By Desi Serna

One technique you want to work on in order to improve your picking proficiency on the guitar is string skipping. This is where you jump over a string or more in the middle of a riff or solo. String skipping occurs when lead lines feature intervallic jumps.

You get started with string skipping in the example below. In this example, you play a three‐note‐per‐string scale pattern in A major beginning in the fifth position. Rather than play string to string, you focus on playing up and down patterns between two nonadjacent strings, using strict alternate picking as you go. The first measure combines the scale tones on strings six and four.

When you get used to this combination, you move onto strings five and three, and finally three and one. Repeat each group as many times as necessary to get used to the skip. When you get used to the exercise, you can apply the same idea to scale patterns in other positions and other keys.

String skipping with three-notes‐per‐string scale patterns.

String skipping with three-notes‐per‐string scale patterns.

String skipping works well for arpeggios, too, like the one below. You can apply the same concept to any arpeggio in other keys, too.

String skipping with arpeggios.

String skipping with arpeggios.

In the last example of string skipping, you play a melodic idea in the style of “Sweet Child o’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses. In fact, guitarist Slash claims that his now classic riff was originally an exercise in string skipping before band members helped to craft it into a full musical arrangement.

All of these string‐skipping figures use strict alternate picking, but sometimes you would skip over strings using another picking method. When you watch Slash play the opening to “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” you see him turn his picking around at times by using upstrokes on downbeats.

A string-skipping riff.

A string-skipping riff.