String Skipping Etude (Guitar Lesson)

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Matt Brown

String Skipping Etude

Matt Brown teaches Heitor Villa-Lobos' 1st Etude as a lesson in string skipping.

Taught by Matt Brown in Rock Guitar with Matt Brown seriesLength: 38:47Difficulty: 3.0 of 5
Lesson Overview

In this lesson, Matt teaches Heitor Villa Lobos' "Etude No. 1." This piece was originally written for classical guitar. For the purposes of this lesson, Matt has arranged the piece for pick style guitar. No adjustments have been made to the original Villa Lobos score. The piece is simply played with a pick instead of the right hand fingers.

Lesson Objectives

-Practice string skipping technique within a repeating right hand arpeggio pattern.
-Develop right hand technique by performing difficult chord changes.
-Learn important music theory concepts pertaining to how chords are built and how they function.

Listening / Performance Examples

Before you begin to practice the piece, watch Matt's performance several times. In addition, check out a classical guitar performance by the legendary Andres Segovia here.

Note: Keep in mind that it is much easier to play this piece rapidly with the right hand fingers. Trying to duplicate Segovia's speed and accuracy when playing with a pick is simply not possible.

Picking Pattern

A repeating right hand pattern occurs throughout almost the entire piece. Matt demonstrates the pattern slowly at 04:05 in Scene 1. Refer to the "Supplemental Content" if you need extra help learning and memorizing the pattern.

Practice Tips

1. Use strict alternate picking beginning with a downstroke whenever the arpeggio pattern is used.

2. Isolate the right hand and play the pattern with open strings. This will allow you to devote all of your attention on the right hand.

3. Practice the pattern with a metronome set to the lowest tempo you can stand. This will help develop the muscle memory that is necessary to playing the piece at a quick tempo.

Review of String Skipping Technique

Do not rest any part of the right hand on the body or the bridge of the guitar! Instead, rest the top of the forearm on the upper hip of the guitar's body. This allows for maximum range of movement with the right hand wrist. The wrist is also free to move at a greater speed when this technique is applied.

If you are new to this technique, it will seem very awkward and unstable. You may notice decreased accuracy with your string skipping at first. Keep with this technique! In the long run, it will make string skipping much easier.

Chord Theory

As you continue to advance as a musician, a thorough knowledge of how ALL CHORDS are spelled must be developed! The process of determining the individual notes in a chord may seem confusing at first, but it is a relatively simple task. To spell any chord, follow these basic steps:

1. Start with the major scale corresponding to the letter name of the chord. For example, if you want to figure out the notes in C7, start by writing out the C Major scale. Even if you are spelling a minor chord, you must start with the Major scale of the chord name.

2. Determine the "triad type" of the chord. A triad is a chord containing three notes. It is also the base structure of any chord that contains more than three notes. There are four types of triads: Major, Minor, Augmented, and Diminished. Each of these triads is spelled using a different formula. Here are the formulas for these triads:

Major triad: scale degrees 1,3,5.

Minor triad: scale degrees 1,b3,5.

Augmented triad: scale degrees 1,3,#5

Diminished triad: scale degrees 1,b3,b5

Suspended Triads

sus2 - 1, 2 (9), 5
sus4 - 1, 4, 5

3. If the chord contains more than three notes, consult the formulas below.

add9 (major) - 1, 3, 5, 9

MA7: 1,3,5,7
MA6: 1,3,5,6
MA9: 1,3,5,7,9
MA6/9: 1,3,5,6,9
MA13: 1,3,5,7,13
MI7: 1,b3,5,b7
MI6: 1,b3,5,6
MI9: 1,b3,5,b7,9
MI11: 1,b3,5,b7,11
Dominant 7: 1,3,5,b7
Dominant 9: 1,3,5,b7,9
Dominant 13: 1,3,5,b7,13

MI7(b5): 1,b3,b5,b7

Note: MI7(b5) chords can also be written as half diminished seventh chords. For example, F#MI7(b5) and F# half dim. 7 are two different ways of writing out the same chord.

o7: 1,b3,b5,bb7

Altered Extensions

Many major and dominant chords feature altered extensions. Extensions are the upper octaves of each note in a scale. For example, the "ninth" is the same as the second, just one octave higher. By the same principle, the "eleventh" is the same note as the fourth. Altered extensions are always written in parenthesis when writing out a chord name. The most common altered extensions are written below.

