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Fingerpicking a Tele?

Discussion in 'Telecaster Discussion Forum' started by GaryOsborne, Jan 30, 2014.

  1. GaryOsborne

    GaryOsborne RIP

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    I've wondered about this for a while now. Any of you guys out there play your teles with just your fingers live? I've heard Keith Urban plays this way and I'm sure there's others. But when I try to do it, it really doesn't sound right if im plugged into an amp. I can fingerpick really well on an acoustic and I'm good on my tele but only if im playing it acoustically. Once I plug it in it doesn't sound right. Especially when I hit open strings. Because of this I've been hybrid picking(pick and fingers) almost exclusively for the last year or so. I'm getting pretty ok at it. It's just weird. If I play a really fast lick with just my fingers it's no problem. But if I try to hybrid pick that same lick, it's much more difficult. And like I said, even if I play it correctly, it doesn't sound right through an amp (with only my fingers).

    I guess my question is this: Is there anything I can do like change amp settings, strings, setup, etc that will make it sound right? How do people do it without it sounding bad? Maybe I just need more practice. For now I'll stick with the hybrid style. God knows I could use more practice with that. Lol

    Thanks.
    Gary.
     
  2. xtrajerry

    xtrajerry Doctor of Teleocity

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    Practice and a compressor.. turn up amp turn down guitar.. that's all i got..
     
  3. Twang Guitars

    Twang Guitars Tele-Meister

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    I use a Herco Light Thumb pick and my fingers in combination, works for me.
     
  4. NiceTele

    NiceTele Tele-Afflicted

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    I've started using finger picking on my Tele more often for country stuff. I usually have a boost OD pedal (Fulldrive- comp cut setting) to really get the guitar hot into the amp without too much distortion, and then I don't need to pluck so hard to get big notes. I use thumb and first and second fingers, no picks- I also found I finger pick better when I have the guitar higher up, rather than down around the belt when standing.
     
  5. GaryOsborne

    GaryOsborne RIP

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    Good stuff. Keep it coming. The compressor really makes sense to try to even out the volume of all the strings. I've been playing pedal-less lately though.
    I've tried a thumb pick before but I've never really had one that fit my thumb right (I have really big fingers/hands). I'll have to buy one and try again
    Thanks.
    Gary.
     
  6. DirtyDanTele

    DirtyDanTele Tele-Meister

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    Never could play only finger picking on an electric. Can on an acoustic just fine. I'll stick with hybrd picking. No advice other than practice, you gotta want to, I didn't.
     
  7. jonsongz

    jonsongz Tele-Meister

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    What guitar and amp? A lot depends on that. As xtrajerry says a compressor will help..it will even up the tone and especially the volume when you hit each string with a different attack. I'm a hybrid picker on electric for two reasons. The first is because I like to have a pick in my hand when I need it to move faster and quicker over the strings. The second reason is because I can never get the bass strings to sound as bright and percussive as I can without a pick. That being said I love playing some kinds of music with just my fingers. Slow blues especially sound so good when you finger pluck notes rather use a pick. Something about the way the note attacks more slowly with a bassy tonality and then brightens after you hit it....
     
  8. xtrajerry

    xtrajerry Doctor of Teleocity

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    You have to retrain your fingers, right now muscle memory, nervous system has been trained to strum an acoustic.. it'll take a little time to get fingers trained for the tele.. one day you will struggle next day you'll not even realize that you aren't struggling..make sure you stop as soon as you get tired and playing gets sloppy..
     
  9. FredDairy

    FredDairy Friend of Leo's

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    It's all in the player's fingers. A compressor isn't going to make you sound any better. This link shows Chet Atkins playing a Telecaster. If you know Chet's playing and you heard this blindfolded you would have a thought it was him and assumed it was on his Gretsch as to it sounds JUST like him.

    I really got into fingerpicking a few years ago. Even bought a couple of Gretsches to try and get closer to Chet's tone. I had the same problem plugged in it sounded weird and well more sloppy than when I was unplugged. Fingerstyle, good fingerstle is a life long task.
     
  10. Jack Kindler

    Jack Kindler TDPRI Member

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    Would love too see this, Fred, no link though.
     
  11. Slidedude

    Slidedude Tele-Holic

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    A little unrelated perhaps, but...

    I used to use a pick all the time, including when I played slide. I did some shows years ago with a really great slide guitarist, and he suggested I try losing the pick. - especially since I was playing slide in standard tuning. Having my fingers free to mute those unwanted strings really helped my slide work, and the tone of bare fingers is just...rounder and more organic. I spent several years working on it, but now it's second nature... And I rarely pull a pick out at all these days, even for standard playing.

    Just practice. My .02.
     
