Electric Fingerstyle??

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by gambolputty, Aug 1, 2006.

  1. gambolputty

    gambolputty Member

    Dec 18, 2004
    Surrounded by Flaming Trolls
    How many folks play rock and blues fingerstyle on their electric guitar?? I asked this question next door at Birds and Moons. The Birds and Moons players are all hybrid (pick and finger) players. Anyone here play lead or rhythm fingerstyle only??? Is Hybrid picking the best approach to capturing the power of picking with the harmonic freedom of fingerstyle?? Does hybrid picking limit playing speed when playing on steel strings??

    I have played classical guitar - but never really explored the fingerstyle technique on my electric. As my time is very limited, I don't want to spend a bunch of time exploring an approach to playing roots rock or blues rock that is unlikely to yield a high quality outcome.

    As always, you opinions are highly valued!!
  2. drfrankencopter

    drfrankencopter Member

    Feb 17, 2006
    Well, off the top of my head
    -Mark Knopfler is a thumb and fingers guy...no picks
    -Eric Johnson hybrid picks quite often
    -Albert King used his fingers to 'snap' and 'pop' the strings

    These guys are(were) amongst the best out there...so yeah I'd say its a totally viable approach.

    Personally, I'm trying to make better use of hybrid picking in my electric playing, especially for things like chord inversions.


  3. KRosser

    KRosser Member

    Oct 15, 2004
    Pasadena, CA
    When I saw him a few months back he pulled out a pick for the melody to Scatterbrained, and that was it.
  4. shigihara

    shigihara Member

    Nov 9, 2004
    not rock/blues per se but electric guitar fingerstylists nevertheless...
    Kevin Eubanks, Mick Goodrick and Tuck Andress.
    Another jazz great, who always made it work for him whenever he played fingerstyle,
    was Joe Pass...
  5. Guinness Lad

    Guinness Lad Silver Supporting Member

    Nov 11, 2004
    On top a mountain of Chocolate Chips
    I have only used my fingers for the past 11 years, proir to that (the first 15) I used a pick. Only rarely do I wish for a pick, either when I need to louder and my amp has no more juice or I want a real bright tone. Usually, I can compensate for these things by either picking/strumming with my nails (think Flamenco) or turning up the treble.

    I find that I still can't place as fast (picking every note) as I could when I used a pick but the tone is so much better that I really could care less; besides there a lot of things I can do that guys who use picks can't so it evens out.
  6. shigihara

    shigihara Member

    Nov 9, 2004
    same here... I went through a period (almost 30 yrs ago, when I played
    electric/classical guitar and renaissance lute) alternately playing with a pick and fingerstyle (with/without nails) which was a real pita.
    It dawned on me what's possible when I heard (and briefly studied with) lute player Paul O'Dette. Since then I basically transferred that 'no nail'
    RH technique ('alternate picking' with inward thumb and index finger)
    to the electric guitar plus using the standard classical/flamenco guitar techniques....
    now, how can I get that pipa RH working on the guitar ? ;)

    Can you elaborate on the 'special efx' ?

    I'm trying to do that, too...but with shorter nails...
    oh well... enough stuff for another lifetime....

    later, Paul
  7. James

    James Member

    May 14, 2006
    I love fingerstyle playing and it's more natural/comfortable for me for certain type of playing. That said, depending on the context, I use a combination of:

    1) pick only
    2) pick + fingers (middle and ring mainly)
    3) fingerstyle only
    4) Thumb pick + fingers

    I love cats like Lindsey Buckingham, Mark Knopfler and Jeff Beck who play all fingerstyle (I believe LB and MK use a pick in the studio sometimes, but never live.)

  8. rhp52

    rhp52 Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2005
    Metro Detroit
    Couple years ago i began using a thumbpick and nails (while learning some chord/melody stuff) and now playing pretty much everything w' that setup. Can play faster and more articulate than w' a flatpick. I've developed a strumming style with my index and middle fingers and orverall i'm pleased with the dynamic respose. There was a learning curve of course and everything was awkward for a few weeks.
    One negative is having to watch your nails constantly.
  9. googoobaby

    googoobaby Member

    Mar 15, 2006
    Seattle, WA
    Tell me about it. For some reason I'm always wearing a notch in the center of my right middle finger. Then I have to cut it down and play around it until it grows back.

    There's a quote I heard a while back about having learned guitar to pick up girls and ending up hanging around with middle-aged men talking about your nails. :)
  10. Secret Ingredient

    Secret Ingredient Member

    Jul 12, 2006
    I posted pretty much the same topic a few weeks ago on this forum. Some interesting comments were offered. I played some classical as a teenager but quit playing for over 20 years. I am now getting into it again, a little. As others have mentioned, time is at a premium. I have found that I can use my index fingernail just like a pick. basically, I hold my thumb and index finger just as if I had a pick in my hand, and just use the index finger/nail as the pick. The thumb braces the finger a bit for better control.

    I don't play enough to wear out the nail too much, but I do beat them up. I've considered a thumb pick and maybe fingerpicks as well, but don't have the time to mess with anything like that. check out Jeff Beck on YouTube: http://youtube.com/results?search=jeff+beck&search_type=search_videos

    Also, I think Michael Fath did some fingerstyle electric stuff but I'm not sure.

    Best of luck to you.
  11. glaswerks

    glaswerks Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2006
    Afton, MN (St Croix River Valley)
    I normally played a Hybrid style.

    My son, Travis, switches between hybrid and fingerstyle on the fly. I guess he watched the Robben Ford DVD too many times.

  12. nashvillesteve

    nashvillesteve Member

    Nov 22, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    That's how I play, it started with me losing picks, I guess, but I was heavily listening to Albert and Freddie, who both played fingerstyle (didn't Freddie wear banjo picks on all of his fingers or something?).... then along came Knopfler.

