Double picking on the guitar simply means playing the same note twice in the same amount of time.
In the next examples the note is first played, then double picked. In Ex. 1 a quarter note (crotchet) is divided in two eight notes (quavers) while in Ex. 2 an eight note is divided in two sixteenth notes (semiquavers).
Double picking is useful to guitarists for two main reasons:
- As a melodic option: If you’re coming up with a melody in a guitar lick or a solo, double picking is an option you can use.
In the following example, a simple melody is played twice. The first time it uses no double picking. The second time some notes are double picked, which makes the melody more interesting.
2. As a useful guitar exercise: Using double picking as an exercise is what we’ll be focusing on in the rest of this lesson.
Practicing double picking is particularly useful for guitarists working on building their speed.
Playing fast in itself is not very hard. The real challenge is playing fast, clean and accurate at the same time.
There are a number of skills you need to develop to play fast, clean and accurate and one of the most important is two-hand synchronization.
You play something with good two-hand synchronization when both hands fret and pick each note at exactly the same time.
If you take any guitar exercise, lick or riff and keep increasing the tempo you will reach a point where your two-hand synchronization breaks up and your playing will start sounding sloppy.
Double stop exercises are a great way to improve your two hand synchronization, which will enable you to play faster and better.
Thus, start playing these double note guitar exercises slowly (and perfectly), and incrementally increase the speed until you cannot play them perfectly anymore.
This is the speed at which you should be practicing them most, with your ears attentively looking for any inaccuracies and correcting them.
Note: These exercises should be practiced with as well as without distortion. Distortion masks certain inaccuracies, thus you should spend part of your practicing time using a clean tone. On the other hand, distortion creates new challenges (unwanted strings buzzing or scratching noises in between the notes) and these can only be identified if you’re playing with the distortion on.
Thus you should alternate between playing the guitar clean and playing with distortion to get the best results. This should not just be done with the exercises in this lesson but with most of what you practice.
If you can play a piece of music correctly both clean and with distortion, you can’t possibly go wrong, and you would have learned more in the process.
Exercise 1: Double picking two notes on the same string
The first exercise is as easy as it can get since we’re only using two notes on the same string.
Still, if you keep increasing the speed you will reach a point where your playing starts to break up.
Work at that speed and make sure you attentively listen to any inaccuracies.
Were any notes hit just slightly in advance, or slightly late? Did you have to omit a note, or play a note twice to fit in with the time?
Exercise 2: More notes, single string
Next we’re going to extend the exercise to all our left hand fingers.
If a particular finger is giving you a hard time, practice it more than the others.
Exercise 3: Double picking w/string changes
In the next exercise you will practice two-hand synchronization when changing strings.
Exercise 4: Minor pentatonic scale
In this exercise double picking is applied to the minor pentatonic scale.
You can easily apply double picking technique to any scale or arpeggio you’re learning at the moment.
Exercise 5: Double picking a melody
Finally, we’re going to double pick a simple melody.
As an exercise you can experiment with double picking only some notes instead of all of them which will create variation in the melody.
Where to go from here if you want to play fast
Double picking addresses just one problem that blocks guitarists from playing faster.
In this free E-course, virtuoso guitarist Tom Hess addresses all these limitations and shows you the specific things you need to do to be able to play the guitar fast, clean and accurate in the shortest time possible.
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