Economy picking

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Economy picking is a guitar picking technique designed to maximise picking efficiency by combining alternate picking and sweep picking. Specifically:

  • When picking multiple notes on a string, alternate picking (alternating between downstrokes and upstrokes) is used.
  • When changing to a new string, sweep picking (picking in the direction of travel: downstroke if moving down or upstroke when moving up) is used.

This minimises movement in the picking hand, and avoids the motion of "jumping" over a string prior to picking it, as often occurs in alternate-picking when changing strings. Thus the picking pattern of an ascending three-note-per-string scale would be: D-U-D-D-U-D-D-U-D, and the descending pattern would start just like alternate picking (up stroke first): U-D-U-U-D-U-U-D-U.

Guitarists known for their economy picking technique[edit]

  • Les Paul can be see performing economy/sweep picking in this 1953 video[1] at 1:10.
  • Eric Johnson uses this technique in songs like "Cliffs of Dover".

Gypsy picking[edit]

The picking technique of gypsy jazz has been described[2] as similar to economy picking, but with the further requirement that the pattern switches from string to string in either direction, a rest stroke will be performed. For example, on switching from the G to the B string, the plectrum will move in the same direction and come to rest on the E string. However, on switching from the B to the G string, the plectrum will move upward and execute a down stroke on the G string, again coming to rest on the B string. This technique was employed by gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt and has been preserved by gypsy guitarists. However, he did not invent it. Exactly why Django used this technique is a mystery. He may have learned it from other gypsy players, of whom two of his chief influences were banjoist Gusti Mahla and guitarist Jean "Poulette" Castro.[3] However, this technique was commonly taught in numerous guitar methods in the early twentieth century and was employed by American jazz banjo players.[4]


  1. ^ Les Paul Sweeps
  2. ^ Michael Horowitz: Gypsy Picking
  3. ^ Michael Dregni: "Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend "
  4. ^ Michael Horowitz: Gypsy Picking

Further reading[edit]

Economy Picking Lesson from Ultimate-Guitar