How To Master Directional Picking Technique For Guitar

Directional picking helps you play guitar fast with less effort because it doesn't stop your picking hand momentum like other techniques do. Mastering this technique is critical for playing super fast without making mistakes.

Sound important?

It is!

Once you master it, playing guitar with tons of speed will be easier than ever before.

Watch the video below and find out how to make fast guitar playing easily using directional picking:

Click on the video to begin watching it.


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Common questions about directional picking:

Question: “Tom Hess, does directional picking only work for 3-note-per-string scales? What if I want to play pentatonic scales or other scales that don’t have 3 notes on every string?”

Answer: Directional picking works for everything you play (with zero exceptions). The principle of directional picking is to use the shortest possible path to the next note you need to play. Sometimes the shortest path to your next note is to use alternate picking. Other times, the shortest path is to use sweep picking to change strings and NOT use alternate picking. Integrating both mechanics achieves maximum efficiency and speed with the least amount of effort.

How To Master Directional Picking

Question: “Tom Hess, why do so many great guitar players use (and advocate) strict alternate picking?” 

Answer: Directional picking is a relatively new guitar technique. Alternate picking has been around a lot longer. Most guitar players from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000’s did not have anyone to teach them directional picking when they were beginners. They developed their speed in spite of the inefficiencies of strict alternate picking… not because it is a superior technique. They had to work much harder (and longer) to reach their goals.

Here are a few more directional picking tips to help you pick faster & cleaner:

Tip #1: Practice 3-Note-Per-String Chromatics. 

For example: play frets 5 6 7 on every string, using fingers 1 2 3. 

Why do this? The reason is: you want to get used to directional picking motions, while also getting your hands in sync.

3-note-per-string chromatics help you do just that. 

Even if you don’t like the sound of chromatic licks – it doesn't matter. This is a guitar technique exercise that helps you learn a new technique (directional picking). Once you learn it – you can play any guitar licks you want and they will sound great. 

Tip #2: Mute excess string noise using thumb muting. 

As the name implies, rest your picking hands’ thumb on the lower (in pitch) strings as you play. Then slide your thumb up and down as you play scales and scale sequences.

The thumb will keep the lower in pitch strings from vibrating and your directional picking will sound clean.

Now that you know how to improve your directional picking, the next step is to transform the rest of your musical skills. 

I'm talking about:

- other important guitar techniques (sweep picking, string skipping, legato), 

- your musical knowledge (so you understand why the music you like sounds good to you).

- your musical ear (so you can hear music in your head and play it immediately)

- your phrasing (so every single note you play drips with fire and emotion).

When you are fluent at all these skills – you stop being “just a guitar player”. 

You become a real musician!

And guess what: 

I can help you with this in my Breakthrough Guitar Lessons.

They are not some one-size-fits-all cookie-cutter course.

Instead: I create personalized guitar lessons specifically for you to help you transform your guitar playing.

Here is how it works:

First, you’ll fill out a long evaluation from – telling me everything about your musical skill level, guitar playing background, previous lesson experience (if any) and of course…

… your short & long-term musical goals.

From there, I go to work for you. 

I study your evaluation from in detail and I create a lesson plan for reaching your goals, based on what you tell me about yourself.
Next, I design a lesson strategy for you for the next 3-6 months and put together your actual lesson materials. 

Your lesson materials are your actual exercises, drills and etudes that develop your skills and help you reach your goals. 

All you need to do is practice what I tell you. 

And the beauty is:

You don’t need to practice 8 hours per day to become a great guitar player. 

Most of my guitar students practice 30-60 minutes per day. Obviously the more you practice, the better. But even if you practice just 30 minutes per day, you can make a surprising amount of progress.

In between the lessons, I give you a ton of support to help you absorb and practice your lessons.

You can get help and support from me, by: 

  • Attending weekly office hours (where you can ask me questions and get help from me live on video). I go live on Zoom every week and make myself available to you and my other students, to answer your questions. 
  • Attending live classes that I do every month. In these classes, I take the hardest guitar playing topics and break them down to make them easy to understand and master. Plus, it’s another opportunity for you to ask me questions. 
  • Sending me feedback about each lesson. This way I know exactly how you are progressing and can answer your questions when you are stuck on something.
  • Sending me recordings of your playing for feedback. This tells me how well you are progressing and shows me what you need the most help on. 
  • Asking me questions when you get stuck. (You can email me anytime day or night.)
  • Updating your guitar practice journal on my student forum, so I can see exactly how you are practicing from day to day.
  • Asking for additional help on the forum from my other top students (many of them are professional guitar teachers whom I trained to teach guitar).

The more items from this list you do, the faster you improve. (That means you need fewer lessons to reach your goals.)

The fewer of these things you do, the slower you improve. (That means you need fewer lessons to reach your goals.)

From all of these things, I can track your progress and adjust your lesson strategy as needed. 

(Note, by the way, that the amount of time you practice is only one tiny piece of the equation).

Not to mention: 

Your goals may very well change over time (this would be totally normal). If and when this happens, I revise your lesson strategy yet again.

That’s why it’s impossible for me to predict an “end” point before we even start working together and I get to know you.

Here are the results you can expect when you apply what I teach you in your guitar playing:




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