Guitar Rhythm and Techniques For Dummies
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As you alternate pick passages on guitar, you may notice that some string changes are easier than others. For most people, it’s easier to approach a string from the inside than the outside. You need to play through this example in order to grasp this concept.

As you look at the tab, notice that the only strings in use are the third and fourth. Imagine that your guitar only has those strings. In the first measure, you pick down on the E note at the second fret of the fourth string, and then up on the open third string, G. As you repeat these notes, your pick always comes at the two strings from the outside, making what’s called outside picking.

The second measure features the same two notes, but in the reverse order. You now pick down on the G and up on the E. In this case, your pick comes at the strings from the inside, making what’s called inside picking.

Outside and inside picking.
Outside and inside picking.

The example below takes the previous example a little further and shows you how outside and inside picking can change from position to position. Notice how in the first measure you need to come from the outside of strings three and four as you change between them.

In the second measure, which features the very same notes only in the next position, you change strings on the inside. Both lines use eighth and sixteenth notes so that you can feel the difference that the outside and inside picking makes as your rate increases. When efficiency and speed are of concern, most guitarists opt to play a passage in a manner that allows for inside picking.

Outside and inside picking with the pentatonic scale.
Outside and inside picking with the pentatonic scale.

Next, you work with one more example of outside and inside picking, this time in the key of A harmonic minor and using a waltz time signature in 3/4. The two positions have you changing strings with different strokes. As you pick up the pace, what feels more comfortable to you: the first or second line?

Outside and inside picking with the harmonic minor scale.
Outside and inside picking with the harmonic minor scale.

You need to use scale fingerings that work well for your fretting hand. Now you know to consider how you can make your picking hand’s job easier, too, by arranging your parts in positions that allow for inside picking, if that’s what feels best for you.

Shredders (guitarists who play superfast lead lines) like to take advantage of sweeping, economy, and inside picking, in order to play maximum notes with minimal movement.

About This Article

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Desi Serna has built a substantial online platform as an engaging and approachable guitar guru-a guitar player and teacher with more than 10,000 hours of experience providing private guitar lessons and classes. Serna is hailed as a "music-theory expert" by Rolling Stone magazine.

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