In this lesson on guitar picking, I gave you a set of exercises to train yourself to play the guitar with a pick.
In today’s lesson, we’ll take guitar picking an extra step by using the pick together with the remaining fingers: Hybrid picking.
In order to execute hybrid picking technique, your thumb, and index finger hold the pick the same way they usually do to pick the lower strings of the guitar, while your middle and ring fingers pluck the higher strings.
The pinkie is also used by some guitarists like Tommy Emmanuel but I don’t suggest that you use it if you’re new to this technique. Just keep in mind that making use of your smallest finger is also an option.
Advantages of Hybrid Picking
- It’s easy to alternate with other styles of picking. Guitarists who want to switch from traditional fingerpicking to flatpicking, usually have to stop, put the pick in their mouth, and continue playing. Hybrid picking avoids the need to do that.
- It crosses musical styles and genres. Hybrid picking is used in Country, Blues, and Heavy Metal among other genres.
- You can achieve a different sound from the notes you play with the fingers, thus it allows you more variety when it comes to timbre.
- Makes wide leaps easier to play.
- You can use this technique to play very fast.
The hybrid picking exercises in this lesson start easy and gradually get harder.
That said, any exercise using this technique can be made harder if you increase the speed.
The first six exercises use the same simple chord progression: C – Am – G – C.
Your left hand shouldn’t be busy until you start getting hybrid picking technique under your belt.
The last four exercises require more work from your left hand so that you can also practice how to synchronize both hands together for this technique.
Important note: Next to the notes, in the standard notation above the tabs, you will find in small font the letters p, m, and a.
P means that you should play that note with the pick, m with the middle finger, and a with the ring finger.
Classical guitarists also use the letter i which means you should use the index finger to pluck the string. The index finger is never used in hybrid picking since it is needed to hold the pick.
In this exercise, your middle and ring fingers will keep plucking the highest two strings of the guitar simultaneously, while your pick will be alternating among the bass strings.
In this exercise, you will pick the same bass string throughout while your middle and ring fingers alternate plucking the higher strings.
Now we’ll take things a step higher with your pick playing different bass notes while your middle and ring finger alternate plucking the top two strings.
This hybrid picking exercise is similar to the previous except that the ring finger plucks the string before the middle finger, creating a different picking motion.
The next exercise varies your picking motions even more.
Changing between the last beat of the bar and the first beat of the next can be a bit tricky. Make sure you practice it enough at a slow speed until the change feels smooth enough before playing it at the given speed or faster.
This is once again a variation of the previous exercise with the ring finger plucking the string first.
In this exercise, we’re going to stray away from the chord progression and give more work to your left hand.
When using hybrid picking technique in real musical situations, you need to be able to synchronize perfectly your left and your right hand.
Something which you will be practicing in the next scale sequence using the A minor pentatonic.
Note that in this exercise we’re also using hammer ons, which you should use on any two notes that have a slur between them.
The next exercise is another sequence in the minor pentatonic, this time using triplet notes.
In this exercise, we’ll be combining guitar triads with hybrid picking.
It’s not very tough on your right hand, but there is a lot of movement from your left since the triad changes every two beats.
As stated in the introduction to this lesson, hybrid picking is a technique that crosses a lot of musical styles.
It is probably most commonly used in Country music (where it is sometimes referred to as chicken picking) but there are guitarists in any genre from Jazz and Blues to Rock and Heavy Metal who make use of this technique.
Thus the last exercise is a guitar riff in my favorite musical genre, Heavy Metal.
Note that in this exercise I’m making use of palm muting technique on the bass notes in the first three bars while reverting back to alternate picking in the last bar.
Conclusion: Where to go from here
As will all guitar techniques, there’s a difference between knowing how to implement hybrid picking technique and actually mastering it.
The hybrid picking exercises in this lesson should get you started in this technique, but there are higher levels of musical complexity you can reach with it.
Before going for more complex stuff, or using hybrid picking to shred, I suggest you first implement this technique in other things that you’re practicing such as chords, scales, arpeggios, riffs, and licks.
As with all other techniques, repetition in different contexts, forms, and variations, is the road to mastery.
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