How to Improve Your Hybrid Picking Technique in Four Easy Steps

1. Start Small

For those who feel more comfortable using a standard pick, try a small pick. Eric Johnson influenced many guitarists, including myself, to play in a hybrid style. Use a small pick with a pointed tip, like Johnson’s Dunlop Nylon Jazz III, or a pick with a rounded tip, like Tommy Emmanuel’s D’Andrea ProPlec.

Both will make it easier to pick correctly in tight spaces, and the small “pick mould” means that the pick will stay out of reach, leaving your other fingers plenty of room to perform various picking patterns.

Eric McFadden prefers the similar but thinner teardrop-style Dunlop Tortex pick for a crisp attack on his nylon strings.

2. Streamline Your Reels

Many fingerists primarily use the first three fingers, but since the index finger is used to pinch the pick along with the thumb in hybrid picking, fingers 2 and 3 come first.

I’ve always found it a little easier to make consistent backward throws – 3, 2, pick, repeat – than forward – pick, 2, 3, repeat – and therefore have to work harder on the latter.

Here’s a basic exercise: Form an open D chord and focus on the top three strings so that the pitch of the arpeggiated chord is, from low to high, A, D, F#. Get a click on the metronome. Try repeating the arpeggio from string three to one in time.

Then try the same thing in reverse. When you get the hang of it, slow down the tempo and play the notes as triplets, three beats.

Finally, play ascending and descending notes in 6/8 time, for which you should repeat the third and sixth notes. The pattern is: strum, 2, 3, 3, 2, strum; repeat.

3. Put the Pinky into the Mix

Once you’re done, give your pinky some practice time as well, because it will definitely come in handy. Try arpeggiating up and down on the same open D chord, but this time pluck the fourth string with a pick, followed by fingers 2, 3, and 4 hitting strings three, two, and one respectively.

To get the flow going, try it in 6/8 time as follows: Pluck the open D, pluck the A on the second string with finger 2, pluck the D on the second string with finger 3, then pluck the F# on the top string with the pinky.

Don’t do that a second time; just lower it back down in reverse order until you pick the open D string, then start back up. Repeat all the way up and down.

Next, try working on the concept using different chords with the aim of switching smoothly, in time, from chord to chord.

4. Look Ahead

Once you can do that, you’ll be off and running as a hybrid picker, with a million songs in a variety of styles at your fingertips, while keeping that cosy little spectrum handy for picking up basic notes, plus the infinite other fun techniques available using a pick.

Learning to throw your fingers into the mix will open up all sorts of new avenues for exploration. Hopefully, it will also inspire a desire to fingerpick more freely.

One final thought: If you really want to become an expert fingerstylist, you’d better get on with it, as removing your thumb and index finger will change the ball game in a big way.

On the other hand, if you want to maintain at least a few options in your repertoire, developing a solid hybrid technique will always be in your best interest.



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