Fingerstyle Guitar


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Fingerpicking, or playing fingerstyle, is a technique for playing the guitar, or some other stringed instrument using the fingertips and/or fingernails, rather than with a plectrum (or "pick"). It is used for classical guitar, and some other acoustic styles, but it has found its way into other genres as well, including rock and roll, although its use in such genres is relatively rare. There is a whole school of jazz guitar playing using the technique. Joe Pass was a leading exponent of the technique and currently Britain's Martin Taylor is noted for this chord-melody approach. It is not the only way to play the guitar without a pick, but it is perhaps the most common method used by professional guitar players.

There are a variety of ways to fingerpick. A more formal or classical approach is to place the picking hand over the strings near the soundhole. Although many players will lightly rest their thumb on a string even when it is not playing for stability, generally speaking the fingers only touch the strings when articulating a note. An alternate technique is to "prepare" the passage in advance by placing the right hand fingers on the strings before the notes are played. This is used primarily for ascending arpeggios.

Some players will brace the pinky finger, or possibly ring finger, against the bridge (on an acoustic) or a pickup (on an electric). This finger should be fairly straight, but not too rigid. Holding it against the bridge on an acoustic deadens the tone of the instrument, therefore when the player becomes skilled enough it is preferred that the surface of the guitar simply be used, if possible. Then, the other fingers, excluding the thumb, are held in a claw shape and may then pluck or strike the strings.

Thumb and Finger Picks

As an alternative to using the fingertips or finger nails, some guitarists--generally country or folk-style--will use small picks attached to the fingertips of their picking hand. This is generally done in an effort to get increased volume out of the instrument.

These "thimble"-like prosthetics are common among banjo players (Scruggs style), but are relatively uncommon among guitarists. Thumb picks, however, are more common in certain folk styles, particularly when more emphasis is desired for the bass line.

Hybrid Picking

Following on from the use of thumb picks, several guitarists who only make occasional use of finger picking may tend towards hybrid picking. In hybrid picking, the plectrum is held, as usual, between the thumb and index finger while the remaining fingers are used for fingerpicking.

Because it is convenient for guitarists who use a flatpick (plectrum), hybrid picking has found its way into styles of guitar music where fingerpicking is rarely, if ever, used. Many contemporary guitarists will use this as an auxiliary technique. Ritchie Blackmore used this technique for his famous opening riff for "Smoke on the Water". Eric Johnson makes frequent use of the technique as well. Carl Verheyen, Brett Garsed, Albert Lee,and Steve Trovato use this technique in country and rock. Gustavo Assis-Brasil uses hybrid picking in jazz and Brazilian music. A notable user of hybrid picking is Zakk Wylde, who brings this technique to heavy metal. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Fingerstyle guitar is a right hand technique which involves using some or all of your right hand fingers to pluck the guitar strings rather than using a pick. Click below for the best free Fingerstyle lessons and resources available on the web.

Acoustic Fingerstyle Guitar
Beginning Fingerstyle Guitar (Acoustic Guitar Workshop)
Fingerstyle Academy (Eric Lugosch)
Travis Picking (Psycho Licks)

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