Fingerstyle...

Discussion in 'Acoustic Instruments' started by lazmo, Jan 30, 2012.

  1. lazmo

    lazmo Member

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    Since I’m now playing more acoustic than electric, I have started to try to get my head, hands and fingers around playing fingerstyle... and even though I am crap, I’m loving the challenge.

    Some comments first of all...

    Fingerstyle is great to play quietly when all my girls are tucked up in nigh nighs, as just using my fingers (no picks or nails) is much quieter than when I play with a flatpick, which is usually pretty loud. So, it is a 24/7 thing that I can do anywhere in the house and doesn’t need to happen at a reasonable time in my music room.

    Using a metronome has already proven helpful in getting more consistency with my picking. I just set it to quarter-notes and wind the tempo back to a pace that I can actually get it down... then as I improve I bring the tempo incrementally up.

    Fingerstyle really highlights when you don’t fret all the notes correctly, particularly in chords. With chord strumming, the badly fretted note just doesn’t sound and the other notes cover the clam up. With fingerstyle it just goes “thung” ... very yucko.

    My Wife for some reason loves me playing fingerstyle... so, maybe my flat-picking sucks, although I think she just loves the delicacy and flowing-ness... is that a word?

    Since I have only made fingerstyle an actual mission a few days ago, I just typed “how to play fingerstyle” into google and done a few lessons off there. In a few weeks I go in for a hip operation, and I'll be off the bike for six weeks minimum, so I think it would be great to capitalise on that downtime by making fingerstyle a goal while layed up.

    OK, now the questions...

    What’s the best way to approach it? I’ve never had a guitar lesson but have had many drum lessons, so I’m not adverse to lessons, though finding the right teacher may be hard. Is there a standard set of patterns, like drumming rudiments, for fingerstyle? Are there certain patterns that are like building blocks? I’m not in any rush, so I’m happy to really focus on a couple of things and really get on top of it rather than being all over the place. Are there any classic songs that employ the right patterns, so that I can use them as an aid to get it all down?

    Sorry for the barrage :)
     
  2. kugelblitz

    kugelblitz Member

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    Hey, I'm in the same boat as you, playing acoustic almost exclusively. I'm picked up a couple of books of fingerstyle and I'm working through them. It's really challenging but a lot of fun. Some of the patterns take weeks for me to master.
     
  3. Turbo Gerbil

    Turbo Gerbil Member

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  4. DoctorBob

    DoctorBob Member

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    Due to tinnitus I switched to fingerstyle acoustic from electric three years ago and for me it was an epiphany.Get yourself a nice 1&3/4 neck guitar for ease in playing.Plenty of stuff on You Tube to use as models.Learn some classic stuff-Kottke etc thats on there . Experiment with alternate tunings. For me, the big jump was learning that even in standard tuning you can play a tremendous amount of open string stuff up the neck (I do play some Bluegrass so I understood the concept of '"Floaters").Write some songs-you probably have melodies floating around in your head just like the big name guys do. Have fun...I just love fingerstyle
     
  5. musicofanatic5

    musicofanatic5 Supporting Member

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    "Using a metronome has already proven helpful in getting more consistency with my picking. I just set it to quarter-notes and wind the tempo back to a pace that I can actually get it down... then as I improve I bring the tempo incrementally up."

    This is key in learning anything, and I am astounded at how many guitarists I encounter that are resistant, as if they are "too organic to be tied to some mechanical beat"

    The thing I spent the most time on at first, is the alternating bass with the thumb, whilst playing a synchopated pattern with the fingers. Slow with the metronome produces results.
     
  6. zombywoof

    zombywoof Member

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    For the past six or so years I have pretty much stuck with acoustics. But I have always played with my fingers - both electric and acoustic.

    What I love about playing with my fingers is you can really get that one man band thing going -melody, harmony and bass.

    You surely can play soft and low but I tend to play just as rude and aggressive with an acoustic as I am with an electric. I love digging into an acoustic to get some grit and heft. But in the end you do whatever is best for you. There is no one right way to play.

    The one thing for me though that was a biggie was getting into my head how to use the right thumb. This is what defines power and rhythm. Or rather than use it to keep a steady rhythm you can just use it to accent a melody and play bass runs. But for me, it is the thumb that will make or break ya.
     