#5 (same as b13), b9, #9, #11

Types of Diminished Chords

There are two different types of diminished seventh chords - half diminished and fully diminished. The fully diminished chord produces a slightly darker and uglier sound due to the inclusion of a double flatted seventh.

In the harmonic minor tonality, a half diminished seventh chord is used as the ii chord. The ii V i is a very common progression in this tonality. On the other hand, the fully diminished seventh chord is used as the vii chord in harmonic minor.

Etude No. 1 - Chord Progression

A measure by measure of the chord progression is provided below.

Measure 1: Em
2: F# half diminished seventh / E
3: Em
4. B7/F#
5: Em/G
6. E/G#
7. Am
8. Bb13(#11)

Note: In the lesson video, Matt calls this chord Bbmaj7(#11add6). The sixth scale degree is the same as the 13. Consequently, this chord can also be called Bbmaj13(#11). This is the most acceptable name for this chord, since it is shorter and simpler.

9. Em/B
10. Esus2/B
11. B7
12. E7(b9)

Notice how a G#o7 chord is sandwiched in between the open E strings of this voicing. A fully diminished seventh chord is found in the upper structure of every dominant seventh (b9) chord.

13. A7(b9)/E
14. F#o7/E
15. E7(b9)
16. A7(b9)/E
17. F#o7/E
18. E7(b9)
19. A7(b9)/E
20. F#o7/E
21. E7(b9)
22. Bbo7/E
23-24. Em
25. F#7
26. Gmaj13(#11)
27. F#o7
28. B7
29. Em
30. F#7(b5 add11)/E
31-32. Em
33. Am7
34. E6

Picardi Third

Notice how the piece ends on a type of E major chord. A "Picardi" third occurs when a song in a minor key ends with a major chord. What effect does the Picardi third have on the overall feel of the piece?

Left Hand Tips

1. When switching between two very difficult chords, put the left hand fingers down in the order that they are needed. This will help you perform the changes smoothly and in time. For example, in measure 2, put the fretting fingers down in this order: 4, 3, 2, 1

2. Make a note of any fingers that remain planted within a chord change or a finger that remains on the same string.

3. Many of the chords in the piece require wide left hand stretches. To master these chords in the most efficient amount of time, practice the Kirk Hammett exercises demonstrated in lesson 28 on a daily basis. For additional reach development exercises, check out lesson 5 from Dennis Hodges' Phase 2 Metal Series.


A. Theory

Measures 23-24 break away from the right hand pattern that is played throughout the rest of the piece. An Em arpeggio is embellished by approaching each chord tone with the note that is a half step (one fret) below. The embellishing notes are referred to as "lower chromatic neighbor tones."

B. Left Hand Fingering

When playing this lick, use the left hand fingering that Matt demonstrates in the lesson video. This fingering will allow you to play the lick with maximum accuracy and speed.

A Few Thoughts on Playing Slurs

Pay VERY close attention to the rhythm in which a hammer-on is to be played. Many inexperienced guitarists cut the first note (the plucked note) way too short. Consequently, the hammer-on note is held for too long. For starters, practice all hammer-ons in an even eighth note rhythm. Set the metronome so that it clicks on each eighth note to ensure rhythmic accuracy.

You may find it helpful to play the lick without slurs so you can hear how the rhythm should sound. Then, imitate this rhythm when the slurs are added back in.


The ending section consists of natural harmonics played at the 5th, 7th, and 12th frets. Practice this section at a very slow tempo. A higher level of left hand accuracy is required when playing natural harmonics. The left hand finger must be positioned directly over top of the fretwire to produce a loud and clear harmonic. Use the left hand fingering that Matt demonstrates in the lesson video. This will help immensely in the accuracy department.

