skipping is pretty self explanatory, but this page will provide a
definition, the benefits of using it and some tips for making the most
effective use of the technique.
What is string skipping?
of the time, scales are picked in a linear or "stacked" fashion, either
playing from one note to the next on the same string, or one note to
the next on the string immediately above or below the current string.
For example, here is a typical harmonic minor phrase (without string
we incorporate string skipping into our licks, we literally jump over
(skip!) strings to get from one note to the next. For example...
this does is allow you to play larger intervals across a narrow area of
the neck, whereas without skipping strings you'd have to stretch to
play the same interval on the same or next string up/down. This is
especially useful when you're lower down the neck, where the fret
spacings are wider.
For example, here's an interval played using string skipping...
And here's that same interval without string skipping...
Which do you think is more economical for fingering? Correct, the first
alone should show you the benefits of this technique. However, in
practice you have to train your pick hand to negotiate these skips of
one, two even three and more strings. So it's different from most lead
exercises in that it's not so strenuous for your fret hand, but now the
accuracy of your picking hand is the focus.
Economy picking vs alternate picking
Many players stick with one picking technique whether they're playing
regular licks or string skipping licks. Personally, I alternate
pick all my lead phrases.
However, some players prefer to economise their picking using a
technique called... economy picking! This is where the direction of
your pick stroke is determined by the position of the next string in
the sequence. In other words, economy picking is about picking with the
direction of travel.
It's essentially a combination of alternate and sweep picking.
The idea is to minimise the number of unnecessary pick movements and
maximise pick hand efficiency.
If you are to use economy picking, however, it's best to use it for all your
licks, as it can be quite a headache to constantly switch between
different picking techniques. Choose one (alternate or economy) and
stick with it.
For example, the below tab shows how we might economy pick a string
skipping lick. The up/down pick strokes are marked below each note in
the tab so you can see how the pick stroke (down arrow for down, up
arrow for up) relates to the direction of travel from one string to the
As you can see, whereas with alternate picking we would typically
start with a down
stroke, with economy picking we had to start with an
up stroke in
order to be able to pick in the direction of travel
towards the G string.
Arguably, economy picking is most effective for string skipping, as the
travelling distance of the pick is increased for such licks, which
economy picking helps to minimise. However, as mentioned
previously, choose on method and stick with it. There are amazing
players in both (strict alternate vs economy) picking camps, so don't
worry about having to change
your technique just to accomodate different types of lick.
Down picking & string skipping
If you're playing heavy metal style riffs, down picking will be a
staple part of your attack. Inevitably, you'll need to skip strings to
give your riffs more melodic interest.
Take a look at the video below for some great down picking exercises
involving string skipping...
It's also important to understand that string skipping should be used
along side other lead techniques such as bending, hammer-ons and
sliding. Keep your creative options open and give your solos as much
variation as you can.