  7. lamenlovinit

    lamenlovinit Member

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    Look into earplugs like "Hearos" High Fidelity plugs while you're at it. Priced at $10 bucks online they really protect you. You can hear everything perfectly until you hit a certain level then they attenuate. I quite literally HAVE to wear them when I play my National Radiotone Bendaway or I feel it later with ringing and if this makes sense to you "numbness" in my hearing, but not with my other national guitars. I think it's the unique "punch" that guitar has.

    Look into them. Cheap way to not make things worse than they are now and still enjoy playing
    .
     
  8. '58Bassman

    '58Bassman Member

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    Google 'John Stropes' and 'American Finger-Style Guitar'. He heads that department at UW-Milwaukee and it's the only degreed course like it. He's a great player and teacher. He has done several books of transcriptions and, in fact, is the only one who transcribes Leo Kottke's music who Leo's OK with. Extremely nice guy, too.

    www.stropes.com
     
  9. lazmo

    lazmo Member

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    I will probably end up doing both, but focussing on patterns to start with... but having said that, I'm only a few days into it and already I'm mucking around with playing some bass lines with my thumb.

    Years and years of metronome work on the pads has done wonders for my drumming and it certainly does the trick for guitar too. I just set my little Boss or Seiko on the guitar next to the pre-amp controls and off I go. Like you say "Slow with the metronome produces results"
     
  10. Crazyquilt

    Crazyquilt Guitar Dad Silver Supporting Member

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    I've hacked about with fingerstyle acoustic for ages, but I was never successful in getting anywhere until I picked up Mark Hanson's The Art of Contemporary Travis Picking. I am one of those people who learns best from having a system broken down into small parts -- fundamentals -- before I can apply it musically. This is what Hanson does with picking patterns.

    However, this is only a first step; eventually, the goal is to break the patterns so you can play whatever melody/harmony/bass parts you desire -- but that's a longer term proposition, in my experience. After a few years of hard work, I've got a reasonable amount of independence, but it all started with Hanson's patterns.

    I started with bare fingers, and focused on using them accurately. Then, because, as noted, the thumb is so important, I added a thumbpick (I recommend starting with a Fred Kelly Slick Pick; there's less adjustment from a bare thumb than there is to a more typical thumbpick.) Recently, I started using fingerpicks, because I'm a lefty who plays righty, and I just didn't have enough strength to get my playing as clean and clear as I'd like with bare fingers. First AlaskaPiks, and now regular metal fingerpicks. Now I rarely play a reso without them, although I don't mind playing a flat top acoustic with just a thumb pick. Still -- if I can make the adjustment, anyone can. However, I'm a big John Fahey fan, and most of the American Primitive guys (eg Fahey, Jack Rose, Glenn Jones, and to a much lesser extent Kottke) use fingerpicks, so I had that sound in my head, pushing me to use them as well.

    Your wife might not feel so affectionate towards your fignerstyle if you used a dread or a reso and a full set of picks. It might get loud, indeed.
     
  11. lamenlovinit

    lamenlovinit Member

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    :rotflmao Yes indeed. When I wind up any of my Nationals with a full set of picks it's a wall of sound. And with a resonator, you don't necessarily have to crank it to sound good, in fact tricones can play very sweetly and quietly, but you do need to commit to your picking for it to sound good. Tentatively "brushing" the strings sounds pretty awful. So the next thing you know you get caught up in it and you are WAILING! :p
     
  12. musicofanatic5

    musicofanatic5 Supporting Member

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    Drummer, eh? I think it was Lenny Breau or some fingerstyle master I read about saying he would practise paradiddles and other drum rudimental patterns with his fingers.

    As concerns the use of picks, I think a thumbpick is good, but always encourage anyone starting out to learn with bare fingers. I try to keep just enough nail length to employ them when I want the extra attack, but mostly go with (heavily calloused) flesh. It's such a beautiful, warm sound and lets the sound of the guitar (instead of the sound of picks/strings) dominate. This, presuming a good sounding guitar is being employed.
     
  13. Charley2004

    Charley2004 Member

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  14. lamenlovinit

    lamenlovinit Member

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    I would agree with this in a way. But personally I generally advocate all pics or none for folks new to fingerpicking.

