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Economy Picking Lesson

Hi all!

I'm sure everyone has heard about economy picking and has seen some neat "tricks" being done using the technique. One thing is for sure, some licks can be played incredibly quickly using this efficient picking method! It's useful for more than just a couple of tricks though. I have some examples which show how this technique can be applied in several situations. Hopefully these examples will help you incorporate economy picking in your playing!

You'll notice that economy picking is most effective with 3 notes per string. It can also be useful for other note combinations too, especially pentatonic licks. Pay careful attention to the upstrokes and downstrokes!

Figure 1 shows the basics of economy picking applied to a major scale run. The string changes are usually a mini-sweep which saves plenty of time and energy. Most people know about this method of using economy picking. It's sort of boring and I think alternate picking sounds better with this type of run. It's a good place to start figuring out how all this economy picking works though!

Lick 1

Figure 2 is a common pentatonic lick that can be tough to play at warp speed using alternate picking. Economy picking lets you turn it up a notch and head into high gear! You get two picked notes for the price of one upstroke or downstroke. The main thing here is synchronization!


Fortunately economy picking has many other applications in addition to that lick. It can be combined with some hammer-on and pull-off techniques to achieve some cool sounds. See figure 3 for this ascending pentatonic lick. The key to this lick is the ascending mini-sweep which has a hammer-on in between the picked notes. This lick has a lot of notes flying around, but the picking motion is very economical and it doesn't really look like you're really picking!


This lick has some arpeggio ideas which fall nicely across the neck. It combines the previous techniques with a bit more flare and gets away from the pentatonics. It's sort of a Bm to E change and can be used to imply a ii-V. This demonstrates how some imagination and simple arpeggio shapes can be utilized to create a cool sound.


Lick 5 is a variation of lick 2, but it adds some chromaticism to spice it up! This is similar to something Zakk Wylde might do. If you saw Live at Budokan you know what I'm talking about!

Lick 5

Lick 6 shows how you can take a simple pattern like lick 2 and move it up the neck for some more melodic interest.

Lick 6

The sky is the limit with economy picking. All it takes is some imagination and experimentation to come up with your own ideas. Economy picking can be a nice addition to your technique arsenal.

Alternate picking and economy picking can coexist happily in your trick bag. Each technique has its strong points and hopefully you can find a way to use it in your guitar playing.

Here are some sound clips demonstrating these techniques, specifically licks 2, 3, 5 and 6.
And here's the Powertab file to this lesson.


About the Author
Bizarro is a long time active member of the iBreatheMusic community. If you'd like to comment on this article feel free to post in the forums.

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