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Blues Guitar Lessons: Hybrid Picking

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Now, for the next few lessons we're gonna
get back to really guitar playing
techniques instead of song forms and
sort of general ideas about rhythm and
And one of the techniques I wanna focus
on is one that I've introduced but
haven't really spent much time analyzing.
And that's a hybrid technique.
As I explained, back quite a while ago,
there are three basic ways,
maybe four if you wanna count the thumb
pick that blues guitar players play.
And usually players settle on one or the
other and that's just their main style.
So that would be the flat pick, right?
That's the most common by far.
In old school down home blues, you get,
you get the bare fingers, so thumb and
finger especially.
Some players do use the thumb pick and
it allows you to play those
big strong bass notes.
And then they can grip the thumb pick and
use it more like a flat pick.
I've never really used that style myself.
But that's sort of a good
compromise between bare thumb and
fingers and flat pick.
But the version that I use,
which is similar to that,
it has the same effect as a thumb pick and
It's called hybrid and
hybrid is using the flat pick.
I'm holding it normally,
between my thumb and finger.
But I'm using my other fingers,
primarily my middle finger,
my third finger as extra picks.
And that allows me to do
certain specialized techniques,
but it's also just
a general way of phrasing.
And why do we do it?
It's just cuz you like the sound.
I explained I think, a while back, about
a lick that I heard this guy play, and
I just couldn't figure out
how he was playing it.
And the only solution that
I could come up with was
he must be using,
Must be using something
other than just that pick.
Well of course its pull offs, right?
And so that allows you to play multiple,
[SOUND] multiple notes on one string,
he wasn't picking those notes.
But to cross from string to string, I
figured out that he must be playing pick,
finger, pick, and using that finger to
kinda give him a little extra something.
That gave him time to get
the pick back and forth.
He probably wasn't doing
it like that at all.
But that was my invention that
allowed me to kinda solve the problem
on how to play that lick.
And then, as I went along and I was
listening to other players that I liked.
For example, Albert King,
whose name has come up before.
I realized as I watched him play and
learned about him that in
some cases Albert King, Albert Kahn's in
particular, they didn't use the pick.
Now I wasn't about to give up the pick,
some guys do that.
Jeff Beck famously gave up
the pick at a certain point, and
just rebuilt his technique around
bare fingers and it sounds fantastic.
But, for most of us that's a big step and
I wasn't ready to take that step.
So I thought, well how can I
get some of that sound without
putting the pick down all the time or
sticking it in my mouth like this?
So I figured out and I'm not the only one,
obviously, that I could hold the pick and
use these fingers.
And that meant when I wanted to
pop a note like Albert King,
I could use my bare finger to get up under
there, snap it.
And then at the same time, I could
use the pick to play other phrases that I
just felt more confident using the pick.
It gave me more facility to get around.
So that in a nutshell is hybrid technique.
It's using the fingers sometimes and
the pick sometimes.
Now, I've been asked over the years
by students, that I play with.
They say, well how,
how do you develop that technique?
And my answer has always been,
well, I don't know,
you just start using your fingers and
work them in there.
Play take licks that you already know and
just kinda substitute the finger for
the pick and
over time you'll get more comfortable.
That's true, that's true.
But I'd like to give you an exercise or
two that you can use that'll help
kind of speed up the process.
So this is sort of
a hybrid picking exercise.
I'll show it to you, and
then break it down for you.
Simple enough, right?
Now, what I'm doing there,
playing the fourth string, seventh fret,
with the pick, and
I'm gonna use my middle finger to
play the notes on the third string.
So I play pick,
finger, pick, roll my finger over,
pick, finger, finger,
finger, finger, finger.
So the pick is always
playing the fourth string and
my finger is covering all
of the other strings.
Now that's kinda a phrase
in its own right.
It's a melodic idea, but
it's specialized, or
it focuses on that specialized
technique of hybrid picking.
Play it together, okay?
And we'll do it with this kinda bu-do,
bu-du, ba-da, ba-de,
about that tempo, right here.
Three, four.
Now, I'm just gonna
circle around those notes for a second.
And now, I'm gonna go up.
Flat five here, the fifth, the seventh.