    The main reason is it's just way too much for a newbie to control the dynamics. The thumb pick will generally overpower the volume of the fingers, and it's pretty much guaranteed with an arpeggio played with the thumb! After you get to know your thumb and fingers bare, you can control the awesome power of the thumb pick. :p

    So yes, bare is a great way to start. With a full set of picks the learning curve is usually really slow and frustrating. Getting control of that extra quarter to a half inch hanging off the ends of your fingers takes a lot of time...
     
  15. Wolfboy1

    Wolfboy1 Grandpa but...Not Yet Old! Silver Supporting Member

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    TrueFire has some EXCELLENT courses, give them a look when you have a few minutes to spare.

    http://truefire.com/search.html?cx=011618892582561821646%3Aif98gofherg&cof=FORID%3A11%3BNB%3A1&ie=UTF-8&q=finger+style

    This one in particular might be a great place to start:

    [​IMG]

    About the Lesson

    [​IMG]Fingerstyle Blues Handbook introduces you to "steady bass," the key technique in many contemporary and classic blues styles. You will learn how to quickly achieve finger and thumb independence so you can play chords and solos with your fingers while your thumb maintains the groove. You’ll learn single note and double stop blues licks, blues chord voicings, descending bass lines and vamps, and how to play eight, twelve and sixteen bar blues in the keys of E, A, D, A minor and E minor. Each of the twenty lessons features a fingerstyle blues tune that you learn and add to your repertoire.
    This course provides a solid foundation for playing solo fingerstyle blues guitar and taking on David’s more advanced New School Fingerstyle Blues course also from TrueFire.
    [​IMG]Fingerstyle Blues Handbook features 40 video lessons, text overviews, notation, interactive Power Tab and is presented in TrueFire’s multi-media video player for Windows and Mac, featuring zoom, frame advance, looping and other useful tools.
    Here's how Fingerstyle Blues Handbook is presented:
    1. The course is presented across twenty progressive lessons, starting with a foundation of basic moves and then adding on building new techniques and skills.
    2. Hamburger overviews each new technique and move with tips and exercises for nailing the skill before taking on the lesson's arrangement.
    3. Hamburger then performs a solo fingerstyle blues arrangement using only the techniques and moves covered in the lesson.
    4. All twenty solo fingerstyle arrangements are broken down note-by-note, move-by-move along with tips for nailing the arrangement.
    5. With the included Power Tab, students can "see" and "hear" the notation played out. Tempo can be adjusted without changing pitch and any section can be looped.
    http://truefire.com/beginner-guitar-lessons/fingerstyle-blues-handbook/
     
  16. lazmo

    lazmo Member

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    Wolfboy1… that looks very interesting.

    As mentioned, I’m about to go in for a hip operation and will be unable to work for one to two weeks, with a total recovery time around six to eight weeks.

    The Fingerstyle Blues Handbook, seems like it is a perfect package for me to focus on, particularly initially when I won’t be able to get out and about... stuck at home.

    I hope they are nice and quick on the delivery side of things as I’m in Australia…

    Thanks…
     
  17. Wolfboy1

    Wolfboy1 Grandpa but...Not Yet Old! Silver Supporting Member

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    Good luck with your surgery!

    Send an email to nancy@truefire.com and tell her Wolfboy1 offered you 10% off as a "recovery special" and that you need your order ASAP due to Surgery. She should hook you up!

    I will let her know you might be contacting her.
     
  18. RobbyRobinson

    RobbyRobinson Member

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    The technique I learned from John Cephas goes like this: Low(E) and High(E) simultaneously, (D), (G), (A), (B), repeat. I'm not sure if that'll translate written out in this fashion, but if it does, remember to put a swing on it! It's good for practicing because it incorporates each string. Also, I like the movement from outside, in, and back again. As you progress, however, try to let your fretting hand dictate your picking hand so that you can pull off fancy melodies. Then you'll be in one-man band territory for sure.
     
  19. frquent flyer

    frquent flyer Member

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    Another book which I liked is The Anthology of fingerstyle guitar.
     
  20. lazmo

    lazmo Member

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    Charley2004... thanks for the link, that is a great site.


    Wolfboy1... when you purchase their lessons, do you get the Instant Download or the DATA-DVD$ or both? Does the Instant Dowload contain everything that the DATA-DVD has, but in soft copy form? Or is there extras in the DATA-DVD?

    Thanks to everyone... I am really enjoying having a go at fingerstyle.

    The one thing in my favour is that my left hand has 30 years of guitar playing experience, so nearly all the effort and re-learning is with my right hand fingers.
     

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