Acoustic guitar picking is a fundamental skill that every guitarist should master. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced player, learning how to fingerpick can add a whole new dimension to your playing. Fingerpicking is a technique that involves plucking the strings of the guitar with your fingers instead of using a pick. It allows you to play intricate melodies, complex chord progressions, and beautiful arpeggios that are not possible with a pick.
Fingerpicking is a versatile technique that can be used in a wide variety of musical genres, including folk, blues, country, and classical music. It is a popular technique among acoustic guitarists because it allows them to create a full and rich sound without the need for additional instruments. With fingerpicking, you can play the bass, rhythm, and melody simultaneously, which makes it a great technique for solo performances.
If you’re new to fingerpicking, don’t worry. With a little practice and patience, anyone can learn how to fingerpick on the acoustic guitar. In this article, we will explore the basics of fingerpicking, including hand positioning, finger placement, and common fingerpicking patterns. We’ll also provide you with some tips and tricks to help you improve your fingerpicking technique and take your playing to the next level.
Understanding Acoustic Guitar Picking
Acoustic guitar picking is a technique that allows guitarists to bring out the best sound from their instrument. It involves using a pick to strike the strings of the guitar in a specific manner to produce a melody or rhythm. This technique is essential for playing a wide range of music genres, including bluegrass, folk, rock, and country.
To become proficient in acoustic guitar picking, you need to develop a good technique. This involves holding the pick correctly, using the right amount of pressure, and maintaining proper hand positioning. Additionally, flexibility, accuracy, and control are key elements of acoustic guitar picking.
One of the most important aspects of acoustic guitar picking is the pick itself. There are various types of picks available, each with its unique characteristics. The thickness and shape of the pick can significantly affect the sound produced. For instance, a thicker pick can produce a louder and more robust sound, while a thinner pick can produce a softer and more delicate sound.
When picking the strings, it is essential to maintain a consistent rhythm and tempo. This allows for a smooth and even sound. Using a metronome can help you keep time and develop your sense of rhythm.
Another important aspect of acoustic guitar picking is the style. There are various styles of acoustic guitar picking, including Travis picking, crosspicking, and fingerpicking. Each style involves a different technique and produces a unique sound.
In conclusion, acoustic guitar picking is an essential technique for any guitarist looking to improve their playing. It requires practice, patience, and dedication. By mastering this technique, you can unlock the full potential of your acoustic guitar and create beautiful music.
Types of Picking Styles
When it comes to playing acoustic guitar, there are several different picking styles to choose from. Each style has its own unique sound and technique, and can be used to play a variety of genres, including folk, blues, jazz, country, and bluegrass. In this section, we’ll explore some of the most common picking styles used by guitarists today.
Fingerstyle picking, also known as fingerpicking, is a technique in which the guitarist uses their fingers to pluck the strings of the guitar instead of using a pick. This technique is commonly used in folk and acoustic music, and can create a more intricate and delicate sound than other picking styles. Fingerstyle picking allows for more control over individual notes and can be used to play both melody and accompaniment simultaneously. Some notable fingerstyle guitarists include Tommy Emmanuel, Chet Atkins, and Andy McKee.
Flatpicking, also known as alternate picking, is a technique in which the guitarist uses a pick to strike the strings of the guitar in a consistent up-down motion. This technique is commonly used in country and bluegrass music, and can create a bright and percussive sound. Flatpicking allows for fast and precise picking, making it ideal for playing complex melodies and solos. Some notable flatpicking guitarists include Doc Watson, Tony Rice, and Bryan Sutton.
Travis picking, also known as thumb picking, is a technique in which the guitarist uses their thumb to play a steady bass line while simultaneously using their fingers to pick out melody and harmony notes. This technique is commonly used in folk and blues music, and can create a full and rhythmic sound. Travis picking allows for a more complex and layered sound than other picking styles, and can be used to create both melody and accompaniment simultaneously. Some notable Travis picking guitarists include Merle Travis, Chet Atkins, and Jerry Reed.
Crosspicking is a technique in which the guitarist uses a combination of flatpicking and fingerpicking to create a complex and layered sound. This technique is commonly used in bluegrass and folk music, and can create a fast and intricate sound. Crosspicking allows for a more dynamic and varied sound than other picking styles, and can be used to play both melody and accompaniment simultaneously. Some notable crosspicking guitarists include David Grier, Dan Crary, and Tony Rice.
