This is gonna be a long post as I am gonna try to analyze my playing. I'll break it up into sections so it will be easier for everyone. I'm sure some of the stuff I'm gonna ask can be found on the forum but I feel like it's better if I make one thread for everything rather than look around and hope to find what I'm looking for. I'm a new member here so if you want some backround take a look at this: Greetings from Cyprus!!
1. Alternate picking.
When I started out I was trying to emulate James Hetfield since Metallica is pretty much the reason I picked up the guitar. Seeing all the palm muting downstrokes while he played through songs made think it was the "right" way to be picking, so I didn't bother with alternate picking much at first. I was doing downstrokes all the time and that has pretty much stuck with me though the years. Now I can alternate pick pretty fast when playing on one string (think Fight Fire with Fire main riff).
The past few years I've been trying to alternate pick while moving up and down the strings. I can kinda do it when I'm ascending, even though a lot of the time the bad habit of downstroke picking kicks in. When it comes to descending I totally suck. It's really hard for me because of my bad habit to pick down all the time. I can't go from let's say the D string and hit the A string on an upstroke. I can do it very very slowly, like at 80 bpm. I've been doing some exercises this past week, like 1-2-3-4 and 4-3-2-1 up and down the strings while beginning with an upstroke instead of a downstroke and it seems to be working. I think a few more exercises would help. Any other pointers you guys think might be helpful?
2. Picking hand
I've noticed that when I'm doing palm mutes on the low E my wrist is almost at a straight position while resting on the bridge which makes me pick closer to the bridge. When I try to do faster stuff and go on the higher strings my wrist bends a lot and moves away from the bridge. My palm is at a distance from the strings, maybe close to 10cm. This results to me picking a lot closer to the neck instead of the bridge, I don't know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. To get the idea think of an upside down "U". When I play fast in that position it feels that I'm straining my wrist. I tried keeping my wrist straight while resting on the bridge without muting the strings and I feel like it's putting a lot more strain on my shoulder. Maybe I'm straining too much and I need to be more relaxed. Is there a "right" or a common way of placing the wrist? Is it better to have the palm rest on the bridge or somewhere else? I'm wondering if I'm doing this wrong.
3. Fretting hand
My main problem with my fretting hand is that my pinky and my ring finger do not coordinate very well. Since I started doing the aforementioned exercises it's pretty obvious to me that those two fingers need to improve a lot. Are there any specific things I should be doing for that or should I just grind chromatics day in day out?
Stretching. I can't stretch at all. I can't do frets 1-3-5 without moving my hand. Which finger do ppl use for the 3rd fret, middle or ring? I don't have a clue on how to work on stretching my fingers so anything you can give me I'd gladly take!
Another thing about my fretting hand is that my fingers are not straight. They're slightly bent. I mean if you take a look from the side they don't look straight even if I try to straighten them up. Does that play a factor into my playing? Is it something I should worry about? How would you try to straighten them up?
Lastly, what do you do after a few hours of playing when you feel that your fingers are sore? Do you stretch them at all? Do you try to bend them backwards or something like that? With the exercises now my fingers become sore after a while and I'm wondering if there's something to help with the soreness.
1) The main trick to getting good at ascending and descending alternate picking is simply to relax when you practice it. If you relax from the get-go while doing it, and keep practicing that way, you'll notice that your shred gets cleaner and less sloppy sounding over time. Don't overanalyze, just practice and relax! Just add ascending and descending scales to your normal practice regimen. Make sure that you're doing at least three notes per string, no less. Also, take a shot at ascending and descending thirds, you'll thank me later.
2) I think the fact that your wrist is bending at different string positions may be what's making alternate picking difficult for you. First of all, you never want to strain your wrist. If it hurts, you're either doing something wrong, or you need to work up to it. Just play in a way that's comfortable for you. Secondly, when your wrist bends, the angle of the pick hitting the string changes, which will really screw up your alternate picking on those multi-string runs. Just try to keep your wrist in the same general position, unless you're doing it for a tonality reason or something.
3) As for the ring finger/pinky problem, that's something I'm always having to battle against myself. There's not much else I can tell you about that other than practice, practice, practice! Try doing some true legato chromatic runs. When I say "legato", I don't mean hammer on, pull off. True legato is the same up as it is down, tonewise. To achieve this, you basically have to hammer on up as well as down. Basically hammer on both ways. It feels really weird at first, but after a while you start to float on the strings like a butterfly.
For the stretching thing, I typically use index, middle and pinky for frets 1-3-5, respectively.
Hope that helps!