• Develop your hybrid picking technique.
• Learn about different picking-hand permutations.
• Create your own angular and intervallic phrases.
Much like sweep picking in the dark days of leather-clad metaldom, hybrid picking is a major buzzword in the lexicon of the modern lead guitarist. Apart from the fancy name, there is nothing new about hybrid picking. The concept is simple: Attack the strings with a flatpick and your right-hand fingers.
Though it’s easy to describe, the applications are quite vast. In addition to using the fingers for different timbral possibilities, ghosted notes, or even percussive sounds, you can employ hybrid picking to help you execute difficult string crossings and intervallic lines. When used properly, it can give your playing a certain smoothness that is very hard to achieve with just a pick. And it’s the latter aspect of hybrid picking we’ll cover in this lesson. Although we’ll be firmly entrenched in lead guitar-land, do not hesitate to explore the rhythmic possibilities of this technique as well.
While some players prefer using the flesh of their fingertip, I believe that a little bit of nail will help with your hybrid picking,. Different strokes for different folks! It doesn’t make as much of a difference when playing with gain, but once you go clean, the nails will help with your tone production in big ways.
Now let’s warm up. Our first example (Fig. 1) uses a C whole tone scale (C-D-E-F#-G#-A#). If you aren’t familiar with this scale, its construction is simple: consecutive whole-steps. For this exercise, we’ll play the scale in major thirds moving up a whole-step. This scale is commonly used over dom7#5 chords, maj7#5, or as a tension sound on minor 7 chords (just make sure you choose the scale that starts on the minor chord’s b3). With our picking hand, we’ll alternate between the pick and our middle finger (m in the notation). This is the way jazz great Hank Garland would play many of his lines.
Take this slowly at first because it’s deceptively difficult to play rhythmically even. Instead of using a deep free stroke from the big knuckle of your hand like a classical guitarist would, try to use a small movement and be sure not to pop the string (that’s a great effect, but not what we’re looking for at the moment).
Next, take this idea and explore some permutations. Can you play this sans flatpick by alternating between middle and ring fingers? Pick and ring? Ring and pinky? What would it sound like if you started this pattern on an upbeat? What about playing it in triplets? Quintuplets? If you aren’t exploring the innumerable permutations of a lick that you learn, you’re only scratching the surface. Try anything to get your right hand rhythmically used to placing the plucked note on a different beat. The quicker you free up your right-hand fingers, the quicker hybrid picking will creep into your playing.
Fig. 2 is a fun little C Dorian (C-D-Eb-G-A-Bb) line. Using the middle finger allows the right hand to be a little more relaxed and also helps avoid some tricky picking moves in the second part of the phrase. Pay careful attention to balancing the sound of the plucked notes with the picked and slurred ones. There are some tricky position shifts that were done for articulation reasons. Many times finding the easiest way to play a line is not necessarily the best musical way to play it, so always look for and explore alternate fingerings and positions.