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At the heart of this masterclass are 75 challenging exercises. This is an intensive course
designed to challenge your technique in several key areas: alternate picking, legato, econo-
my picking, hybrid picking and tapping. Think of it as a technique primer: a way to evaluate
your overall progress and plan your practice sessions.

These techniques don’t exist in isolation; every time you play a note on a guitar, you’re
using a mix of motor coordination, muscle memory, aural memory, and all while listening
to yourself (feedback). Developing technique is not simply a way of playing faster; it’s all
about gaining control over your tone and dynamics, your physical efficiency, your timing and
groove... every aspect of your playing. To do this properly, we need to work on the widest
range of physical movements, covering all the main aspects of technique.

Unlike on say, the violin, the electric guitar has, for several reasons not worth going into
here, never truly developed any kind of technical orthodoxy: unlike classical instruments
where composers set the agenda for performers, the history of the electric guitar technique
is all about the breakthroughs of self-created mavericks. As such, we notice that the great
practitioners of the instrument have found their own solutions to the technique problem,
and, moreover, if you couldn’t do a particular lick, you didn’t have to play it (there’s rarely a
composer/conductor breathing down your neck!). All that said, when we look at the right-
hand idiosyncrasies of guitar greats like Pat Metheny, George Benson, Van Halen, Django


Reinhardt, Yngwie Malmsteen to name but a few, we should take comfort from the fact that there’s
more than one way to ‘skin a cat’, and there are advantages to having your pick slanted at one
angle vs another. Here’s the important bit: it cannot feel uncomfortable or tense, or otherwise it’ll
sound uncomfortable and tense. Yes, when you’re adapting your technique to fix something, it may
feel awkward for a week or so, but it’s worth sticking with, but following on from that you should aim
to experience a sensation of control and comfort. You’d be surprised at how efficient your subcon-
scious brain is at finding this sweet spot, so if you catch yourself playing freely and you weren’t
necessarily thinking about technique, take a moment to observe what you were doing differently.

[You’ll notice that we’re not including string-bending here. This is a more complex subject as it takes
us away from pure technique and into questions of melody and subjective musical judgement.
That’s why we also have the huge three-part JTC String Bending Masterclass!]

There are no Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced sections this time. Anyone with a basic ability in
alternate picking, hammer-ons and pull-offs can attempt the exercises. If they’re too fast fro you,
just set your metronome to a slower tempo. Many of the exercises are not particularly fast, but the
recommended tempos used in the exercise demonstrations are intended to be awkward. Some pat-
terns and movements are actually easier at fast tempos because you focus on the whole “gesture”.
We’re going to make you work harder by focusing on the tiny details!

For some relief, there are two sets of licks (using two backing tracks at different tempi so that differ-
ent subdivisions of beat become possible/musical) and a full solo. The licks are all on the ‘difficult’
side, but feel free to just explore what is being done and working at them at a slower tempo (as you
would do for an exercise). As usual, there are video, audio and Tab files for everything. All you need
is your guitar and a deep breath... ready?

There are two main problems that people experience when working on their alternate picking. The
first is an inability to change speed. We often work on exercises with the intention of reaching a
particular target (16th notes at 180bpm or whatever) but this is primarily a matter of consistency and
stamina. So...

EXERCISES 1-7: These exercises involve alternate picking on a single string, but something chang-
es. In Exercise 1 we simply double the speed from 8th notes to 16th notes, and in Exercise 2 we
switch from regular notes to palm-muting. Exercise 3 challenges your rhythm awareness by squeez-
ing 6 notes into each beat, and then Exercises 4-7 work on “bursts” where a steady stream of 16th
notes is interrupted periodically by 32nd notes or 16th triplets. The bursts may seem very fast at
first, but stick with them – you’ll notice that if you relax enough and hear them clearly they are easily
achievable (it helps me to focus on accenting the first note of attack and the final note of the burst,
thus thinking of it as one movement without worrying too much about the motion in-between –
maybe this will work for you too). If they are too tricky at the recommended tempo, slow them down
and focus on developing a smooth, even right hand attack.

Alternate picking becomes more difficult when you start changing strings. This is particularly true
when your pick is moving in the “wrong” direction. Let’s zoom in to just two notes in a lick, where
you’re playing a note on the D string followed by a note on the G string...