Note: Check out the Phase 2 Tips and Tracks series for additional instruction on how to play harmonics.

Video Subtitles / Captions

Member Comments about this Lesson

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Rock Guitar with Matt Brown

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Chuck Berry among others pioneered the style of rock and roll in the 1950's. Today, rock and roll remains the most popular genre of music. Over the years the genre has progressed & spawned many sub-genres: soft rock, classic rock, punk rock, and more. Dive into this Phase 2 set of lessons to become a master of rock.

Lesson 1

Proper Practicing

Learn how to get the most out of your time when practicing.

Length: 29:00 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 2

Introduction to Lead

Matt Brown discusses some of the fundamentals to playing lead.

Length: 15:41 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 3

Figuring Out Notes

Matt shows you the basics of figuring out any note on the guitar.

Length: 7:00 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 4


Learn the basic minor, natural, and major scales. Quite a few techniques & ideas start with scales - they're an essential building block.

Length: 34:15 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 5

Major Scales

In this lesson, Matt takes you through the major scales & helps you to understand how they can be used.

Length: 20:25 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Natural Minor Scales

Matt teaches the most common natural minor scale patterns.

Length: 13:24 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 7


Learn & master the most popular types of bends.

Length: 27:48 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 8

Sweep Picking & Rakes

Learn sweep picking and string rakes.

Length: 18:36 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 9

Solo Techniques

Learn various techniques to use when improvising / soloing.

Length: 12:51 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 10

Tuning Down

Matt explains the most effective way to tune your guitar down.

Length: 7:18 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 11

Barre Chords

Learn how to establish finger independence and a few tips and tricks with barre chords.

Length: 37:18 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 12

Rock Licks

In this lesson, Matt Brown introduces a rock lick and shows how several famous players have modified it.

Length: 19:30 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 13

Rock Sequences

In this lesson Matt teaches some crucial rock sequences. He also explains how these sequences can be integrated in to your playing.

Length: 34:52 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 14

String Skipping

Matt Brown focuses on string skipping technique. He provides several exercises designed to improve this aspect of your playing.

Length: 33:09 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 15


Lesson 15 in Matt's rock series is all about intervals.

Length: 34:47 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 16

Rock Lead Guitar

Matt Brown demonstrates lead guitar techniques using Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" as an example.

Length: 29:24 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 17

Solo Using Diatonic Scales

Matt Brown explains which scales can be used when playing a solo over a diatonic progression in a major key. As an example, he teaches the solo section to Candlebox's song "Far Behind."

Length: 33:02 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 18

Diatonic Natural Minor

This lesson covers the natural minor scale and diatonic natural minor progressions. Matt uses the solo section to "Stairway to Heaven" as an example.

Length: 24:55 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 19

Right Hand Technique

In lesson 19 Matt provides instruction on developing right hand skills including string skipping.

Length: 26:38 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 20

Non-Diatonic Progressions

In lesson 20, Matt discusses chord progressions that don't follow a diatonic tonality.

Length: 29:07 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 21

Harmonic Minor

Matt begins to discuss and demonstrate the harmonic minor scale.

Length: 29:46 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 22

Improvising Over Harmonic Minor

In lesson 22, Matt continues his discussion of the harmonic minor tonality.

Length: 14:36 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 23

Sweet Child O' Mine

In lesson 23, Matt takes a look at the solo section for the song "Sweet Child O' Mine."

Length: 19:43 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 24


Matt will be taking a look at the solo section from the live version of the Smashing Pumpkins song "Today".

Length: 7:29 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 25

Back In Black Solo

Matt Brown reviews and discusses the solo section to AC/DC's hit "Back In Black".

Length: 9:34 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 26


In lesson 26, Matt covers the solo section from the Alice in Chains song "Brother".

Length: 9:42 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 27

Matt's Rock Manifesto

Matt Brown discusses lead guitarists, what makes a good solo, and tips for your own lead playing.

