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Michael Casswell - Pro Concepts Season 1 - Part 5: Hybrid Picking

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 5 **

Welcome again to my Pro Concepts guitar lesson column. I hope you enjoy this little look into the concept of "Hybrid Picking" guitar techniques.

In case you don't know, the term 'hybrid picking' is a label us guitar players have used to describe the technique of combining your plectrum and one or two of your fingers, which combine seamlessly to create a nice flow to your runs, or inject new life into tired old licks that have been passed down the generations by bluesers and rockers alike. Generally it's a case of your pick taking care of down strokes, and one of your remaining fingers taking care of any up strokes. This is different to 'chicken picking' which has a bit more 'pop' to the sound created by the use of dead notes, but the lines between both techniques can become blurred, and if you do become comfortable with the Hybrid technique, it's not such a big leap to cross into some cool country chicken pickin'.

I have talked a lot in my past columns about adding 'musical weight' to your playing, and Hybrid picking is one of the tools we can use to do it. It will inject life into phrases and licks that you, and everyone else, have been playing for years and can add colour, feel and dynamics to the simplest of ideas. Hopefully in the attached footage, you hear me start with a fairly simple two or three note idea, that has a serious injection of 'cool' when we start Hybrid picking it. The combination of pick attack and finger flesh certainly has, in my opinion, a really musical sound that can give the musical weight and creative approach I have been trying to get across to you in my past Pro Concept columns.

We then move on to creating a hybrid picked run on the top two strings.. The notes I use in the first run are derived from D major, but because it's an E minor type idea, then officially it's more like E Dorian, although I may slip a couple of passing tones in there. Don't feel you have to play the whole run in one hit. You can chop it up and use bits of it in your own solos. The same goes for the descending high to low idea, which is all just the top notes from each Em pentatonic position. If you know your pentatonics, it should be obvious once you see the pattern. If you don't.... why don't you?

Hopefully in my demo, I get you to hear the colour and flavour that Hybrid picking gives, and some of the best guitar playing does come from different colours and approaches. So far we have looked at some creative string bends, whammy bar use, vibrato, constructing dynamic phrases and always trying to think creatively to sound less predictable  when improvising. Hybrid picking is another approach that gives you options. If you don't have options, you run the risk of sounding bland or one dimensional..

I also show you how you can add some feel and colour into your chord work and rhythm playing by adopting the Hybrid approach. Whether we would still call it hybrid picking when playing rhythm guitar doesn't really matter. What does matter, is being able to separate your plectrum and your fingers when you are voicing and playing chords. This will give you another option to add extra groove and "feel" to the simplest of progressions.

I have been thinking hard how I can teach or show 'feel'. I am not sure it can be taught. It's just one of those phrases that gets said about certain players, and is very much open to interpretation. One thing is for sure though, we all know it when a player lacks feel, and you do not want to be a guitarist that lacks feel!

The chord sequence I played on film was written on the spot, then strummed rhythmically, then jammed using a hybrid approach, then developed creatively using different inversions or voicings, giving you some kind of insight into how I might approach injecting some life and weight into a 'nothing special' part. I am not saying my way is the right way, I am just showing a possible option and trying to get across my thinking process. I have done years of studio sessions, touring and playing live for other people, and I can assure you that being able to think and approach things creatively is every bit as important as the actual playing. In a studio environment, most times it's about having ideas, then being able to execute those ideas with flare and panache. Very rarely is a serious, grown-up, paid, guitar engagement about sweep picking, tapping or shredding. As fun as those techniques are (and you do have to be prepared as a player for them), It's more likely to be about sound, tone, parts, groove and rhythm.

I like the sound of hybrid picking, and use it often, but not all the time. I do throw a lot of techniques in the pot and mix it up, and hopefully it still comes out sounding like me. Hybrid picking can sound fantastic in Country, Blues, Rock, Jazz, Funk, Metal...... the lot! It's a technique that really pays off if you work at it. It doesn't seem to date or sound contrived.. It's just a really good colour to add to your playing.

I hope you enjoy the playing on here. It's all first or second take stuff, so excuse any rough edges in there, but there should be some ideas to steal and use. As usual, you can contact me via my Michael Casswell (band/musician) Facebook page, or  my Licklibrary Q&A forum and let me know if you are enjoying (or not) the Pro Concepts school of MC....... everyone is welcome here - even if you still haven't learnt your pentatonics!

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