Fingerstyle strings?

Discussion in 'Acoustic Heaven' started by Tomm Williams, Mar 26, 2020 at 11:31 AM.

  1. Tomm Williams

    Tomm Williams Tele-Afflicted

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    In the past several weeks I've become obsessed with learning to play fingerstyle. It's something I've largely avoided as I have an injured right index finger (picking hand) from an accident years ago that makes it a bit more challenging. So far my favorite guitar to do this on is actually far and away my cheapest, a Breedlove Discovery Concert Mahogany that for some reason seems easier to play fingerstyle on than either of my two Taylors ?
    So question is, with fingerstyle do any of you steer towards a different string set from your other styles of playing?
     
  2. FredDairy

    FredDairy Friend of Leo's

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    Nope. Use whatever works best with your fingers. Different strings will react with your nails different than the meat of your fingers. Bare thumb or thumb pick? Find a gauge you like and a type you like the sound of then build your tone around that.

    I've heard Chet Atkins play random guitars and always sound like himself.
     
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  3. Toadtele

    Toadtele Tele-Afflicted

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    What he said. But I would also throw out the idea of finding an affordable nylon string to work with as well. Really helped me.
     
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  4. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    I'm a fingerstyle player. I also build and set up acoustic guitars. When I build a fingerstyle guitar I choose a string composition that I think sounds best with the particular wood and body size, and I choose the gauge based on the size and bracing of the guitar. Pretty much by definition that will be a smaller bodied guitar with fairly light bracing. I bias the setup towards the low side and typically use industry light gauges. You'll have to make up your own mind whether the trade offs with coated or long lasting strings are worth the cost and sound - I happen to think they are.

    I think the more important thing for a fingerstyle guitarist is proper setup. Its also worth considering that many fingerstyle songs are in altered tunings, that can often mean slight changes in strings and action
     
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  5. FredDairy

    FredDairy Friend of Leo's

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    Yes! Great idea. A few years ago I got really into finger style bought a pricey Gretsch and got into Jerry Reed. When I learned he played a cheapo classical guitar I got one too. I played that more than the Gretsch.
     
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  6. Charlie Bernstein

    Charlie Bernstein Poster Extraordinaire

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    No. Wuffo? What works for strumming and soloing works for finger picking.

    I use bluegrass dobro strings for my squareneck and mandolin strings for my mandos, surpise, surprise. On my electrics I mostly use whatever electric nines are on the rack.
     
  7. PhredE

    PhredE Tele-Meister

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    For those wanting to improve their right [plucking] hand technique and can read music notation.. Check out the 'go to' book from the classical world (not to 'point' anyone to a particular source, but just wanted to offer an easily recognizable and legit site).

    Mauro Guiliani's 120 Studies for Right Hand Development (I know, I know, sorry lefties!)
    https://www.amazon.com/dp/0898981905
    If anyone does pick it up, here's a helpful hint to remember:
    p = thumb,
    i = index,
    m = middle
    a = annular ("ring')

    I saw this mentioned in another thread recently, but it is a worth mentioning again.

    +1 on the classical guitar. Give it a try.
     
  8. OldDude2

    OldDude2 Tele-Afflicted

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    I use to warm up with a simple right hand argeggio with all four fingers. It helped me include the pinkie on some songs, but mostly I used it to "showboat" my buddies especially when they were watching closely:rolleyes:

    & then I went to a Joe Satriani concert and saw "real" talent:eek:
     
  9. ale.istotle

    ale.istotle Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    Of course any acoustic string set will work, but I enjoy the feel of silver-plated copper wound steel strings. The tension is a little lower than other strings and i like the tone. Labella makes a nice set. D'Addario did make some, but i can't find them now. You may also enjoy silk and steel's for their lower tension. Try a few things. Have some fun.
     
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  10. Dreadnut

    Dreadnut Tele-Holic

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  11. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    Tomm, I just looked at the spec's on your Breedlove. It is mahogany topped, long scale, and the factory recommended strings are D'Addario EJ-16's. Those would have 161 pounds of tension on your guitar. The first two strings are slightly lighter tension than the others - you may or may not actually feel that when you play (we often try to maintain more or less the same tension across the strings). I consider Phosphor Bronze a "warm" sounding string compared to 80/20, which to my ears are brighter (that is something that is very easy for you to determine for yourself and should be one of the first experiments that you do). EJ's are not a coated string like Elixers - they will have a medium life span.