In conclusion, there are several different picking styles to choose from when playing acoustic guitar. Whether you prefer the delicate sound of fingerstyle picking or the percussive sound of flatpicking, there is a picking style out there for everyone. Experiment with different styles and techniques to find the one that best suits your playing style and musical preferences.
Essential Techniques for Acoustic Guitar Picking
If you want to improve your acoustic guitar picking skills, there are some essential techniques that you should master. In this section, we will cover some of the most important techniques that you need to know to become a proficient acoustic guitar picker.
Using a Metronome
One of the most important tools for improving your acoustic guitar picking skills is a metronome. A metronome is a device that produces a steady beat, which you can use to keep time while you practice. By practicing with a metronome, you can improve your timing, accuracy, and speed.
Playing with a Capo
Another technique that can help you improve your acoustic guitar picking skills is playing with a capo. A capo is a device that you can attach to the fretboard of your guitar to raise the pitch of the strings. By using a capo, you can play in different keys without having to learn new chord shapes. This can be especially helpful if you are a beginner or if you want to play along with other musicians.
Vibrato is a technique that can add expression and emotion to your acoustic guitar picking. It involves bending the string slightly back and forth while you play a note. To master vibrato, you need to practice bending the string with your fretting hand while maintaining a steady rhythm with your picking hand.
Hammer-ons are a technique that can help you play faster and more fluidly on your acoustic guitar. They involve playing a note with your fretting hand and then hammering down on the string with another finger to produce a higher pitch. To practice hammer-ons, start by playing a note with your first finger and then hammering down on the string with your second or third finger.
Harmonics are a technique that can produce a bell-like sound on your acoustic guitar. They involve lightly touching the string with your fretting hand at certain points to produce a high-pitched tone. To practice harmonics, start by lightly touching the string at the 12th fret with your fretting hand while you pluck the string with your picking hand.
By mastering these essential techniques for acoustic guitar picking, you can improve your skills and become a more proficient player. Remember to practice regularly and use a metronome to keep time and improve your timing. With time and practice, you can become a skilled and confident acoustic guitar picker.
Choosing the Right Guitar Pick
When it comes to acoustic guitar picking, choosing the right guitar pick is essential. The right pick can make all the difference in the sound you produce, and it can also impact your playing comfort. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a guitar pick.
Guitar picks come in a variety of materials, each with its own unique sound and feel. Here are some of the most common materials:
- Celluloid: A plastic material that is probably the most common material used for picks. Celluloid picks come in a wide range of colors and thicknesses, and they offer a warm, bright tone.
- Acrylic: A type of plastic that is harder and more durable than celluloid. Acrylic picks offer a brighter, more articulate tone than celluloid picks.
- Stone: Picks made of materials like agate, jade, and other stones offer a unique, natural tone. They are heavy and hard, making them ideal for aggressive playing styles.
- Wood: Wooden picks offer a warm, mellow tone, and they are popular among fingerstyle guitarists. They are also environmentally friendly.
- Metal: Picks made of materials like steel or brass offer a bright, metallic sound. They are heavy and durable, making them ideal for heavy strumming.
Weight and Size Choices
Once you have chosen the material, you need to consider the weight and size of the pick. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Thickness: Picks come in a range of thicknesses, from thin to heavy. Thin picks are ideal for strumming and playing fast, intricate passages, while heavy picks are better for aggressive playing styles.
- Shape: Picks come in a variety of shapes, including standard, teardrop, and jazz. The shape you choose can impact your playing comfort and technique.
- Size: Picks come in a range of sizes, from small to large. The size you choose can impact your playing comfort and the sound you produce.
In conclusion, choosing the right guitar pick is an important decision for any acoustic guitarist. By considering the material, weight, and size of the pick, you can find the perfect pick for your playing style and preferences.
Exploring Chords and Picking Patterns
When it comes to playing acoustic guitar, mastering chord progressions and picking patterns is essential for creating beautiful melodies. In this section, we’ll explore how to understand chord voicings and learn common picking patterns.
Understanding Chord Voicings
A chord is a group of notes played together to create harmony. Chord voicings refer to the specific arrangement of notes within a chord. Understanding chord voicings is crucial for creating a unique sound and adding variety to your playing.
One of the most common chords in acoustic guitar playing is the G chord. The G chord has several different voicings, including the standard G chord and the G6 chord. Experimenting with different voicings of the same chord can help you create a unique sound and add variety to your playing.
