Jazz / Fusion

As with rock, there isn’t really one standard technique when it comes to jazz and fusion playing. But there are definitely some good places you can start! If you want to tackle lines from Bach to bebop, here are some things to watch and keep in mind.

Pickslanting Meets Sweeping

The Yngwie and Eric Johnson formulas, which we talk about in both the Pickslanting Primer and the Volcano and Cascade seminars, give us ways of combining one-way pickslanting and sweeping. If you’re not yet familiar with this material, take a look at the previous page to get started.

Yngwie and EJ both use downward pickslanting, but we can take these formulas, flip them upside down, and use the same principles to combine upward pickslanting and sweeping. This results, essentially, in economy picking.

For more, we have a video on just this topic:

Combining Alternate Picking and Sweeping


Further Examples

Some other players whose techniques you may find instructive:

Jimmy Bruno is an omnivore who uses basically every technique, depending on the scenario! This includes the economy picking style describe above. To see how he does it, check out this analysis video from our interview with Jimmy:

Jimmy's Pickslanting Mechanics


Marshall Harrison is another player who frequently combines sweeping with alternate picking. You can watch our Marshall Harrison analysis videos, starting with this one:

Chapter 1 - Pickslanting and Sweeping


Improvisation and Picking Technique

Where does improvisation fit into the picture?

Our general stance is that there is no such thing as “playing anything you want on the fly”, because everything is at some level rehearsed. From any fret on the board, there are a number of places you can go, and every note you play in a phrase multiplies these possibilities. It is impossible to work out those possibilities in real time.

While good improvisers experience a sensation of novelty when they play, even then, the best of the best still make comments to the extent that only a small percentage of the time do they succeed in playing something they don’t recognize.

Everyone does this, no matter how good at picking they are. It is the way of things.

Whether your technique is one-way pickslanting, two-way, crosspicking, or like most people, some blend of all of the above, it doesn’t matter. Being a great improviser, as with being a great songwriter, is not a picking problem, it’s a guitar problem.

So: choose a technique, any technique, whichever one you are currently best with, and begin building rehearsed and semi-rehearsed lines that connect to each other across the the fretboard. Then start mixing and matching them and their parts. Over time, the feeling of “rehearsed-ness” will go away, and you’ll start mixing and matching smaller parts of things.

For a more thorough conversation about this process, watch our Martin Miller “Playing Through the Changes” interview, where Martin describes his process:

Martin Miller Through the Changes


Next Steps

If you’re still having trouble after practicing these techniques for a couple weeks, post a clip to the forum using the process described here, and we’ll take a look.

If you’ve heard tell of a certain technique we call “crosspicking”, and have been seduced by the lore…well, click through to the next page and learn what it’s all about!

Or, if you’re ready to move on, head to the Dashboard and continue browsing the site.