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Jersey Jack - Posted - 02/04/2018: 13:54:57
I’ve been playing guitar for quite a while, and I’m a solid advanced intermediate. I recently became infatuated with Doc Watson, so I set out to learn bluegrass flatpicking. Everything is going well, with one exception: alternative picking/crosspicking. I just can’t get through bluegrass solos with any kind of speed—I’m literally working with 60 bpm in order to keep track of alternating down/up strokes, and even this is hard. The odd thing is that I already use alternating picking in my playing, but I do so loosely, without worrying too much about the strict regulation of the strokes. When I play in this manner I’m a lot faster, and the majority of the strokes will be correct—just not all of them.
So my question: Is alternate picking something that has to be mastered up front in order to develop bluegrass chops? I can move forward much more quickly if I can for the time being play with around 80% of the strokes moving in the right direction, but striving for 100% means that it takes a week or more of practice to get any kind of speed on a tune. Can I work on accurate picking while I’m learning tunes, or is the practice so crucial to this style of guitar playing that I would get myself into trouble down the road if I don’t prioritize proper picking before I move forward?
UsuallyPickin - Posted - 02/04/2018: 16:18:40
Crosspicking is picking patterns played on guitar to suggest the rolls of a banjo. What you seem to be talking about is alternate picking the down up down up. You just have to do it until you no longer think about doing it. What worked for me was scales. My left hand, noting hand, didn't have to be thought about when playing scales. I concentrated on D-U-D-U until it became automatic. Be patient it takes time and practice to bring it all together. Keep working on tunes and songs slowly. Learning them is an investment in your flatpicking. Play scales in the chord groups, keys they work together in. This will bridge into improvisation over time. Luck.... R/
Texasbanjo - Posted - 02/05/2018: 04:57:19
There are also other way to cross pick than the usual DUDU... you can do a DDDU if that's easier, and it works in most cases, but there are some "rolls" that you just have to use the DUDU in order to get it in time and in tempo and to sound smooth. The normal DUDU is done by most all bluegrass pickers, but it's your guitar, play it the way you want to play it. If you're 80% correct and it sound good, go for it.
As an aside: then work on getting the DUDU down pat. The more you wood shed on cross picking, the easier it becomes. I find myself trying to fingerpick when I'm doing crosspicking on the guitar and that usually doesn't work well unless I just drop the flat pick and do finger picking entirely.
Jim Yates - Posted - 02/06/2018: 14:48:19
Alternate picking should not be strictly adhered to. It's easier if you pick down on the "On" beats and up on the "Off" beats. When your foot goes down, so should your pick and vice versa. An eighth note, followed by a quarter, followed by three eighths would be played DU UDU. I've heard it called pendulum picking and that makes sense to me. Your pick keeps going down and up at the same rate, but sometimes misses the string. Triplets or lazy triplets will break this rule. I don't break the rule for cross-picking, but I've seen some very accomplished pickers who do.