13 March 2012

About gallops and down picking

I've got some serious problems with alternate picking.
From when I first picked up a guitar down picking felt much more natural than alternate picking but now I'm starting to realize I've made a serious mistake ignoring it.
I've always wanted being able to play kick ass down picked riff like that MoP riff.
So I practiced and practiced and built up speed until it sounded pretty good.
Meanwhile I practiced galloping as well but somewhere along the way it went wrong and now I'm re-learning to gallop the 'proper' way.
A couple days ago I realized why this happened.

Let's take this riff from MoP as an exmaple:

A |-----2-----3-----4-----3-----2-2-- [...]
E |-0-1---0-1---0-1---0-1---0-1------ [...]
    D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D D

This is played at 218 bpm, so it's pretty fucking fast.
Down picking obviously implies performing a down stroke, then bringing the pick back up without hitting the string and down pick again and doing this really really fast.
Now let's take this basic gallop:

E |-0--0-0-0--0-0-0--0-0-0--0-0-0-- ...
    D  D U D  D U D  D U D  D U D

And this is where my problem starts...
I'm so used at performing the D-D movement, I'm now having the greatest problems performing a basic DUD movement.
Instead I noticed I perform a gallop like this:

E |-0--0-0-0--0-0-0--0-0-0--0-0-0--
    D  U D U  U D U  U D U  U D U

Somewhere along the way my brain decided to perform a gallop, which is a form of alternate picking of course, starting with an 'up' movement to, I guess, differentiate between the regular down stroke and an alternate pick.
When doing faster alternate picked stuff I caught myself starting with an 'up' movement as well, losing speed, needlessly creating extra hand movement so losing efficiency while doing so.
Detecting and realizing why one makes mistakes is the first step, right.
So now I've got to unlearn starting an alternate series with an up stroke by default and that's easier said than done.


  1. Interesting post. Some remarks
    1) 218 bpm doesn't make much sense unless you say for what. If they are sixteenths and you're doing them at 218 for a quarter you don't have a speed problem. half that speed should be manageable.
    2) Normally you would not want to put a metronome at 218 -- put it at 110. It actually gets easier to play when the beat goes a little slower. D. Gillespie has the following to say:
    This might need to be taken with a grain of salt in your metal style.
    3) Don't work on speed. play stuff at a tempo you can solidly achieve. Working on speed is learning yourself to make mistakes if you can't achieve it. If you speed something up always go back to a slow manageable tempo after the exercise.
    4) Working on regular stuff is a better exercise than working on non regular stuff. DUDU is better than DxDU DxDU.

    I'll have a listen to MoP to get find out what's going on.

  2. 1) You're right. It's 8th's at around 218bpm, down picked.
    2) Interesting article, thanks for that.
    3) Actually I don't really have any problems with speed in general. Breaking it down, playing it slowly without any errors,increasing the tempo a bit then rinse and repeat has worked pretty well for me.
    4) That's what I suspected and thanks for confirming that. I'm practicing regular DUDU alternate picking now, not focusing on the gallop stuff alone. I figured once the DUDU movement becomes natural, performing gallops the 'right' way will be a breeze.

    But MoP isn't the problem.
    I blatantly ignored alternate picking in the past, so now every time I pick a string muscle memory makes my hand rise up again and get ready for another downstroke.
    That's what I'm trying to change: the muscle memory/brain thing that makes me want to perform only a downstroke each time I'm picking a string unless I start a series with an upstroke, in which case alternate picking isn't a problem.

    Cheers man,