How One Simple, 4-Note Exercise Routine Can Drastically Improve Your Technique: Part 2

Posted on Posted in Learning Strategies, Technique

Part II of the 4-Note Exercise routine is here!

Below you’ll find 6 more simple exercises that cover a wide range of guitar techniques, all using the same 4 notes and main exercise from Part I.

The routine will help you improve your technique so you can finally stop doing this to your poor guitar:

Buster has terrible technique. Don’t be like Buster.


Before diving into Part II, you may want to get reacquainted (or check out) the first half of the 4-note Exercise Routine.

CLICK HERE to brush up on Part I.

In the first half of the routine, we covered essential techniques that are used in many different styles of guitar playing, such as alternate picking, palm muting, bending, legato, and tapping.

In Part II, we’ll continue using the SAME 4-notes and main exercise for each technique, but we’ll apply the routine’s framework to a batch of techniques that might be a little more challenging.

Below, you’ll find exercises covering:

  • String Skipping
  • Strumming
  • Finger Picking
  • Hybrid Picking (a.k.a. Chickin’ Pickin’)
  • Sweep Picking
  • Economy Picking

Ultimately, the point of these exercises is to help you practice multiple techniques within a simple framework – that way, you can quickly learn and apply them to your guitar practice routine. Because of the routine’s simplicity, it should encourage consistency. And with consistency, you’ll start to see dramatic improvement in your technique.

Practice these exercises slowly and consult each exercise’s TAB, music notation and accompanying video.

PLUS, at the bottom of the post you’ll also see how you can get some handy bonus material to help you learn and practice these exercises.


Ex. 6 – String Skipping

Ex. 6 - TAB
Click image to enlarge


This exercise is similar to Part 1’s alternate picking exercise, only this time, the notes cover a larger octave range on the guitar, which requires your picking hand to “skip” over strings as you alternate pick. String skipping is useful not only for improving your alternate picking accuracy, but also for covering wider octave ranges when playing scales or arpeggios.

Begin by fretting the 5th fret on the low E string with your first finger and give it a downstroke with your picking hand. Follow that by fretting the 9th fret on the D string with your fourth finger and use an upstroke (notice you’re skipping over the A string). Next, fret the 5th fret on the third string with your first finger and use a downstroke. Finally (and this is the hard part), use your pinky to stretch wayyy up to the 10th fret on the high E string and use an upstroke. Consult the video and TAB for the exact note sequence.

The stretch can be tricky. You’ll want to make sure your hand is in good positioning so you can make the stretch properly (thumb behind the neck so your hand has the maximum ability to reach).

Ex. 7 – Strumming

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Click image to enlarge

Why not give strumming some love?

Strumming can get overlooked at times, especially when it comes to fairly simple strumming patterns like down-up-down-up. But it’s worth it to practice simple strumming patterns with different rhythmic subdivisions to improve your accuracy and make sure your timing is consistent. Try this exercise and you’ll see yourself become more accurate with strumming chords.

Here, you’re going to play a chord using the same 4 notes, A, B, C, and D. See the proper fingering found in the TAB and video above.

Try not to speed up as the exercise progresses and strive to keep the volume for each strum the same as the exercise advances.

Ex. 8 – Finger Picking

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Click image to enlarge


Using the same chord, we’ll drop the pick and focus on finger picking.

As indicated in the TAB, each string has a finger assigned to it.

You’ll use what’s called a free stroke for this exercise. With a free stroke, you pluck the string and let the note ring out. Unlike a rest stroke where the finger you pluck with lands on the adjacent string, a free stroke avoids resting your finger on another string after a note it plucked.

Your thumb (in classical guitar terminology, the thumb is notated as “p”) will pluck the C note on the 3rd fret of the fifth string. Your index (i) plucks the B note on the 4th fret, third string. Use your middle finger (m) on the D note on the third string, and your ring finger (a) on the A note on the 5th fret, first string.

Ex. 9 – Hybrid Picking

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Click image to enlarge


Hybrid picking (also known as chickin’ pickin’) is a technique often used by country players that is a mix between using a pick and using fingers. In general, notes on the lower strings hit with a pick, while the middle finger and ring fingers pluck the upper strings.

For this exercise, you’ll fret the same chord as found in Exercise 7 and 8, but this time, you’ll use your pick on the fifth and third strings, your middle finger on the second string, and your pinky on the first string.

To get more of the appropriate country-like tones out of the technique, you can try applying some very light palm muting to each string, which will cut the string vibration slightly.

Ex. 10 – Sweep Picking

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Click image to enlarge


Sweep picking is a fairly advanced technique that takes a long time to perfect. If you want to sweep like John Petrucci or Yngwie Malmsteen, this exercise probably won’t get you there. BUT, if you’re completely new to this technique and want a simple example of basic elements of how it works, this exercise will be a good intro.

Essentially, sweep picking is a one-note-per-string approach to picking arpeggios. The direction of the pick goes in the direction of the arpeggio, either descending or ascending. That might make more sense after you watch the video. Who reads text anyway?

If you’re still reading, pay special attention to the pick direction markings below the TAB staff. This shows you which notes are played with downstrokes and which ones are played with upstrokes.

This exercise will at least get you familiar with what is involved in sweep picking. Start slow and know that sweeping takes a LONG time to develop.

BONUS – Ex. 11 – Economy Picking

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Click image to enlarge


Ok, why not put in another challenging technique to the mix? Gotta turn everything guitar-related up to 11, right?

Economy picking is a mix between alternate picking and sweep picking that encourages a small range of motion in your fretting hand (as in an economy of motion). In economy picking, when you finish playing a sequence of notes on one string, the pick motion to the next string will be the same as the last pick motion of the previous string.

For example, if you’re picking a series of three notes on the low E string down, up, down, when move up to the A string, you’ll pick the first note on the A string with a downstroke – the last stroke direction on the E string. It’s basically a way to conserve the amount of movement in your picking hand as you move from string to string.

The most challenging part of this exercise is staying in time as you switch your picking motion between strings. Pay attention to the picking pattern and finger positioning as indicated in the tab.

This one is a bit of a doozy, but if you pay close attention to the TAB and video and be patient, you’ll get it.

And That’s That!

Now you have 11 exercises that are easy to learn and remember. You can practice them daily or whenever you have a chance to pick up your guitar.

This routine isn’t necessarily intended to teach you everything you need to know about each technique, rather, the hope is that you can quickly learn and use a simple, comprehensive routine with only one main exercise and a few notes. This way, you can forget about needing to learn a ton of exercises per technique and just concentrate on improving your chops.

More important is the idea that by thinking in simple terms (in this case, one exercise with four notes) you can see a simple concept can be stretched in many areas. This sort of thinking can have huge potential for your growth as a guitarist because you’ll realize how much mileage you can get out of simple concepts.

Special Bonus for Joining My Email List!

As a bonus for this lesson, if you join my email list using the signup form below, I’ll send you some extra goodies to make learning and practicing this routine even easier. This includes:

  • A full PDF collection of the entire exercise routine (all 11 exercises)
  • Guitar Pro files you can download
  • A backing track to practice along with
  • A progress tracking sheet where you can record your progress

Join and you’ll also get new lessons, tips, tricks, and guitar hacks sent directly to your inbox, as well as other exclusive material you won’t be able to find anywhere else.

Thanks for reading, leave a comment below, and please share this with any guitarist you think might find it helpful.

Cheers and keep shreddin’ \m/

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