** As featured in issue 13 **
Welcome to another edition of my Guitar Interactive lesson column. In this guitar lesson we're going to start taking a look at the hybrid picking technique and how we can use that in our metal guitar soloing.
Hybrid picking, by definition, is the use of the fingers on the picking hand to execute notes in conjunction with the pick. This is a technique closely associated with top Country players like James Burton or Albert Lee, but over the years it's become commonplace to find it used in Rock, Metal and shred by guys like Zakk Wylde and Eric Johnson.
One of the best application of the technique is to enable you to play complex string crossing licks without having to jump around with the pick. If you look at some of Zakk's solo guitar pieces like the later part of Speedball or the second half of Takillya (Estyabon) you can hear guitar parts that are more reminiscent of classical guitar, and these can work great for textures. When used in a solo you get that sound that can only be described as Chickin' Pickin', and that’s a big part of Zakk's soloing style.
In this first part of the series we're going to play it real simple and just play notes on the D and G strings, picking notes with the pick on the D string with the pick, then using the middle finger to pluck the G string. When you do this motion it's really important that you don't dig in too hard and pluck the string aggressively, you want to try and make it sound just as it would if you'd picked the string with a pick. Remember, the audience wants to listen to your music, not the techniques you use to make it!
If you look closely, when I do this I like it to be a pluck of the finger rather than a twist of the wrist. This way, when you pluck a note your hand is good and ready to go with the next picked note, this may not seem like a big deal when playing slowly, but playing fast is all about efficiency, so pay attention to how much movement you're making.
The first basic exercise is to move between just two notes, this could get very boring very quickly, so in exercise two we make it a little more interesting by changing the notes on the G string to create a simple melody. This shouldn't be too hard to do if you spend some time mapping scales out horizontally up the neck, and if that's not something you've ever done, this is a great reason to!
The next three exercises take this simple mechanic and then move it to different chords in the key of E minor. So we take the note E on the D string (14th fret) and then on the G string we play a melody from the key of Em. We then play a similar melody (sequence) but starting on a D, and then finally on a C. This is one of the best ways to practice in my opinion, because we're working on technique, but in a musical context.
When you have your head around each of these positions, you want to slowly start to put them together to create one flowing musical exercise. When you've got this down try to expand on it by outlining some of your own chord progressions, or take the chord progression from a song you're working on and see if that is somewhere you can apply this technique. It's always best to get using technique in the real world as soon as possible.
Next month we're going to move onto some more complex pentatonic patterns that move across multiple strings, so make sure you have this down by then. Until then, keep rockin'!