For years I ignored the hundreds of fingerstyle guitar lessons online as I trawled through Youtube looking for the best rock and blues guitar riffs to learn. I used to think that learning to finger pick guitar would be a total waste of time for me because I wasn’t a classical or folk guitarist.
My attitudes have changed somewhat over the years and I’m now a big fan of the technique and count many fingerpicking songs within my repertoire.
Why Learn Fingerpicking Guitar?
I love rocking out on my electric guitar with the distortion turned up to full and playing screaming solos at full volume. But sometimes I fancy a change, both in terms of giving my poor ears a rest and also to give myself a bit of a challenge.
That’s where I often put the pick down for a while and give the fingers of my right hand a bit of a workout with some intricate fingerstyle techniques. Actually, I sometimes use steel guitar finger picks like the ones that banjo players use, because my fingernails are quite short and I end up using the palp of my finger to pluck the strings, which gives a less distinct sound than using pinger picks. If you’re a classical guitarist, there are specialist plastic finger picks forthe classical guitar, which help to produce a great tone from the nylon strings. You can get away without them, but a lot of folks with shorter fingernails like the improved control and better sound that can be achieved by using finger picks.
Finger picking provides an interesting alternative to the normal guitar strumming patterns or basic riffing that I sometimes feel limited by when using a pick. And it really isn’t just for the classically trained amongst us, or even those with a folksy inclination. Just listen to the intro to a lot of Metallica music, or Led Zepplin – Stairway to Heaven anyone?
Fingerstyle can and does bring some additional melodic interest to a song and can make quite a simple chord progression sound much more complex, and therefore more interesting from a musical point of view.
I would encourage you to give finger picking a try if you’ve not tried it before. And if you’ve tried it before but haven’t played in that style for a while, give it another try. I think you might be pleasantly surprised how enjoyable it is to play in that way.
Proper Fingerpicking Technique
One thing to bear in mind when playing your guitar in fingerstyle is that it is far easier to do if you stick to using certain fingers on certain strings.
Each of the picking fingers in the musical notation is given a specific letter, as follows.
Thumb – P
Index finger – I
Middle finger – M
Third finger – A
Little finger – rarely used becasue it is so much shorter than the other fingers.
Use your thumb for plucking the bass guitar strings (6th, 5th and 4th strings). Use your Index finger on the 3rd string, middle finger on the 2nd string and third finger on the 1st string.
Stick with these guidelines and you’ll find it relatively easy to play fingerstyle with just some rudimentary practice.
Go on, give it a try!