EZ Street(5)

You can’t beat a flatpick for playing fast, clear, powerful lines and strumming punchy chords. But even skilled flatpickers can find it difficult to repeatedly skip strings within a passage. In such cases, most players turn to fingerpicking or a hybrid pick-and-fingers technique.

There are times, however, when the music calls for the bold tones of a flatpick striking each note, even when you have to attack non-adjacent strings. That’s why it’s important to develop drills to specifically address skipping strings.

In Ex. 1, a descending and ascending A major scale alternates with a high-E pedal tone, played on the open first string. Notice how the scale moves across the fourth, fifth, and sixth strings, creating a widening and then shrinking physical gap between the scale notes and pedal tones. The challenge is to maintain an even tempo while adapting to this fluctuating distance. Using strict alternate picking, repeat this phrase at least four times. Fret the scale tones with whatever fingers feel comfortable to you, and play as slowly as you need to keep a consistent flow of sixteenth-notes. The goal is accuracy, not speed.

Ex. 2 adds a new layer of complexity in the form of two additional pedal tones. Now we’re playing notes from an A major scale along the fourth string, while plucking pedal tones on the open first, second, and sixth strings. Strive for a crisp attack, and let each note sustain after striking it. Again, follow an alternate-picking pattern, and play slowly.

Finally, experiment with your own moving-line against pedal-tone creations. After a few weeks of string-skipping practice, you’ll find yourself flatpicking fancy counterpoint and shimmering riffs with ease.

Next time: Exploring moveable arpeggios.