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Bluegrass Guitar Lesson: Rhythm with Crosspicking


As bluegrass guitar players, it’s important to be able to perform single-note lines, execute intricate melodies, and improvise fluidly across the strings. However, believe it or not, it is far more critical to be able to support the other musicians in the ensemble with well-oiled rhythm guitar chops and stable foundational patterns.


For most professional guitarists, rhythm guitar makes up about eighty percent of what they play, while only the remaining twenty percent consists of lead lines and solos. Therefore, as students of the genre and instrument, it's critical that we focus on and master essential rhythm guitar techniques—particularly the Boom-Chuck pattern.


That being said, just because we might not be stepping out into the spotlight to share our most intricate lead runs and licks all the time, does not mean that our rhythm playing has to be repetitive and stale. Introducing walking bass runs and crosspicking techniques are great ways to spice up our rhythm guitar playing and keep our rhythm work interesting for ourselves, our fellow bandmates, and the audience.


Crosspicking, in particular, is one of the most important techniques used in the bluegrass and flatpick guitar style across the board. It is essential to the bluegrass aesthetic and is designed to make the acoustic guitar produce a sonic characteristic similar to that of a banjo roll.


In this online guitar lesson, Grammy Award-winning guitarist, ten-time IBMA “Guitar Player of the Year,” and ArtistWorks bluegrass guitar instructor, Bryan Sutton, outlines ways in which you can utilize crosspicking techniques to embellish your rhythm guitar playing and create interest, provide a wider dynamic range, and establish opportunities for musical interplay with other members of the ensemble.


LEARN MORE: Want to learn how to play acoustic guitar from a bluegrass master like Bryan Sutton? Try some free online guitar lessons now!


“The most notable guitarists of the bluegrass style have all incorporated crosspicking into their Boom-Chuck rhythmic style,” Bryan explains. “It’s a great way to add some interest, raise the dynamic, and support everything. It can also really help keep structural integrity and awareness alive in the band.”


What is crosspicking?

Crosspicking is a guitar technique in which a flatpick is used to play a rolling, syncopated pattern across three strings. This rolling pattern typically outlines chord tones; however, melodic lines can also be featured. The crosspicking technique was developed to imitate the sound and aesthetic of a banjo roll, with the primary difference being that banjo rolls are fingerpicked rather than flatpicked.


“Integrating crosspicking patterns into our Boom-Chuck rhythm requires us to recognize qualities of our righthand motion that are already occurring in the Boom-Chuck that we can then apply to crosspicking,” explains Bryan. “We want to be aware of the qualities of our motion as they do impact the qualities of our sound.”


To learn more about crosspicking and how you can begin incorporating the technique into your rhythm guitar playing, dive into this online guitar lesson from Bryan Sutton:


Rhythm with Crosspicking with Bryan Sutton:




Have you always wanted to learn how to play acoustic guitar? Through our comprehensive guitar lessons online and Video Exchange Learning platform here at ArtistWorks, you can learn from internationally renowned players, like Bryan Sutton, and get personal feedback on your playing.


Bryan’s course starts with the basics and teaches everything from beginner guitar to advanced flatpicking techniques, classic bluegrass tunes, music theory, and beyond. So, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player, all levels are welcome and all students will grow and improve their skills as flatpick guitar players and musicians.


Sample some free music lessons here and see what makes ArtistWorks courses some of the best online music lessons around!



Bluegrass Guitar Lesson: The 3 Shape Method with Bryan Sutton

Bluegrass Guitar Lesson: Tony Rice Rhythm Fill Sweeps with Chris Eldridge

Flatpick Guitar Lesson: Modified Crosspicking Patterns with Tyler Grant




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