This is a transcript of my “how to master hybrid picking on electric guitar video” that I recorded live from Helsinki on Nov 26th 2020.
Today we’re talking about hybrid picking on electric guitar. As usual, we’re going to start with the basics and fundamentals. Let’s get started!
Some people have been asking in the chat about hybrid picking. While it shares some similarities with fingerstyle, it stands alone as a technique.
Hybrid style is when you use your guitar pick and your fingers at the same time. I will also do a guide on straight fingerpicking later.
First, let’s look at the finger position for this technique:
I hold the pick between my thumb and index finger, then use my other fingers on different strings.
To get started, position your right hand in a way that allows you to palm mute. Begin with this simple exercise using a clean tone. The pattern goes one, two, three — pick, middle, and ring finger.
Create simple ideas. There’s a lot of small patterns you can learn. Alternate middle and ring on the open E and B strings, add the pick for bass notes. (Video 5:36).
Keep the middle and ring fingers playing open strings then try moving the bass note around.
Start very slowly to understand the movement — that’s very important.
Remember, practicing is not playing. You’re here to understand the hand movements, so start very slowly. Look and observe: make sure everything is in place.
Try to figure out what’s the best position for you. Play very slowly and try to understand the best placement for your right hand.
These basic ideas I took from classical fingerstyle guitar. I don’t know much about country guitar, so most of my hybrid picking ideas come from my fingerstyle guitar training.
Here’s one I learned from Steve Morse, in his video from the 90s, #backtobasics. This is a very good exercise if you’ve never played with this technique.
Just one string, pick and finger on the same string. Same note, varying dynamics and muting.
But why do that? I could just alternate pick it, right? Listen to the difference in the guitar’s tone and expression. I can snap with my finger and play light with my pick. There’s a lot of nuances you can apply.
You can also try playing scales then doubling each note with a finger.
In this example, the upstrokes are with the middle finger and downstrokes are with the guitar pick playing on a G Major scale.
I believe the main benefit of hybrid picking is the tone you get. String skipping is difficult with alternate picking, and practically impossible using sweeps. With hybrid picking and fingerstyle you can do some very big jumps.
The tone, the nuances, and expression you get gives you a lot of range and possibilities. Even in this example where I’m playing all A notes on three different strings.
We have the 5th string, 3rd string and 1st string.
Starting on A, it’s one, two, three, four, five, one, two, three … Instead of doing one, two, three, one, two, three … That would be the easier pattern, or groups of four.
Imagine having to try this with a pick — impossible. Not easy
Once you get the idea, it’s simple. You hit the A note on three separate strings. Start with having your fingers positioned over the right strings.
Let me show you another pattern: It’s a basic 9th chord and a 5th, a power chord. You guys like power chords.
So now when I play the same pattern, It’s similar to the guitars in “Dystopia.”
So it’s always the same pattern, simple stuff — simple, but not easy.
The concept is simple because we’re using power chords or a power chord with the 9th added. It’s not a fancy, complex chord. And the pattern is the same pattern all the time: one, two, three, four five, one, two, three …
I’m always talking about how practicing is different from playing.
Because if you just play, you’re probably not going to have the time to explore the technique, the sounds, and the hand positions. So it’s important to get a half-hour or an hour a day to explore the movements, the sounds, and possibilities. Afterward, when you do play or jam some guitars, compose, and do your own stuff, you’ll see that your playing will be better quality and more precise.
Once you have more precision, you’ll feel more confident, and once you feel more confident you can be more creative. Because when you get confident you’ll start exploring different stuff. Then ideas start coming and you feel more creative and everything happens easily.
I really think that’s the way. You practice and then you apply what you’re practicing. You start to get some confidence in what you’re doing — and this confidence makes you explore more and more.
Exploring is when you find your own voice, your own ideas, and your own flow. It’s when you start writing your own songs, your own licks, and your own improvisations.
One day we can chat more about being creative and all that, I think it’s an interesting subject. But that’s a talk for another time.
So we have basic exercises starting with the right hand, playing just one note. Then on to some easy patterns to more complex patterns .
You can try moving these patterns around. It’s a little bit more complicated, but we’re getting there.
I think you guys can understand the way you build from a simple thing, using a new technique: hybrid picking, then starting with simple things and build to more complex stuff.
So let me know if you guys are liking this. We do these every Thursday. So share this with somebody: your friends, especially your guitar playing friends. It’s always good having more people here.
One thing that is very important: after you share and subscribe to the channel, leave your comments here at the chat, but also go to the video and leave a comment there. Give me feedback on hybrid picking or anything else that you want to know about. That helps me think of lesson topics for the next Thursday session.
Also, each time you learn something different, try to apply it right away. If you’re a beginner, just try to play the simple hybrid picking with the down up, down up. Try to get a pattern and explore different chords and chord progressions. Check if you can mute and play some string skipping, explore more harmonies, and maybe try playing solos you already know using hybrid picking instead of alternate picking. Try to switch from sweep picking to alternate picking to adding hybrid picking to solos you are already playing. Everytime you get something, apply it right away, otherwise it gets lost.
I want you to apply this technique somehow, even if it’s a little thing — like you play a solo and do a simple phrase with that kind of sound — you could also do something like this pattern here
Last thing is to show you something from my new album, a song called “Sertão.”
