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Saxophone Picking

In this lesson I will explain my favorite picking style. It is how I am picking most of the time except when a particular style or sound is needed. This picking style is used by some of the most notable guitarists like Pat Metheny and Mike Stern, although, not necessarily 100% like I am doing but very similar. It consist of putting together different picking techniques together that will imitate horn phrasing, especially saxophone phrasing. Some of the particularities of this picking technique is the frequent uses of hammer-ons and pull-offs. Using these devices emphasis the syncopated feel that Charlie Parker is known for. Sweep picking and slides are also used to imitate saxophone phrasing. These examples are all bebop lines taken from some of my Charlie Parker transcriptions, I have rework the phrasing and notate the picking directions to demonstrate this particular picking style. The main principles we will follow for those exercises are:

  • Down beats will be picked down stroke and up beats will be picked up stroke. The only exception to this rule is at the end of a sweep group of notes, where it’s possible that your picking strokes will be reverted. In this case, use the next up beat to do a pull-offs/hammer-ons/slides to come back on the right picking direction.
  • Tied notes (pull-offs/hammer-ons/slides) will be played from the up beat to the down beat. This mean, most of the tied notes will start with an upstroke than (pull-offs/hammer-ons/slides) to the down beat. You will skip the down stroke, replacing it with the tied note. This will emphasise the syncopated feel of the lines.
  • The tied notes must not be to close one from each other to avoid compromising the ‘tightness’ of the lines. This doesn’t apply to fast bebop ‘double time’ lines where you could go full legato but I didn’t covered these kind of lines right now.

The picking written in those exercise isn’t rigid, you could easily displace some hammer-ons/pull-offs and get a similar result. Note that I have used saxophone lines to demonstrate this picking technique but those ideas can be applied to other jazz guitar lines too. This will also help you gain speed since you will be able to avoid tricky picking segment although speed is not the main focus of this lesson. To get the most out of this lesson, everyone who are interested in bebop lines should take the time to compare the lines with the chord notation.













All of these lines are taken directly from some of my Charlie Parker transcriptions. Check out my ‘Charlie Parker Transcription Collection’ for more! It contain 12 solo & head transcriptions of my favorite Charlie Parker tunes, all meticulously arranged for guitar. And more!


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