I love shred and one of my favorite shred techniques is economy picking. It’s a hybrid of sweep picking and alternate picking although Frank Gambale (the master!!!) would just call it sweep picking. I’m calling it economy picking because sweep picking to me means arpeggios ala Yngwie Malmsteen which isn’t what I do now (used to though!).

Alternate picking


The above sheet shows a C major scale played using alternate picking. Down stroke followed by an up stroke, then a down stroke, then an up stroke and so on. Down up down up and that’s almost all about it. Lets take a look at economy picking.

Economy picking


Now instead of just going down-up-down-up, the picking hand’s motion depends on its current stroke and which string it’s heading to. If we are doing a down stroke and are going to the next higher string, we can continue on with the down stroke and of course, if we are doing an up stroke and going to the next lower string, we can continue with the up stroke. Looking at the first 4 notes, C-D-E on the 5th string going to the F on the 4th string, C-D-E are played using down-up-down strokes and the E being a down stroke. Moving to the next note, F which is on the 4th string, instead of doing an up stroke ala alternate picking, a down stroke is done instead, minimizing motion. The last 4 notes, starting with an F on the 4th string played with an up stroke, glides to the E on the 5th string with the same up stroke followed by the D and E with down and up strokes.

For the sake of keeping the run consistent as that of the alternate picking’s example, look out for the 2 notes marked with *, although changing strings, it has to be done with alternate picking because a down stroke can’t go to a lower string (and I mean going from high E string to the B string, string numberings are confusing I’ve got to say!). Now lets look at the next picking technique, which is almost a synonym to economy picking:

Sweep picking


The above sheet shows my definition of sweep picking, using the same pick stroke across multiple strings creating wide intervallic sounds. Usually arpeggio based. Plenty of this technique in metal!

Why economy picking?

Economy picking is much more relaxed than alternate picking because of its economy of motion. With this technique I can go much faster than alternate picking too because I love playing fast! Limitation wise, as for me, is counting but since Frank Gambale has no problem at it that makes it my personal problem ha! Otherwise, I don’t think there’s any limitation to this technique. As shown in the economy picking example above, there are moments when we still have to go alternate picking unless we change our note choices. If we MUST go full economy picking, then, using the same example, we have this originally,


Notice the notes highlighted with *s. What if we take out the first of the 5 highlighted notes? We get,


Note the highlighted notes again. Now we get ‘full’ economy picking! Hooray! (if that’s what you’re looking for)


I used to make sure I was going ‘full’ economy picking but as I played more, I wanted more variety in my phrasing that I started to break the ‘rules’ by having alternate picking while going across strings. Does that make it less ‘economy’? Yes but it has to be done because I need those notes! Do not surrender good notes to technique limitations, tweak the techniques to get those good notes instead! Lets end this post with a video of master Frank Gambale showing off his amazing picking! In my next post I will put up some ideas I worked out so far that hopefully help in developing this amazing technique!


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