Learning Common Picking Patterns
Picking patterns are a series of plucking movements that create a rhythmic pattern. There are countless picking patterns to explore, but some of the most common include the Travis picking pattern, the Carter Family picking pattern, and the alternating bass picking pattern.
The Travis picking pattern involves alternating between the bass note and the higher strings of the chord. This pattern is commonly used in folk and country music. The Carter Family picking pattern involves a similar alternating bass line, but with a more complex fingerpicking pattern on the higher strings. This pattern is often used in bluegrass and country music.
The alternating bass picking pattern is a simple pattern that involves alternating between the bass note and the higher strings of the chord. This pattern is commonly used in blues and rock music.
In conclusion, exploring different chord voicings and picking patterns is essential for creating a unique sound and adding variety to your playing. Experiment with different chord voicings and picking patterns to find the ones that work best for you and your style of playing.
Practicing Songs and Melodies
Learning to play songs and melodies on the acoustic guitar is a great way to improve your picking skills. Practicing songs and melodies can help you develop your fingerpicking technique, timing, and accuracy. In this section, we will discuss some easy songs for beginners and how to incorporate melodies into your picking.
Easy Songs for Beginners
If you are a beginner, it is important to start with easy songs that have simple chord progressions and strumming patterns. Some great songs for beginners to practice their picking skills include “House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan, and “Horse with No Name” by America. These songs have easy-to-follow chord progressions and simple picking patterns that are perfect for beginners.
Incorporating Melodies into Picking
Once you have mastered some easy songs, it’s time to start incorporating melodies into your picking. Melodies are the most recognizable parts of a song, and learning to play them on the guitar can help you develop your picking skills and musicality. To incorporate melodies into your picking, start by learning the melody of a song’s verse or chorus. Once you have learned the melody, try playing it using a fingerpicking pattern.
One way to incorporate melodies into your picking is to use a thumb-picking technique. This technique involves using your thumb to play the bass notes of the melody while using your other fingers to play the higher notes. Another way to incorporate melodies into your picking is to use a hybrid picking technique. This technique involves using a pick to play the bass notes and your fingers to play the higher notes.
In conclusion, practicing songs and melodies is a great way to improve your acoustic guitar picking skills. Start with easy songs for beginners and gradually incorporate melodies into your picking. With practice and dedication, you will be able to develop your fingerpicking technique and musicality.
Influential Acoustic Guitar Picking Artists
Acoustic guitar picking is a style of playing that has captured the hearts of music lovers for decades. It involves using the fingers or a pick to pluck the strings of the guitar, producing a unique sound that is both melodic and rhythmic. In this section, we will explore some of the most influential acoustic guitar picking artists of all time.
The Style of Chet Atkins
Chet Atkins was a legendary guitarist who helped to popularize the fingerstyle picking technique. His style was characterized by a delicate and intricate fingerpicking pattern that incorporated elements of jazz, country, and pop music. Atkins used his thumb to play the bass notes while his fingers plucked the melody, creating a rich and complex sound that was both soothing and uplifting.
Mark Knopfler’s Picking Technique
Mark Knopfler is best known as the lead guitarist and vocalist for the band Dire Straits. He is also an accomplished fingerstyle picker, known for his unique and innovative approach to the instrument. Knopfler’s picking technique involves using his fingers to pluck the strings in a way that mimics the sound of a fingerpicked banjo. He also employs a variety of alternate tunings and capos to create a distinctive sound that is instantly recognizable.
Jeff Beck’s Unique Approach
Jeff Beck is a virtuoso guitarist who has been pushing the boundaries of the instrument for over five decades. He is known for his innovative and experimental approach to guitar playing, which includes fingerpicking, tapping, and using a variety of effects pedals. Beck’s fingerpicking style is characterized by a fluid and dynamic approach that incorporates elements of rock, blues, and jazz music. He is also known for his use of harmonics and his ability to create a wide range of tones and textures using just his fingers.
In conclusion, these artists have all made significant contributions to the world of acoustic guitar picking. Their styles and techniques have influenced countless musicians and helped to shape the sound of popular music. Whether you are a seasoned player or just starting out, studying the work of these influential artists can help you to develop your own unique style and approach to the instrument.
Improving Your Acoustic Guitar Picking
Learning to play the guitar is a rewarding experience, but mastering the art of acoustic guitar picking takes time and effort. Here are a few ways to improve your acoustic guitar picking skills.