D: downstroke, G: upstroke
D: upstroke, G: downstroke


In the first example, the natural movement of the pick takes it over the G string (some call this ‘out-
side’ picking). But in the second example your pick is travelling further and therefore you have to
move faster to maintain the rhythm (some call this inside picking). Economy picking is a partial solu-
tion to this problem, but it’s important to develop your alternate picking as well.

EXERCISE 8: This is the most common manifestation of the “direction problem”: the 3-note-per-
string scale fingering. This is a very important part of the guitar’s layout, so it’s vital to practise these
scale patterns with strict alternate picking.

EXERCISES 9-11: These exercises work on more extreme string changes, working over all six
strings. Exercise 11 might initially seem easy, as the melodic shape matches your picking direction
(you’re always picking inwards towards a middle point). But in the middle of bar 2 we add an extra
note which throws the picking direction out of sync. You’re now picking outwards, causing the maxi-
mum possible pick movement.

EXERCISES 12-15: Combining more complex string changes with the tricky 3-note grouping. Exer-
cises 13-15 work on three different permutations of a triad pattern. These exercises come with the
extra problem of trying to keep the phrase clear without ringing strings and some of the left hand
moves are a little awkward – it’s a great set of exercises for building accuracy between the hands
and working on cutting out excess noise with subtle muting.

EXERCISE 16: All groups of two and four notes, but alternating through a longer pattern.

EXERCISES 17-19: It’s natural for most people to start an alternate picking line with a downstroke,
but this can mean that you develop a familiarity with your favourite patterns, missing areas of weak-
ness. A great practice idea is to play each exercise twice, first starting with a downstroke, then
starting with an upstroke. These three exercises are based on this idea. Pay careful attention to the
picking directions.

EXERCISES 20-23: Shifting to faster tempos to take you out of your comfort zone.

EXERCISES 24-25: Back down to 120bpm, but now using faster subdivisions (16th-note triplets).

EXERCISE 26: Finally, here’s a longer workout, based on part of a Bach partita (a portion of the
‘double’ from Partita I). Pieces like this are more of a challenge than shorter exercises because you
lose the luxury of the predictable pattern. You can’t simply lock into a groove here, and because it’s
a little awkward for the guitar, it’s a real workout to get the whole thing clean and even. As a side
note, it’s often the way that working on a real piece of music exposes what needs work in your tech-

With legato, the difficulties are on a purely physical level... flexibility and strength. Most people’s 1st
and 2nd fingers are stronger than their 3rd and 4th fingers, so it’s particularly important to practise
hammer-ons with all four fingers. You need enough strength to produce a crisp, powerful hammer-
on, even when stretching to reach the fret. This will, of course, be easier on some guitars/set-ups
than others. Regardless of what you’re using, avoid the overuse of gain and compression when
developing your legato technique so as to ensure that you’re achieving smooth, even dynamics.


EXERCISES 1-5: Working on all four fingers in various combinations. Notice how Exercises 4 and 5
involve position shifts; the challenge here is to shift without disturbing the smooth, consistent flow
of the legato technique.

EXERCISES 6-7: As with any guitar technique, some patterns feel more natural than others. With le-
gato, it’s often about the number of notes matching the number of fingers, so in these exercises we
have four fingers playing a triplet pattern (Ex6) and three fingers playing a regular 16th note pattern
(Ex7). For an extra challenge, try playing the pattern from Exercise 7 with all possible finger permuta-
tions... 1-2-3, 2-3-4, 1-2-4, 1-3-4.

EXERCISE 8: This is a great exercise for various aspects of legato playing... finger independence,
maintaining consistent volume between fingers, positional sense. The same two notes repeat
throughout, but you change finger every couple of beats.

EXERCISE 9: More intensive work on the adjacent pairs of fingers. Can you get the same volume
from fingers 3-4 as you can from fingers 1-2?

EXERCISES 10-11: A couple of exercises based on 3-note-per-string scale shapes. Notice how Jake
plays Ex11; instead of picking the first note on each string, he creates the initial vibration with a
hammer-on (“hammer-on from nowhere”).

EXERCISES 12-14: These exercises (like Ex4/5) work on position shifts. Exercise 12 is like an exten-
sion of Ex8, while Exercises 13 and 14 combine position shifts with 3nps fingerings. Notice the work
that the outer fingers do in Ex. 13/14 and the role they play in aiding the position shifts (whether
ascending or descending).

