Double Picking on Purpose to Build Accuracy

Author: Ed Cupler

Guitarist Paul KleffAs a player starts to work on building speed, right and left hand synchronization is important to keep everything sounding clean. When the pick hand and fret hand get out of sync, sometimes notes don’t get picked at all and others sometimes get picked twice (known as double picking). An effective exercise for building coordination between the hands is to double pick on purpose.

You can do this with just about any scale, pattern, arpeggio or exercise you already use. Like any other speed or coordination building exercise, the key is to start slow and clean—if you aren’t able to play it cleanly, you need to slow it down. One of the most helpful things about this exercise is that is will sound really bad if you try to play it faster than you are able to cleanly—so hopefully it will motivate you to take it slow and keep it clean.

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Let’s start out working the technique on just one string. Playing on one string helps build the synchronization between the two hands without having to worry about moving across the fretboard with both hands. Start with either an upstroke or a downstroke (it’s good to work through it both ways) and alternate pick from there.

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Double picking each note forces you to concentrate on making the left hand finger transition from note to note quick and efficient while at the same time keeping each note in place long enough to pick it twice. Anything less than perfect transition between notes and holding each note for the duration of two picks with the right hand and you’ll hear it right away.

Here is the same type of pattern using two strings:

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And a three note per string scale pattern using the A natural minor (Aeolian) scale:

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You can take almost any pattern, scale, arpeggio, lick or exercise and turn it in a double pick workout.

The keys to remember are:

  1. Keep an even tempo with the pick hand.
  2. Quick and smooth transitions from note to note with the left hand.
  3. Don’t allow the notes to get cut off short with the left hand—make sure the change from note to note is in perfect synchronization with the pick hand tempo.
  4. Double pick exercises sound really bad if you try to play at a faster tempo than you are able to cleanly.

Start slow and pay attention to the details. After a few practice sessions using double picking, you should notice that most everything you play is cleaner and more in sync. This is one exercise that has a positive effect that will spill over into all areas of your guitar-playing technique.

Work hard and have fun!

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© 2008 Paul Kleff

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