Fast, ‘shred-style’ licks invariably involve picking from one adjacent string to the next. This makes sense, since most scale-based lines move from note to note via small intervals (the distance between two notes). This feels (and sounds) quite natural. However, it can also sound cool to incorporate wider interval shifts into scalar licks, and this can be achieved via string skipping (picking across non-adjacent strings). By using string skipping to execute large interval leaps, it creates an interesting sound that isn’t commonly heard in the shred/metal environment.

I’ve come up with four exercises to get you started with this technique. These licks use the E natural minor scale (E-F#-G-A-B-C-D), but of course, can be applied to any scale or key.


Using a three note-per-string fingering in the 12th position, this first exercise doesn’t actually involve any string skipping. Starting on a G note on the 15th fret, the lick simply descends through the scale and back up again (twice) using 16th note quintuplets (five notes per beat) and strict alternate picking. Due to its circular nature, this lick can be performed at blistering speeds. Practice looping it repeatedly in order to program the muscle memory of your picking hand, making sure that each pick stroke uses a minimal amount of movement.

Hear Exercise 1


Once you have the first lick blazing, it’s now time to add in the string skipping. Here, the melodic contour stays exactly the same, but instead of continuing from the first string onto the second, you skip over the second string and onto the third (staying within the E natural minor scale). Doing so involves slightly lifting the pick up to jump over the second string; however, it’s only a very slight movement. The overall picking should remain consistent down/up alternate picking (as drilled in the first exercise).

Hear Exercise 2


Still using an E natural minor three note-per-string fingering, this exercise takes the concept even further by skipping across two strings – from the first to the fourth. I’ve found that the key to performing these types of shred-style string skipping licks is to keep both hands very light and relaxed. As soon as you tense up – and this is particularly true of the right hand – it’s going to be difficult to seamlessly skip strings whilst continuing to alternate pick.

Hear Exercise 3


The final lick joins the previous two exercises together. As such, it moves from the first string to the third string, the first string to the fourth, and then back to the first string (the whole lick is then repeated). Whist this may seem difficult, if you’ve worked through the other exercises slowly before building up the speed, the slight left and right hand adjustments required to skip across the strings will eventually start to feel more fluid and natural.

Hear Exercise 4

You can hear my recordings of these licks by going to Try incorporating some scale-based string skipping into you own playing. The unconventional sound of these types of licks can really make your shred solos stand out!