How can I understand the difference between different types of fingerstyle?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by dinvincible, Mar 2, 2015.

  1. dinvincible

    dinvincible Member

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    I read about classical guitar being a type of fingerstyle and then there are jazz players like martin taylor,bluegrass,folk players etc

    I mean being able to play fingerstyle guitar in different ways must be about right hand's physical ability and one can start practicing different styles right from beginning.
    Obviously great players play a particular style bcoz it suits the music they are playing but i think there must be patterns/exercises which can be used to start exercising different styles from beginning without knowing much about why they are doing it that way.

    I heard tommy emmanuel talking about how guys like merle travis,chet atkins,jerry reed,,john mayer,eric clapton,james taylor etc have different fingerstyle techniques

    I wanna know how can I know that some player is playing differently from other player?
    Is it some musical concept?
    Can I learn some exercises which are helpful for particular style by watching some youtube videos and then just develop right hand ?

    Thanks a lot in advance for invaluable guidance and sorry if I am not making any sense.I am just a beginner trying to figure things out
     
  2. eric7

    eric7 Member

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  3. derekd

    derekd Supporting Member

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    Big topic.

    Classical is pretty prescriptive to the point to where the sheet music sometimes indicates which finger to play which note. I certainly developed much greater finger independence when I studied classical a few years.

    Travis picking is a distinct style using the thumb playing alternating bass notes attributed to Merle Travis. Ton of videos on youtube describing this technique.

    Martin Taylor, Lenny Breau and Joe Pass typically develop a native approach, meaning, they do what works for them. I know that sounds sort of ambiguous, but Joe talked about his right hand as if it just did what it did. Lenny borrowed from flamenco. Lots of guys will play a bass note with the thumb, then use the fingers to pluck specific strings immediately following while the bass note is still ringing and visa versa.

    There are specific picking patterns used in folk and bluegrass. Often these are sorted by time. So there are 4/4 patterns, and 3/4 patterns, etc. You can find these on youtube, also. Hope this helps a little. Lots more knowledgable folk here who can shed more light. Good luck.
     
  4. sacakl

    sacakl Silver Supporting Member

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    Well, you could probably watch and listen to all the differences on how folks played/play Cannonball Rag, from Merle Travis, Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed, Thom Bresh (Merle's son), Tony Emmanuel.

    Travis and Bresh seem to only use the thumb and index finger, muting both with the right hand on the bridge and the left hand by removing it quicker after pressing down on the fretboard. Chet used more fingers and was more fluid. Emmanuel's playing is on steroids.

    I always found the Chet and Bresh duo of this on YouTube interesting to watch.
     
  5. Bryan T

    Bryan T Guitar Owner Silver Supporting Member

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    Questions like these are really well-suited for private lessons.
     
  6. JonR

    JonR Member

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    IMO there are two broad camps (with sub-styles within them): classical, and folk-blues.

    To over-simplify, "classical" - in this sense - uses thumb and 3 fingers relatively equally, and is frequently arpeggio-based. (A lot of classical technical exercises involve arpeggios, and many pieces are based around them.) It's originally Spanish, but has become international.

    In contrast, most "folk-blues" styles are characterised by a 4-beat rhythm set up by the thumb, which is by far the dominant digit. It's American in origin, probably deriving from banjo techniques, mixed with attempts to emulate ragtime piano.
    This is known broadly (or most often) as "alternating bass". Merle Travis didn't invent it, but was one of the best known (and best!). His version (derived from players like Blind Dlake) involves damping the bass strings, which is common in blues. He used thumb and index only, but most players in this style use at least 2 fingers along with the thumb.
    The "folk" strand tends to allow the bass strings to ring, and may use a cleaner tone, but the right hand action and patterns are otherwise very similar.
    Blues players like Robert Johnson and Big Bill Broonzy more often used single repeated bass notes (rather than alternating between 2 strings) - or sometimes walking bass lines, but the central idea of the 4/4 "driving thumb" is still there.

    Obviously these are big generalisations, and some "classical" techniques are used by folk and rock players, while something like alternating bass is occasionally found in classical guitar pieces
     
  7. dinvincible

    dinvincible Member

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    Thanku all for taking ur time to answer my questions.

    So I guess its like first one should know what kind of music he wanna play and then develop right hand technique in accordance with that.

    Sacakl you mentioned "Emmanuel's playing is on steroids"
    I didn't understand this?
    Does that mean what he is doing cannot be emulated by others without steroids?
    or what he is doing with steroids,he cannot do without them?

    or it just means that his playing is so many levels above rest that it looks like he is on steroids
     
  8. Pitar

    Pitar Member

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    I'm of the native approach. I take bits from the various styles and mix them. I don't think I play anything the same way twice.
     
  9. sacakl

    sacakl Silver Supporting Member

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    I'm just talking about his technique and his intensity compared to the others, especially when listening to a common tune like Cannonball Rag and comparing it across fingerpickers. Nothing literal about it, just figure of speech. Lol.
     
