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The Art of ‘Economy’ Picking

Economy picking: a hybrid of sweep and alternate picking

Hey there, and welcome back for another exciting month of “Fierce Guitar.” This month we’re really going to be going for it … no holding back! So let’s just get right into it.

OK, for starters we are going to be economy picking this example. For those who don’t know what economy picking is, here’s a good explanation from Wikipedia: “A hybrid of sweep picking and alternate picking, economy picking involves using alternate picking except when changing strings. In this case, the guitarist changes to sweep picking, picking in the direction of travel: an upstroke if changing to a lower (pitch) string, a downstroke if changing to a higher (pitch) string. The aim is to minimize movement in the right hand, and avoid the motion of ‘jumping’ over a string prior to picking it, as often occurs in alternate-picking. Thus the picking pattern of an ascending threenote- per-string scale would be: D-U-D-D-U-DD- U-D, and the descending pattern would start just like alternate picking (up stroke first): U-DU- U-D-U-U-D-U-U.”

Alright, got it? Now, when you use the same pick direction to change strings, it will be notated in the tab. We are also going to be using all four fingers on your fretting hand with some considerable stretches, so please take your time and warm up properly. Harmonically, we are playing arpeggios in a sixteenth note triplet rhythm, and each measure is a new arpeggio. If you are not sure what an arpeggio is, here’s an explanation: it is simply when you play each note of a chord one at a time so that no more than one note is sounding at any time. Here are the arpeggios, the notes that compose each arpeggio and the formula to construct each arpeggio:

E minor: E-G-B; 1-b3-5

Esus2: E-F#-B; 1-2-5

Dsus4: D-G-A

Dadd4: D-F#-G-A; 1-3-4-5

A minor: A-C-E; 1-b3-5

Asus2: A-B-E

This last example is from the key of E minor. Take it slow and watch your timing and fingering. And thanks for checking out “Fierce Guitar” … see you next time.

Rusty Cooley
Rusty Cooley has been playing and teaching for over 20 years, and has recorded as a solo artist, with his band Outworld, and keyboardist Derek Sherinian. He has six instructional DVDs and a signature model 7-string guitar, the RC7 by Dean Guitars. Visit Rusty online at

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