String Skipping (Guitar Lesson)

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Matt Brown

String Skipping

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

Taught by Matt Brown in Rock Guitar with Matt Brown seriesLength: 33:09Difficulty: 2.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (01:42) Lesson Introduction Matt addresses a specific right hand technique in this lesson. He demonstrates the proper way to play arpeggio patterns that feature a high level of string skipping. You will practice this technique by working through excerpts from three popular rock songs. These songs are "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" by Radiohead, "Tonight, Tonight" by Smashing Pumpkins, and "December" by Collective Soul. If you are not familiar with these songs, watch their corresponding music videos at
Chapter 2: (12:19) String Skipping This scene begins with a demonstration of the first excerpt that you will learn. This excerpt is the introduction and verse section to the song "December" by Collective Soul.

Left-Hand Technique

When learning any new skill, it is always best to isolate the hands. By mastering the easier, left-hand component of this excerpt, you will be able to focus all of your attention on learning the challenging right hand pattern.


This song is played in the key of G major. It begins with an "open" G5 power chord. Notice how the second finger is used to mute the fifth string in this voicing. Lightly rest the middle finger on this string to ensure that it does not vibrate. The third and fourth strings are played open. The third and pinkie fingers fret the notes D and G respectively. Throughout this chord progression, the third and pinkie fingers remain stationary while the first and second fingers must shift to fret various bass notes.

Note: Diagrams with proper fingerings to all of the chords presented in this lesson can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab.


The left hand must perform a difficult stretch in order to fret the next chord in the progression. You must have a significant amount of finger independence to master this chord shape. The best way to practice such a chord is not by playing the chord itself. Instead, practice reach development and finger independence exercises such as the ones that Dennis demonstrates in lesson 5 of the Phase 2 Metal series. When switching from G5 to G5/F, simply fret the note F at the1st fret of the sixth string. The rest of the notes within the chord remain unaltered.


The next chord in the progression is Csus2. Now, the second finger is playing the bass note C at the 3rd fret of the fifth string. The second finger must mute the open fourth string. Once again, the third and pinkie fingers remain fixed on the notes D and G respectively.

Note: Matt refers to this chord as Cadd9 in the lesson video. This is also another viable name for this chord. However, since the third is missing from the chord, it must be written as follows: Cadd9(no 3rd).


When switching from Csus2 to Bb6, lift up your second finger. Then, fret the note Bb at the 1st fret of the fifth string. The first finger mutes the fourth string within this chord. Similar to G5/F, this chord features a large stretch performed by the first finger.


Slide the first finger up one fret to play the final chord in the progression. The first finger is now playing the note B at the 2nd fret of the fifth string. The D string remains muted when playing this chord.

Right Hand Pattern

The first three measures of this excerpt apply the same picking pattern. The bass note of the chord is played followed by a pattern played on the third, second, and first strings. Practice the picking pattern with open strings to isolate the right hand component. Use strict alternate picking throughout the excerpt.

Right-Hand Technique for String Skipping

Do not rest any part of the right hand on the body or the bridge of the guitar. 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. Watch Matt at 07:35 for a demonstration. Notice how only the forearm is anchored to the body of the guitar.

Practicing the Exercise

The biggest difficulty of this exercise is skipping from the sixth string (played with a downstroke) to the third string, which is played with an upstroke. Drill this string skip very slowly to improve your accuracy and consistency. If you have not had practice with this technique, it will feel very awkward at first. However, after playing string skipping material for about two weeks with this technique, it will feel totally natural.

Loop the picking pattern with open strings at first. Then, loop the pattern while fretting each individual chord. Finally, connect all of the chords in the progression to play the excerpt. The picking pattern changes slightly in the final measure. Loop this pattern with open strings. Then, apply the appropriate chord shapes in the left hand. Watch Matt at 10:52 for a demonstration of this pattern.

Playing patterns with string skipping is always easier if you have the music memorized. This allows you to watch your right hand instead of staring at the sheet music.
Chapter 3: (06:25) String Skipping Exercise The second excerpt in this lesson is from the verse section to "Tonight, Tonight" by the Smashing Pumpkins. This exercise is slightly easier than the exercise presented in the first scene. If you are new to string skipping, you might want to start with this excerpt. Then, work back to the "December" excerpt. Finally, advance to the excerpt in the next scene for the most challenging exercise.

Left-Hand Fingering

This excerpt involves a shifting bass note played on the fifth string. The bass note is played in conjunction with the open G and B strings. For each of the bass notes, simply slide the first finger to the appropriate note. Matt demonstrates an alternate fingering at 01:04 that may be more comfortable for you. Experiment with both fingerings to discover which works best for you.

