Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

 #2753  by mutant_dan
 Thu Jan 05, 2006 9:19 am
What is Crosspicking?

"Crosspicking" is a term that is often confused with alternate picking. Let's define our terms:

Alternate Picking: The art of plectrum (pick) playing which places a downstroke on the downbeat and the upstroke on the upbeat, so the pattern would look like DUDUDUDU for 8 eighth notes in a 4/4 measure.

The strength of this style is that your right hand becomes trained to deal with any string grouping (although not all are as comfortable as others). This "all-purpose" technique allows you to play fast, fluid lines without getting "hung up". However, the emphasis is always strong/weak, grouped in twos, when playing groups of 8th notes.

CROSSPICKING: Developed by master mandolinist Jesse McReynolds in emulation of the bluegrass banjo sounds of Earl Scruggs, but probably used for centuries in "world music". There are two basic patterns (imagine strings 4 3 2)- a reverse roll is DUUDUUDU strings 42342343. A forward roll would be DDUDDUDU strings 43243243.

The strength of this style is that you are now able to play a strong syncopation by accenting the "and of 2" with a downstroke. Alternate picking does not give the same sound, as you'll hear and feel by experimenting.These patterns yield a 3+3+2 grouping across the measure, which adds a totally unique feel compared to alternate picking.

Applying alternate picking patterns to the above crosspicking pattern does NOT make it crosspicking. True crosspicking is based on DDUDDUDU or DUUDUUDU patterns across the strings-not alternate picking.


In the DDU pattern, the second down is really a continuation of the first. In other words, play the first downstroke and come to rest on the next string- then just follow through. You can build a head of steam rather quickly with this crosspicking technique, which agrees wholeheartedly with the laws of physics.


I once learned a Tony Rice solo ("Farewell Blues") note for note. I played it with alternate picking. It never "sounded right" although I knew I had the right notes and positions. I learned about crosspick, applied the pattern, and viola. Night and Day!

Alternate picking is alternate picking, whether on one string or across a group of four, five or six. Why call it crosspicking? Because you "go across the strings"? Alternate picking does not yield the same sound/articulation as crosspicking. I think crosspicking was VERY well defined in the '70's. Everyone 'back in the day' who talked about "crosspicking" was talking about the DDUDDUDU or DUUDUUDU patterns.

 #3790  by ch0ke
 Sun Mar 05, 2006 5:07 pm
Very good post man.... right on.