Fingerstyle help/tips

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by alathIN, Sep 25, 2019.

  1. alathIN

    alathIN Tele-Holic

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    I'm kind of a prodigal guitarist - played as a teenager and then didn't touch a guitar for 32 years. I had a great teacher who was always trying to get me to use the fingers of my right hand but fool teenage me didn't have the patience. So when I started playing again I decided to learn fingerstyle in a kind of belated repentance.

    It's been a lot of fun and I've progressed a lot, but watching really good fingerpickers I see some stuff that's holding me back.

    Watching Knopfler in particular, I'm amazed at the economy of his right hand movements. You can barely tell that his fingers are moving. It's not just him; they're all like that. When I watch my right hand my fingers are moving a lot more, further away from the strings, and therefore have a longer way to get back ready for the next note.

    Also I notice there is tension in my right hand which I would be very surprised if the better fingerpickers have.

    I do pay attention to getting my thumb out in front and fingers behind, and keeping some curve in my fingers, which seems to help. And when I slow WAY down and really focus on it, I am able to avoid SOME of the excess movement - but still moving more than the folks who are really good at it.

    I'd appreciate any tips or hints or suggestions that might help me clean up my right hand technique.
     
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  2. thebowl

    thebowl Tele-Meister

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    Well, your story is very similar to mine. VERY similar. My advice would be to develop an approach that you find to be the most comfortable and that allows you to develop speed, as best you can. I use thumb and basically three fingers. I have noticed that I use my index finger very little, but my point is that this just sort of developed without me really consciously deciding to do it that way, and without spending much if any time looking at my right hand while playing. I would completely ignore how anyone else plays, either the number of fingers or how their playing looks to you, and certainly someone as accomplished as Mark Knopfler. It seems to me that that is simply going to mess you up, make it more complicated than it needs to be.

    The closest that I have come to what you are talking about is that I have forced myself to wear a slide on my little finger, based on the advice of people like Arlen Roth. It is logical, but I'm still not completely sure that I wouldn't be more comfortable with it on my third finger. But, I digress. Good luck.
     
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  3. Pualee

    Pualee Tele-Holic

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    I'm looking to develop the same - so my advice is based on a search, not based on proof it works.

    I picked up "pumping nylon" with the goal to practice it on electric, not classical guitar. The exercises and explanations include a looking at economy of motion. You may find value trying to read through that. Keep in mind it is focused on classical guitar, not necessarily a genre you want to learn.

    However, I think familiarity with the exercises will translate to any style you play.
     
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  4. Tommy Biggs

    Tommy Biggs Friend of Leo's

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    Work that thumb.
     
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  5. WingedWords

    WingedWords Tele-Afflicted

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    alathin - it's just practice. Hours of repetition over the years. I'm way off being good, but I've been doing it 50 years and I've noticed improvement.

    What to practice is the big question. I've found these very helpful:

    Mark Hanson - The art of Contemporary Travis Picking (and the follow up Solo book.)

    Ken Perlman - Fingerstyle guitar

    And Scott Tennant's Pumping Nylon has more for the left hand than right, but still very well worth looking at daily.

    Heavier stuff on the same lines is
    Ricardo Iznaola - Kitharalogus

    Classical guitar is my #1, but I play a lot of fingerstyle folk blues Mississippi John Hurt sort of thing and my daily Tennant and Iznaola work pays enormously in my righthand finger independence and economy. 10 or 20 mins of real concentrated slow work will be good. Bit tedious, but huge rewards over time.

    Enjoy the journey!
     
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  6. Tonetele

    Tonetele Poster Extraordinaire

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    I gave up playing with a pick( not forever) in the early 90s.
    Look at Youtube videos of MK and Tommy Emmanuel. Do NOT be overawed. Listen to what they say and practise. Chet Atkins is beyond all of us.
    Anchor your right hand, tinkle away on chords. Use all fingers if possible, the pinky is the one not to worry about at first- you can decide when or if you want to use it . MK does not!
    Take care of your nails, I don't use finger picks. A true Maestro and friend actually encouraged me not to change my playing but keep on figerpickingI am now re-learning how to use a pick when I used to be pretty fast with one.
    Just do a little each day and you'll be fine and will see, hear and feel the improvement.
    Play lots of Neil Young, Eagles and Dire Straits. Good luck in your venture.
     
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  7. WingedWords

    WingedWords Tele-Afflicted

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    I was thinking about this while we were out just now doing the weekend shop and remembered that the teacher who introduced me to Pumping Nylon and especially Kitharalogus said to me that exercises like that were like medicine to be prescribed by a doctor to cure an illness, not like a daily multivitamin. So just to add that caveat.

    And I've just dug out my copies of the Mark Hanson books. If you spend a couple of years working on those methodically I reckon you'd be a good way towards your goal. There's stuff in there that I'd like to brush up.
     
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  8. rangercaster

    rangercaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    Merle Travis played using his thumb and index finger ... Start there ... Then just add more fingers ... Knopfler suggests starting out using thumb on the three lower bass strings and fingers on the other three, eventually using both on all strings as your skills evolve ...
     
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  9. Alter

    Alter Tele-Meister

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    Man, this book Pumping nylon must be really good, everybody seems to have it! (I too have studied through it).

    For me fingerstyle is about attention to detail, not doing fancy things in an average way, but doing simple things as perfect as possible. What really helped me was studying some classical, as they have a 500 year old tradition already.

    Another important thing that really made a difference for me was moving from mainly playing exercises to improve technique, into mainly playing tunes (and/or classical pieces). Don't know why, maybe playing actual music helps you focus and really pay attention to tone, playing phrases as beautifully and accurately as possible etc., but i felt it really made a difference in the pace i was progressing.

    So i 'd practice Bach... or Tommy Emmanuel! :)
     
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  10. JL_LI

    JL_LI Friend of Leo's

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    Technique is critical if you hope to be a classical guitarist. You can develop a style that works for you if you play country, rock, or pop. I use my thumb in the wound strings and pluck the unwound strings. I rely on my index finger and my ring finger because they fall where the strings are. I use my middle finger for triple stops. I don’t Travis pick. I usually thumb strum two or three and then pluck the unwound strings. It may sound awkward and it definitely looks atypical but I’ve gotten bluegrass fast. Practice and you’ll get there. Use an unorthodox style you won’t sound like anyone else... in a good way.
     
  11. cousinpaul

    cousinpaul Friend of Leo's

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    I worked up a simple style based on a drum kit to accompany my vocals. Over the years, I've learned to add embellishments and fills without the bottom falling out or losing the groove. I realize we all have different goals but looking at some drum patterns might be a good place to start.
     
  12. Chunkocaster

    Chunkocaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    I just stopped using a pick and play the same practice drills using fingers only.
    I didn't really set out to play fingers only, just started with learning a couple songs and then progressed from there. I've recently been practicing with a pick again as I started getting sloppy with it due to lack of use. Now I have to practice everything with and without a pick.
    You will just adapt to using fingers only in your own way over time.
     
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