Alternate Picking Exercises – 9 John Petrucci Riffs to Boost Technique

One form of picking is alternate picking, which is difined by consistant down – up – down – up pick strokes.  One of the best alternate pickers in the business is John Petrucci, famed guitarist of Dream Theater.  Today we will take a look at riffs and lines he has played and use them as exercises to help build good alternate picking technique.  If you are an alternate picking beginner, or want some more exercises after you complete these, check out my alternate picking tutorial. For some sweep picking help head here.

 NEW 7/29/08- 7 MORE John Petrucci Riffs to Boost Technique

1) In the Presence of Enemies Pt. 1Dream Theater

The section starts at 4:24 into the song, although similar ideas are used throughout the song with a few minor changes.  It is an easy alternate picking idea in D Dorian just to get the ball rolling. The time sigs are a little funky but thats the only tricky part of this one.

Click to Enlarge    


2) Panic AttackDream Theater

The riff starts at 4:53.  It is not played in standard tuning.  This is a great exercise to practice alternate picking across two adjacent strings.

Panic Attack

3) Universal Mind– Liquid Tension Experiment

The intro to this song is a exercise for alternate picking with string skipping.


4) Gemini- John Petrucci

Sorry, no link for this one.  This is another alternate picking with string skipping exercise.


5)  Glasgow Kiss John Petrucci

This riff looks like it should be sweep picked. But JP uses alternate on it. Learning it will help a lot with alternate picking passages across strings.

Glasgow Kiss

6) Voices– Dream Theater

This next example is used by JP in his book, Wild Stringdom, to explain a practice technique he calls the “Spanish Lap.”

I call it “Spanish Lap” practicing. Here’s how you do it: Play a pattern using nothing but sixteeth notes ( it’s critical that you play to a metronome set at a comfortable speed), and at a specific point, intersperse it with sixteenth-note triplets. Continue util you can play it cleanly; then increase the metronome setting and start over. Of course, don’t overdo it– just play the pattern long enough to feel that you got a good workout. The benefits are twofold: your right hand will gain strenghth (due to repetitive picking of the sixteenth notes), and you’ll start seeing an increase in your speed (it’s a lot easier to master a short, fast lick and build on that). My rhythm part in “Voices” on our [Dream Theater’s] album Awake (3:26 into the song) …. clearly illustrates this approach.                             

 -John Petrucci

  from Wild Stringdom p.16



7) Learning to Live– Dream Theater

This very interesting alternate picking part starts at 12:05 into this video. It uses natural harmonics.  If you don’t know how to execute a natural harmonic, instead of fretting the note, you lightly touch directly over the fret wire and pick the note.


8) Erotomania– Dream Theater

This uses some odd groupings of 5. That is the only tricky part.  The section starts at 5:11 into the video.


9) The Ministry of Lost SoulsDream Theater

The final piece I have for you is this unison line.  It starts at 3:33 into the video.  Look to draw on aspects of other exercises to tackle it.


If you can get through all of these, your alternate picking technique will improve by leaps and bounds. 

If you have any questions, please email me at

EDIT- I have done a follow up lesson with 7 More John Petrucci Riffs. It can be found here.

Back to Blog Map


16 Responses

  1. Excellent work.

  2. […] going to try when I get the chance – it’s about alternate picking using several Petrucci examples: Alternate Picking Exercises – 9 John Petrucci Riffs to Boost Technique Guitar Lessons Cheers right back at ya… and thanks for sharing your YouTube links – gives me inspiration to try […]

  3. Sweet stuff man, keep posting em :)

  4. i want sent lesson guitar hero technic

  5. Great stuff, thanks man

  6. ooh thanks dude brilliant work all in one site yeah!! \m/

  7. […] riffs that will help your alternate picking.  If you have not seen the first 9 riffs, head over here.  Now let’s start on these seven.  NOTE: if you are unfamiliar with my format, click the […]

  8. thanks a lot!! this is absolute wisdom!!
    thanks a lot!!! again…

  9. truly its a good work from ur side for guitar lover… us….keep rockin…

  10. Thank you very much.Please show me,teach me again.Write to me how should I do.I promise you . I will try my level best.

  11. great fun :-) thanks for doing this occupied me for the past hour

  12. hey nice work….

  13. This is great, thanks for doing this! keep it going please!

  14. Good examples.
    Gemini and Erotomania could use some position markings – I’m lost in some parts…

  15. Great selections! The different time signatures are a great way to think in different meters.

  16. I also did a review toward how Petrucci plays ( ), but I think your review is much better :) . You give the tab too. Nice work.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: