Economy Picking Vs. Alternate Picking | What’s the Difference?

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Understanding economy picking vs. alternate picking

Alternate picking is one of the first techniques guitar players learn because its simple and efficient. While it may be one of the first steps in learning to control your picking hand, a good next step is learning economy picking.

In this easy guitar lesson you’ll take a look at economy picking vs. alternate picking in an effort to understand how and when to implement the two techniques.

The difference between economy picking and alternate picking

Understanding the difference between alternate picking and economy picking is simple and necessary.

Alternate picking is the consistent alternation of downstrokes and upstrokes, for both even and odd note groupings. Economy picking, rather than switching to an upstroke or downstroke to change strings, will instead follow the motion of the previously used pick stroke.

Should I alternate pick or economy pick?

Whether or not you should alternate pick or economy pick depends on the picking sequence.

As a general rule, alternate picking is used for even-note-picking sequences, and economy picking is used for odd-note-picking sequences.

Economy picking vs. alternate picking examples

Remember, with economy picking you’ll continue to move from one string to the next string using the same picking motion.

For example, if you end on an upstroke on the high E string, you’ll move to the B string using that same motion (an upstroke).

Here’s an example from my article economy picking exercises.

Start this exercise on an upstroke, alternating the first five notes, which will result in ending on an upstroke. This means you can move to the B string with that same upstroke, resulting in economy picking.

On the other hand, if you start with a downstroke for the first five notes, you’ll end on a downstroke, so the most logical motion to get to the B string will be an upstroke, resulting in alternate picking.

Economy picking vs. alternate picking example lick

As you can see by practicing this example, there’s no clear winner when it comes to economy picking vs. alternate picking. They both have their place.

By the way, here’s a video that goes more in-depth on economy picking examples and exercises.

Economy Picking Vs. Alternate Picking Conclusion

Using economy picking or alternate picking depends on the sequence you’re playing, so practice both techniques!

While some guitar players and teachers may have a preference on which technique is better, it’s ultimately up to you to decide.

Lastly, watching great economy pickers such as Frank Gambale, and great alternate pickers such as Paul Gilbert, will be the best way to understand the difference between economy picking and alternate picking.