10 Brilliant Alternate Picking Exercises to Boost Shred Speed

Improve your guitar playing speed with these top 10 alternate picking exercises, inspired by lines from the greatest guitar players.

With these exercises, speed picking and high-octane shredding are just a few exercises away!

These are alternate picking exercise tabs, so check out this lesson if you need to know how to read tablature.

Spider alternate picking exercises

The spider exercise is the most iconic guitar exercise.

It’s a chromatic exercise that uses all 4 fingers on the fretting hand, and it builds up your alternate picking chops and hand synchronization.

tinywow Spider Exercise 6833882 1 e1665955195969

Pentatonic 8th notes

This is one of the best alternate picking exercises in A minor pentatonic. It’s simple, and it rocks.

It descends the scale in groups of 8. As long as you know your 5 pentatonic scale shapes, you can apply this phrasing concept/exercise in any pentatonic position.

Alternate picking exercise A minor pentatonic

A minor pentatonic string skipping exercise

This is a great speed picking exercise overall, and is great for practicing string skipping, pentatonic scale shapes, hammer-ons, and alternate picking! On top of all this, it’s easy.

I realize that this is notated using hammer-ons, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use alternate picking alternatively!

Try applying the same string-skipping style to your other pentatonic shapes.

String skipping exercise A minor pentatonic scale

G major speed picking exercise

You can speed pick your way through major scale octaves using alternate picking or economy picking.

With the ascending shape, which is measure 1, use your index, middle, and ring fingers on each string.

For the descending shape, which is measure 2, descend using your pinky, middle, and index fingers.

Resolve on the 3rd fret of the low E string, the G note, if you want a nice sounding resolution.

G Major Octave Shred Lick scaled e1666126520735

Whole tone alternate picking

This is one of my favorite outside licks. It’s easy, and sounds so cool.

It’s a simple whole tone lick moving in whole steps, 2 notes-per-string, on the G and B strings.

You’ll use your index and ring fingers consistently for the entire lick.

While this is one of the best alternate picking exercises, it’s also a great guitar exercise for hammer-ons and “outside” playing.

Whole Tone Alternate Picking Exercise Guitar

Hexatonic alternate picking

Hexatonic alternate picking is a common shred and metal guitar technique, and is used by every guitar great under the sun, from Eddie Van Halen to Paul Gilbert!

The idea is simple: move up or down in hexatonic patterns (groups of 6), using diatonic 3-notes-per-string shapes across two adjacent strings. They’re very easy to create if you know your 3-notes-per-string major scale shapes.

Diatonic simply means it comes from a scale, for those of you that don’t know.

You can also play this exercise using hammer-ons, which is why I notated it with them.

Hexatonic Pattern 3 Notes Per String in E Minor

Zakk Wylde style 2 notes per string blues lick

This is a 2-notes-per-string alternate picking exercise using the blues scale! It’s in the style of Zakk Wylde, the ultimate pentatonic speed-picking master from Black Label Society, and Ozzy Osbourne.

Here are 5 more easy blues and rock guitar licks.

Zakk Wylde style 2 notes per string blues alternate picking exercise

Bluegrass style open G major

This is a bluegrass style lick utilizing the open position of the G major scale.

It uses groups of six notes organized into triplets, and each group of six is played: D-U-D | U-D-U. The space in the middle represents the string shift.

This will increase your “inside picking” speed. Inside picking happens when you move to the above string using an upstroke, coming from a downstroke.

When you move to the above string using a downstroke, coming from an upstroke, it’s called “outside picking”.

You’ll end with a simple G major triad.

Bluegrass Style Alternate Picking Exercises in G Major

String skipping third intervals in C major

This is an alternate picking or hybrid picking exercise.

The exercise cycles through the thirds in the C major scale, the thirds being on the D string.

Looking at and playing the notes on the B string alone will give you a single string major scale starting from the root note, C.

Learn about the major scale formula here.

C major scale string skipping thirds hybrid or alternate picking exercise

John Petrucci string skipping right hand exercise

This is a simple ascending and descending, string skipping exercise using an A major barre shape at the 5th position.

This particular A major shape is derived from the Open E major CAGED shape.

The exercise comes from John Petrucci’s Rock Discipline DVD, and starts around the 17:00 mark.

Remember to simply pick D-U for each string skip.

John Petrucci String Skipping alternate picking exercises

Alternate Picking Exercises Summary

Alternate picking exercises unlock the path to technical freedom, and assist in the synchronization of the right and left hands on the guitar.

While these exercises will help you gain speed and technical fluency, make sure you practice songs and other licks that incorporate alternate picking to diversify your fretboard knowledge and not sound mechanical/robotic in your guitar playing.

Thanks for reading, and keep shredding!