IN THE WOODSHED
Inspire new melodic ideas by hopping, skipping and jumping over your strings. Rockschool’s Charlie Griffiths shows the way.
Charlie Griffiths explains how players like Eric Johnson and others create long interval leaps with the use of string skipping.
String skipping is a great approach for inspiring different melodic ideas. Skipping over strings provides wide interval jumps which can sound more exciting than just playing up and down a scale.
Our first two examples are on the more technical side, designed to develop the hand movements required for string hopping. We have Pentatonic based, two-notes-per-string patterns which start on adjacent strings and gradually become wider apart. First focus on your fretting hand to make sure the notes are fretting cleanly and accurately. When string skipping, the aim is to make your fingers do the work rather than moving the hand itself too much. Start with hammer-ons and try pull-offs too. Feel free to experiment and challenge your fingers to move up and down in different ways.
Some experimentation with the Pentatonic scale will soon have you discovering some Eric Johnson and Carl Verheyen style sounds.
Once you are comfortable with the fretting side of things, we can focus on the picking hand. Use the very tip of the pick to strike each string so as to keep the hand feeling light and loose. If you dig in too much, you are more likely to get caught up in the strings, or hit the wrong one entirely. You should be able to glide over all of the strings by moving your hand mainly from the wrist. Keep the heel of your hand planted on the bridge as an anchor point around which the hand can move. This is usually more stable and accurate than a free-floating hand.
Another way to articulate big jumps between strings is the use of hybrid picking, which generally means picking the bass strings with the pick and the treble strings with the second, third or fourth fingers of the picking hand. Example 4 is a Tosin Abasi style riff using a combination of hammer-ons and hybrid picking in a rhythmic five-note pattern.
The final example is a big guitar, keyboard unison section reminiscent of John Petrucci or Paul Gilbert. This will challenge both of your hands as there are a lot of position shifts and string skips. Synchronise your two hands by focusing on the downbeats and making sure your finger and pick hit the string at exactly the same time. If you keep moving your picking hand down and up in constant 16th notes, these downbeats will always coincide with downstrokes. When you gradually speed up the piece, these downbeats will act as anchor points which will help keep everything in time and on track, no matter how complex it may seem.
NEXT MONTH Charlie looks at how we can develop longer fretting-hand stretches
when string skipping the ai m is to make your fing ers do the work rat her than moving the han d too much
Eric Johnson uses string skipping in solos and melodies