Economy Picking vs Alternate Picking: All You Need to Know

In the world of guitar, we can find many playing techniques that in the long term will define the style of thousands of players. 

Some techniques may be more typical than others and that is the case of the two methods we will be discussing here.

Economy picking is a more advanced form of alternate picking. While alternate picking you will tend to play downstrokes followed by upstrokes every time, economy picking focuses on reducing unnecessary hand movements and repeating up or downstrokes when needed in a more fluid fashion.

Although these playing styles seem to be the same, they have a number of differences. 

Let me guide you through this article, I will explain to you their points in common and their differences as well.

In the end, you will know everything needed about this topic. 

In addition, you will be able to apply any of them to build up your sound and style.

What is alternate picking on guitar?

Alternate picking is a common guitar technique relegated to strictly giving an upward stroke for every downstroke. 

The interesting thing about this playing technique is that as you alternate movements you economize energy and will let you play faster lines.

What is economy picking on guitar?

Economy picking is a playing technique that involves maximizing picking efficiency by eliminating movements not needed. 

In this case, you need some extra thought, and sometimes you will find yourself alternating picking while in some others you will use sweep picking, the goal is to economize movements.

Sweep picking, for those not aware of it, refers to the act of picking 2 or more strings in a single motion.

Think of it as strumming, but only making one note sound at the time per string.

Which is faster alternate or economy picking?

Those who are just starting with these techniques may find alternate picking easier and faster. 

However, when you master both methods you will notice that economy picking is faster than the alternate approach.

What’s the actual difference between alternate and economy picking?

We have already defined the two playing techniques but you may think that they are quite similar. 

That is true but there is one main difference between each other.

Alternate picking is simpler, you are constantly changing the way you move your picking hand, is always the same movement, down up, down up. 

On the other hand, economy picking is more useful when changing the string because you take profit from the picking movements. 

For instance, if you are playing in the sixth string and you want to continue in the fifth, you use a downstroke which continues in the following string instead of using an upstroke as you would do with alternate picking. 

In other words, economy picking may be thought of as a combination of alternate and sweep picking.

Why would anyone prefer alternate picking over economy picking?

There could be players who prefer using one technique over the other and one motive can be personal taste. 

By applying one method you can get a great difference in flavor and the feel of the song also changes.

However, the main reason for a player to choose alternate picking is due to its simplicity. 

This technique is less complex than economy picking what makes it easier to master.

What is more, some passages aren’t too hard to play and that’s why you won’t need to use economy picking. 

In those cases, you can manage just by playing alternate picking.

Can you use both alternate and economy picking?

As we mentioned in the previous subheading, a guitar player may feel more comfortable with one approach but the interesting thing about these two methods is that you can even mix them. 

Actually, economy picking is an advanced form of alternate picking that takes some things of sweep picking as well.

Furthermore, you can and should use both of them, which will give you a wider range of alternatives when playing faster sections. 

On some occasions, alternate picking will be nicer, on some others, economy picking will suit better.

In fast lines, alternate picking sounds more chopped and aggressive, which will fit really well in those sections that you need to sound shreddy. 

Contrarily, economy picking provides a more fluid sound, and some passages will be far easier to play with this method.

Which is harder alternate or economy picking?

We have claimed that economy picking is an advanced form of alternate picking consequently, you may know that is harder. 

This is because you need to completely grasp the mechanic movements presented in one approach to apply the other.

Economy picking can be difficult at the beginning, mostly for first learners but after some time practicing you’ll be capable of mastering it. 

This down-up style is wonderful to build up playing speed.

Economy picking is really tough because you need to have more precision and control of your picking hand. 

As it involves some extra thought, it will be extremely hard, you can master it but you will require to practice regularly.


To sum up, I would like to give you a brief recap of these helpful playing techniques. 

The best way to do it is by comparing them, pointing out their main benefits.

Alternate picking is an easier approach to master and it will help you build up your speed skills mainly the ones from your picking hand. 

On the opposite side, economy picking is way harder because requires issues from other methods but if you can get the hang of this style, you will be able to play even faster.

In terms of sound, alternate picking will be great for almost any occasion. 

If your goal is to have an aggressive, sharp tone this technique is the way to go.

As regards economy picking, it will be best used for string skipping such as arpeggios or swept sections. 

This approach will give a smoother tone that will sound more fluid.

Alternate pickingEconomy picking
Good for any occasionBest for string skipping and particular situations
More aggressive soundMore fluid sound
FastEven faster

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