IN ThE WOODShED
Grab your pick and master the art of moving from string to string with this plectrum punishing workout. Charlie Griffiths shows the way.
Charlie Griffiths combines two techniques - string skipping and alternate picking - to create some amazing sounding licks.
String skipping using alternate picking is a skill that will strengthen both your lead and rhythm playing. Moving the pick cleanly from one string to the next is a rudimentary skill that guitarists perform every day, but players like Steve Morse, John Petrucci, Al Di Meola, Kiko Loureiro and Paul Gilbert have all made picking into an art form. In this month’s trip to the woodshed we will take inspiration from those masters and putting the pick under the microscope and pushing our picking to the limits of what the guitar will allow. We will start small and simple and build up to the more challenging.
First, we will work on moving between two adjacent strings; we’ll then make things progressively more challenging by increasing the jump. Four out of the five examples we have prepared for you involve jumping between the first and sixth strings - the most extreme picking manoeuvre the guitar allows. You may not be using a jump like this in your everyday playing, but giving your hands an extra challenge like this can drill a technique into your muscle memory. It also has the effect of breaking down any psychological walls you may have, and will often make the simple things seem even simpler. If you are a seven or eight-string player, you should absolutely explore those boundaries too.
Almost all of our examples are based around the Minor Pentatonic shape 1, since you will probably be very familiar with the shape. Hopefully, these exercises will breathe some new like into old scale shapes and perhaps inspire some new musical ideas.
Try to keep your forearm still, rest it gently on the guitar body and move your hand from the wrist. Experiment with different pick angles and hand positions until you find something that is comfortable for the entire range of motion.
Our first example acts as an introduction to string skipping and is played one note per string so you become accustomed to alternate picking across strings. This means that the pick moves down and up consistently without interruption. Sometimes you will start a new string with a downstroke and sometimes with an upstroke; both are equally important to get comfortable with. Our examples build on this idea with two-notes-per-string patterns and finally three-notes-per-string.
Use a metronome to keep a steady tempo. As well as giving your hands something to lock onto, a click can focus the mind and help you get into ‘practice mode’ more easily than practising unaccompanied, without any form of tempo assistance.
Practise in different parts of the neck using different positions of the scale, or a different scale. These techniques can be applied to any tonality you can imagine, and you can always test your skills by picking out string-skipped notes from chords. Happy skipping!
A CLICK CAN FOCUS THE MIND AND HELP YOU GET INTO ‘PRACTICE MODE’ MORE EASILY THAN DOING IT UNACCOMPANIED
You’ll be jumping strings a lot in in this article