These days the word hybrid makes most people think of eco-friendly vehicles, getting us from A to B as efficiently as possible. Hybrid picking has a similar benefit – we can get better performance from our picking hand while using less energy!⚡

This technique doesn’t only offer faster licks with less effort, it also gives us a whole new palette of tonal, rhythmic, and dynamic choices.

Sound too good to be true? Stick with us and we’ll show you how to understand, develop, and apply this technique to your playing.

What is hybrid picking?

It's quite literally a hybrid of two picking styles, combining the use of a guitar pick with fingerstyle.

  • You’ll hold the pick normally (between the thumb and index finger) and use it to play the lower strings.
  • Your middle and ring fingers pluck the higher strings.
  • Some guitarists also use their pinky finger, but this is less common.

Hybrid picking has some basic guidelines, but no fixed rules. As always, we encourage you to experiment with these concepts and find out what works best for you.

Why should I learn hybrid picking?

Once you incorporate hybrid picking into your guitar playing, you’ll wonder how you ever played without it.

It’s found in many different genres and playing styles, so regardless of whether you want to play rhythm or lead, soul or metal, you’ll find something of value with this technique.

Rhythm guitar

Developing the ability to pluck multiple strings simultaneously opens up a world of possibilities for chordal work and rhythm playing.

With a pick, we usually only strum chords, but with hybrid picking you can be much more precise about which notes you’re playing and when you play them.

  • More percussive playing is also a big part of hybrid picking.
  • If you’ve ever wondered how some guitarists get that short, bright twang to their chords – they’re probably plucking with their fingers.
  • Instead of strumming across the strings, you pull them away from the body of the guitar and then let them snap back.

Lead guitar

Soloing options increase with hybrid picking too. You can harmonize melodic lines by yourself, giving much more control over the emotional feel of your guitar solos.

Banjo rolls are a fast-paced arpeggio technique that works great for both lead and rhythm playing.

Here’s a short example to demonstrate how they work.

(If this is a little tricky for you, don’t worry. We’ve got some beginner exercises coming up).

  1. Downstroke (↑) with the pick on the 7th fret of the D string.
  2. Pluck the 6th fret of the G string with your middle finger.
  3. Pluck the 5th fret of the B string with your ring finger.

Then, reverse the steps until you arrive back where you started.

As you get more comfortable, the picking hand will fall into a natural ‘rolling’ movement back and forth across the strings.


Many modern guitar virtuosos such as Guthrie Govan, Tom Quayle, and Rick Graham pair hybrid picking with their legato technique.

The goal of legato is to use hammer ons and pull offs to create a seamless string of notes that sound as though they flow into one another.

  • Whenever you move to a different string it's usually necessary to pick the first note.
  • A guitar pick has a distinctly bright attack, which can stand out in the middle of a legato run.
  • Hammer-ons and pull-offs have a much softer attack.
  • Using a fingertip instead of a pick to strike the string is a better match dynamically, and tonally, which creates a more consistent, fluid sound.

Do I need long fingernails for hybrid picking?

Nope! It’s totally a matter of personal preference and depends on what you want in terms of feel and tone.

Some guitarists like longer nails to produce a brighter attack, while others prefer the warmer tone of their fingertips – there are pros and cons to both.

  • The fleshy part of your fingertip can give a nice soft sound for plucking chords in jazz or neo soul.
  • If you want every pluck to be uniform and snappy – longer nails may be the way to go.
  • Some guitarists actually opt for acrylic nails to achieve their desired hybrid-picking tone. 💅

That said, don’t get sidetracked worrying about the details early on! The most important aspect is to focus on achieving accuracy and control with your picking technique, which can be done regardless of nail length.

Guitarists that use hybrid picking

Country guitarists are without a doubt the pioneers of this technique, if you listen to country you’re going to hear some hybrid picking, or chicken pickin’ as it’s often referred to.

Check out these well-known chicken pickin' pros:

  • Brent Mason
  • Johnny Hiland
  • Brad Paisley
  • Albert Lee

They’ve all incorporated hybrid picking into their lightning-fast licks and solos often using it to imitate that classic pedal-steel sound.

Is hybrid picking just for country guitarists?

Absolutely not. While its origins are rooted in country music, hybrid picking has branched out into all genres and become the primary picking technique for many famous guitarists, such as:

  • Eric Johnson
  • Tim Henson
  • Zakk Wylde
  • Allan Holdsworth

Best hybrid-picking exercises

To really develop your hybrid-picking skills, it's beneficial to practice a wide array of exercises.

Some of the main areas to focus on are:

  • Arpeggio patterns
  • String skipping
  • Double stops

For now, we just want to get the ball rolling with some basic exercises and help you learn the fundamentals of the technique.

  • These will help you build accuracy and coordination between your pick and fingers.
  • Gradually increase the tempo and focus on even dynamics and solid rhythm.

Exercise #1

  • First, we’ll only work on the rhythm aspect to get your picking hand used to the mechanics.
  • The ‘X’ on the tab indicates a ‘dead note’, so just mute the strings with your fretting hand.
  • Be sure to start slowly and use a metronome to keep the rhythm tight.

We have a free online metronome for you to use if you don’t have one to hand.

Exercise #2

Following on directly from our previous exercise keeping the same rhythm.

  • The E and A strings are open (0).
  • On the D and G strings, we’re alternating between a simple A shape (2nd fret on both strings).
  • Followed by a simple E shape (2nd fret on the D string, 1st fret on the G string).

Exercise #3

This last one may take some practice, but it's totally worth it!

  • With your index finger bar the A shape we just learned.
  • Use your middle finger for the 3rd fret and your ring finger for the 4th fret.
  • Your picking hand is the same as the previous two exercises – use a pick on the A string and your fingers to pluck the D and G strings.


Now you know what hybrid picking is and how it’s done, but the journey has just begun!

In this short article, we really only scratched the surface of what’s possible with this awesome technique,

but hopefully it was enough to get you excited to learn more and start incorporating some of these ideas into your own playing.

What can I practice next?

  • Once you’re comfortable with a basic hybrid-picking pattern, use it on some of your favorite chord progressions.
  • If you’re feeling super adventurous, try some simple pentatonic licks using hybrid picking.
  • The most important thing is to start slowly – building good muscle memory from the get-go will make the process much easier.

If you really want to get to grips with hybrid picking and learn how to apply it in a musical context, our Country Learning Pathway will blow your mind! 🤯 It’s super helpful for players of all styles – not just aspiring country guitarists.

Check it out for yourself with our 14-day free trial – the only strings attached are the ones on your guitar.

Author: Richard Spooner