When a guitarist’s approach to playing includes flatpicking and fingerpicking simultaneously, it’s called hybrid picking. This is accomplished by holding a pick in the conventional way, and then using your remaining fingers to pluck as well. Although it has a strong connection with country and rockabilly styles, hybrid picking can be used in practically all styles of guitar playing.
Who uses hybrid picking?
It was popularised by progressive rock guitarists such as Steve Howe in the ‘80s, but these days the technique has been adopted by many players because of its speed and flexibility. Players like Guthrie Govan and Eric Johnson have pushed technical boundaries and often include hybrid picking in their melodic arsenals.
Why learn hybrid picking?
Basically it is the best of both worlds. It allows you to have the possibilities presented when using a fingerstyle approach while instantly being able to switch back to flat picking when you desire to do so. Hybrid picking also has a unique sound quality compared to just the pick, or just the fingers.
The natural question that comes after this is – how to do it then?
For those who feel more comfortable using a standard pick, try a small one with a pointy tip – it facilitates a true pick pluck in tighter spaces, and the small “pick print” means it will stay relatively out of the way, leaving your other fingers plenty of room to get into the mix for various plucking patterns.
Flow Your Roll
Many fingerstyle players use primarily the first three fingers, but since the index finger is occupied pinching the pick along with the thumb in hybrid picking, fingers 2 and 3 become primary.
You can try to get a consistent roll going forward – pick, 2, 3, repeat, or backward – 3, 2, pick, repeat.
Here’s an elementary exercise: Form an open D chord and focus on the top three strings so that the arpeggiated chord tones are, from low to high, A, D, F#. Get a click going on a metronome. Try repeating the arpeggio up from strings three to one in time. Then try the same in reverse. When you have this down, slow the tempo and play the notes as triplets, three to a beat.
Involve the Pinkie
To get a flow going, try it in 6/8 time as follows: Pick the open D, pluck the A on the third string with finger 2, pluck the D on the second string with finger 3, and then pluck the F# on the top string with the pinkie.
Don’t hit that a second time; just go right back down in reverse order until you pick the open D string, and then start heading right back up. Keep repeating up and down.
Next, try working that concept using different chords with the goal of switching smoothly, in time, from chord to chord.
Once you can do that, you’re off and running as a hybrid picker, with a million songs at your fingertips. Learning to work both your fingers and the plectrum opens up all sorts of new avenues for exploration so dive ahead and find your next inspiration.
If you want some further reading materials on the topic, check out also these articles here and here. For more guides, tips and tricks we invite you to join Neli’s Guitar Family and subscribe to her YouTube channel! If you are ready to dive into the world of guitar (or ukulele) you can sign up for a lesson HERE – the first one is 50% off!