crosspickingPicking is the most substantial part of your playing. Don’t believe us? Try playing an entire song without picking, or simply by strumming every single string. You’ll see what we mean by the importance of picking technique. Picking techniques can make or break your style as a guitarist.

Bluegrass is no exception to this rule. In fact, the crosspicking technique is what makes bluegrass so discernible and gives it its key characteristic traits.

In this article, we’ll go over some simple crosspicking combinations that will allow you to improve your ability, one step at a time.

First off, before you jump into crosspicking, there are a few things to consider. The first is if you are comfortable with a basic crosspicking technique yet. If you don’t know what that is, chances are you aren’t comfortable with it yet.

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Let’s Start With the Simplest Form First

The basic crosspicking pattern is called the forwards roll. This technique involves flat picking across three strings at a time, from lowest to highest. Take for instance a lick played on the G, B, and high E strings. To crosspick the lick, you would play the strings in a single consecutive flat picked motion, giving that rolling feeling to the notes.

Take some time to familiarize yourself with this technique, as crosspicking combinations won’t get any easier from here on. If it helps, use a metronome to time your notes and make sure that you are getting them out in a single, fluid line.

Take Things Up a Notch With More Notes

Once you become comfortable with the three note forwards roll, try playing a four note forwards roll. It is a bit more difficult to add a fourth string, so take your time and allow yourself to get a feel for adding that extra string.

A great crosspicking combination to help you play a wider variety of licks and songs (because let’s face it, not all licks and songs are written in a forward, ascending direction) is the forward-reverse roll.

The Lazy Man’s “Cheat”

roll overThis roll is practically identical to the forwards roll in the fact that it starts out as a simple forwards roll. But instead of starting the roll over, we descend our way back to the lowest sounding string. In a way, this is very similar to playing an arpeggio, only we are using cross picking instead of sweep picking.

A great way to better hone your skills is by trying different patterns with your rolls. Take for instance the three note forwards roll. Try playing the lowest of the three strings, followed by the highest, and then play the middle note. Again, this is very similar to another form of picking, this one known as alternate picking, save for the fact that the strings are flat picked.

The best way to develop better crosspicking combinations is through practice. Set aside a chunk of your day, preferably a time in which you are aware and focused, and dedicate it to practicing your crosspicking techniques. The more you work, the further your skills will develop in a short period of time. Have fun, and keep at it!


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