Fixing String Skipping Problems

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.

Ultimate Guitar
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. 2. Anchor. 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! Don't stop here. Pick up more practice tips and brain hacks at

51 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I'd heard the 'close your eyes and skip strings' tip a while back, and it's definitely one of the best pieces of picking advice that I was ever told. Article's really well explained too. And it's nice to see that it's not overly serious either.
    Your avatar is very distracting o_0
    It was either this or some penguin gif. This one barely won out after a seriously INTENSE coin flip.
    I anchor all the time. It's a bit heavy carrying it around, but its great for cardio. It doesn't fit through the x-ray at airports though, and always sends the metal detectors crazy..... Oh.... wait.... Guitar....? What.....?
    I find doing all my guitar playing and practice without looking period is the way to go. if you have to look you really don't know your fretboard well enough, at least for proffesional quality live performances.
    I'd imagine Petrucci has so much muscle memory for his elbow, wrist and finger positions that he doesn't need that pinky there at all.
    lol medals for comments, UG has given many lives a meaning. great article by the way, i really needed it!
    Good learning exercise. IMO, the only acceptable anchoring would be using a free falling finger to keep your hand in a consistent position. You don't press down on the board of the guitar or grip the highest string with your pinky. You let it sit and help guide your motion wihtout added tension. This leads to a more consistent picking technique. A good example would be John Petrucci, he doesn't press or grasp anything, but he uses his pinky on the body as a guideline.
    Oh oh, anchoring...
    I believe Dave Mustaine uses this technique
    Tiago Sa
    So does John Petrucci. Doesn't mean it's right. Petrucci said, I believe, that if he wishes he'd have learned to play without anchoring, because it's holding him back now. You'll notice he tends to rest his hand after long fast runs, which is understandable, but if you consider anchoring usually increases the pressure you're applying with your right hand, it kind of makes you think.
    So does Paul Gilbert, Andy James, etc., etc. Over the past couple of years I've come to the conclusion that for many techniques, there is no one "right" way of doing things. It's just different strokes for different folks.
    Paul Gilbert doesn't anchor, what are you talking about? He's like the best example of someone who doesn't anchor. Though a lot of good players do indeed anchor, it's not like you get shot if you do it. Or were you referring to the resting hand part? Then yeah that sounds right.
    I have to agree wholeheartedly. It's the results that matter, whether they're musical or not. There's so much talk of 'bad' technique, when this is a misnomer. It's actually inefficient technique. It might be inefficient, but if it achieves the result, then it's not 'bad'. The best example that I can think of is Jimi Hendrix lack of bar chord. The modern day guitarist would be reprimanded for this, and most probably spend a lot of time trying to break this habit, perhaps purely on the grounds of it being 'bad' and therefore wasting time that could be spent improving musicianship. Remember, technique is the means by which you achieve a result. The result is musicality. On a personal note, I can see why people regard anchoring as inefficient. Any kind of hooking motion with pressure results in extra tension. If there's no pressure, then there's no tension, and the hook can be a great device for string location. Rant over!
    I never learned how to anchor and I love string skipping. A little trick I like though is that anything skipping more than two strings I just pick with my pinky or some finger that isn't directly involved with holding the pick. Sort of half finger picking. It doesn't get the same attack on the note but it's definitely convenient.
    Like chicken picking? Zakk Wylde does this too! Quite a nice technique that I've never gotten the hang of.
    I read somewhere that anchoring really helps improving your playing... I tried it once and I have never felt that uncomfortable with a guitar in my hand. Not even the first time I tried one...
    It took me 3, 4 weeks to stop anchoring my pinky. It's just unnecessary effort: - tensing muscles to hold the pinky in place - you have to un-anchor it to strum and to pick the high E string which slows you down - you have to anchor it again every time you take your hand off the strings - very hard to do big string skips (3 or more strings) as your hand is locked in a position All of the above are fixed by having a freer hand position with no anchoring.
    with the anchoring, ive been resting the side of my palm on the bridge, just behind the strings so there's no muting. is that ok or should i really be doing the pinky thing, cos that really dousn't feel natural for me. anyone?
    Tiago Sa
    Resting your hand, technically, isn't anchoring. I don't do it, personally, because I'm playing a floyd rose right now, but when I play a Les Paul style bridge, I keep my pink around the pickup protection for reference, but again, it's not anchoring because you're not applying pressure. Unless you ARE applying pressure in which case stop it. It's anchoring and it's bad.
    I'm not sure if this is metal oriented, but for blues rock I find the best way is to have your left hand muting the strings you're not playing, then downstroking through the 'skipped' string, or upstroking through a higher string and not caring about accuracy. It's not super precise, but in that style it works. But if the lesson is geared towards prog or metal appeggios and whatnot, I guess my method wouldn't work.
    I use this technique all the time and I'm still working on improving my finger-picking accuracy. I wrap my thumb around the neck and mute out all the strings except the one(s) I want to play and strum them all. It makes the notes I want ring out while lending a rhythmic drive to my solo playing.
    Why is there even an article for this? People really need to be taught how to skip a string on their guitar? Lol...
    just as Anna implied I am alarmed that any body able to make $4435 in one month on the internet. have you seen this web page just as Anna implied I am alarmed that any body able to make $4435 in one month on the internet. have you seen this web page
    cheers, my string skipping needs to be a lot better, then i can play miracle man by ozzy osbourne and fallen angel by poison without my friends wincing
    as Eddie implied I'm blown away that a person able to profit $7977 in four weeks on the internet. did you look at this site NuttyRichdotcom
    I play a lot of slap style stuff, and i play anchored and unanchored without a problem, but some one mentioned petrucci, i advise you getting the tab book for dream theaters last album, a lot of string skipping in there, even more shredding tough. Great way of getting your melodic speedschred on.
    Tiago Sa
    Petrucci has an exercise for this that's similar, but with an added layer: when you go 1 3 2 4 3 5 4 6 4 5 3 4 2 3 1, do it while alternate picking. By that I mean up down up down... and THEN you go the other way, down up down up... This way you train your alternate picking AND your string skipping at the same time. And it works fantastically. Granted, this kind of exercise requires you to tolerate hours of mistakes. But again, no guitarist will ever get anywhere fast if he can't endure that kind of training. And it's great that the vast majority don't seem to, because that means I can be better than the vast majority
    @canimo I do exactly the same thing and I know for a fact that many other guitarists do it as well. Personally, I think it's the most comfortable way of "anchoring" and it helps your accuracy ten fold.
    Is it supposed to be all down picking rest strokes all the time when playing with the eyes shut?