I’m using the hybrid technique with this pattern. It’s in B minor and I’m using an open triad.
Coming back to the example: After the first pattern I change to a D chromatic D flat, B, and c minor. Then I play e minor, then major starting with the third inversion — I’m not going to talk about chords or harmony here, so as to not make it confusing. I’m always thinking in terms of Brazilian music in a way.
Now let me show it in context with the song.
That’s a way you can apply the technique and the pattern within the context of a song.
It’s pretty hard to play hybrid or fingerstyle with lots of gain, I like to play in a way that’s more percussive as opposed to actually hearing the notes. It’s very precise and nice and clean, I like playing that kind of lick in a percussive way.
If you have questions about hybrid picking or anything else you want to learn during these live streaming sessions, leave a comment in the comments section — I always take your feedback into consideration what you guys are saying and asking,
So I think we covered the basics of hybrid picking on electric guitar! Leave your comments, subscribe to the channel, and set the reminder for the live stream next Thursday.
Next Thursday I will be discussing downpicking ie: using downstrokes only.
Q&A From Chat
How do you mute the highest strings?
The muting technique is always the same in a way — I am using my palm to mute. It’s a very good idea to just practice the muting — find a position that mutes all the strings. Play with changing the pressure of your palm muting so you can get different sounds.
Again this is not going to happen if you just play, like a backing track on youtube. You’re not going to find It this way — you have to stop and feel the strings. Try to figure out what’s the best position. Play something very slowly and try to understand the best placement for your right hand. Practice dynamics and explore as much as you can as you will use this muting for everything.
On guitarist, Chimbinha:
Of course, he’s the master of hybrid.
I actually use this technique in “Dystopia” and a lot of my solos. Other players like Mark Knoffler and Steve Morse use it a lot. Actually, I will say most of the modern guitar players use this technique because it’s a basic technique coming from all the classical [fingerpicking] players. It’s very natural, you have a pick, why not also use your other fingers?
You can hold the guitar pick somewhere else and use all your fingers, just like Jeff Beck, or many other players who rarely use one.
No pick = more feel
Of course, there’s more feel because you’re touching the strings, so you have much more, yeah … feel! More nuances, more expressions you can hear, right? That’s why we do the hybrid technique — we want the sound and power of the pick, but also have the expression of the fingers.
On switching your pick angle when using hybrid picking
For me, I’m always using parallel. It makes more sense to be parallel because of the hand position. So it doesn’t change much for me using the hybrid approach, but if you play one way then switch to parallel, I think it’s fine. There’s no problem at all.
On Bossa Nova being “Brazilion music”
Yeah, it can be about brazilian music, I’m not a Bossa Nova expert, as you can probably tell by my guitar, but I do like a lot of songs — I know some stuff about Bossa Nova.
Outside of Brazil, people take bossa nova as Brazilian music, that would be like considering Be-Bop North American music, it’s not. It’s a style of music from a certain period of time. It is probably the most successful moment in brazilian music.
About the song “Du Monde” from Open Source
For the song “Du Monde” I use it [hybrid] in the verse. It’s a little bit more complicated which is why I prefer showing “Sertão” — it’s basically the same pattern. It’s already quite difficult to play, mainly because there are two different parts for the guitars. In “Du Monde” I’m playing a more complex chord progression, maybe another time I can show how I develop the melody and technique for that.
On using hybrid techniques in Angra
I’ve been using this since the late 90s — there’s a riff from Angra [“Silence and Distance”], let’s see if I remember it. [45:25] Something like this — or similar — I remember the producer saying, “No! What is this?” like it was not “metal” enough. So the producer said, “No way. Play with a pick!”
Probably because I was not very sure how to play the riff. I wanted to use that technique, but I was not there yet — then on the next album, Fireworks, I was able to do add some hybrid technique, and then more and more. Now I play like that all the time.
On “Graystone Gateway” off Sounds of Innocence.
I’m playing with a pick. If I’m not ready for it, I might play it hybrid, because with a pick it’s too fast; 140 bpm or something, but I would prefer to use alternate picking — although it’s quite difficult on that one.
On choice of picks.
It’s not about equipment! It’s this one here — my Ibanez guitars.
But the pick doesn’t matter, the guitar doesn’t matter, what strings you use, the amplifier and the cable, to learn how to play guitar — it can be an old acoustic that you got from your family, which is what happened to me.
And then if you become a professional, and you have the money, you can enjoy having more expensive stuff and things that are more reliable — then of course you can buy a Kiko signature guitar, and Neuro DSP plugins, and a good camera … but to LEARN how to play, I believe it doesn’t matter. You just have to feel comfortable: no old instrument where the strings are very high, high action, or old strings that don’t stay in tune anymore with horrible intonation.
On Steve Lukather’s sweep picking skills.
He’s a great player, man! I don’t know exactly about his sweep picking, but it’s probably really good.
On breaking a nail.
I did talk about my fingernail that is completely broken, it’s kind of getting stuck when I try fingerstyle — so it’s not ideal [for fingerpicking].
I hope you enjoyed this guide on hybrid picking on electric guitar, stay tuned every Thursday for a new live on my youtube channel!