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August Issue
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Future Rock: Hybrid Picking


The next lick in Fig. 3 introduces the ring finger (r) into the mix. We’re playing this over a IIm-V-I progression in the key of C, using open-voiced triads to get a more angular sound. The advantage that hybrid picking gives you here becomes quite clear once you launch into the passage. The sequence over Dm outlines Am (A-C-E), C major (C-E-G), and Dm (D-F-A) triads, while the G7 sequence starts with two diminished chords (implying G7b9) and then introducing a few more altered tones (#9 and #5) before resolving to the 3 of C major.

This phrase is notable because you are leading with a right-hand finger. This may seem unnatural at first, but that feeling of unease just means you are trying something new. Apply this concept to more daring harmonic material and you’ll be sure to turn some heads.

Our next workout (Fig. 4) is a very open-sounding phrase that’s fun to play. This one uses the fourth finger (c) of the picking hand. When we ascend, we use a pick-middle-ring-pinky pattern and then descend with a sweep. This picking-hand pattern can be easily applied to more standard arpeggios as well and it would benefit you to explore them. If you haven’t tried using your pinky in your guitar career thus far, now is a good time to start. It is especially important for playing chordal stuff while using the pick and fingers approach. You could use this lick in a number of different harmonic settings, but here we are using it over Dm.

The final example (Fig. 5) is definitely for the adventurous types. It uses hybrid picking, legato, tapping with the middle and ring finger, and string skipping. We are shredding over an F#m7 chord and pretty much sticking to the F# Dorian (F#-G#-A-B-C#-D#-E) sound. In the third measure notice how we’re outlining a C#m (C#-E-G#) arpeggio using what I call a “roll.” This is a quick way to play an arpeggio using the pick, middle, and ring fingers in succession. It is a great alternative to sweeping and sounds a lot smoother to my ears.

Hybrid picking is a deep concept and this lesson, of course, only scratches the surface. Try to take some of the picking patterns contained in these licks and write your own ideas around them. In doing so, you’ll internalize the mechanics involved, and slowly but surely your fingers will start spontaneously joining in while you improvise. Like any new technique, this will not happen overnight. The biggest challenge most of my students face when developing this technique is to generate the motion from the finger itself and not move the hand in any way. Mastering this technique should drastically minimize your right-hand movement. If you’re persistent and patient, hybrid picking will unlock new and scary possibilities in your playing!