Frank Gambale’s Picking Technique Explained

frank gambale lesson

This is the picking technique I finally settled on as it really ties together sheer speed, economy of movement and allows you to easily play fast anything you can play slow. It’s basically a combination of sweep picking (don’t be put off) and alternate picking but the interesting thing is the way momentum is maintained when crossing the strings. I don’t know if Frank came up with it himself but it does remind me of the way Allan Holdsworth picks.

It’s probably a good idea to let the man himself explain how it’s done and believe it or not you can actually get up to a fairly decent speed in a relatively short time. Check out the video below

(Unfortunately the video was taken down but we’re working on our own version of it, stay tuned!)

What I love about this particular picking technique is the way it brings momentum into the equation without the physical exertion required from other picking techniques such as alternate and economy. Even though it looks and feels awkward initially, stick with it for a day or two and you’ll soon see some pretty impressive results.

The scale patterns Frank uses are slightly altered versions of the 3NPS (3 Note-per-String) method though to get the initial idea, any 3NPS pattern will do. The important thing to remember is that when moving from the low to high strings you always pick the first note on the next string with a downstroke and when coming back down the pattern you always pick the first note on the next string with an upstroke. Try it with any of the following shapes:

If you’re a regular reader of this blog then you’ll know I’m not a huge fan of the 3NPS system as I believe it to be little more than a technical exercise at the end of the day but it serves us well here as we’re learning a technique, not scales.

Momentum is Key

The downward momentum when going from the low to high strings and the upward momentum when going the opposite way quickly become very natural and require minimal physical exertion (in fact, the more arm power you put into it, the harder the technique is to pull off); there’s something very natural about the technique.

The 3NPS patterns provide a good crutch to get things going but you’ll eventually find it creeping into everything you play, i.e. it’s not exclusive to 3NPS patterns, they just happen to be a good place to start. What happens in the long-run is that the momentum takes over whether you’re picking one, two, three or more notes on a string, and you find yourself naturally picking downstrokes when going from the low to high strings and upstrokes vice versa.

Let me know what you think of this technique in the comments.
About Graham Tippett 300 Articles
Compulsive guitar blogger and writer of many innovative guitar books.

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