EXERCISE 15: Another exercise that forces you to be aware of your hand position and the spatial
relationships between your fingers. The hammer-ons and pull-offs move around the static F note,
meaning that you have to change fingers smoothly.

EXERCISES 16-18: As we mentioned before, it’s good to progress beyond short repeating patterns
- once they become established in your muscle memory, there’s no challenge to them any more.
These three exercises use longer patterns that don’t neatly match the beat.

EXERCISES 19-20: Building speed with 16th-note triplets.

EXERCISES 21-22: Longer stretches! This means that you have to use your weaker 3rd and 4th
fingers more; also, your hand position is less stable, so you have to work harder to maintain a good
legato tone.

EXERCISE 23: An arpeggio exercise, using some of the diatonic 7th arpeggios in C major (Fmaj7 G7
Am7 Bm7b5 Cmaj7).

EXERCISE 24: This smooth, fast descending line illustrates the scope for tonal variation in legato
lines. At each double string change, there are three notes which can be picked. For example, in
the first pattern, there’s the 12 on the B string, the 8 on the E string, and then the 12 on the B string
again, starting the next legato line. In this case, though, Jake picks only the 8 on the E string, playing
the two 12th fret notes with hammer-ons.


The basic principle of economy picking is to solve the problem we encountered with alternate pick-
ing when changing string (see above). By planning the fingering of lines, we can maximise the situa-
tions where the string change follows the same direction as the pick stroke. For example...

D string: down-up-down...
G string: ... down...
B string: ... down-up-down-up...
G string: ... up...
D string: ... up-down.

Try designing your own licks using that pattern!

Jake says ‘In my personal experience economy picking works best at higher tempos and when you
are essentially combining mini, three-note, sweeps into normal alternate picking lines. Economy
picking, to me, feels as though I have to put the breaks on when crossing strings. Similarly, if you’re
trying to accent a note that happens to be the 2nd down-stroke of an adjacent pair, you’ll find it
very hard! As such, alternate picking is inherently more flexible and controllable when it comes too
rhythmic phrasing. My personal approach is to use economy picking as a way of raking through
arpeggio shapes smoothly. Other players, such as the great economy picker, Frank Gambale, have
found a way around these barriers. That said, it certainly doesn’t hurt to build up your economy
picking – you’ll be amazed at some subtle areas where it comes in useful!’

EXERCISES 1-2: A couple of basic patterns to get you started. Exercise 1 isolates the basic move-
ment, with two consecutive downstrokes and two consecutive upstrokes on muted strings. Exercise
2 takes this pattern and then expands it to three notes.

EXERCISE 3-4: In the real world, you’ll be using both economy picking and alternate picking side by
side, and it’s important that you can switch smoothly between them. Exercise 3 is a 3-note-per-string
scale pattern, using economy picking on the string changes. Notice how we change direction by
having an even number of notes (two on the E string). Exercise 4 mixes alternate-picked groups of
three notes with longer sweeps.

EXERCISE 5: The pull-off in this pattern means you don’t have to plan the economy (or alternate)
picking throughout. The pull-off gives you a moment to position your pick for the three-string down-
stroke sweep.

EXERCISES 6-7: This demonstrates how certain patterns work perfectly with economy picking, as
long as you take the time to plan the picking direction. In Ex6 each three-note group requires only
two pickstrokes, and in Ex7 the pattern is augmented with a pull-off.

EXERCISES 8-10: Three longer patterns illustrating the basic rule of economy picking: to maintain
direction, use an odd number of notes per string; to change direction, use an even number of notes.
Exercise 10 uses a stretched F minor pentatonic (F Ab Bb C Eb) fingering.


Everyone has their own idea of hybrid (pick and fingers) picking. Some players only ever use their
middle finger in addition to the pick, allowing for quick alternating down-m patterns as an alterna-
tive to standard down-up alternate picking. At the other end of the spectrum, there are players who
achieve incredible pianistic independence with all three spare fingers (m-a-c) in addition to the pick.
These exercises sit somewhere in the middle, combining hybrid moves with our other techniques...

EXERCISE 1: Starting with a simple down-m repetition, we then switch to triplets with a down-up-m
pattern. It’s worth spending some extra time on this second pattern, as it can be awkward to com-
bine an upstroke with a fingerstroke.