The key to improving your acoustic guitar picking is to practice regularly. Set aside a specific time each day to practice and stick to it. Start with simple exercises and gradually increase the difficulty level. Focus on maintaining a steady rhythm and clean sound.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind while practicing:
- Use a metronome to help you maintain a steady tempo.
- Focus on accuracy and technique rather than speed.
- Practice with a variety of fingerpicking patterns to improve your finger independence.
- Record yourself playing to identify areas that need improvement.
Taking guitar lessons from a qualified instructor can help you improve your acoustic guitar picking skills. A good instructor can provide personalized feedback and help you identify areas that need improvement.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when looking for a guitar instructor:
- Look for an instructor who specializes in acoustic guitar.
- Check their credentials and experience.
- Ask for references or read reviews from previous students.
- Make sure you feel comfortable with their teaching style.
Staying Updated with Guitar News
Staying updated with the latest guitar news and trends can help you improve your acoustic guitar picking skills. Read guitar magazines, watch online tutorials, and attend guitar shows and events to stay informed.
Here are a few benefits of staying updated with guitar news:
- You can learn new tips and tricks from experienced players.
- You can discover new gear and equipment that can improve your playing.
- You can stay inspired and motivated to continue practicing and improving.
In conclusion, improving your acoustic guitar picking skills takes time and effort, but with regular practice, quality instruction, and staying updated with guitar news, you can achieve great results.
Reviewing Acoustic Guitars for Picking
If you’re looking to buy an acoustic guitar for picking, there are a few things to consider. The guitars best suited to fingerpicking and fingerstyle tend to be smaller, feature a wider than standard fingerboard, are highly responsive, project individual notes with great clarity, and are well balanced. However, for percussive fingerstyle players larger, more robust body styles are often used.
For beginners, it’s important to find a guitar that is easy to play and produces a good sound. Some good options for beginner acoustic guitars include the Yamaha FG800 and the Fender CD-60S. These guitars are affordable, well-made, and produce a good sound. They are also easy to play, making them a great choice for beginners who are just starting to learn how to pick.
High-End Guitar Reviews
For more advanced players, there are a number of high-end acoustic guitars that are well-suited for picking. Some of the best high-end acoustic guitars for picking include the Martin D-28, the Taylor 814ce, and the Gibson J-45. These guitars are all well-made, produce a great sound, and are highly responsive. They are also well-balanced, making them a great choice for players who are looking for a guitar that is easy to play.
When reviewing acoustic guitars for picking, it’s important to consider a variety of factors, including the sound, the playability, and the price. It’s also important to read reviews from other players to get an idea of what to expect from a particular guitar. Finally, it’s a good idea to shop around and look for deals to get the best possible price on a high-quality acoustic guitar for picking.
Frequently Asked Questions
What shape acoustic guitar is best for finger picking?
Typically, an acoustic guitar with a flat top and a dreadnought or OM-sized body is best for fingerpicking. The flat top provides a clear, balanced sound, while the larger body size gives the player more room to maneuver and fingerpick comfortably. That being said, the best shape of the guitar for fingerpicking ultimately depends on the player’s preference and playing style.
What is the difference between fingerstyle and fingerpicking?
Fingerpicking is a specific technique of playing the guitar using your fingers instead of a pick. Fingerstyle is a broader term that encompasses fingerpicking as well as other techniques that involve using your fingers to pluck and strum the strings of the guitar.
Is there a correct way to fingerpick?
There is no one “correct” way to fingerpick, as different players may have different preferences and techniques. However, there are some general guidelines that can help improve your fingerpicking technique. For example, it is important to keep your fingers close to the strings and to use a consistent picking pattern.
What are some guitar fingerpicking techniques for beginners?
Some basic fingerpicking techniques for beginners include the Travis picking pattern, the alternating bass pattern, and the arpeggio pattern. These techniques involve picking individual strings with your fingers in a specific pattern to create a melody or rhythm.
Can you recommend a fingerstyle guitar course for free?
There are several free fingerstyle guitar courses available online, such as JustinGuitar’s Fingerstyle Module and GuitarLessons365’s Fingerstyle Guitar Course. These courses provide step-by-step instructions and exercises to help you improve your fingerpicking technique.
What are some popular fingerpicking guitar songs?
Some popular fingerpicking guitar songs include “Blackbird” by The Beatles, “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas, “Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton, and “Classical Gas” by Mason Williams. These songs feature intricate fingerpicking patterns and are great for practicing and improving your fingerpicking technique.