    I studied classical in university and still don't use a pick.

    I use my right index fingernail as a pick a lot of the time. I probably couldn't speed/shred/legato (or even Dick Dale) with it, but I don't really play a lot of that stuff... I will say that using three fingers and a thumb works just GREAT for arpeggios (just like it did on the classical guitar)... You have to play with a light touch, but I really like it. I sound different and have a lot more control over my attack and dynamics. I use the nails, but you have to be careful and, more importantly, keep them in a profile that the metal strings won't catch, tear or dig into... I used to have problems with breaking nails I'd grown for classical while I was f@#$ing around on my PRS, but keeping "low profile" nails has solved that (and they don't look as Dracula-like, a style that inevitably results in string/nail tearing disasters and end up looking more like Frankenstein's fingernails).

    I do a lot of thumb playing and bass player imitation, popping, snapping (I just ordered the Tomo: AYGP DVD today, I'm excited to learn more bass-sounding stuff, I'm not much of a "slapper" in ways that still sound like a bass guitar these days, so it will be fun along with what I'm sure is a wealth of helpful material). I also can get the most effortless false harmonics (somebody on the effects board was asking the other day which pedal could get that sound!)... just dig a little flesh from my thumb or middle finger along with the index fingernail-as-plectrum, and you have pinch harmonics that just burst out, even when playing cleaner (it's easiest to learn with lots of gain- the sound that comes out is more sensitive to harmonics with lots of gain and they come out louder even when you don't play them all that great, but it is a good way to learn, seeing what works best...

    When I did use a pick, I almost always held it sideways and played with the corner nub, and just a little bit of the pick sticking out between my thumb and index finger. It pains me to watch people play with a pick in the normal manner because I can't imagine having to move my right hand towards the strings and then away from the strings so often to accommodate the plectrum sticking out so far (I do a lot of right hand muting as well, so I don't like having my right hand so far away from the strings)... wrist pain just thinking about it or watching it!
  13. t3oi

    t3oi Silver Supporting Member

    Jul 9, 2006
    I've gotten to the point that I can play with or without a pick; even when using a pick, I still use a hybrid of pick and fingers. I actually find that there are many nuances using fingers that just doesn't come through with a pick.

    What's funny to me is everytime I go to a guitar store and start playing, someone from the store holds out a pick for me to use and when I say, "No thanks," they look at me like I'm crazy.
  14. TonyV

    TonyV Member

    Aug 21, 2002
    That is funny, I notice the same thing at GC and Daddy's
    Everytime I am browsing, some store clerk comes running up with a pick like how can you try out that guitar without one
  15. Gradinger

    Gradinger Member

    Jul 29, 2006
    Memphis, TN
    "What's funny to me is everytime I go to a guitar store and start playing, someone from the store holds out a pick for me to use and when I say, "No thanks," they look at me like I'm crazy."

    I get the same response. My pickless ventures started when I sliced my thumb open at the last knuckle several years ago. I lost all the feeling on the pad of the thumb for a few months. I couldn't hang onto a pick for more than 10 seconds.

    I find that the range of tonal control is taken to another planet when you don't rely on a piece of plastic. It's much like learning the guitar all over again -- once the skin on your right-hand fingers toughens up, aggressive pick-like sounds are no problem.
  16. beePee

    beePee Member

    Jul 27, 2006
    Long Beach, Ca.
    There was a time for a while I was almost completely pickless.
    Jeff Beck definitely influenced me to experiment more. I bent my whammy bar low and tried his goofy bar/hand FP technique but it's pert near impossible so I came up with my own way.

    The big switch came when I was determined to get Clap down (after 25 years of noodling with it!!) .I can hybrid part of it but my fingers like it much more which led me to play country pickless ..and that was it!!.The pop and chicken pickin just comes alive.

    I thought it'd slow me down(...it did) but it did the opposite too!! .Open string banjo roll are easier( okay I had to practice )plus they sound better and have a better feel.

    I still use a pick and hybrid but I love to fingerpick ...btw I got this cool thumb pick at the NAMM show a few years back that has a rotate able mounted pick on it. Very cool. I forgot there name and it's not on it. Great pick for hybriding with a thumb pick if you can't use a regular thumb pick.

    You can almost hold it normal also.....

  17. NitroLiq

    NitroLiq Member

    Jan 17, 2006
    I remember trying to emulate Johnny Winter as a kid with a metal thumbpick and fingerpick on my thumb and index finger and it didn't work out so well. I can finger pick on electric but am most comfortable using a flat pick and my other fingers...my ring finger seems to be the one I have the most control with. I'm trying to do more straight fingerpicking rhythms...not folky picking like travis picking but more like the way guys like Warren Haynes or blues players would utilize it but I find it difficult to be consistent with dynamics using my thumb as I'm too used to flatpicking the low notes.
  18. TieDyedDevil

    TieDyedDevil Member

    Apr 10, 2003
    Portland, OR
    For the past several years I've been picking with thumb plus four fingers. I keep my nails really short.

    I play single-note lines mostly with my thumb and index finger.

    On extremely rare occasions when I'm playing only single-note lines I might break out a plectrum for special effect, but I find myself limited when I do that because I'm not well-practiced in hybrid picking.

    I first got interested in fingerstyle watching Jorma Kaukonen play during the mid-`70s. At the time he was playing a 335-style guitar and using finger- and thumb-picks. I tried to emulate that, but I could never get used to the feel of those picks on my fingertips.
  19. Flyin' Brian

    Flyin' Brian Member

    Jul 29, 2005
    K7C 4K8
    Pat Simmons of the Doobies plays some absolutely amazing stuff using a thumb pick and fingers.

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