Length: 41:06 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 28

Legato Playing Exercises

Matt Brown teaches a number of exercises aimed at improving your legato playing technique.

Length: 37:16 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 29

Right Hand Exercises

Matt Brown demonstrates a few exercises to build skill and speed in your right hand.

Length: 15:06 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 30

String Skipping Etude

Matt Brown teaches Heitor Villa-Lobos' 1st Etude as a lesson in string skipping.

Length: 38:47 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 31

Three Octave Scales

Matt Brown demonstrates how to play three octave versions of the minor pentatonic and the major scales in all 12 keys.

Length: 16:56 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 32

Diatonic Intervals

Matt Brown demonstrates how to play all seven of the diatonic intervals within the framework of a horizontal major scale.

Length: 23:01 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 33

Diatonic 7th Arpeggios

Matt Brown discuss diatonic arpeggios as a theory lesson as well as demonstrating the technique.

Length: 9:55 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 34

Diatonic 7ths Across the Neck

Matt Brown explains how to play the diatonic seventh chords of the major scale. Similar to lesson 32, this lesson takes a horizontal approach to the fretboard.

Length: 10:46 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 35

Solo Ideas #1

Matt Brown teaches a progression and accompanying solo to demonstrate ideas for creating your own.

Length: 21:34 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 36

Solo Ideas #2

Matt Brown takes a look at another chord progression and solo.

Length: 17:29 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 37

Legato Playing Ideas

In lesson 37 of the Rock Series, Matt Brown demonstrates and talks about legato playing ideas.

Length: 21:24 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 38

Rhythm Concepts

Matt Brown switches gears in lesson 38 to start talking about rhythm concepts for rock playing.

Length: 27:44 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 39

Compositional Techniques

Matt Brown discusses some often used techniques to build effective rock compositions.

Length: 17:27 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 40

Creative Chord Voicings

Matt Brown shows off some ways to add some creativity and originality to your rock chord voicings.

Length: 11:59 Difficulty: 1.5 FREE
Lesson 41

Lead Approach

Matt Brown takes another look at his approach to soloing. He demonstrates ideas you can use in your own playing.

Length: 12:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 42

Lead Approach #2

Matt Brown adds practice to his lead approach by giving you another chord progression to solo over.

Length: 7:14 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 43

Lead Approach #3

Matt Brown has another chord progression and solo exercise to go over in this lesson on lead approach.

Length: 10:25 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 44

String Skipping Revisited

Matt Brown takes another look at string skipping. He breaks down some key areas of Matteo Carcassi's Allegro as an exercise.

Length: 16:29 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only

About Matt Brown View Full Biography Matt Brown began playing the guitar at the age of 11. "It was a rule in my family to learn and play an instrument for at least two years. I had been introduced to a lot of great music at the time by friends and their older siblings. I was really into bands like Nirvana, Alice In Chains, and Smashing Pumpkins, so the decision to pick up the guitar came pretty easily."

Matt's musical training has always followed a very structured path. He began studying the guitar with Dayton, Ohio guitar great Danny Voris. I began learning scales, chords, and basic songs like any other guitarist. After breaking his left wrist after playing for only a year, Matt began to study music theory in great detail. I wanted to keep going with my lessons, but I obviously couldn't play at all. Danny basically gave me the equivalent of a freshman year music theory course in the span of two months. These months proved to have a huge impact on Brown's approach to the instrument.

Brown continued his music education at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. He completed a degree in Classical Guitar Performance in 2002. While at Capital, he also studied jazz guitar and recording techniques in great detail. "I've never had any desire to perform jazz music. Its lack of relevance to modern culture has always turned me off. However, nothing will improve your chops more than studying this music."

Matt Brown currently resides in Dayton, Ohio. He teaches lessons locally as well as at Capital University's Community Music School. Matt's recent projects include writing and recording with his new, as of yet nameless band as well as the formation of a cover band called The Dirty Cunnies.

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