Hybrid Picking for Guitar by Gustavo Assis-Brasil
Hybrid Picking is a technique that combines the 2 most common methods of playing the guitar – finger picking and flat picking. Using a flat pick alone is a great technique, but large interval skips can be difficult, and you can’t play all the notes of a chord at the same time. With finger picking, you can execute these intervallic leaps and chordal ideas with ease, but you lose the ability to perform many common flat picking techniques (funk rhythms, alternate picking, etc). By combining the techniques you get the best of both worlds. Most flat-picking guitarists use some amount of hybrid picking, maybe without even realizing it. You may not consider yourself a hybrid picker, but how many times have you grabbed all the notes of a chord using the pick and your right hand fingers? Ever pick a note then pluck another with a right hand finger in the middle of a line? Technically, you’re hybrid picking. While it’s quite common for country guitarists to use hybrid picking, many rock, jazz, and fusion players use the technique as well (personally, I was bitten by the hybrid picking bug back in the early ’90s after seeing rock fusion great Brett Garsed use the technique for the first time).
With his self-published instructional book Hybrid Picking for Guitar, jazz guitarist and hybrid picking guru Gustavo Assis-Brasil lays out a full curriculum for developing this technique that is applicable to both beginning and advanced hybrid pickers. A fine player with numerous recording credits, Assis-Brasil is the director of the Jazz and Contemporary Music department of the Cambridge School of Weston, and a Berklee College of Music grad.
The book is broken down into 4 sections: Hybrid Picking Exercises, Lines, Compositions, and Charts. The bulk of the book’s material is contained in the Hybrid Picking Exercises and Lines sections. The Compositions section features seven complete songs, and the Charts section at the end is essentially an appendix showing pick/finger permutations for both chordal and single note applications. A CD is also included containing recorded examples of everything from the Lines and Compositions sections.
Note: For the purposes of this review, the picking hand will be referred to as the right hand throughout.
After an introduction that gives general tips for developing proper hybrid picking technique (such as nail care and picking angles), the Hybrid Picking Exercises section focuses on building your technique from the ground up. In general, a hybrid picked phrase involves picking a note with a flat-pick, then using a right hand finger to pluck another note, usually on another string. As this first section of the book demonstrates, there are countless variations on this approach. These early lessons are geared towards building strength and independence in the your right hand fingers. To that end, several of the exercises include alternate right hand fingering instructions that omit the pick entirely. Many of the examples in this section use only open strings as well so the focus stays squarely on what your right hand is doing. Every possible combination of pick, second, third, and fourth finger is covered here, so it’s a pretty intense workout program. Obviously you can just take bits and pieces from this section if you prefer. If you’re just looking to throw your second and third fingers into the mix once in a while, there are exercises here to help you develop that. If you’re looking to get more advanced, you can certainly do that too. Hybrid picking is a technique that you can use as much or as little of as you want.
Now comes the fun stuff. The Lines section concentrates on putting your new-found hybrid picking prowess to good musical use. Chock full of great jazz and fusion lines, this section is the real meat-and-potatoes of Hybrid Picking for Guitar. One of the great advantages of hybrid-picking is the ease at which one can execute wide interval jumps. That’s certainly reflected in the musical examples Assis-Brasil presents here. Some of these lines, such as examples 9 and 24, are reminiscent of Carl Verheyen’s angular, intervallic approach. There are plenty of odd meter and atonal examples as well. Overall there’s a wealth of material in this part of the book that will keep even an advanced player busy for some time.
Assis-Brasil also includes seven fully transcribed, original compositions in Hybrid Picking For Guitar. The songs represent a wide variety styles and hybrid picking approaches to demonstrate the versatility of the technique. In Sem Partidas, for example, Assis-Brasil uses hybrid picking in a chrodal jazz context. Jaywalker on the other hand is a great, fast country tune that relies mainly on single note lines. Next Week, with it’s upbeat mood and liberal use of open strings, is a real standout as well (Assis-Brasil also recorded this song with his band Dig Trio on their self-titled studio release).
Hybrid Picking for Guitar is to hybrid picking what Ted Greene’s classic Chord Chemistry is to chord voicings. The point being it’s as much a reference tool as it is an an instructional one. Long after you’re comfortable with the technique, you’ll be combing it’s pages for new ideas and approaches. While the musical examples are mainly jazz-oriented, guitarists of all styles can vastly improve their hybrid picking technique by using this book.