Last week, I wrote about Jimmy Bruno's approach to 7th chords on his instructional video, "No Nonsense Jazz Guitar." The other valuable concept I picked up was his approach to picking.
I have long been a heavy user of strict economy picking, a combination of alternate and sweep picking that requires careful planning of picking directions. Whenever you're about to change strings, pick in the direction of the new string. All notes on the same string are played with alternate picking. Those are the only rules.
This method is easy to employ on predictable lines that change strings frequently. A three note per string ascending run would be picked down-up-down, down-up-down, etc. A two note per string descending run would be picked down-up, down-up, etc. Just pick towards the new string when changing and alternate when not.
The tough part is looking ahead to the next string change on less predictable or improvised lines. If you're about to play nine notes on one string before switching, the first note must be picked in a direction such that the last is picked towards the new string. Worse, when you're improvising, you usually don't know how many notes you're about to play on the next string, so it's impossible to know which way to pick the first note. I just make my best guess and keep playing.
Jimmy Bruno's approach solves this problem. His strategy is the opposite of mine. When he changes strings, the first note of the new string is picked away from the previous string. So there's no more looking ahead to the next string change.
The only disadvantage is you end up doing a lot of what I call "inside alternate picking." This happens when the notes before and after a string change are picked away from the next string and away from the previous string, respectively. I find "outside alternate picking" more comfortable and effective.
For example, try playing a down stroke on the first string and an up stroke on the second string and repeat as fast as you can. That's inside alternate. I find outside alternate much easier: pick up on the first string and down on the second.
All my thoughts that inside alternate can't be used with fast lines were put to rest by Jimmy's playing. He plays like a damn hummingbird, giant sweep arpeggios and lightning-fast scales everywhere.
So what do I do now? I don't want to change my entire picking style to fit this technique. I think my best option is to keep the skills I already have with outside alternate economy picking and incorporate Jimmy's style into my improvising. I'll make time to get my inside alternate up to speed, now that I know it's possible. Then I can use it whenever I'm forced to, whenever the faster outside alternate fails me.