String skipping on guitar is the easiest thing in the world. Not really! Nearly every guitarist will have some string skipping issues during the learning process. But with just a little effort, the willingness to make lots of mistakes, and the simple exercises you're about to read about, you'll be leaping over strings with wild abandon and sticking those landings like and Olympic gymnast.
"String skipping" just means playing notes on non-adjacent strings. For instance, playing a note on your second string, then one on the fourth string. To help you clean up your technique we'll focus on your right hand using single note melodies.
You'll see me repeatedly mention restricting the range of motion of your right hand. It sounds like a bad thing to do. But we'll be using it for the forces of good to give your hand a finite area to work in so you can develop the muscle memories for the distance between the strings.
1. Rest stroke.
In a "rest stroke" you will pick the note and let the pick come to rest on the next string. Example: Play your open fourth string and let the pick come to rest against the third string.
Here's that finite range of motion at work. Your pick will move the same distance every time and your muscles will learn that distance easily. As you become comfortable with the rest stroke, your hand will be able to judge the distance between multiple string easily.
As a bonus, the rest stroke will also improve your tone and right hand accuracy overall.
I'm not talking about a 3-ton nautical device. Although that might keep you in one spot to practice longer! Using a right hand anchor means resting your right hand pinkie on the body of your guitar. If you're playing on the lower strings you can latch it to the top string. Same thing here. It restricts your range of motion to a smaller space on the guitar.
Some guitarists will disagree with me on the use of an anchor. Many don't use one at all. However, in my 20 years of teaching I've seen anchors help to clean up shoddy right hand technique hundreds of times.
3. Those blind guys had the right idea.
Now that you've got a solid rest stroke and pinkie anchor we're going to do some actual string skipping, but with your eyes closed. This is also a trust exercise. Kind of like that thing where your friend falls backwards and you're supposed to catch him. Except there's no possibilities of a concussion here. Instead you will learn to trust your hands. You WILL make a ton of mistakes at first, but that's totally ok. Forget about them and try again. Your hands will learn and respond faster if you don't let the mistakes frustrate you.
To keep it simple, we'll just just the open strings for this exercise. Shut your eyes and begin with your sixth string. Keep your pinkie anchor and rest strokes in mind. Now pick every other string: 6th, 4th, 2nd. Then begin from the first string and play every other string coming down: 1st, 3rd, 5th.
Keep your tempo slow, make lots of mistakes, then try again.
Now reverse the exercise. Descend on strings 2, 4, 6 and ascend on strings 5, 3, 1.
When you can do that comfortably, try skipping two strings: 6th/3rd, 5th/2nd, 4th/1st. Same thing in reverse. Then you can try skipping 3 strings, etc.
When you close your eyes, your brain shifts gears and puts more focus on your senses of hearing and touch (and smell, but hopefully you don't need that here). That's why playing with your eyes closed will help you develop this technique faster. Those goofy "guitarist rocking out/having a bowel movement" faces are optional, but seem to go along with the territory.
When you've got it down, try it with your eyes open, but don't look at your hands. You don't need to now. When you play your eyes should either be on the sheet music or the thousands of screaming fans in front of the stage.
Just follow these steps and fight through the mistakes. You'll find that string skipping really is pretty easy after all!
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