The #1 Skill that Improved my Playing and How to Do It (And why you should too)

When practicing guitar, we get heavily involved with the fret hand, and it makes sense as that is the hand most people (guitarists included) are watching. Quite often though, that heavy focus of the fret hand leads to an underdeveloped picking hand. The picking hand is largely responsible for the articulation of the notes, as well as some other essential things such as muting. When this goes underdeveloped, it leads to many issues with hand synchronization that can cause our playing to sound incredibly muddy.

One way to exercise this is to target a very specific component of the picking hand that is true for all genres and levels of guitar players, and that is the principle of crossing strings. When you play anything that involves multiple strings, you have to develop a specific level of physicality to play that item efficiently. There are three ways that you’ll commonly cross the strings when playing a riff or melody:

  1. Inside String Change (Think up on the B string and down on the E string)
  2. Outside String Change (Down on the B string and up on the E string)
  3. Directional string Change (Same direction for both strings)

The exercise itself is a pretty straightforward concept. Grab any two notes on the bottom strings such as fret 10 on the B string and Fret 12 on the high E string. Play each version of the crossing strings (inside, outside, and directional) for eight counts at eighth notes (make sure you have a metronome on!). Try to switch picking styles without stopping the flow. That means if I was just listening to you, I wouldn’t be able to tell when you switched styles.

This exercise develops proper postures and synchronization. If you really want to maximize results with this exercise and others, then practicing with a guitar teacher is the best way to go! Not only will a teacher be able to guide you along your journey, but if any bad habits do start to develop, having a professional around will ensure that they don’t hang out long. Happy playing!

About the Author: Blake Stevenson is a guitar instructor based out of Cleburne, Texas. With his unorthodox approach to soloing, he has helped many guitar players achieve new heights. If you’d like to see more from Blake Stevenson, check out the best guitar lessons in Cleburne Texas.