How Skipping Strings Can Energize Your Lead Guitar Playing
This special tutorial focuses on the art of skipping strings with a pick. The goal is to develop your picking hand accuracy and also provide you with some interesting new solo ideas.
String skipping is a simple concept: the notes you play are on non-adjacent strings, so you need to “skip” certain strings as you play – and that requires precise selection.
We’re focusing on the lead guitar here in our lesson, but it should be noted that string skipping also applies to arpeggios in a chord/accompaniment setting. For example, Radiohead Spirit of the Street (Fade) uses it to develop your picking technique intensively.
As inspiration for our lesson, we’ve chosen well-known guitarists who use string skipping to great effect. The idea is to learn our examples of tablature, then practice them with a metronome at a pace that suits you. You can stretch by gradually increasing the pace and charting your progress over a series of days and weeks.
Skipped minor pentatonic chain 1
The minor pentatonic scale places two notes on each string, making it easy to create string-jumping patterns. This example works on the simplest string jump of all – the single string jump. Start slow and follow the picking instructions and fingering given in the tab. Dialing in precise technique at slower tempos is key here.
Skipped minor pentatonic chain 2
Things get tricky here as you skip two strings with your pick. Dial in some distortion and it’s an awesome sound, but it can take a while to perfect. Repetition at a slow pace is key for your brain to learn how far to move your pick from string to string.
C Major Scale Interval Exercise
This pattern uses the 6th interval in a descending pattern. You can also play this type of idea with finger swipes and keep going up or down for as long as you want. The idea of the last two bars will extend your picking technique as it uses two string skips.
Jump rope à la Nuno Bettencourt with a scale
This example places three notes on the third string and three on the first string. You can go up or down with this idea and it is possible to accumulate a lot of speed with this concept. Practice slowly to start, and consider reversing the pick strokes, starting with an upstroke.
Carl Verheyen octave shift
Octave shifting is a good way to spice up the sound of ladder runs. The idea is to take different intervals of the scale as you play up or down an octave. This can be quite tricky at first, but it’s a great way to implement the concept of chain skipping. This example simply moves up and down in the major scale, but looks much more interesting with the different intervals moved around.
Arpeggios à la John Petrucci
This John Petrucci-style exercise is great practice for the picking hand. Handwork is a bit tedious, so we noted a suggested fingering in the tab. Once you’ve mastered this exercise, see if you can incorporate it into a solo.
Paul Gilbert triad arpeggios
Paul Gilbert has developed a clever way of playing triad arpeggios with string jumps. This method often looks cleaner than sweeping and it is also possible to apply patterns and sequences that would be impossible with the sweeping technique.
Frank Gambale seventh arpeggios
Frank Gambale has many great concepts under his fingertips and rope jumping is no exception. This example shows a clever way to play 7th chord arpeggios with two string breaks. For more speed, you can play this idea with hammer-ons and pull-offs.
Open voice arpeggios à la Eric Johnson
The arrangement of notes here makes these EJ-style triads far more colorful than their closed-voiced counterparts. These are tricky to use, but there’s an almost endless amount of permutations you can play with with this idea. As always, precision is key.
Jump ropes Matt Bellamy style
This example is another great practice and involves playing a down and up stroke on each string before jumping. Again, the permutations available from this idea are endless, but precision is key to creating an industrial-sounding lead line like this.