Is Hybrid Picking Hard? Is It Worth Learning?


Hybrid picking means playing guitar with a pick and one or more fingers. So, it’s basically having your pick between the thumb and index finger, while also using the rest of your fingers of your playing hand. If you haven’t try it yet, you may ask, is hybrid picking hard? If it’s too hard, is it worth learning?

Hybrid picking is hard if you’re a beginner. But once you get used to it, it can become as natural as fingerstyle playing. Needles to say, you first have to know to use fingerstyle and flat-pick playing, alone.

How Hard is Hybrid Picking?

If you’re a beginner, then it IS hard to master this technique. However, hybrid picking is not nearly as demanding as some other guitar techniques. For example, mastering arpeggios is way harder than hybrid picking.

If you’re an intermediate guitar player, meaning you know how to play fingerstyle with ease, hybrid picking demands only a few days of practice.

After the initial few days, you’ll become pretty solid and confident when performing hybrid picking. Of course, you won’t be as good as Tommy Emmanuel or Eric Johnson, but you probably knew that already. 🙂

Here’s the only video you need in order to start practicing this technique.

Bonus Tip

You don’t need to spend a lot of time looking for various exercises. Just pick up your guitar and play alone. Soon you’ll see that everything you start to do becomes more and more natural. That includes hybrid picking playing as well.

Is Hybrid Picking Worth Learning?

If you want to learn it, then it’s worth it. It’s that simple. The mere desire to learn hybrid picking should give you the answer to the question.

But again, you may be hesitant, so let’s get to the point. Hybrid picking technique will give your playing a distinctive sound. In hybrid picking, you use a simple flat pick for bass strings ( low E, A and D). In addition to that, you use fingers for higher strings (G, B and high E). Picking a string with a plectrum produces a louder, more resonant sound. Plucking a string with a finger produces a softer, mellow sound.

Hybrid picking technique, therefore, produces a combination of stronger, resonant sound of lower strings with mellow and soft sound of higher strings. Overall, the sound you get is fuller in comparison with fingerstyle playing. But most importantly, it gives you the ability to quickly alternate between hybrid picking and flat picking style.

In essence, you can quickly alternate between strong, resonant sound and gentler, softer sound. In other words, with hybrid picking you control the dynamic of your playing better.

Any time you want, you can switch between hybrid picking and flat picking. At one moment you can use both the pick and your fingers, and then you can only play with your pick, whenever you wish to do it. In my opinion, that’s the biggest advantage of hybrid picking technique. That brings us to the next topic.

Uses of Hybrid Picking

Hybrid picking technique works great when you want to play all alone, just with one guitar, without an accompanying instruments (a band, essentially).

For example, you may want to play some song on your acoustic guitar. It’s often the case that the song you’re about to play incorporates many techniques. In the same song, you’d want to strum the strings in some rhythmic pattern at one moment, but later on you’d maybe want to use two non-adjacent strings at the same time. To do it, you’d have to use your fingers.

Basically, hybrid picking technique allows you to incorporate a wider array of playing styles, and to provide the best of both ‘worlds’ (flat pick and fingers). That way you can express yourself more. You can see it when you watch a lot of great guitar players on YouTube. Take a look at this example.

Let’s Analyze

As you can see at the beginning, Tommy Emmanuel is strumming the chord progression. He is using a flat pick to strum. The pick he uses produces the resonant, loud and strong sound.

If he were to strum the chords with his fingers, the sound wouldn’t be as resonant as it is when using a pick. Especially when it comes to acoustic guitar, which have metal strings that are not as soft as nylon strings on classical guitar.

After the initial strummed chord progression, Tommy adds his fingers to play. Main melody, the theme, of the song is played with hybrid picking technique. It’s a harmony of two strings. He plays the lower tone with the pick, while the higher tone is played with the finger.

Throughout the song, he occasionally strums the guitar with the pick. That way he alternates between hybrid picking technique and strumming with pick alone. Can you see why it’s good?

Basically, you can play strong, as it is with strumming, and soft and gentle in the same song.

That way you can control the dynamic of your playing more easily.

Another Example

Another good example of hybrid picking is the song played by Eric Johnson, Trademark.

Eric Johnson is known for his frequent use of hybrid picking technique. This live performance can give us another insight into technique.

Just watch the performance, and pay attention to the way he uses his playing hand, and to the difference in sound it creates. At one moment he’s using flat pick and his fingers all together.

Then after a few bars of playing, he proceeds to solo only with his pick.

When he’s using hybrid picking, you can hear the fast alternations between lower and higher notes. Usually he plays higher notes on higher strings, all together. That way he can mash up the solo notes with the triad chords on higher strings.

When he plays only with the pick, he plays solo in the classical way. The song as a whole combines classical soloing with soloing along with chords. We can draw a conclusion that hybrid picking just gives a guitar player more room for his expression, along with better dynamics control.

How To Get Better at Hybrid Picking?

To get better at hybrid picking, you’ll simply need to practice. But first, you need to be good at flat picking style and fingerstyle, separately.

That’s obvious, because you cannot expect yourself to master hybrid picking if you’re not familiar with using your fingers alone.

You may want to read an article about fingerstyle.

Use Hybrid Picking Instead of Fingerstyle

Suppose you know to play a few fingerstyle songs. Now, try to play those songs with hybrid picking technique. It’s basically the same. The only difference is that instead of using your thumb to play lower strings, you’ll use a pick.

I find it better to play it that way. It’s more fun and fun is crucial when it comes to learning new stuff. If you’re having fun, the learning process becomes much quicker!

Thumb Picking vs. Hybrid Picking

A lot of people are mistaking hybrid picking with thumb picking. However, those two are different. Yes, in both you’re using a pick and your fingers, but thumb picking means you play with a thumb pick. Hybrid picking means you play with a flat pick. That’s different.

Tommy Emmanuel uses both of these playing techniques often. In terms of playing, the main difference is that with thumb pick you cannot strum. To be precise, thumb pick is not meant to be strummed with.

That’s because with a thumb pick you cannot change the angle of picking as easily as you can with a flat pick.

Final Words

Hybrid picking is fun and it sounds great. Let’s summarize all of the advantages now:

  • you take the best of two worlds, flatpicking playing and fingerstyle playing
  • you have more dynamic control when using both pick and your fingers
  • playing guitar becomes more fun when using hybrid picking technique
  • hybrid picking is not THAT hard, every intermediate guitar player can become good at it

I hope this article provided you with some valuable information regarding hybrid picking technique. It’s never to late to learn something new on your guitar. Hybrid picking is definitely worth learning.

Take a look at other informational posts on this site if you’re interested.

Cheers, and rock on!

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