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.
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.
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:
"Tom Hess’s attitude is really contagious in a good way obviously. Like when I first started taking lessons, that year turned out to be the most productive year I’ve ever had in my life."
I remember there was one lesson I got from Tom Hess. I can’t remember which one it was but he was mentioned how when he was younger he saw Yngwie Malmsteen with some friends and they were all going, oh man I’ll never be able to play like him, and he was thinking the complete opposite, going "what are you talking about, I want to play like that. I’m inspired." And you know, the level of playing that I’ve seen in the guys here is definitely helping to inspire me to get better, but also the way how supporting they are and how motivating they are is helping me to make better life choices... that’s a really good thing.
Ryan Mueller, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
“I was looking for help, I played a lot in the 80’s, and I didn’t touch guitar for 15 years maybe. And I decided to get back into it. And I was an OK player. But I decided I wanted to take it to a new level, I was looking for hobby I could spend time on.”
After playing around for a few months, I decided I needed a teacher. I had taken music theory classes in college. I understood a lot of the basics of music. I felt like I needed a jump start... something to get me going and keep me practicing every day. So, I’d been to the websites and YouTube, on my own, sort of seeking teachers and I came across Tom Hess, saw his videos, and so I gave that a shot.
The online guitar lessons are very high quality lessons, there’s plenty there to keep you going from lessons to lesson, it forces you to practice a lot to keep up with the lessons.My guitar playing improved immensely! I knew some of the theory, I knew I was a fairly good player, but a lot of this just tied it all together. The typical teacher was just some guy in a band, who was sitting in a music store room, who kind of showed you whatever you asked or what he felt like… there were various techniques used. This is much more professional. You have more of a specific plan the second you walk in, what your goals are, what direction you want to go, you’re kind of mapped throughout your progress and pushed in the right direction.
Daniel Kunde, South Beach, Oregon, USA
When I started learning from Tom, the main thing that made him different from other teachers was that he was showing me how to excel in all aspects of my guitar playing by applying the skills that I already knew together with the new material that I was learning from him.
He made me aware of both strengths and weaknesses in my playing that I did not even know I had. From there he gave me the knowledge, tools and guidance to literally transform my guitar playing by enabling me to overcome things that were preventing me from becoming a truly creative and self-expressive guitar player. These were the kinds of things that none of my previous guitar teachers and books I studied were able to do for me.
After Tom made me aware of all the things I was missing in my guitar playing and provided me with the strategy and tools for solving them, I began to make very fast progress in all areas of my guitar playing.
I can now write my own music and can create lead guitar solos that I am happy and fulfilled with. I also have the technical skills to confidently and easily play anything that I want to express. I have overcome all of the lead guitar challenges that I struggled with before, and increased my guitar speed to virtuoso levels. More importantly, I have the knowledge and understanding of how to continually improve my guitar playing and musical skills to higher and higher levels to continue expressing myself with my music. Overall, I have definitely transformed in a huge way as a musician and as a person through my lessons with Tom Hess. I am grateful to him for guiding me towards becoming the guitarist I always wanted to be!"
Mike Philippov, Indiana, USA
“I was self-taught, and I thought I am so good because I can do this by myself. I wasn’t looking for a teacher but I knew I was looking for something on the internet, and Tom’s lessons came up. I knew instantly that was the way to go. ”
Tom assigns the lessons based on the hundreds of questions you have to answer before you get to be a student. It’s just amazing how he does it. Every single PDF I received has been such a good value. I know if I practice exactly what he says I cannot fail. It helped me realize I can become whatever I want to become. Just set my goal and I know his lessons and way of teaching will get me there eventually. So far so good... I’ll continue doing this as long as possible, and eventually I’ll become a professional player. I’d just like to thank Tom, he’s so thorough, so professional and such a great teacher... and a good person. I want to keep on working with him.
Sigve Solbakken, Bergen, Norway
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