Learn How To Play Faster Part II - Angular Vs. Linear Picking Patterns

In this article (and video lesson) I discuss how tricky patterns into your practice routines can make linear picking patterns easy to master. Check out the first part here.

1. Introduction

In my previous article I discussed certain exercises that can help you develop greater finger flexibility and dexterity. Today's lesson focus on ways to challenge yourself further, this time by playing rather awkward, tricky sequences. Although these sequences will challenge both hands, the picking hand will benefit the most from it.

2. Theoretical Background

When we guitar players play solos, we tend to play it safe and go up and down within the context of a scale. I guess we instinctively do this so that the solo doesn't sound weird and all over the place. We just don't play 3 notes on the higher E string and then jump to the lower E string to play 3 notes (unless we're guitarists for an ultra-progressive avant-garde metal band with Gypsy jazz influences). That said, angular sequences can indeed sound musical. One good example for that is the main theme of Guthrie Govan's amazing instrumental "Waves." A more extreme example of angular ideas is the outro solo to Born of Osiris' "Behold." Players like Steve Vai and John Petrucci also include plenty of angular licks in some of their solos, so there is really nothing revolutionary about the whole concept.

3. Method

The main idea behind today's lesson is not only practicing linear licks such as scalar runs, but also angular sequences that will force your hands (specially your picking hand) to adopt and eventually master awkward picking patterns. It will take sometime before you get used to stuff like this, but believe me, after a while, scalar patterns you struggled with before will seem easier. In other words: once you can play tricky, complex sequences comfortably, the linear scalar patterns that make up many technically demanding solos will become easier for you.

As an example of angular picking I've included a little exercise I wrote a while ago. It forces you to play only one note per string and also skip strings. The link to the download is included in the video description. See this article as an invitation to include come up with less linear-sounding licks and include them not only in your practice sessions, but also in your playing. This approach will at times yield more interesting ideas and sounds than the tried-and-true 3NPS licks we all use and abuse.

Here's the video lesson: