How to improve your string skipping

String skipping can turn run of the mill riffs into really exciting ones. The technique also helps you break out of the box of playing scales up and down the fretboard. Practicing string skipping in your warm up can help you be more accurate as your practice session goes on. Today I want to show you how to improve your string skipping by using a familiar set of patterns that you may already know.

We’re going to be working with the pentatonic boxes. In this case, we’re going to be using G Major Pentatonic, and we’ll go through all the positions. Thankfully this technique is movable up and down the neck, so use this as a reference. If you’re not already familiar with the pentatonic boxes, I’ve laid them out in a handy chart below.

These are some of the most often uses positions in a wide array of musical styles. If you get these patterns under your fingers, you’ll be well on your way to soloing tastefully.

The key to this practice technique is counting and using your lowest note of the position as the drone note.

In example 1 we’re starting on the root note of G. We simply move up the scale, but to practice string skipping, the next note we’ll hit is on the D string. Here’s where this practice technique is great - each time a beat lands you’ll play the root G note, and then the “and” beat will be the next note of the scale ascending and descending. Check out the audio examples so you can hear what I’m talking about.

The other thing I want you to try is to keep your middle finger down on the G the entire time and not shift your hand. In example 1 you’ll play the next note of the scale, string skipped on the 2nd fret of your D string with your index finger, and then the 5th fret of the D string with your pinky. When you move higher up through the scale, you’ll play the 3rd and 5th frets with your ring and pinky fingers.

This’ll help you strengthen your entire hand, and will give you a really good workout so your hand is warmed up for the rest of the practice session.

Example 2 is the hardest of all the positions to play, but it also works on another technique, shifting your hand. The shift comes when you have to play the G string. In this case you’ll have to use your drone A note on the low E with your middle finger so your index and pinky can play the 4th and 7th fret on the G string. You can ever hear as I’m descending in the audio example I had a little trouble with this one. Keep practicing and you’ll get it!

Example 3 is pretty straightforward, and only changes one pattern shape on the B string, other than that it’s identical to example 5 because each time we play these scales we’re starting the rest of the scale on the D string. The biggest thing to keep in mind for examples 3 and 5(and some of pattern 2) is that your index finger should make a barre across the fret so you can access the other strings with ease. You might feel a little strain in your hand when making a barre, and if you do, take a break. The last thing we need is for you to be out of comission with a hand injury!

Example 4 starts on the 10th fret, and you should use your middle finger here to start the scale. Each time we play any of these patterns, each finger should occupy a fret in a 4 fret span. For the upper 10th and 12th frets, again try and use your ring and pinky finger.

Example 5 is one of the most common box patterns in the world. This one is all about a barre at the 12th fret. Don’t be afraid to try different picking patterns when you’re playing these boxes. I was using a downstroke on the drone note, and then an upstroke for the rest of the scale. You could also try these exercises without a pick as well.

All of these exercises take common box patterns and will work out both your left and right hands. Your right hand practices moving between strings that aren’t adjacent, and your left hand practices barre shapes, making sure all the notes are played cleanly and ring out, and working on finger strength.

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Which of these was hardest for you to play?

Work these exercises into your practice regimen and it’s sure to have your hands feeling great as the week goes on. You’ll notice accuracy and hand strength get a huge boost. Which of these patterns was most difficult for you to play? Let me know by reaching out on Twitter or Facebook.

Photo: John Verive / Creative Commons