Guitar Lesson: Picking Technique Right Hand— Up and Down Strokes—-

Anyone who has played guitar for a while will have heard of the term down-and up picking. For this article a short brief on what they are and how to use them.

Down picking is simply a downstroke of the pick on any of the strings of the guitar. Down picking is the most natural movement of the pick as the pick will want to move downwards on any of the strings. The opposite of the down stroke is the up stroke: You stike the string with an upward motion of the pick. The up stroke may take you a little longer to get smooth, as this techique feels less natural as opposed the down stroke.
Both down-and up stroke have their place in the picking technique of your right hand, they need to be practised individually for you to be able to use them at any time.

Down strokes are often used for musical ideas played on the beat of the music as opposed to playing on the off-beat of the music. Count simply 1  2  3  4  for the four beats in a bar, playing on any of those beats means you play on the beat of the music. Count now  1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and. The “and” in the four beats are the off-beat of the music, for the off-beat you can use the up-stroke of the pick. The up stoke does have a skippy sound compared to the down stroke: try picking only the off beats of your open, high E string to experience this feel. Do now the same but only picking the down beats on the same E string. Notice any difference? The down beat will feel more natural, the off beat will feel more jumpy.  

Other examples where down strokes are being played are sweep picking and string skipping. Both sweep-and string skipping are techniques where you skip strings quickly, it makes sense to use the down stroke of the pick as the similar motion of the pick creates a smoother sound.

There are times when up and down strokes are  being used at the same time, this technique is called alternate picking. This style of picking can be used for musical ideas which are being played at higher tempos. The alternate picking style will give you a smooth down and up motion which will keep the flow of your notes moving forwards gracefullly.

The Tremolo is another example where you use alternate picking.Tremoloes provide a steady stream of notes which will make your note sustain for a while. Tremoloes can be played for one note at a time or a succession of notes, the effect will be the same, the notes will sustain.

Practise all these different forms of picking individually to get comfortable with any of them. Some of these forms of picking may take a little longer for them to become natural and smooth. Stick with them and get a feel for when to use them at the right time.

Ejoy and hope to see you soon again,