title image

The Music Staff | Rests | Dotted Notes | Tied Notes | Timing | Time Signatures | Music Notation | Chromatic Scale | Major Diatonic Scale
Minor Diatonic Scale | Scale Modes | Complimentary Scales | Pentatonic Scale | Blues Scale | Chord Theory | Circle of Fifths
Alternate Guitar Tuning | Finger Picking | More Fingers | Intonation

Translate

Finger Picking

 Finger style guitar is perhaps one of the more "self" satisfying methods of playing the instrument. While there are indeed many impressive flat pickers playing today, there is still that little something extra that comes from listening to an accomplished finger stylist. The ability to run your own bass lines behind an endless array of melodic patterns opens up a whole new world of possibilities in self expression for the guitarist. Whether your intention is to play simple folk tunes, or emulate the styles of Richard Thompson, Terry Robb, or Justin King, (to name a few), the process starts at the same point, the ability to separate the inherent connection between the thumb and the fingers.  The following technique is not the "only" method or necessarily the "correct" method, it is merely "a" method that I use to teach finger picking. This is not meant for anyone seeking classical guitar technique, as the technique for classical is much more rigid, this is primarily for the casual picker who wishes to add something refreshing to their repertoire.

 Find a nice simple tune to work towards, be realistic in your selection, you are trying to teach your picking hand a new technique, so the less thought you have to give to the fretting hand the better. A nice simple "minimal chord" song is best, avoid things like "Vincent Black Lightning" or "Embryonic Journey", you don't want to divide your concentration between both hands. As with everything else in life, start out slow, get the basics down and go from there.

String fingers

 

 

 

 The first thing we need to discuss is which finger does what on the guitar. The most common and logical method used in all styles from flamenco, to classical, to backyard picking is the P-I-M-A method.

 The traditional designations for the picking fingers are; Thumb (p), Index (i), Middle (m) and Ring (a), these come from the Spanish, thumb-Pulgar; index-Indice; middle-Medio; ring-Anular; (also c for pinky-Chico , though the pinky is rarely used). The "p-i-m-a" system is pretty universal and we'll stick with it here.

 Each finger will be assigned to an individual string, the Index (p) plays the third (G) string, the Middle (m) plays the second (B) string, and the Ring (a) plays the first (E) string, with the Thumb playing the three bass string E, A, and D. This finger position is more of a "firm suggestion" rather than a rule, as there may come a time when you will use a different finger on a string to achieve a particular effect, but 99.9% of the time the rule sticks.

 

 

divide

Hand Position

 

 

 Find a comfortable position, this will most likely be the same way you would normally hold your guitar when you strum. Place your fingers according to the p-i-m-a  method, letting your arm rest comfortably over the top of the guitar. Your fingers, (i-m-a), should rest on the treble strings with your thumb, (p), on the 6th string, this will create an angle in your wrist of around 45°.  A couple of things worth mention, if you live in a humid climate you might want to get in the habit of draping a cloth over the top of the guitar where you arm rests, and when you practice the following exercises try to keep your hand loose and free, by free I mean do not get in the habit of using your pinky to brace your hand.

 The finger style revolves around an alternating bass-line, played with the thumb, that is "independent" of the fingers. This bass-line sets the tempo for the music piece with a steady 1-2-3-4 beat that will become a virtually sub-concious activity performed by your thumb. In order to achieve this the first exercise shows a steady bass beat that switches between a C chord & a G chord, (you can use any chord pattern that you prefer), the point is to perform the exercise to the point of abject boredom. Play it while watching TV, play it while having a conversation, if you can no longer stand the incessant bass-line, place a cloth under the strings and play it some more. The main objective is to turn the exercise into a completely sub-concious thumb motion performed on the bass strings. If your still conciously thinking about where the thumb will be going next, keep practicing!
  Let your fingers rest lightly on their respective strings when you practice the bass.

divide

 

 In Exercise #1 let you fingers rest on the treble strings, Index finger on the third, (G string), Middle finger on the second, (B string), and the Anular/Ring finger on the first, (E string). All you will be doing in Ex #1 is playing the alternating bass pattern, over and over, and over, and over.......

Exercise #1 - The Bass-Lines
(Click to Play)

divide

 

 In Exercise #2 we will be adding "just" the index finger to the mix. At this point you are probably hearing the bass-line from EX #1 in your sleep. Exercise 2 will be somewhat the same in that you want to practice till it's a sub-concious habit. Play the 3rd string with your index finger between each bass note played by the thumb, (p-i-p-i), as you alternate between your chords. These exercises will sound mechanical or robotic as you perform them over and over, but in the end you will see the rhythm begin to emerge. Practicing 'till it becomes a sub-concious motion of the thumb and fingers, will allow for greater flexibility in improvisation.

Exercise #2 - Bass Line & Index Finger
(Click to Play)

divide

 

 In Exercise #3 you will be adding your middle finger to the pattern of exercise #2. Here you will be alternating between the 3rd & 2nd strings, as well as between the bass strings. The thumb, as usual, plays the bass while your index plays the 3rd string and your middle finger plays the 2nd string, (p-i-p-m-p-i-p-m). Try to keep a nice steady beat, thumb, index, thumb, middle, thumb, index, etc....

Exercise #3 - Bass Line -Index Finger - Middle Finger
(Click to Play)

divide

 

 In Exercise #4 we are going to shed the mechanical/robotic feeling of the exercises. By extending the time duration of the first bass note in each measure, we can bring out a more rhythmic feeling to the exercise. We will play the first bass note in each measure, then return to our original pattern from the second bass note on, (p - - p -i - p - m - p - a).  In this exercise we are playing our original bass-lines, and playing  a 3 string pattern of 3rd, 2nd, 1st strings.

Exercise #4 - Three, Two, One
(Click to Play)

divide

 

  Exercise #5 is similar to Ex #4, with the only difference being the pattern of the treble strings. Instead of playing the 3rd, 2nd, 1st string pattern, we will now do 1st, 2nd, 3rd string pattern. ( (p - - p -a- p - m - p - i )

Exercise #5 - One, Two, Three
(Click to Play)

divide

 

 These above exercises will get you through the basic concepts of finger-style guitar, and with practice have you picking to some of your favorite tunes in short order. The more advanced/useful "fret-hand" techniques, such as Hammer ons, Pull offs, Slides, Bends, & Tapping all lend the same usefullness to finger style as they do to flat-picking. The use of alternate tunings for the guitar is another valuable tool to aid the finger-style guitarist, and info on the subject can be found here at "Alternate Tunings".

Fingerstyle playing, like all styles of guitar work, depends on "How Far" and "How Much", "How Far you want to go and How Much effort you are willing to apply to get there. The above gives you all the basics you need, we will follow up with more techniques in the near future. Feel free to comment or ask questions.

divide

 

The Music Staff | Rests | Dotted Notes | Tied Notes | Timing | Time Signatures | Music Notation | Chromatic Scale | Major Diatonic Scale
Minor Diatonic Scale | Scale Modes | Complimentary Scales | Pentatonic Scale | Blues Scale | Chord Theory | Circle of Fifths
Alternate Guitar Tuning | Finger Picking | More Fingers | Intonation

divide

 

Aces and Eighths. A music resource site.    Link To Us

Site Map map link        Comments or Questions    Mail box       Submissions submissions
Privacy Policy

 Share
Digg Reddit Del.icio.us Ma.gnolia Stumble Upon Facebook Twitter Google Yahoo! MyWeb Furl" BlinkList Technorati Mixx Windows Live Bookmark

Custom Search

AcesandEighths.com - All Respective Copyrights © Apply. Please See Privacy Policy