Learn Acoustic Guitar - Finger Picking Techniques

 > Video Credit: martyzsongs

By Dave Long and Matt Abdallah 

Finger picking can be quite an interesting alternative for a person that is learning to play acoustic guitar. With practice, a guitarist can sound almost as though they were playing two separate instruments at once, which can create some very compelling and interesting solo arrangements.

Generally, finger style guitar is slower at playing notes on one string or fast chord progressions in comparison to a pick player. There are more specialized techniques that allow players to get around these limitations. Other than higher level classical and flamenco guitarists, most people will simply not need these techniques.

However, in comparison to a pick player, it is much easier to skip strings or to play non-adjacent strings at the same time with finger picking, so there are advantages even for a player first beginning to use this style.

Basic Fingerstyle Guitar 

Unlike using a pick, the strings are played directly using the fingers. While there are some variations in much higher level playing, on a basic level of playing, it is pretty straightforward.

The thumb covers the low E, A, and D strings. The index finger plays the G string, the middle finger plays the B string, and the ring finger plays the high e string. The pinky finger is not used, and usually just follows the ring finger to keep it out of the way.

Simply pick a chord and cycle through the fingers, see how much more interesting the basic chords sound simply by playing through the strings one at a time rather than all at once. Once comfortable using each finger to strike the correct string, try combining the fingers and then mixing between one and multiple strings at the same time. By playing around with the picking arrangement, some really interesting parts can be created.

Common Fingerpicking Patterns Part 1
> Video Credit: iVideosongs

Exceptions to Basic Rules 

There are a few things that may crop up which violate the basic rules as to what finger strikes each string. For one thing, using the same finger twice in a row is fairly rare in finger style. Sometimes this will actually be the fretting hand hammering on and pulling off the string to create the extra notes, but other times it is because other fingers are being brought in.

One common exception is for the index finger to play the D or even A strings, if the thumb is occupied on a lower string. Sometimes that middle and ring finger will also shift up to high the next lowest string as well when this happens. With practice and experience these situations should be more easily recognizable.

Tremolo picking is another of these exceptions. This is a technique used to rapidly play the same string multiple times in a row. Rather than trying to use the same finger over and over again, the guitarist will cycle through the index, middle, and ring fingers continuously through the passage.

Quite often the thumb will also be playing notes during these passages on other strings as well. This can be a more difficult technique to learn, but once mastered, it opens many possibilities that would otherwise not been available.

> Dave Long is the owner of http://www.LearningAcousticGuitar.net where he provides acoustic guitar tips and advice.

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