30-day guitar challenge, day 13: Tighten up your picking hand with these quick and easy exercises

The 30-day guitar challenge culminates on World Guitar Day 2018, a massive 24-hour online celebration of the guitar on 29 September.

30-day guitar challenge: Improve your picking and palm-muting skills and loosen up your strumming with some picking hand practice.


Play this James Hetfield-style riff by moving your picking hand from the wrist. Mute the fifth string with the side of your palm, as in the image below, to keep the notes tight and punchy and lift off when you play the chords to let them pop out.

Down and up gallop

This riff features the famous Iron Maiden gallop. For the first three beats the picking pattern is: ‘down, down-up’ and the final beat is ‘down-up, down’. Keep your downstrokes moving as consistent eighth notes throughout and add the 16th notes with upstrokes.

Acoustic strumming

Play this Noel Gallagher-style strumming riff by moving your wrist and forearm in a flowing down and up motion. Keep your hand moving with a 16th-note feel throughout to keep the momentum consistent for the whole bar. Try using a softer pick to lessen the attack on the strings and produce a more even tone.

Funky 16ths

This Prince-inspired riff is focussed on the top three strings and is based around an A Dorian [A B C D E F# G] tonality. The rhythm is quite syncopated, so learn each beat separately first before sticking them all together. Keep your strumming hand and wrist as loose and as floppy as possible.

Mixing single notes and chords

For this Foo Fighters-style part strum the Fmaj7 chord, then pick the three lowest notes in ascending order using this picking pattern: ‘down-up -down’.

Next pick the three highest notes in descending order using: ‘up-down-up’, then strum the Am chord. Focus on letting the notes flow smoothly.

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