Guitar Instruction - Crosspicking Techniques
While the Concept is Simple, Playing Crosspicking Up-To-Speed is Very Challenging
If you have not done so already, please review and master the correct way to place your right and left hands on the guitar.
For a LOT more guitar instruction crosspicking visit our Ultimate Guitar Tabs Section.
Crosspicking - what is it? In order to play the guitar with a flatpick and attain any speed at all you will have to master the crosspicking technique.
Simply put it is playing alternate strings using up and down strokes of the flatpick.
To gain the greatest speed you will need to master the alternate picking style. I usually don't start beginning guitar student out on this because I want them to concentrate on proper technique and doing everything mechanically correct.
You will, however need to concentrate on alternate picking very soon after mastering the mechanics of picking.
Guitar Instruction Crosspicking - Alternate Stroke Tab Example
Alternate picking is not hard, it just involves using alternate up and down strokes of the pick. Let's start by looking at the Tab in the figure above. This Tab is written in 4/4 timing in that there are 4 beats per measure and 1/4 notes receive that beat, so 4 quarter notes make one measure.
Quite often in flatpicking style we play mostly eighth notes or 8 per measure, and of course a combination of anything else also is possible. In this passage it is all eighth notes.
Notice the alternating strokes are marked directly below the Tab notes. The up strokes are designated with the "vee" or V - and the down stroke is the little bridge symbol.
This is a very straight-forward passage in that all the down-up strokes are equal. Most of the time the down-beat of the measure is a down-stroke. You can see this in the example - each of the notes on the beat is a down-stroke and the up-beats are played with an up-stroke. You would count this out as:
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and: Which equals 8 notes - The numbers are the down-beat or the down stroke and the "and" is the up-beat or up-stroke "V".
Crosspicking is very simple when you play notes that are all on the same string. In fact this is not really crosspicking at all, but straight alternating picking. It becomes more difficult when you span more than one string or sometimes you even skip strings - this is the real challenge of Guitar Instruction Crosspicking Technique.
Note the Tab selection below, which exhibits one of the more difficult crosspicking passages from a portion of the song Beaumont Rag.
Guitar Instruction Crosspicking - Beaumont Rag
Go through this one v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. Make sure you do your up and down strokes exactly as shown in the tab. This is one of the crosspicking classics and if you can master these measures, you are well on your way to being a crosspicking pro.
The hardest part is jumping from the open 3rd string back to the fingered "B" on the fifth without any timing break.
Play this as smoothly as you can and only build speed when your technique is perfect. Take a look at some common errors to be aware of in the next column.
A very good way to learn crosspicking and alternating picking styles is to just play scales. I know they are boring and seem to serve no purpose - they are however the very essence of music and you should master them.
Here is a very simple scale in the key of C Major. Note that alternating picking is on the same string and you crosspick when you move to the next string.
Some of the crosspicking in the above Tab is moving from the "G" on the 6th string to the open "A" on the 5th. You have to play the "G" with a down-stroke and catch the "A" with an up-stroke - this is crosspicking.
Another one would be moving from the "C" on the 5th to the open "D" on the 4th. There is an up-stroke on the "C" and a down-stroke on the "D".
Play this scale forward and backward until you have it mastered, all the crosspicking is technically correct and you are smooth and clean. Only then can you go for your speed.
Guitar Instruction Crosspicking: The G Major Scale
Next we will explore the G Major Scale. Play this similarly to the C Major Scale above. Also follow all the suggestions that were given for C Major as they apply equally for the G Major Scale.
Keep Your Pick Shallow in The Strings: Be sure not to "dig" the tip of your pick into the strings too deeply. This will sacrifice a lot of speed as you will get the pick "hung-up" in the strings.
Use Chord Forms Prior to Playing the Passage: Be sure to set-up properly prior to playing difficult crosspicking passages. In the case of Beaumont Rag, get your second finger in place on the 5th string and have your third finger ready to play the "A" note on the 3rd string later in the measure. This is a G7 chord form.
Let The Notes Ring Through Each Other: A lot of the beauty of crosspicking is having the notes ring through each other almost in an arpeggio fashion. This means that you do not lift your Right Hand Fingers until absolutely necessary.
Look at Your Right Hand During the Crosspicking Passage: Do not let your right hand bounce around or go up and down to play these notes. If if does, there is something wrong with the mechanics of the way you are playing. It usually means you are playing with more pick into the strings than necessary.
Keep the Pick Angle The Same: It doesn't matter is you are playing up or down strokes with the pick - do not change your hand angle to pick an up stroke differently from a down stroke.
Do Not Hold the Pick Too Tightly: A "death-grip" on the pick is typical. Don't do this! Keep a very relaxed right hand with as little tension as possible and only enough grip on the pick to keep it in place and from moving around or flying out of your hand.