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Hybrid Picking 101
A marriage of fingerpicking and flatpicking, hybrid picking offers elements of both techniques, but replaces neither. Photo 1 shows the basic hybrid picking hand position, which involves attacking the strings using a flatpick plus middle and ring fingers. Here, my pick is hitting the 5th string, and my middle and ring fingers are plucking the 3rd and 2nd strings.
With a classical or jazz fingerstyle technique, your wrist is arched, your hand is open, and your picking fingers are relaxed and extended. With hybrid picking, however, your wrist is flat, your hand rides low, and your middle and ring fingers are tightly curled as they engage the strings. It’s the flatpick that determines this close-in hand position. Curled like this, your picking fingers pull up on the strings, rather than stroking across them (as they would in more traditional fingerpicking). This pulling creates a snappy, popping tone that’s at the heart of country, rockabilly, and other twangy styles.
For a percussive effect, use the back edge of your picking hand to mute the bass strings as you flatpick them (Photo 2). Palm-muting also helps you prevent unwanted open strings from ringing out as you dig into the notes you’re aiming for. When muting, rest your hand lightly on the bridge, so you’ll be able to scoot quickly and easily along the saddles as your lines move from bass to treble strings and back again. Two more benefits: A light touch is better for your tendons and allows your guitar to resonate more freely for maximum sustain.
Andy Ellis is a veteran guitar journalist and Senior Editor at PG. Based in Nashville, Andy backs singer-songwriters on the baritone guitar, and also hosts The Guitar Show, a weekly on-air and online broadcast. For the schedule, links to the stations’ streams, archived audio interviews with inspiring players, and more, visit theguitarshow.com.