While I do enjoy exercises, the best way to improve on guitar (and make it more enjoyable) is by learning songs. All of the techniques you can practice in isolation can also be practiced within the context of a song. With that in mind, below are 5 song intros you can learn to greatly to improve guitar picking technique.
I picked these particular songs because they provide a variety of styles from alternating picking, to string skipping, to arpeggiating chords.
(Don’t Fear) The Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
One of the basic skills you should develop as a guitarist is the ability to arpeggiate chords. (Don’t Fear) The Reaper is a great exercise to develop this skill.
Simple Man – Lynyrd Skynyrd
One of the first songs I learned by ear, Simple Man builds on the skills developed with (Don’t Fear) The Reaper in the first example. The intro allows you to practice playing individual notes of a chord and sprinkles in a fair dose of string skipping as well. Since it’s using easy to play open chords, it’s another great exercise for beginners.
Welcome to the Jungle – Guns N’ Roses
This intro provides an excellent progression in string skipping. You first start off playing on the 3rd and 2nd strings, then progress to the 4th and 2nd strings, and finally to 5th and 2nd strings.
Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin
Immigrant Song is another great intro to practice string skipping. This one has a bit of a gallop feel to it and a pretty quick jump between the 6th and 4th strings. It might take a little practice to avoid picking the 5th string inadvertently.
Thunderstruck – AC/DC
The intro to Thunderstruck doubles as a great alternate picking exercise and well as a picking/fretting hand synchronization exercise. It’s a pretty high speed intro, but start slow on this one!
These song intros make great picking exercises. They not only improve guitar picking technique, but they also keep learning musical and fun.
Let me know what song intros you feel are great picking exercises in the comments below!