 8th note (if 16th triplets) is pretty tricky to get used to!

If it's 6 notes per string, then you're ending on an upstroke - with a downslant this makes changing to any string in any direction easy. Economy would work strictly for alternating back and forth between two strings in this case.

As you can see, totally depends on the part. There is no set best way. Practice them all, or just get real good at alt picking with quick slant changes (that is usually going to be the tighter snappier sounding way). Feel free to post some parts for me to breakdown approaches if unsure
Yes you are absolutely correct. I'm glad you mentioned this and I have actually been on a journey since I made this thread. I was watching some youtube video and the person mentioned pickslant, even though it was unrelated to the video, and when I heard that I had a eureka moment and I had to look into this pickslant thing, I had a feeling it was going to be what will help solve my problem and work towards furthering my goal.

Anyway, as I was looking into it I fell down a rabbit hole and ended up watching Troy Grady's "cracking the code" series, yet even after finishing it I couldn't fully grasp the idea at hand, so I started observing how players like Yngwie, when he examined how they play, how he slants his picking hand, so eventually it clicked, and I was fooling around on the guitar and finally started doing it a little bit naturally, but not how I have been seeing most players do it which is the downward slant, but I found I am more of an upslant naturally, I think it feels weird trying to play downwards. So while we are at this topic, I've wanted to know this since I learned about this pickslanting technique. When you are pickslanting are you also edge picking? What I mean is, edge picking while pickslanting?

Really depends on the note groupings and string changes! Specifically whether it comes out to odd or even picks per string.
Indeed. I noticed that it's quite difficult to strictly alternate pick when doing triplets to move up to the higher strings when starting with a downstroke, because if you aren't pickslanting (which I wasn't) then the pick is getting caught on the string below it, so it makes it difficult to start with an upstroke on the next string unless you economy pick, but we want to practice strict alternate here. So what I started doing before I watched the cracking the code series was that I modified my routine to do 2 reps of triplets on each string making for a total of 6 notes picked on each string which would call for a downstroke on the next string which made everything much easier.

Btw - why wait for triplet comfort to start working on quads?
Good Question. I do it because I really don't want to be scatter-focused but rather I want to be firmly rooted in a technique before I move on, but ultimately I don't think it will matter much and will probably start implementing quads into my regimen soon.
 


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