One form of picking is alternate picking, which is difined by consistant down – up – down – up pick strokes. One of the best alternate pickers in the business is John Petrucci, famed guitarist of Dream Theater. Today we will take a look at riffs and lines he has played and use them as exercises to help build good alternate picking technique.
NEW 7/29/08- 7 MORE John Petrucci Riffs to Boost Technique
1) In the Presence of Enemies Pt. 1– Dream Theater
The section starts at 4:24 into the song, although similar ideas are used throughout the song with a few minor changes. It is an easy alternate picking idea in D Dorian just to get the ball rolling. The time sigs are a little funky but thats the only tricky part of this one.
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2) Panic Attack– Dream Theater
The riff starts at 4:53. It is not played in standard tuning. This is a great exercise to practice alternate picking across two adjacent strings.
3) Universal Mind– Liquid Tension Experiment
The intro to this song is a exercise for alternate picking with string skipping.
4) Gemini- John Petrucci
Sorry, no link for this one. This is another alternate picking with string skipping exercise.
5) Glasgow Kiss– John Petrucci
This riff looks like it should be sweep picked. But JP uses alternate on it. Learning it will help a lot with alternate picking passages across strings.
6) Voices– Dream Theater
This next example is used by JP in his book, Wild Stringdom, to explain a practice technique he calls the “Spanish Lap.”
I call it “Spanish Lap” practicing. Here’s how you do it: Play a pattern using nothing but sixteeth notes ( it’s critical that you play to a metronome set at a comfortable speed), and at a specific point, intersperse it with sixteenth-note triplets. Continue util you can play it cleanly; then increase the metronome setting and start over. Of course, don’t overdo it– just play the pattern long enough to feel that you got a good workout. The benefits are twofold: your right hand will gain strenghth (due to repetitive picking of the sixteenth notes), and you’ll start seeing an increase in your speed (it’s a lot easier to master a short, fast lick and build on that). My rhythm part in “Voices” on our [Dream Theater’s] album Awake (3:26 into the song) …. clearly illustrates this approach.
from Wild Stringdom p.16
7) Learning to Live– Dream Theater
This very interesting alternate picking part starts at 12:05 into this video. It uses natural harmonics. If you don’t know how to execute a natural harmonic, instead of fretting the note, you lightly touch directly over the fret wire and pick the note.
8) Erotomania– Dream Theater
This uses some odd groupings of 5. That is the only tricky part. The section starts at 5:11 into the video.
9) The Ministry of Lost Souls– Dream Theater
The final piece I have for you is this unison line. It starts at 3:33 into the video. Look to draw on aspects of other exercises to tackle it.
If you can get through all of these, your alternate picking technique will improve by leaps and bounds.
If you have any questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
EDIT- I have done a follow up lesson with 7 More John Petrucci Riffs. It can be found here.