How Versatile Is Your Picking Hand?

This lesson may bring some light on some ways to increase picking hand versatility, through the use of your spare digits.

Ultimate Guitar
Welcome UG readers, to the land of picking hand awareness. Look at your picking hand now, for even better effect, assume the position with a plectrum in hand. OH MY HOLY WHAT IS THAT? I have 3 fingers that flap around and do nothing! except maybe my pinky finger anchoring. I decided to look at this after getting a Zakk Wylde DVD. All those pinch harmonics because he only down picks and uses his middle for up picks. I do not advocate this, it works for him, but here is how I get the most out of the technique. While holding your plectrum, place your middle, ring and pinky on the G, B, and e strings respectively. Now angle your hand so that your fingers naturally rest at about an equal level to each other, the plectrum should be about in position to strike a string at that 45 degree angle we use for sweeps or tremolo. I find that to be the easiest and most natural position to use all 3 fingers for hybrid picking. Results may vary. If you plan on using just ring and middle or just middle, your normal position for picking should be fine. Quick application examples. First up is a passing example from the first chord of "Kryptonite" by 3 Doors Down. Fig. 1
So steady downstrokes all the way, up stroke on the b string for the turn around, and then 2 ups for the G and D, then while you are changing for the next chord, let your middle catch the open on the G. Just a small thing which feels streamlined. The second is one of my favorite lines to play; the intro to "Subverse" by This Or The Apocalypse. (Quick tab legend, "L" is a tied note). Fig. 2 - 140BPM for you playing at home, 8th notes

I finger pick the open notes and use my plec for the fretted notes. The reason I use hybrid picking is because then I still have my plec for the tapping bit and the main riff. This is more of a planned approach to playing, but hybrid picking really opens up avenues. Just take riffs you already know that have jumps that require tricky string skipping and put some hybrid picking to it. You can also play triads pretty nicely with this. Fig. 3
Another thing would be training your other fingers for tapping. The sort of angled position your picking hand assumes can be moved up the neck, and your fingers would sit ready to tap out just for example 12th, 13th and 15th fret on the D string all in an ergonomic row. Or the whole, half jumps instead (12th, 14th, 15th). So here I want to end off the lesson with a tapping riff based off of a diminished arpeggio that I enjoy playing which includes each finger for easiest and most professional looking results Fig. 4
  |--3--|  |---3--|  |--3--|  |--3--|    
      M        P         M        R      
Above the tab I annotated which fingers to tap with from your picking hand. The notes with your fretting hand will also be hammer-ons from nowhere. Which isn't too difficult, just be careful with your muting. Best results at 170BPM on this last one, they are 8th note tuplets. Hope this gave you something to work on in your spare time, try getting finger plecs, it sounds great, except tapping is nigh on impossible with them, grow finger nails. Until next time, keep rocking.

8 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I hold pick with 3 fingers. Been playing for 7 years +-
    Picking, finger picking and hybrid picking are all very useful techniques. I recommend practicing all of them.