Right-Hand Pattern

The right-hand pattern remains the same throughout this entire example. Once again, play the excerpt with strict alternate picking. You will most likely experience the most difficulty with the skip that occurs between the second string and the fifth string. If this is the case, drill this string skip over and over at a slow tempo. Matt provides an example of this brief exercise at 02:00 in the lesson video. One thing you can do to help with difficult string skips is arch your thumb upwards when skipping from a high string to a low string. This is only possible if you were born with a hitchhiker thumb. This turns the pick upwards just slightly, enabling the pick to clear the third and fourth strings. This excerpt is played at a very quick tempo. It is played in eighth notes at 154 beats per minute. However, you should start with the metronome set to about 60 or 70 beats per minute and work your way up one setting at a time.

Tuning Down

The guitars on this recording are tuned down a 1/2 step. If you wish to play along with the recording, you must re-tune your guitar. Refer to lesson 10 of this series to learn the most effective way to tune your guitar down.
Chapter 4: (11:13) Another String Skipping Exercise Make sure that you have mastered the first two examples before attempting to play the final example. This example is from Radiohead's "Street Spirit (Fade Out)." This song is the final cut on The Bends.

Memorizing the excerpt is essential to playing it fluidly and accurately. Otherwise, you will be trying to think of what note comes next on top of trying to play a difficult right hand pattern.

Left-Hand Pattern

The chord progression consists of the "open" Am, Em, and C chords. However, some additional melody notes are added to each of these chord shapes. The melody notes are played on the B string throughout the entire song. The melody line remains constant regardless of which chord is being played. Due to the inclusion of a melody line, this passage must be played with strict classical technique. Do not allow the thumb to come up and over the fretboard.

Right-Hand Pattern

The picking pattern begins with the bass note of each chord. The bass note is played on the fifth string for the Am and C chords. It is played on the sixth string for Em. The rest of the pattern remains exactly the same for each chord. The third string is always plucked immediately after the second string. This feature will help you memorize the pattern.

Practice the picking pattern with open strings before adding in the left hand. Play with strict alternate picking. Then, practice the picking pattern with each individual chord. Finally, practice the excerpt as it is notated in the "Supplemental Content" section. Drill each chord change in the song. For example, switch back and forth between the Am pattern and Em. Then switch between Am and C.
Chapter 5: (01:56) Final Thoughts In the following lesson, Matt will switch gears back to lead guitar. He will discuss string skipping and playing large intervals within the context of a melody or solo line. The right hand techniques demonstrated in this lesson will be applied to some new scale exercises.

Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

GiannaFSGiannaFS replied

Hello Matt. I've got a question. Do you recommend alternate picking for all arpegiated patterns? I've heard once that using downstrokes up until the last string and then an upstroke on the last string to move hand back and ready for a new downstroke. In other words moving pick in the direction of the next string. Would you also use alternate picking for led zeppelin's "babe I'm gonna leave you"?

Chris.LiepeChris.Liepe replied

It is good to practice both methods you're talking about. Consecutive picking can be a great way to get a smooth sound, particularly with faster tempos, but alternate picking will always sound more accurate and it is easier to maintain consistent pocket and tempo. Also, certain patterns will be more conducive to one or the other. Hope this helps!

GiannaFSGiannaFS replied

It does help. Thank you.

nate_thegreatnate_thegreat replied

Matt you're gonna wreck your wrists lol I have to use my thumb to play that 2nd chord on the December excerpt, because the angle of my wrist scares me otherwise

mattbrownmattbrown replied

Haha! Yeah, when I first learned this song way back in the day, I remember that chord being a little uncomfortable. Whatever gets the job done!

fgranqvistfgranqvist replied

the tip about only anchoring your upper forearm to the guitar instead of anchoring the palm or pinky totally changed my playstyle and i increased in speed greatly. thank you so much Matt !:] Also for others out there practicing string skipping and trying to increase it's speed, i highly recommend learning "behind blue eyes " by limp bizkit. best song ever for string skipping!

panama400panama400 replied

on "tonight tonight" Am I supposed to alternate the bass string picking. meaning down stroke on bass string then up stroke on bass string every other time?

mattbrownmattbrown replied's alternate picking throughout that one.

panama400panama400 replied

on "tonight tonight" Am I supposed to alternate the bass string picking. meaning down stroke on bass string then up stroke on bass string every other time.

