Old Dog, New Tricks


I have studied under a number of guitar teachers over the years. And in a variety of styles.

I am currently working with a teacher on improvisation. He asked me about my sweeping and directional techniques.

Well, I don’t sweep and I don’t do directional picking.

Guess what I am doing now?

Sweeping and directional picking.

When I first started playing scales, I was taught to use alternate picking for each and every note: down, up, down, up, down, up, etc.

Directional picking uses a down first approach when ascending and an up first approach when descending.

Assuming an 18-note scale fingering, three notes per string, you would go down-up-down on each string as you ascend in tone, sweeping down the guitar neck, and up-down-up as you descend in tone, sweeping up the guitar neck.

You gain significant speed when playing scales and arpeggios.

Then my teacher asked me about how I approach playing scales and modes. I told him that I use the five pattern approach.

He asked me if I was familiar with the seven pattern approach.

I am now relearning all of my scales using seven fingering patterns.

Obviously the scales and fingering patterns that I have practiced for decades are burned in deep within the muscle memory. And the first few hours of using a new picking technique and new fingering patterns was humbling to say the least.

Then, it all became effortless. My fingers learned how to execute directional picking and my muscle memory learned how to place my fingers with the new patterns.

That said, I need to be more careful in terms of how I answer my teacher’s questions.

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