    That is actually the generic string that I put on many guitars when I work on them and do setups. It is not necessarily the string that I play on my guitars, but bang for the buck I think they are a great compromise. Obviously if I'm doing a setup for someone and they have a preference I'll put whatever they want.

    So that would be a very good place to start - put a set of EJ16's on your guitar, then switch to EJ13's which are the same gauge but 80/20. They should feel the same but sound different - decide which you like the best. Then try some mediums in the same composition (EJ16 or EJ12's). You can also try some of the lighter gauges but I personally think that an acoustic guitar needs at least 12's to drive it. Most of the time you can switch one standard string gauge (light to medium for example) without affecting the setup, any more than that and you might need to.

    You can then try D'Addario's extended life strings EXP's in the gauge and composition that you liked. They will be more expensive but last longer - is the tradeoff worth it? At this point you can try some other manufacturers - DR or Elixer or whatever - keep comparing them to the D'Addario that you liked the best.

    Down tuning your guitar one semi tone is approximately the same tension as going one standard gauge lighter - that is an easy way to compare tensions. If you are going to do a lot of down tuning you might want to consider bumping your string gauges up a bit. Most people will be satisfied with either PB or 80/20's in either lights or mediums, but there are lots of other kind of gimmics - different compositions, round vs hex cores, treatments, and even things like flat wounds (which I like on my jazz guitar) and silk and steel (which I don't like on any guitar).

    Thats how I select strings, but as I said in my earlier post, for the best playing have your guitar(s) set up by someone who knows what they are doing for your playing style
     
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  12. LGOberean

    LGOberean Doctor of Teleocity

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    First of all, I relate to playing fingerstyle on a Breedlove Concert. I have two Breedloves, a Concert and a dreadnought, as you can see in the pic below.
    Breedlove T-shirt, 2.jpg

    Breedlove's Concert size/shaped guitars are very comfortable to play. I believe they are voiced well for fingerstyle playing. Mine is a an older MiK one, a Passport Plus C250/SBe (solid Sitka spruce top, Bubinga back & sides). I don't know exactly how old, since I bought it used in the spring of 2016. But it predates the logo change on the headstock, so it's no later than 2013. (My Breedlove dread I bought new in 2008.)
    08-25-2019 - Me & my Breedlove Concert at Pedernales State Park - 2.jpg

    Secondly, I wish you success in overcoming the challenge of playing fingerstyle with a damaged digit. Thirdly, as for strings, I use the same brand and metal alloy on this guitar that I do my other acoustics: D'Addario Phosphor bronze. I prefer the tone of phosphor bronze to other options: brass (80/20), nickel bronze, etc. That preference doesn't change if I'm using a pick or my fingers. Phosphor bronze has a warmer tone, and I suppose some may choose 80/20 or whatever for a brighter tone when playing with the fleshy part of their fingertips instead of a pic. But I still prefer the tone of PB.

    FWIW, I don't use a thumbpick or my nails (I don't like the feel of the metal strings underneath my nails) when I play fingerstyle. So it's just the fleshy part of my fingertips on my right hand that touches the strings.
     
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  13. toomuchfun

    toomuchfun Tele-Afflicted

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    I'm not sure when you say "string set" if you're talking gauge or brand. I know a lot of fingerstyle players who use Newtone strings. I tried some for flatpicking and found them a little too responsive to the pick.
     
  14. Califiddler

    Califiddler Friend of Leo's

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    Nope. How would this even work? Wouldn't you have to have multiple guitars? One set up for fingerpicking, one for flatpicking, one for strumming, etc.?
     
  15. acVox

    acVox TDPRI Member

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    I play only fingerstyle and the two steel string guitars I play most are both 12 fret models.
    One is a small body (approx 00 size) with a Cedar top Ebony board Mahogany neck, back and sides.
    The maker advised an 11 - 52 set and I have found that 80/20 bronze sound slightly better than Phosphor Bronze on this guitar.(yes I know..)

    The other 12fret is a large slope shoulder Dreadnought, with a Sitka Spruce top Rosewood board, and Rosewood back and sides.
    I've always used 12 - 56 on any dreadnought size guitar, but after experimenting I tried dropping a gauge to 11-52 and have never looked back, I can't explain why but the guitar just sings in a way I never thought possible. I switch between 80/20 bronze and Phosphor Bronze, but as I use a lot of open tunings some sound better with one type over the other. I use D, Addario's.

    I'm about to drop a gauge on my small bodied 12 fetter to 10-46...we'll see how it goes
     
  16. Matt Sarad

    Matt Sarad Tele-Meister

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