Now I'm gonna go all the way up.
And go up again.
All the notes I'm playing are in the,
in the blues pentatonic kinda sound.
Now when I got to the high string,
instead of using my middle
finger I used my third finger.
Cuz it's more convenient.
It's already there, you know what I mean?
So middle finger, middle finger,
third finger.
If I kept going,
use it again, third finger.
So going all the way through the scale
reaching up as high as I can go.
Let's try that out.
Three, four
all the way up.
That, in a nutshell,
is what hybrid technique is all about.
It's just that combination of pick and
Now, I can pluck those notes
simultaneously instead of separating
them like that, so.
Now that's where hybrid
technique is actually required.
Because to get those notes on different
strings when they're not adjacent to
each other, you have to be able
to pluck the notes individually.
As opposed to trying to get across
the strings instantly, right?
Now we've already done that when we
did the Robert Johnson turnaround.
Remember that?
All right, that required hybrid picking,
didn't really talk about it, but
that's what that was, is hybrid picking.
Pick, finger on the high note and
that allows you to separate the notes and
still keep it nice clear.
So there's sort of
an exercisey way to do it.
We've also used hybrid picking pretty
consistently in the riff chords.
First, you introduce the riff chords.
Here's number one, here's number two,
and here's number three.
Two-note chords.
And then we expanded that
to three-note chords.
Now there,
I'm using hybrid picking to demonstrate.
All right, I'm using pick, finger, finger.
And there, I'm using the pick and
the fingers as a group, where I separate.
That's pick,
fingers, pick, fingers.
Now using the fingers together like
that allows you to hit the notes
simultaneously, which has a little bit
more of a pianistic kind of a sound,
or an organ,
where they're hitting the keys together.
So it's a different effect.
It sorta softens the notes a little bit
cuz the skin is a little softer than
the pick.
So its sound, its feel, its texture,
those are all things that help
guide your decisions there.
Here's an exercise.
I'm getting ahead of myself a little bit.
We're gonna talk about this style
of picking, but tremolo picking.
Mercy, mercy, mercy,
now that's a specialized
technique obviously.
But [COUGH] kind of a cool sound so
I'm going
playing triplets and then
Now because I'm using hybrid
picking I don't have to
interrupt the motion of the pick.
Incidentally I started
that with an upstroke.
Up, down, up, down, up, down,
up, down, up, down, up.
Now that style of playing,
the tremolo picking,
that's what that's called is a technique
we're gonna look at later.
It's a pretty handy technique to have.
Really makes the notes intense.
But there's an example just applied
to the hybrid picking world.
So I use hybrid picking as my
standard go to basic technique,
that's just how I play
cuz that's how I like it.
And I developed it over the years,
I literally don't think about it at all.
I really think about the sound and I say
which would sound better with the pick or
with the fingers.
As opposed to the technique
of having to choose, okay,
which finger will I use,
that's automatic at this point.
But these exercises will help
you access the technique, and
you can figure out how to apply it.
I'll give you an example, let's play
over a little rhythm section jam here,
12-bar shuffle in B flat.
We love the flat keys, we got F,
we got B flat,
we're doing more of that as time goes on.
So, see how it sounds
using hybrid technique.
I'll play some of these licks maybe
in the context of this progression,
see how it sounds.
Okay, here we go.
I was using some of those
really old style phrases.
I took the riff chord idea just a little
bit further and bent the notes together.
[SOUND] Sounds kinda cool.
Using a different interval in there, we're
gonna explore these notes and this sound.
[SOUND] In much more detail and
that's a real classic combination there.
B flat, ninth fret, eighth fret creates
a very dissonant interval,
the devil's interval.
Certain players use that all of the time.
So the double stops,
as they're called.
When you play two notes together,
that's a double stop.
And using hybrid picking allows
you to access all of that.
So I use the same phrases that
are kinda laid out in exercise form and
incorporated them into the solo.
And they just create
kind of a cool flavor.
So, mess around with that, and
see what you can come up with
as you develop your technique.
If you have questions about how
to apply hybrid picking, or
how to develop it further than
what I've showed you right here,
by all means get in touch with me and
we'll talk.