  10. dinvincible

    dinvincible Member

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    haaha man I was a literally worried and heartbroken.I have like 100s of videos of tommy and obviously he is my idol.So reading that he use steroids and all was shocking lol

    anyways thanks for clearing
     
  11. DNW

    DNW Member

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    Yes, but in a way still no. As has been said, classical technique is a fairly rigid thing. Outside of that, I'd say it tends to be guitarists just developing their technique as they need it. As in, I've never actually specifically worked on my finger picking as such, it just happened over the years as I wanted to play certain things that maybe didn't make so much sense to flat pick or whatever. Same goes for how my hybrid picking came about.

    Sure you can read about or watch other guitarists on Youtube or whatever to see what they're doing. But you might also get caught up in trying to analyse/learn a whole array of different styles that in the end aren't relevant to whatever it is you want to play. Yeah it's always good to be learning stuff, but we've all only got so many hours in any given day.

    So really, I'd say learn what you like the sound of. If you hear something you like, figure it out... read about it, watch clips, whatever. And unless you're doing something quite odd or daft, I don't think there's really much to get "wrong" in terms of the actual physical motions. For me, I mostly use my thumb with my middle and ring fingers (probably from hybrid picking). Even when I'm full finger picking, I have to still have a pick tucked into my index finger or it all just feels weird. But I can still use that finger fine if I have to even while it has a pick tucked away in it. It works, and when I want my pick again it's just a tiny flick of the thumb away. Other people might find that awkward or whatever, but everyone has their own way. :aok
     
  12. JonR

    JonR Member

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    Something like that.
    If it's classical you're interested in, then there are standard exercises you can do. There's no essential difference between players in the classical sphere, at least not when playing actual classical pieces. (Some players may have a preference for Spanish pieces employing flamenco techniques, which you won't find in - say - Bach pieces ;).)
    IOW, it's all about the pieces themselves, and the general techniques required. Much less about the players.

    If it's any non-classical style (blues, folk, country, jazz, whatever), then it's common for individual players to develop their own variations on right-hand technique. So it's more about the players and their approaches than the pieces themselves. (Even where there are standard pieces that everyone knows - such as Freight Train - everyone plays them differently, because interpretation and improvisation are natural parts of the genre.)

    This is because nothing is really written down - there are (or at least were!) no books of guidance on technique - players learned by copying records, working stuff out by ear, often never seeing how the original player actually played it.
    (If you never saw Elizabeth Cotten playing "Freight Train", only heard it, you wouldn't know she played a normal guitar upside down and left-handed, using her own idiosyncratic technique. But luckily there's no need to copy her technique in order to play it!)
    So some will use thumbpicks and fingernails, some will use thumbpicks and fingerpicks, some no picks at all. Some will use hybrid picking. Some will rest the picking hand on the bridge to damp the bass, some won't.
    But pretty much all of them - with the possible exception of some jazz players - will use the thumb-based rhythm: thumb playing a bass string on every beat (in 4/4 time).
    The fingers may then do various things: fill in the odd chord tone (for song accompaniment styles), or pick out a melody on the top strings (especially for instrumental pieces), or combine melody and chords in some way.

    So if your hero is (say) Tommy Emmanuel, then you need to pay close attention to (a) his right hand technique, (b) the chord shapes in his left hand, and (c) the players that influenced him - Chet Atkins in particular, but also Merle Travis, Jerry Reed, and more folksy players such as Doc Watson.

    IOW, the history of the style (how we got to where we are now) is instructive. Where for classical music you'd be working largely from books of etudes and pieces (composers such as Sor, Tarrega, Villa-Lobos, going back to Bach), for the other kind you'd be working mainly from old recordings of the veterans that inspired everyone else (Blind Blake, Mississippi John Hurt, etc).

    Tommy Emmanuel is great because he's an enthusiastic and helpful guy who's put out a lot of lessons on youtube on the basics of the right-hand style (that he learned from Travis, Atkins etc). The only problem is you need to remember he's not a teacher, so he often finds it hard to resist showing off some flashy piece of playing, when you're just struggling to follow the basics - he just can't help himself!.:rolleyes:
     
  13. dinvincible

    dinvincible Member

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    JonR that was too awesome,too awesome :bow

    Thanks a lot for great explanation and providing much needed guidance.Now I just need to go out and get a dunlop thumb pick and start putting in 10s of hours everyday :drool :band :aok

    Thanks DNW and everyone
     
  14. bayAreaDude

    bayAreaDude Member

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    Fingerstyle bluegrass? Would be pretty hard to get the neccesary volume and to play at faster tempos.
     
  15. ShawnH

    ShawnH Member

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    Getting into semantics here but I think of stuff like Doc's version of "Sittin' on Top of the World" as fingerstyle bluegrass. Of course it' travis picking but very much with a bluegrass flavor to it - maybe it's just old time music I don't know.

    Also there are guitar players in the bluegrass tradition who play without a pick - more of a rhythm style than what we typically think of as "fingerstyle". But anyway to my point - sometimes genres and labels get in the way.

    Carry on.


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