Be a String Crossing Badass

The easiest way to practice picking licks which cross the strings is to not pick every note.

Until you’ve gotten string crossing under your belt, it’s easier to break the string crossing motions up into manageable licks that utilise hammer-ons and pull-offs.

In the video above I will show you four simple yet effective licks that are found throughout lead guitar playing. They all make use of three-note-per-string patterns and the shapes are common to all of the modes.

All the licks are played as sixteenth note triplets. The first lick is an ascending six-note pattern designed to build up your outside picking mechanic. Starting on a downstroke you pick down, up, down, (onto the G string) up, hammer-on, hammer-on.

By playing the last two notes with hammer-ons, we give our picking hand a chance to recuperate before starting the next rep. This means our energy is focused on the string crossing mechanic instead of trying to pick every note.

The descending version of this lick will build up your inside picking mechanic. The pick strokes are as follows; down, up, down, (onto the D string) up, pull-off, pull-off.

The third lick is a repeating motif which is commonly used to build picking skills. But our approach is going to make it easier.

To work your inside picking mechanic, pick the lick as follows: down, (onto the G string) up, down, up, hammer-on, hammer-on.

The outside picking version of this lick uses the same approach with the fretting hand and the same note order. The only difference is that we start it on an upstroke. So play it as follows: up, (onto the G string) down, up, down, hammer-on, hammer-on.

By breaking these common shapes up into a combination of picking and legato, it’s almost impossible to get it wrong. By doing it this way you have time to truly focus on the picking action during the string cross.

When you get better at this, you can begin to pick the rest of the notes in the pattern. 

Ben Higgins started playing guitar at age 10. He’s released five solo albums and continues to teach guitarists from around the world. In 2012, he released the YouTube video “30 Shredders in One Solo,” in which he emulated the style of 30 of the world’s greatest guitarists. He topped this in 2017 with “101 Shredders in One Solo.” In 2016, Ben developed his “Badass…” online courses, which are aimed at improving people’s technique in picking, sweeping and hand synchronization. 

To find out more about Ben and his courses, visit and keep up with him on Facebook.

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