Quick Summary: How to learn fingerstyle guitar
1. Start with the basics
Before you dive into more complex fingerstyle techniques, it’s essential to master the basics. Practice your fingerpicking technique with simple exercises like playing individual notes on the strings.
Make sure to keep your hand relaxed and move your fingers from the knuckles, not your wrist.
2. Focus on finger independence
To play fingerstyle guitar, you need to develop finger independence. This means training each finger to move independently from the others. To do this, practice finger independence exercises like playing different patterns with each finger.
3. Practice with a metronome
Playing with a metronome can help you develop good timing and rhythm. Set the metronome to a slow tempo and practice playing simple patterns with it. Gradually increase the tempo as you get more comfortable with the exercise.
4. Learn fingerstyle patterns and techniques
There are many fingerstyle patterns and techniques to explore, including Travis picking, fingerpicking arpeggios, and flamenco-style Rasgueados.
Start with simpler patterns and techniques, then gradually work your way up to more complex ones.
5. Study fingerstyle guitarists
One of the best ways to learn fingerstyle guitar is to study the techniques of great fingerstyle guitarists. Watch videos of players like Tommy Emmanuel, Chet Atkins, and Andy McKee, and try to learn their songs and techniques.
6. Use online resources and courses
There are many online resources and courses available to help you learn fingerstyle guitar. Websites like TrueFire and Guitar Tricks offer courses that cover fingerstyle techniques and patterns.
YouTube (below) is also a great resource for free fingerstyle guitar lessons.
7. Practice regularly
As with any skill, consistent practice is essential for mastering fingerstyle guitar. Set aside a specific time each day to practice and stick to it.
Even practicing for just 15-30 minutes a day can make a big difference in your playing over time.
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How to learn fingerstyle guitar
When it comes to playing a string instrument, you may have heard of fingerpicking before. It is a fantastic technique to learn when you are comfortable playing chords and strumming.
It is the natural progression that will allow you to get the most out of your instrument.
While fingerpicking is most commonly associated with guitars, you can also fingerpick other stringed instruments, such as the violin, viola, cello, and ukulele too.
If the instrument is part of the strings section, you can use the fingerpicking technique.
In this article, we will be talking you through the basics of how to fingerpick an instrument. While practice makes perfect, if you begin with these steps, you will have every chance of success.
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What Is Finger Picking?
As we have already touched upon, fingerpicking is a specific style you can use to play a string instrument. It can also be referred to as fingerstyle. Fingerpicking involves picking the strings of your instrument instead of strumming or using a pick.
It creates a much softer sound and allows each of the strings to be heard individually. Some songs will use a mixture of fingerpicking and strumming, while others will only use one of these techniques.
Fingerpicking is particularly common in the jazz, blues, and folk genres, and is most commonly used with guitars, and banjos.
How To Finger Pick
When you are first learning how to fingerpick, it can seem quite daunting. While it is more difficult than strumming an instrument or using a bow.
However, when it comes to fingerpicking, the technique you use is important.
Once you have gotten to grips with the technique, fingerpicking will be far easier to achieve.
Before you begin, you will want to feel comfortable plucking the strings individually, rather than accidentally hitting another string. In addition to this, you will want to get your hand used to the picking motion.
Once you are comfortable with the motion of handpicking instead of strumming, the first thing you will need to do is position your hand correctly. This will make your picking more precise, and the process more comfortable.
You will want to place your hand in a cupped shape, rather than straight. This will help you to reach the strings. The hand will need to be in a position where it does not need to move when plucking, only your fingers will need to move.
When it comes to which fingers you need to use, there are different names associated with the finger, the Spanish language is used. Here is a useful table to break this down for you:
|English (Spanish)||Abbreviation||Strings To Be Plucked|
|Thumb (Pulgaar)||P||D (4), A (5), E (6)|
|Index (Indice)||I||G (3)|
|Middle (Medio)||M||B (2)|
|Ring (Anular)||A||E (1)|
|Pinky (Extremo)||E or C||Not used|
As you will be using your thumb to pluck three strings, you will want to place your hand slightly lower down the strings, to reach these easily.
Once you know which fingers you need to use for each string, next you will need to use the correct technique. When plucking the strings, you will want to avoid pulling at the strings. This will create a harsh sound that is incorrect.
Instead, you will want to pluck at the strings firmly, but not harshly. Some people will choose to brush the strings rather than pluck them if they want to create a softer sound.
When plucking the strings, the angle you use is important. You will want to maintain a 90-degree angle with your hand where possible. If your hand is tilted, this will make playing more difficult. When doing this, your thumb will be placed at a 45-degree angle.
Once you have the correct angles, you will want to start practicing picking each string individually. At this stage, you do not need to worry about making any chords with your left hand, just focus on the picking technique.
As you begin to gain confidence, you will want to start increasing your speed and combine your picking to use more than one finger at once. Once you are comfortable with this, you can then create chords with your left hand, and combine the both together.
When fingerpicking for the first time, it will be painful. Just as it is painful on the tips of your fingers when pressing down chords for the first time, you will need to get your fingers used to this technique.
However, you do not want to be disheartened by this. It is perfectly normal, and the more you practice this technique, the more comfortable your fingers will be doing this.
Different styles of fingerpicking
There are three main types of fingerpicking that we have already touched upon. However, here is some further information for each:
This is the style we have already discussed and is the best option for beginners. This is when you play each note in the chord separately, focusing on one string at a time.
Brushing is when you brush your fingers across more than one string at once. It creates a sound that is the most similar to strumming, but you can still hear all the strings separately. The sound is not harsh, but soft.
This technique is similar to the arpeggio, but instead of playing all the strings in a chord separately, you will play them all at the same time. This does take some practice.
What are the basics of fingerstyle guitar playing?
The basics of fingerstyle guitar playing include mastering the fingerpicking technique, developing finger independence, and practicing with a metronome to improve timing and rhythm.
It’s important to start with simple exercises and gradually work your way up to more complex patterns and techniques.
Which famous guitarists use fingerstyle techniques, and how can I learn from them?
Famous guitarists who use fingerstyle techniques include Tommy Emmanuel, Chet Atkins, and Andy McKee. You can study their playing by watching videos, attending their live shows or workshops, and learning their songs and techniques.
There are also many online resources and courses available that focus on fingerstyle guitar.
How can I improve my finger independence for fingerstyle guitar playing?
To improve your finger independence for fingerstyle guitar playing, you can practice finger independence exercises, such as playing different patterns with each finger.
It’s important to keep your hand relaxed and move your fingers from the knuckles, not your wrist. Consistent practice is also key to developing finger independence.
Are there any online resources or courses available for learning fingerstyle guitar?
Yes, there are many online resources and courses available for learning fingerstyle guitar. Websites like TrueFire and Guitar Tricks offer courses that cover fingerstyle techniques and patterns.
YouTube is also a great resource for free fingerstyle guitar lessons. Additionally, you can join online forums and communities to connect with other fingerstyle guitar enthusiasts and get feedback on your playing.
We hope you have found this article helpful. As you can see, fingerpicking is not too difficult. However, it does require practice. The more you practice fingerpicking, the easier it will become.
Once you are comfortable with the basic fingerpicking techniques, you can then combine the chords together, and also practice the brushing technique. While your fingers will hurt initially, this will stop once you have practiced and fingerpick often.
Remember that your technique is important when it comes to the correct sound.