Hybrid picking

Last updated
Example of a simple arpeggio with hybrid picking: bass notes flatpicked and higher notes fingerpicked

Hybrid picking is a guitar-playing technique that involves picking with a pick (plectrum) and one or more fingers alternately or simultaneously. Hybrid picking allows guitar players who use a pick to perform music which would normally require fingerstyle playing. It also facilitates wide string leaps (e.g. from the sixth string to the second string, etc.) which might otherwise be quite difficult. The technique is not widespread in most genres of guitar playing (though notable exceptions exist), but is most often employed in "chicken pickin'"; rockabilly, country, honky-tonk, and bluegrass flatpicking styles who play music which occasionally demands fingerstyle passages. [1]


Hybrid picking involves playing with the pick and the right hand m and/or a fingers...at the same time. The pick is held in the usual way...and the fingers execute free strokes in the typical fingerstyle manner...Hybrid picking allows fingerstyle-like passages to be freely interspersed with flatpicked passages...without any delay. [1]

Generally the pick is used to play bass notes, which are emphasized by increased amplitude, longer duration, and timbral difference. In notation the flatpicked notes are indicated by placing the down bow and up bow symbols (𝆪 and 𝆫) below or next to the notehead of the flatpicked note rather than above the staff or tablature as a whole.


Greg Koch using a hybrid picking style with pick Greg Koch Live.jpg
Greg Koch using a hybrid picking style with pick

Hybrid picking involves using a combination of the pick and the fingers. Hold the pick between your thumb and index finger, and use your middle and ring fingers to pluck additional strings...[Generally], pick the bass notes with the pick, and pluck the highe[r] two strings with your middle and ring finger. [2]

Players who use hybrid picking generally hold the pick in the traditional grip, between the index finger and thumb. Since this only involves the use of two fingers, it leaves three fingers of the picking hand free, which allows for hybrid picking.

[Hybrid picking is] the use of both a pick and fingers to pluck the strings. This can be accomplished with a standard flatpick and fingers or with a thumbpick and fingers...With hybrid picking, you don't change the way you operate for normal picking at all. You're only going to add to that with the middle and ring fingers of your picking hand. [3]

Hybrid picking allows a picking guitarist to play some things otherwise impossible; however, there are limitations to the technique. The primary issue stems from the angle at which the free fingers must pick the strings. While a player who only uses his or her fingers to pluck the strings (e.g., a classical guitarist) holds their hand at such an angle that the fingers travel perpendicular to the strings, allowing for a clear attack, a player holding the pick naturally positions their hand such that the pick strikes perpendicular to the strings, putting the fingers in a position almost parallel to the strings. This makes the attack of the free fingers of a hybrid picking guitarist considerably weaker than that of a purely fingerpicking guitarist, unless significant changes are made to the hybrid picker's hand position. The angle of the fingers for a hybrid picker also limits the speed at which fingerpicked notes can be played, though speed can be achieved as normal using the plectrum. The timbre of fingerpicked notes is described as, "result[ing] in a more piano-like attack," [3] and less like pizzicato.

Guitarists notable for their use of hybrid picking

See also

Related Research Articles

The banjo is a four, five, or six stringed instrument with a thin membrane, stretched over a frame or cavity to form a resonator. The membrane is typically circular, and usually made of plastic, or occasionally animal skin. Early forms of the instrument were fashioned by African Americans in the United States, adapted from African instruments of similar design. The banjo is frequently associated with folk and country music. Banjo can also be used in some rock songs. Many rock bands, such as The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, and The Allman Brothers, have used the five-string banjo in some of their songs. Historically, the banjo occupied a central place in African-American traditional music and the folk culture of rural whites before entering the mainstream via the minstrel shows of the 19th century. Along with the fiddle, the banjo is a mainstay of American old-time music. It is also very frequently used in traditional ("trad") jazz.

String instrument Musical instrument that generates tones by one or more strings stretched between two points

String instruments, stringed instruments, or chordophones are musical instruments that produce sound from vibrating strings when the performer plays or sounds the strings in some manner.

Pizzicato Playing technique for string instruments

Pizzicato is a playing technique that involves plucking the strings of a string instrument. The exact technique varies somewhat depending on the type of instrument:

Tremolo trembling sound effect

In music, tremolo, or tremolando, is a trembling effect. There are two types of tremolo.

Plectrum small flat tool used to pluck or strum a stringed instrument

A plectrum is a small flat tool used to pluck or strum a stringed instrument. For hand-held instruments such as guitars and mandolins, the plectrum is often called a pick and is a separate tool held in the player's hand. In harpsichords, the plectra are attached to the jack mechanism.

Slapping (music) Musical technique

Slapping and popping are ways to produce percussive sounds on a stringed instrument. It is primarily used on the double bass or bass guitar. Slapping on bass guitar involves using the edge of one's knuckle, where it is particularly bony, to quickly strike the string against the fretboard. On bass guitars, this is commonly done with the thumb, while on upright bass, the edge of the hand or index finger may be used. Popping refers to pulling the string away from the fretboard and quickly releasing it so it snaps back against the fretboard. On bass guitar, the two techniques are commonly used together in alternation, though either may be used separately.

Clawhammer, sometimes called frailing, is a distinctive banjo playing style and a common component of American old-time music.