  12. FredDairy

    FredDairy Friend of Leo's

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  13. Steve_U1S

    Steve_U1S Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

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    Only semi-related...
    I've been very much a pick-using player for the most part, starting on acoustic, and on to electric many moons ago.
    I started off loving the Tele, absorbing a lot of 'Outlaw' country and the like.
    I taught myself to finger-pick as well, being as it's 'right' for certain contexts.
    Then I moved off to electric more, and then diverted to rock (EVH got me) and worked though all that. I never lost the ability to finger pick, as it comes into play contextually all the time. Side-note; adopted Eddie's finger-tapping method of tucking the pick into crook of middle finger.
    ... skip forward to this past year; started sitting in with an old friend, playing a lot of country and classic rock and such-like. I noted that I was tucking the pick into my middle finger as though to tap, more and more; it was in order to attack the strings with my fingers... but the pick was a heartbeat away at all times for anything that needed that staccato or sharper sound.
    That's been developing; now, for that type of playing, I'm 95% or more just fingers, but I also 'can't' (or maybe won't) play without a pick at the ready in that middle finger.

    So for me it was a natural shift toward that approach; it's given me a whole new world of dynamics... and this comes from someone who wouldn't have /dreamed/ of playing anything aggressive without a pick.
    ... but really, using my fingers gives me a lot of control over dynamics; when I take a solo, it pops out, and I'm not using any type of volume boosting; just the fingers and pick combo.
    I also hybrid pick where appropriate... still working on that to even it all out, as I can't seem to work with finger picks, and growing or gluing on nails just isn't an option for me.
     
  14. El_Diablo

    El_Diablo Tele-Meister

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  15. Old Bill

    Old Bill Tele-Holic

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    There must be dozens of teachers where you live. Have a couple of lessons......like golfers do occaisionally. Good luck.
     
  16. stephent2

    stephent2 Poster Extraordinaire

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    I play with flesh and nail about half the time on stage, I palm the pick.
     
  17. sbpark

    sbpark Friend of Leo's

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    I went through the same thing a year or so ago when I started playing more country stuff. Have always been a good finger picker on an acoustic, but had trouble once I switched over to an electric. I do best when I just use my thumb, index and middle fingers, but an still working with hybrid picking while holding a pick and using my middle and ring finger. I've tried pretty much every kind of thumb pick because this would be the best of both worlds, but just can't get used to it. I think I play with the pick at a certain angle that I cannot replicate with a thumb pick and it just isn't right. I've tried a bunch of different brands and types including pretty much every thumb pick from Fred Kelly including the Bumblebee with no success.

    At first it was VERY akward, but it does get better. Also, the more you do it and get the feel for it, the better it will sound.

    As far as strings, I'd say thins is a very personal thing, and you just need to experiment. I tried everything from heavy gauge 11's, which are great for really digging in while finger picking, but were harder to do stuff like pedal steel bends, etc., and I finally settled on Ernie Ball hybrids 9-46, for my Tele, and 10-46 for my SG.

    I have gone through a compressor phase and have tried and own several (Whirlwind Red Box which is a hand-wired clone of a vintage MXR script, Boss CS-2, DOD Milkbox and an Xotic SP Compressor.) My two favorites are the Wirlwind and the CS-2, but still don't really use either. I just felt like with pretty much any compressor I lots some of the snap of the attack and crispness, and didn't think that was worth it to make up for my crappy finger picking, so just said screw the compressor and forced myself to improve without one.
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2014
  18. Blackie1956

    Blackie1956 Tele-Meister

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    I, too, have switched from acoustic (finger-picking) to electric. Here's my two cents worth. I am not a guitar expert, but I'll share my thoughts just in case you find it useful. I suspect the issue you are having stems from the interaction of your finger tips and the strings alone (so...see below).

    I, too, have watched really great (electric) finger pickers, such as Vince Gill, Mark Kopfler, etc., who can deliver crisp, sharp tones at lightening speed, and I love that plucky sound. It's quite impressive, and in some ways delivers a better sonic result than a flat pick. The converse is true as well.

    Strings: if you try a super light gauge, such as the A'ddario EXL 120+, you will have 9.5-44. These are light by electric standards and even lighter feeling to folks like us who are use to acoustic strings. BUT...you can get more pluck from them, which helps with volume. Still, if you have short fingernails (or even just one that's short), then that will hinder the final tone.

    Surface material hitting the strings: a flat pick is hard, and produces a crisp volume. Flesh...not so much. If you are unable to grow durable long nails, which will give you that crisp sound, then use acrylic or press-ons, just like James Taylor or Paul Simon do.

    I'd recommend you experiment with light strings (9's or 10's), and address your fingernails so that nail or artificial nail is striking the strings, not flesh.

    Good luck!
     
  19. raito

    raito Poster Extraordinaire

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    I don't use picks at all, but I'm not all that good. And a lot of times I'm more Wes Montgomery than, say, Mark Knopfler (thumb vs. fingers).

    About the only thing I've seen is that if you're not using your nails (and I don't much), you don't get the sharp attack like you would with a pick. And it seems harder to get accents to stand out.
     
  20. Marshall_Stack

    Marshall_Stack Friend of Leo's

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    Just double checking - you did not find a thumb pick you could work with?
    I have a box full of them - I can't get used to my thumb being that extra 1/4" away from the strings. I keep trying new ones.
     
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