Beginner’s Guide To Hybrid Picking

Hybrid picking is a technique where we use both the pick and the fingers of our picking hand to pick and pluck the strings.

Crossing strings is arguably one of the most difficult things on guitar.

This is where hybrid picking is very useful. Instead of moving your pick to the next string you can simply pluck it with the nearest finger to it and “voilà!”.

Once you get a hang of hybrid picking you’ll be able to play wide intervals and tricky string patterns much more easily than if you were to alternate pick said patterns.

There are 3 main rules to keep in mind when practicing hybrid picking.

1. Relax

Playing relaxed is something that you should always do regardless of which technique you’re using.

For some people hybrid picking will be very unnatural at the beginning. That’s totally normal!

It’s all a matter of doing plenty of good repetitions until your brain figures out what’s going on. Then it will just be as natural as anything you already know if not more. 

But this will only work if you make sure that you’re ALWAYS relaxed when putting the reps in. Slow down the tempo as much as you need to feel relaxed. And then repeat your lick, phrase of exercise 100 times. If you’ve never done this amount of reps on anything you’ll be amazed by the results right away! 

We’ll go into exercise examples further down the article (Don’t skip the 3 main rules: They’re crucial)

2. Don’t pluck too hard

If you’ve been playing for a while you should have a natural shield on your fretting hand’s fingertips called: calluses. These calluses thicken your skin and protect your fingertips from the constant string friction. If you’ve never plucked with your picking hand’s fingers. Your fingertips are naked! So if you don’t want to end up with blisters all over the place in a matter of minutes: Pluck gently. Again, we’re going for a lot of repetitions here so start very lightly and if you feel pain at some point: Stop! You’ll try again later or the day after and you’ll slowly build those holy calluses on your picking hand too ;)

3. Move your fingers, not the wrist

As I said, plucking with your fingers when it’s your first time doing it can be very uncomfortable. To compensate for the “weakness” of the picking hand’s fingers, some people tend to lock their fingers in a hook shape and pluck, rotating the wrist (similar to the slap motion).  This can work at slow speeds but will hold you back once you try to speed up. 

When you pluck using your wrist, you’re constantly pulling your hand away from the strings, which results in a big loss of time and precision. 

That’s why, I recommend using your fingers.

The finger motion is similar to what your fingers do naturally when you scratch yourself. Using this method requires close to no wrist motion allowing your hand to stay close to the strings all the time. This will be very helpful once you start increasing the speed.

If for some reason you find the explanation unclear, look at the video on top of this article at 2:00

Repetition is the key

Now that you know the 3 rules it’s only a matter of repetitions. 

The most basic form of hybrid picking would be to replace your classic “alternate picking upstroke” with a finger pluck. This means that you’ll be starting with your pick doing a downstroke and then pluck with your finger.

The point of the following exercise is to get you used to the pick and finger alternation. We’ll use 2 variables to work on all the fingers your picking has available for you to use.

This exercise will cover all the basics you need to start getting your hybrid picking chops up.

Let’s skip a string and pluck with the ring finger this time

Skip another string and pluck with the pinky this time. It’s gonna be fun!

Starting with the strings muted allows you to focus solely on your right hand while getting a very short and tight sound to make sure your timing is correct.

Feel free to isolate each string group and play the pattern 25 to 100 times (depending on how you feel) for better results.

After a couple of rounds you’ll probably be bored of hearing muted strings. At that point, you can fret your favorite chord or get a bit more experimental with arpeggios to spice things up.