Speed Picking: How to Pick Across Strings

When people are confronted with a picking run that crosses multiple strings, they often try to tackle the whole thing in one go. However, the key to being able to practice picking runs is knowing how to break them up into manageable sections.

Imagine that you have a lick that spans all six strings. You get through the first three strings okay but then you keep messing up at the same point. As you go to move onto the G string your pick keeps missing the string entirely.

So, you do what most people do and start again from the beginning. What happens then though, is that you have to go through all that extra effort just to get to the one part that is giving you the most trouble.

Instead, learn how to isolate the problem area. Once you’ve isolated it, keep attacking it until it you conquer it. That’s as hard as it needs to get. Rather than forcing yourself to go through the whole sequence, just single the offending culprit out for special attention.

Look at how I approach this picking run in A Aeolian. I play only a few notes at a time and I only tackle one string cross at a time. Once I’m feeling comfortable with that, I add another few notes, just to get the feeling of playing a longer sequence at speed. 

Then I will add the next string cross. Doing it like this means you get time to get familiar with each stage of the picking run, instead of running flat out and hoping for an occasional good repetition amongst all the crappy ones.

You can keep going like this, adding a new string crossing motion until you get to the end of the lick. However, you can also do what I said earlier and single out a particularly difficult section and hone that until it gives you the goods.

That, my friends, is how you tackle a picking run. Break that bad boy up and show it who’s boss.

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 benhigginsofficial.com and keep up with him on Facebook.

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