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Learn Fingerpicking to be a real pro

Mar 19, 2008
Short Description: Classical guitarists use their fingers to pick the strings. Folk and Rock artists also prefer to fingerpick. Apart from the visual appeal it gives them unlimited opportunities to improvise.

If you're using a pick, you can strike only one string at a time but if you use your fingers you can pick at least four strings (that is, leaving out the small finger) at one go. This is the benefit of fingerpicking and it gives immense scope of improvisation. That is why classical guitarists never use a pick, they always fingerpick while playing.

Classical guitarists actually denote each finger by a letter. They have assigned P to thumb, I to index finger, M to middle finger, A to ring finger and C to little finger. There is a very easy way of remembering it - "Poor Idiots' Memories Are Crap".

Before you begin to fingerpick be sure you know the position of the strings in your guitar (E-A-D-G-B-E). The thinnest string is the first or high E string and the thickest is the sixth or low E string. Thus high E is the lowermost and low E is the uppermost string in your guitar. In between, from bottom to top, lie the four strings B-G-D-A.

Sling your right arm gently over the body of the guitar such that the fingers hang loosely over the sound hole. Place your thumb on low E and gently curl the other fingers. Your little finger will be hardly of any use. It is usually too small and weak for plucking strings. Now place your index finger on G, middle finger on B and the ring finger on high E.

Now use your thumb to pick strings low E, A and D downwards. If you feel it'd help, you may bend the thumb a little but pick the strings with fleshy part of your thumb only. After you've got a feel of strings E, A and D, start picking G, B and high E downwards with fingers poised over them. When you are sufficiently confident, start picking the strings upward.

If the sound is too soft, just pick the strings harder. It'd be better to keep your palm as still as possible and use fingers only for picking the strings. I have another advice. Pull back your fingers as soon as they have plucked a string. If they still touch the strings sound gets muted. It is very important to remember this while you fingerpick.

A small word here for your pinkie. Some players keep it free while some others rest it on the bridge of the guitar for an additional support. I feel you should try out both and see what suits you best.

You may also start growing nails on your picking fingers. This helps in picking and you get a brighter sound too.
About the Author
Before you go spending a ton on 1-on-1 guitar lessons, make sure you check out Crazy Dave's in-depth breakdown of the #1 instructional video guitar course on the net - learn and master guitar. Dave's site offers 35 free guitar licks!
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