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Hybrid Picking

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There is also a “kind” of finger picking that is done using a flat pick that I’ve heard referred to as “Hybrid” picking.  This is when the guitarist holds the flat pick between the forefinger and thumb, and he uses the 2nd and 3rd fingers (and sometimes even the little finger) to do the finger picking of the other strings.

This style is usually done as an “added feature” or “variation” to the predominant flat pick guitar work of lead guitarists.  People who use this style of picking usually always use bare fingers and tend to shy away form wearing finger picks on the 2nd and 3rd fingers.  This is because the guitarist must move his hand around so quickly!  With the flat pick lead guitar work, and with all the strumming going on, the fast moving right hand wrist action could cause the finger picks to get caught up in the strings or pull them off.  You don’t want your picks to come flying off or something like that right in the middle of your solo performance.  Obviously that is NOT A GOOD THING!  So no finger picks are used with this style of picking.

For an example of this style of Hybrid Picking see Eric Clapton doing his famous blues guitar work.


I personally have never had much need to develop this type of playing because I usually just use finger picks when I want to do a finger picking song.  So I’m not very good at “Hybrid Picking” at all. (To be honest, I’m horrible)   However, there are those who are quite skilled at it.  I just met a guy named Steve Duke, who’s 63 years old and lives in Virginia.  He has played the guitar since he was 10 and is one of the best lead guitarists I’ve ever had the privilege to play with.  He uses this kind of “hybrid” picking a lot because he has always used just a flat pick.  Like Steve, some are very skilled at this style and can do some amazing stuff.  I couldn’t possibly do those things with a flat pick because I have never worked at developing that method.  I’ve never felt I needed to because of my finger pick skills.  Also, this style of guitar playing is usually done by “lead” guitar players who are backed up by a band or other players.  Many times this style is done with electric guitars, although it’s done on acoustic guitars as well.  Steve  and I played together for about 12 hours straight, all acoustic, and the two styles although quite different, blended perfectly and were HOT together.  Many times in that “jam” session  both of us would be raising our eyebrows saying “YEAH….now I liked that”!!!

The obvious advantage to this kind of “hybrid picking” is you have the flat pick ready in hand to do the things that flat picks stand out in.  Like flat pick lead work (with individual notes and scales) or of course “Strumming.”  If you’re doing a song that requires a lot of strumming or lead guitar work and very little picking, this may be a good option.  If you play in a group, and you want to “add” to the overall sound of the band with variation as a lead guitarist, I would recommend learning this style.  However, if you want your “finger picking” to be equal in quality to your flat pick work, this style will simply never measure up.  It just can’t because of it’s “cramped” properties! (discussed in the next paragraph)  Again, you simply cannot beat the plastic finger picks for a consistent, clear, clean, sound with lots of volume.  So if you do solo guitar playing, or your playing guitar for the purpose of accompanying your singing of songs, I wouldn’t bother with this style.  I’d concentrate instead on finger picking with plastic finger picks.  That’s the approach I take. 

Also another problem I noticed with this “hybrid” style is your picking hand is always busy being “occupied” with trying to “hold” the flat pick between the finger and thumb.  This makes for “tightness” in the picking hand and tends to “hinder” the freedom of movement of the “picking fingers”. In a short time that can make for fatigue that can limit your playing time. In many cases the finger picking sections of songs may be limited in time so this may not be that big of a concern if you’re in a band. In an attempt to get away from this “problem”, some just put the flat pick down and just use their bare fingers to do the finger picking parts of a song, then they grab the pick again to do the other parts of the song.  The problem with that maneuver should be obvious!  This would be totally unacceptable for me because with my guitar work, I’m usually by myself, and the guitar is accompanying my singing of lyrics.  I can’t afford to stop in playing the guitar order to pick up a pick.  So I tend to focus on the finger picking using finger picks.  For this reason I wear finger picks in “picking songs”, and when it comes to the strumming parts in those songs, I use the finger picks to strum with.  In songs that are predominantly strumming, I take off the finger picks and just use a flat pick.  In these songs I may use some “Travis picking” using the flat pick, or isolate different notes needed to bring out the melody lines in an interlude or something like that but that’s all.

Incidentally I did ask Steve if he had ever tried to use finger picks.  I bet you know the answer I got. You guessed it!  “I don’t like them”…. he said. I said “That’s okay!  I understand!”

We still had a blast playing together.


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