I call it the “2nd Finger Crossover”.
Of course, I can’t say that’s a legit, Google-searchable term; I made the name up when working with my students.
But whatever you choose to call it, it will make your playing more efficient, more fluid and just a little more awesome.
The 2nd Finger Crossover works especially well in rock and blues pentatonic patterns, and you can also use it to add a little flash to your lead chops. After all, if it’s good enough for Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and scores of other rock icons, it should be good enough for me and you too. Highly recommended!
The 2nd Finger Crossover is a lead guitar move that substitutes the 2nd finger for the 3rd finger in a very specific circumstance. Here’s the criteria for this substitution:
- The guitar lick requires the use of the 1st and 3rd fingers on the same string, two or three frets apart
- It also requires the use of the 3rd finger on the next lower string
- It immediately returns to the 1st finger on the higher string
In this situation, you can freely substitute the 2nd finger for the 3rd finger on the lower string. The 2nd finger “crosses over” and onto the lower string, hence the name.
It’s very common to find pentatonic licks that sort of “bounce” off of a lower string for one note and come back to a higher string. You simply cross over on the “bounce” note.
Here’s an example phrase similar to Clapton’s classic, “Layla”:
If you want to extend this into a flashy, repeating lick:
Note that the lower, crossover/”bounce” note is best played with an upstroke. This creates an inside pick stroke, which is the most logical and efficient way to go about this type of guitar lick.
The efficiency of the 2nd Finger Crossover becomes crystal clear whenever the 3rd finger is executing a pull-off, as in the above examples.
In a pull-off situation, the 3rd finger is snapping off the higher string, toward the palm and away from the lower string. Using the 3rd finger again for the lower string means moving away and then circling back towards the lower string. Meanwhile, the 2nd finger – which is ready and has a direct path to the next note – is just hanging out doing nothing.
Call me crazy, but I’d much rather use the 2nd finger here, effectively spreading the workload and getting to my destination note more quickly and efficiently.
TEMPO AND LOCATION
Of course, this technique is somewhat dependent on tempo and fret position.
Faster tempo licks will benefit from the efficiency of the crossover more than slower licks. And higher fret positions will be a bit easier to access than lower fret positions since the lower frets are wider.
I recommend that you experiment with the above phrases at various tempos, both using and not using the crossover technique. And since the licks are moveable, try them at different fret positions to get a feel for how much of a stretch the crossover requires.
A few important technique points you should be aware of:
1 – This move requires the proper angle of the fingers. Ideally, they should be pointing at the 6th string side of the bridge. If your fingers are positioned parallel with the frets, it will be very difficult to execute the crossover and you’ll get tangled up. Of course, the proper thumb placement will also aid in achieving the proper finger angle.
2 – A strong angle is especially critical when you need the reach to cover a three fret distance. If the side of your 1st finger is up against the guitar neck, you’ve got the correct angle.
3 – It’s also important to actively get the 3rd finger out of the way when crossing over with the 2nd, to avoid getting tangled up.
Using any new technique will seem a bit awkward at first, simply based on unfamiliarity. But after a few passes, you’ll find that the 2nd Finger Crossover is fairly easy to incorporate into your bag of guitar tricks. Give it an honest try – I’ll think you’ll come to rely on this move as much as I do. Cheers!
QUESTION: What is your impression of the 2nd Finger Crossover? Can you see the benefit to having more than one way to execute the same phrase? Leave me a comment below!