Alternate Picking Warm Up

January, 31 2014 | Level: Intermediate

A warm-up exercise on the guitar is an effective way to loosen up and strengthen the fingers on your fretting hand, build your picking accuracy and prevent any injury to your hands. Without a good warm up your muscles will tense up, your hands may become rigid, and your performance might ultimately suffer. So before tackling any intense licks and riffs try to get in the habit of applying a consistent warm-up routine.

The exercises on this page are 2-string, single-note E minor licks in standard tuning. As with all picking exercises, use a metronome and start with a low bpm setting. The goal is to play without mistakes at the start of this warm-up. After picking the notes cleanly and evenly at a relatively low bpm (40 to 50 bpms), gradually increase the metronome by 1 or 2 bpms. If you become uncomfortable after a certain amount of bpm increases, slow the metronome back down to where you played the exercises without problems.

The first E minor lick (Ex. 1) starts with a downstroke on the 5th fret on the B string, followed by an upstroke on the 7th fret and a downstroke to the 8th fret. The left hand should only be using the index, ring and pinky fingers to fret these notes. Now the same fingering is moved to the high E string, starting with an upstroke on the 5th fret, downstroke on the 7th and an upstroke on the 8th. Now staying on the high E, fret the 10th fret with your pinky and downpick the note then continue with an upstroke to the 8th (fretted with the middle finger) and downstroke to the 7th fret (fretted with the index finger). Finally move back to the B string and this time start with a upstroke on the 10th fret, downstroke on the 8th and finish with an upstroke back to the 10th fret. The second E minor lick (Ex. 2) follows the same picking pattern as the previous one but with slightly different fingering.

After spending some time going over these licks slowly, you can focus on gradually building your speed and eventually jumping into these warm ups much quicker than when you first started out. You can also try to play these licks in different keys by starting on a different fret on the B string and fretting them in the exact same fingering as the E minor licks (ex. for a minor run in E flat start on frets 4, 6, and 7, move to frets 4, 6, and 7 on the high E, then on to the 9th, 7th, and 6th frets and finish picking with frets 9, 7 and 9 again.

So continue practicing and experimenting with different positions but remember to stay focused on playing the licks without mistakes, building speed gradually and improving your left hand's finger independence. Look for more articles on advanced warm-ups and building finger strength in the next 2 weeks. You'll be shredding in no time!

Example 1 (E Aeolian pattern)

Example 1 E aeolian pattern

Example 2 (E Aeolian pattern)

Example 2 E aeolian pattern

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