patkclarkpatkclark replied

Matt, I noticed the tab for the Street Spirit example has the last note of the last Em bar on the B string instead of the G string like all the other bars. Is this just a typo, or is the pattern really broken here (seems like you always hit G in the video). Thanks!

mattbrownmattbrown replied's a typo. It should be a G note. Also, in measure 3, the B note played on the "and" of 1 should be an E note played on the fourth string. Thanks a lot for pointing this out!

rbradyrbrady replied

Can these be fixed, please? It looks like the 1& note in Bar 3 and the 4& in Bar 10 are still off, or did I miss something. Thanks!

mattbrownmattbrown replied

Fixed! :)

rbradyrbrady replied

Yesss. Tthanks!

rbradyrbrady replied

Hi, Matt: Can you please explain when this technique—using the pick for each note—is used in contrast to hybrid picking, and using other (right-hand) fingers to pick strings? Also, I really like how you detail the "About this lesson" section instead of entering only a sentence or two like some others. Thanks!

mattbrownmattbrown replied

Hi! The decision of whether to pick every note with the pick or whether to use hybrid picking should be based purely on the sound that you are going for. Your decision should not be determined by which technique is currently easier for you. Hybrid picking should be used only when you want to juxtapose two different tones within a certain musical idea. For arpeggio patterns played on electric guitar, you're better off playing everything with a pick since the attack and tone will be consistently the same for every note. The pick produces a louder, brighter, and more consistent tone. The fingers create a tone that is darker, softer, and has a little bit of a "snap" or pop to it when played on an electric. I recommend you listen to some Albert King or Wes Montgomery. As far as I know, neither of these guys every played with a pick. Compare their tone to players that play with picks and see what you notice. Then, watch and listen to some players that employ hybrid picking like Johnny Hiland. Like I said, it's all about the tone and articulation you're going for.

linkbot334linkbot334 replied

lol the the cran thing u said to do with ur arm i already do xD,but still good tut though :D

jimwhite44jimwhite44 replied

Good tips about the right hand. Really good excerises to play again and again for practice.

flyrerflyrer replied

Great lesson Matt really nice work out !!! Russ

dennis.hodgesdennis.hodges replied

nice excerpts!

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.

Proper PracticingLesson 1

Proper Practicing

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

Length: 29:00 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Introduction to LeadLesson 2

Introduction to Lead

Matt Brown discusses some of the fundamentals to playing lead.

Length: 15:41 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Figuring Out NotesLesson 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
ScalesLesson 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
Major ScalesLesson 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
Natural Minor ScalesLesson 6

Natural Minor Scales

Matt teaches the most common natural minor scale patterns.

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


Learn & master the most popular types of bends.

Length: 27:48 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Sweep Picking & RakesLesson 8

Sweep Picking & Rakes

Learn sweep picking and string rakes.

Length: 18:36 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Solo TechniquesLesson 9

Solo Techniques

Learn various techniques to use when improvising / soloing.

Length: 12:51 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Tuning DownLesson 10

Tuning Down

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

Length: 7:18 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Barre ChordsLesson 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
Rock LicksLesson 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
Rock SequencesLesson 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
String SkippingLesson 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
IntervalsLesson 15


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

Length: 34:47 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Rock Lead GuitarLesson 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
Solo Using Diatonic ScalesLesson 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
Diatonic Natural Minor 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
Right Hand TechniqueLesson 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
Non-Diatonic ProgressionsLesson 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
Harmonic MinorLesson 21

Harmonic Minor

Matt begins to discuss and demonstrate the harmonic minor scale.

Length: 29:46 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Improvising Over Harmonic MinorLesson 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
Sweet Child O' MineLesson 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
TodayLesson 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
Back In Black SoloLesson 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
BrotherLesson 26


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

Length: 9:42 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Matt's Rock ManifestoLesson 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
Legato Playing ExercisesLesson 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
Right Hand ExercisesLesson 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
String Skipping EtudeLesson 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
Three Octave ScalesLesson 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
Diatonic IntervalsLesson 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
Diatonic 7th ArpeggiosLesson 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
Diatonic 7ths Across the NeckLesson 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
Solo Ideas #1Lesson 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
Solo Ideas #2Lesson 36

Solo Ideas #2

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

Length: 17:29 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Legato Playing IdeasLesson 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
Rhythm ConceptsLesson 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
Compositional TechniquesLesson 39

Compositional Techniques

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

Length: 17:27 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Creative Chord VoicingsLesson 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
Lead ApproachLesson 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
Lead Approach #2Lesson 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
Lead Approach #3Lesson 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
String Skipping RevisitedLesson 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
Matt Brown

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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