EXERCISE 2: This line could easily be played with alternate picking, but the insertion of a middle-
finger pluck gives it a more punchy tone.

EXERCISE 3: This is similar to what we did with alternate picking Exercises 12-15, playing a simple
triad shape with four different picking patterns. As you can see, we’re now using the middle and
ring fingers (m and a) in addition to the pick.

EXERCISES 4-5: These are the kind of licks where hybrid picking is ideal. These licks would be awk-
ward with alternate picking, but they work so much better with hybrid. The pick stays on the same
string throughout, so your picking hand position is more stable.

EXERCISE 6: This is a more fiddly example, but again it shows how you can add interesting tonal
variations by inserting a fingerpicked note in an otherwise alternate-picked line.

EXERCISE 7: This is a cool sequenced Am7 arpeggio pattern using hybrid picking interspersed with
a few hammer-ons. Because the four-note sequence moves gradually across string groups, you
need to pay attention to the hybrid picking. Sometimes you’ll need pick-m-a, other times just pick-m.
Also pay attention to the three tonal elements... the pick, the finger-pick and the hammer-on. Try to
get a smooth, rippling sound.


Although tapping is a type of legato technique, it requires separate treatment. The picking hand po-
sition makes it more difficult to combine tapping with various picking techniques. In these exercises,
we’ll concentrate on tapping and regular legato techniques, using just one tapping finger. When
working on these exercises, while it's very tricky to achieve absolute evenness and clarity without a
load of gain and compression, aim for the tapped note to not sound too much louder than the left
hand notes and take a moment to observe the natural rhythmic qualities that arise in certain

EXERCISE 1: Some simple three-note and four-note patterns to get you started. This is fundamental
Van Halen debut album territory, a vital part of the tapping guitarist’s education!

EXERCISE 2: The “hammer-on from nowhere” technique is a vital part of tapping, as it saves you
having to quickly move your picking hand from tapping position to picking position. This pattern is
similar to what we did in Exercise 1, but now moving over two strings.


EXERCISE 3: Now with just two notes per string and a lot more vertical movement, this is reminis-
cent of early Greg Howe.

EXERCISES 4-6: These three exercises use tapping to create long scale lines. Exercise 4 is a
3-note-per-string D minor pentatonic (D F G A C) pattern, while Exercise 5 uses four notes per string
and adds a B note for a Dorian (D E F G A B C) sound. This exercise is a BEAST, using a 4-note-per-
string pattern to play a stretched E minor pentatonic (E G A B D).

EXERCISE 7: This is a simple concept, using the same Cadd9 pattern through three octaves, but the
main challenge is the fingering precision required. You’re skipping strings and shifting position in
parallel with both hands.


The solo and first set of licks are at a tempo of 87 bpm. This is the kind of tempo where 16th notes
are within the ability of most players, but they can sound plodding and bland. This means you can
work on applying our core techniques to faster subdivisions... 16th triplets, 32nd notes, even 32nd
quintuplets and sextuplets (five and six notes per half-beat) as Jake plays in bars 15-16 of the solo.

As we mentioned above, it’s generally harder to play 32nd notes at 87 bpm than 16th notes at
174bpm. Even though the notes are exactly the same length, there’s more space between the beats,
so it’s harder to maintain your timing and anticipate the beats.

Also, for many people, 87 bpm will be comfortable for 16th notes but perhaps only with certain tech-
niques. Can you pick as fast as you can play legato? Can you play legato as rhythmically accurately
as you can pick? Try taking some of Jake’s licks and adapting them for all the five techniques we’ve
covered. Can you play them all in 16th notes? Or 16th triplets... or even 32nds?

The second set of licks (“tempo2”) are at 113 bpm. At this tempo, 16th-note licks have a little more
punch and drama, but faster subdivisions are more of a physical difficulty. Try working on shorter
bursts, as we did in alternate picking exercises 4-7. With faster subdivisions, you’ll often have to con-
centrate more on the overall shape and contour of the line. Instead of worrying about playing ac-
curate 16ths or 32nds, simply try to fit the whole lick into the available space, ending on a particular
target note. Tempo 2 Lick 4 is a good example of this.

We hope you enjoyed this masterclass! There’s lots to work on here, and it’s all designed for long-
term study and development, so if you find it difficult, don’t give up!