Down picking compared to down and up

Down picking is very consistent and easier to achieve with practice.

Alternate picking requires more technique ability to achieve attack equality on the upward and downward strokes.


Down picking looks cooler! That being said, I still need to work on my alternate picking. Some songs go so fast where alternate is definitely better.


I was talking about that with a friend this week. He prefers all-down and I usually prefer alternating. A part of that is most probably that, as a guitar player, it’s very natural to me. But other than that, I often really prefer how alternating sounds : it’s less punchy than all-down but it sounds more like a drone line and I like that. Also I play all-down when I want to put some punchy accents. Maybe the interresting thing is here : being able to play both techniques allows to expand the expression range of the instrument.


Interesting thread as I recently picked up picking!

I’ve concentrated on alternate picking due to the speed of riffs the band plays — I’ll have to see if I can do it all down picking now!

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Some bands/genres are all down picking for the attack. Like the Ramones, Dee Dee is all down picking. And Johnny is on guitar too.

I have tried alternate, but down picking just seems more natural to me.


It’s a guitar thing too, especially in heavy metal - nothing like the sound of some mighty chugging :metal::metal:


All down is generally more aggressive and more consistent sound than alternating. It’s also pretty challenging at extended high speed as you’re basically going twice as fast as alternating.


I find down picking easier. I can’t play fast anyway and it seems to suit my limited skill level very well.

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I learned Carol Kaye’s picking technique. Down on the beat. Up between the beat. Triplets are down up up.
The beat doesn’t have to be just on the 1, 2, 3, 4…………for example 16th notes would be down up down up………you get the idea.
Easy method, but the triplet took some time to be proficient.


Carol Kaye started out and played professionally for years as a guitar player. Like many guitarists, including McCartney, she began playing bass to fill a need. As such, her picking style (and his) are guitar oriented.

Her style is tasteful and distinctive, and her melodic line choices are legendary. Love her playing.

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I originally learned picking on a guitar when I was like 7 years old (unfortunately it didn’t stick beyond very basic lessons at the time - my mom had bought us a giant guitar). Maybe that’s why I alternate? Dunno, it’s just more natural for me.

I switched to all down for a while based on Josh’s suggestion int he course but it’s just not as natural.

Here’s a Reverb video showing the Carol Kaye style of picking on a bass (up and down), starting at 2:50:

I’m not sure he holds it the way she recommends. Apparently Carol Kaye shows how to do it on some of the instructional videos she sells.
This is from the “tips” section on her website:


I can’t even hold a pick with the pointed side sticking out. I hold the point inward and use the nice big corner for picking and that works better for me. SRV did that too, so I can’t be that wrong. This is coming from trying to play guitar.

I’ve been using a pick A LOT more than I thought I would when I first picked up the bass.

I played rhythm guitar growing up and I think most of the skills there transferred over in terms of picking.

I personally notice a different in tone when downpicking vs alternate picking.

As some have said, down picking is a bit more consistent, and can sound more aggressive as well. I notice that when I’m playing something and I want to add a more percussive attacking sound, I down pick.

Alternate picking is faster and has more control, and I noticed that I use it a lot for more intricate runs, or also when muting strings to get more percussive/ghost notes to come out.

My 2 cents!


Yep, I’ve been a rhythm player since I was 14. I hold a pick like Carol shows.


I find I get better consistency when using alternate picking. Constantly doing down-picking my muscles start to pump and I lose a little control. Probably will come with practice.

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There are different ways to hold the pick, the most common one is how Carol Kaye holds it in that picture: Pick between index and thumb, index finger curled in so the tip of it shows the other direction than the thumb.

When I first used a pick, I held it a little different: the thumb the same, 90° to the direction the pick sticks out, but then I used my index + middlefinger, and they were pointing the direction of the pick.

I then went on and forced me to learn the other way, and something strange happened: I couldn’t all downpick Ramones Blitzkrieg Bob anymore.

Later I learned that the way I held the pick at first is exactly the way James Hetfield holds his pick (the king of downpicking) and then later I learned the anatomy behind it: Holding the pick the James Hetfield way helps angle it a bit, so your wrist isn’t quite aligned with your bass. That way, the picking motion is diagonal, your wrist is moving up a bit. And that is the direction the muscles pull, and that is why it can be faster.

The sideway motion of the wrist in the usual way has to use much more musclegroups.

Now I try to change how I hold it depending on if I want to downpick or alternate pick. At least to me, it seems up- and down picking works better with the Carol Kaye way of holding the pick.

So either way, wether you struggle with up and down, or can’t get downpicking fast enough: Try holding your pick differently.


I mean technically it’s about what’s comfortable and if it gets the sound you’re looking for out of it.

But worth practicing for sure IMO!

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Very interesting thread. Im primarily finger style but do occasionally play and practice a few songs with a pick. Really like the difference in sound, but so far have only been able to play with down strokes. Ive noticed other players who use alternate stroke techniques but so far my attempts to try that just aren’t working! Far too inconsistent- I’m sure its like anything else, it will just take a lot of repetition and practice if its something i want to pursue. Just from watching that technique it seems like it would be more efficient and quicker to alternate so its something I’m not ready to give up on quite yet.


I’m also a frustrated ''wanted to be a guitar player" so am used to alternate picking. So far I’m just using my fingers but when I do get to the part where we try a pick I’m sure I’ll use alternate picking instead of all downstrokes. Will have to concentrate on just trying downstrokes for awhile I guess and see what one I like best.

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