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Bluegrass Guitar Lesson: Alternate Picking Exercises


Bluegrass tunes, in general, tend to be played at faster tempos, and feature upbeat rhythms, fast-paced chord changes, and intricate melodies comprised of eighth and sixteenth-note runs. Equally complex and detailed solo sections highlighting each ensemble member are also commonplace within the genre. Therefore, as a result, it is essential for bluegrass players of all levels to focus on maximizing their technical efficiency on their respective instruments and truly master critical foundational techniques from the beginning of their musical journey.


In this online guitar lesson, Punch Brothers co-founder, Grammy Award-winning guitarist, and ArtistWorks bluegrass acoustic guitar instructor, Chris Eldridge, teaches a handful of essential exercises to help you improve your alternate picking. Alternate picking is a crucial technique for bluegrass guitarists and is the foundation on which almost all other flatpick guitar methods are built.


LEARN MORE: Want to learn how to play bluegrass guitar from a master musician like Chris Eldridge? Try some free online guitar lessons now!


“Flatpicking is generally a pretty ‘note-y’ style,” Chris explains. “There are usually a lot of rapid-fire notes, and that’s because the acoustic guitar is quieter than most of the other string band instruments. So, we as flatpickers usually end up playing fast streams of notes because they cut through the band better and make more of an impact in that context. In order to play fast streams of notes cleanly, we almost always need to alternate pick.”


When you’re first learning to alternate pick, the required motion to execute the technique properly can feel very foreign. As a result, players tend to tense up and their picking wrist and elbow often become stiff and rigid, which makes performing the technique properly even more difficult. Therefore, players of all levels should pay attention to the tension in their bodies when practicing their alternate picking.


“It’s really important to get into the habit of noticing tension,” explains Chris. “If you tense up, the notes won’t have the same quality. And, it’s really easy to tense up when you feel like you need to play really loud or you’re not being heard. So, when you’re learning this technique, make sure to take the time to notice any tension you may be experiencing and develop habits that will help you avoid tensing up when alternate picking.”


To learn a few critical exercises to improve your alternate picking and make you a better flatpicker, dive into this online guitar lesson from Chris Eldridge:


Alternate Picking Exercises with Chris Eldridge:



This lesson from Chris is featured in our brand new Americana Guitar Bundle course. Taught by legendary guitarists Chris Eldridge, Guthrie Trapp, & Keith Wyatt, the Americana Guitar Bundle provides a series of video lessons teaching essential guitar styles that make up the Americana genre: bluegrass, Nashville country, & blues. In addition to essential performance methods in each style, students will learn classic tunes and have access to play-along backing tracks, tablature, and more. Click here to sign up and learn more.



Have you always wanted to learn how to play bluegrass guitar? Through our comprehensive guitar lessons online and Video Exchange Learning platform here at ArtistWorks, you can learn from internationally renowned players, like Chris Eldridge, and get personal feedback on your playing.


Chris’ course starts with the basics and teaches everything from beginner guitar to advanced performance techniques, classic bluegrass tunes, and beyond. So, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player, all levels are welcome and all students will grow and improve their skills as guitarists and musicians.


Sample some free music lessons here and see what makes ArtistWorks courses some of the best online music lessons around!



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