Guitar pick

A guitar pick is a plectrum used for guitars. Picks are generally made of one uniform material—such as some kind of plastic, rubber, felt, tortoiseshell, wood, metal, glass, tagua, or stone. They are often shaped in an acute isosceles triangle with the two equal corners rounded and the third corner less rounded. They are used to strum chords or to sound individual notes on a guitar.

Fingerpick type of plectrum used most commonly for playing bluegrass style banjo music

A fingerpick or thumbpick is a type of plectrum used most commonly for playing bluegrass style banjo music. Most fingerpicks are composed of metal or plastic. Unlike flat guitar picks, which are held between the thumb and finger and used one at a time, fingerpicks clip onto or wrap around the end of the fingers and thumb; thus one hand can pick several strings at once. Generally three are used: one for the thumb, and one each for the middle and index fingers. Fingerpicks worn on the thumb are generally called "thumbpicks". Most players use a plastic thumbpick while using metal fingerpicks. Fingerpicks come in a variety of thicknesses to accommodate different musicians' styles of playing. Thin picks produce a quieter, more delicate sound, while thick picks produce a heavier sound.

Fingerstyle guitar technique of playing the guitar by plucking the strings directly with the fingertips

Fingerstyle guitar is the technique of playing the guitar or bass guitar by plucking the strings directly with the fingertips, fingernails, or picks attached to fingers, as opposed to flatpicking. The term "fingerstyle" is something of a misnomer, since it is present in several different genres and styles of music—but mostly, because it involves a completely different technique, not just a "style" of playing, especially for the guitarist's picking/plucking hand. The term is often used synonymously with fingerpicking except in classical guitar circles, although fingerpicking can also refer to a specific tradition of folk, blues and country guitar playing in the US. The terms "fingerstyle" and "fingerpicking" also applied to similar string instruments such as the banjo.


In music, strumming is a way of playing a stringed instrument such as a guitar, ukulele, or mandolin. A strum or stroke is a sweeping action where a finger or plectrum brushes over several strings to generate sound. On most stringed instruments, strums are typically executed by a musician's designated strum hand, while the remaining hand often supports the strum hand by altering the tones and pitches of any given strum.

Outline of guitars Overview of and topical guide to guitars

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to guitars:


Flatpicking is the technique of striking the strings of a guitar with a pick held between the thumb and one or two fingers. It can be contrasted to fingerstyle guitar, which is playing with individual fingers, with or without wearing fingerpicks. While the use of a plectrum is common in many musical traditions, the exact term "flatpicking" is most commonly associated with Appalachian music of the American southeastern highlands, especially bluegrass music, where string bands often feature musicians playing a variety of styles, both fingerpicking and flatpicking. Musicians who use a flat pick in other genres such as rock and jazz are not commonly described as flatpickers or even plectrum guitarists. As the use of a pick in those traditions is commonplace, generally only guitarists who play without a pick are noted by the term "fingerpicking" or "fingerstyle".

Crosspicking is a technique for playing the mandolin or guitar using a plectrum or flatpick in a rolling, syncopated style across three strings. This style is probably best known as one element of the flatpicking style in bluegrass music, and it closely resembles a banjo roll, the main difference being that the banjo roll is fingerpicked rather than flatpicked.

Gustavo Assis-Brasil Brazilian musician

Gustavo Assis-Brasil is a Brazilian-American guitarist. He is considered a pioneer in the study and development of the hybrid picking technique for guitar. In 2005, he released the book Hybrid Picking for Guitar.

Classical guitar technique guitar technique used by classical guitarists

In classical guitar, the right hand is developed in such a way that it can sustain two, three, and four voice harmonies while also paying special attention to tone production. The index (i), middle (m), and ring (a) fingers are generally used to play the melody, while the thumb (p) accompanies in the bass register adding harmony, and produces a comparable texture and effect to that of the piano. The classical guitar is a solo polyphonic instrument, and it is difficult to master.

Flamenco guitar Acoustic guitar used in Flamenco music

A flamenco guitar is a guitar similar to a classical guitar but with thinner tops and less internal bracing. It usually has nylon strings, as opposed to steel. Usually, it has a livelier sound compared to the classical guitar. It is used in toque, the guitar-playing part of the art of flamenco.

String harmonic

Playing a string harmonic is a string instrument technique that uses the nodes of natural harmonics of a musical string to produce high pitched tones of varying timbre and loudness. Playing string harmonics produces "high pitched tones, like a whistle's, are produced when the musician lightly touches certain points on a string." "A flute-like sound produced on a string instrument by lightly touching the string with the finger instead of pressing it down," against the fingerboard.

Guitar picking

Guitar picking is a group of hand and finger techniques a guitarist uses to set guitar strings in motion to produce audible notes. These techniques involve plucking, strumming, brushing, etc. Picking can be done with:


  1. 1 2 The National Guitar Workshop (2001). Guitar Technique Encyclopedia , p.117. Alfred Music. ISBN   978-0-7390-0919-2.
  2. Stetina, Troy (2001). Left-handed Guitar, p.54. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN   9780634030086.
  3. 1 2 Johnson, Chad (2012). Essential Rock Guitar Techniques , unpaginated. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN   9781476824994.

Further reading