Get stories like this in your inbox (free!)
There have been many crosspickers in flatpicking’s brief history, including Doc Watson, Dan Crary, and Clarence White. This excerpt will teach you to play 3 common crosspicking patterns.
Posted by Steve Kaufman
Excerpted from Flatpicking Guitar Basics
In Example 1 you’ll pick down on the first note (fourth string), up on the second note (third string), and down on the third note (second string). Many people ask, “Do I hit the next fourth-string note down or up?” Your tendency may be to hit it down (like the first note of the pattern), but since it’s on the upbeat, not one of the numbered beats, you should pick it with an upstroke. Use Example 1 when the melody note lies on the lowest string in the pattern, and use Example 2 when the melody note lies on the highest string in the pattern.
Example 3 shows a repeating two-beat pattern that works well in songs where the chords change every two beats, with a strong melody note at each change.
The beauty and art in this 3-3-2 pattern are in its syncopation. Sometimes melody notes fall on a different beat than you were expecting. The important point about learning this style is that you cannot break the pattern to play the melody note. You must stay within the pattern and add the melody note into the roll when the pattern allows you to hit that string.
I recommend using a three-minute egg timer when you practice these patterns. When the timer goes off, do something else, then come back to the patterns later on. Practice each pattern for three minutes, several times every day for as long as it takes to become comfortable with them. Soon it will seem very simple, and your picking hand will flow naturally in a smooth and steady down-up pattern. You can build up to this pattern by holding a G chord and strumming down-up eight times, focusing on how comfortable the picking hand and arm are. Then zero in on the three strings while keeping the relaxed, though reduced, motion going with the picking hand.