Playing Electrics Finger-Style?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by Gurn, Dec 9, 2017.


  1. Gurn

    Gurn Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    390
    Joined:
    May 18, 2012
    Location:
    Either Gulf Coast or SE Asia
    How can a player get consistent volume & tone playing finger-style on an electric guitar?

    I've always been an acoustic player. Years back, I mastered finger-style reasonably well. I've always been mediocre with a pick though. I end up dropping them. The only time I want to use a pick is with strumming parts. I'd rather not use a pick on solos. But I need more amp volume. The clear, consistent attack a pick provides, just isn't there with my finger tips.

    Does anyone have tips on how to get consistent volume and tone using only the fingers?

    The advantage of a pick seems to be a clearer, more consistent attack volume & tone.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2017
  2. Caprica

    Caprica Supporting Member

    Messages:
    1,155
    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2015
    Location:
    Orion Nebula
    You could grow your finger nails (finger picking can be really hard on your finger nails and some players have false nails glued on).

    Alternatively if you want to play on your finger tips (assuming they can take a beating), put a boost pedal in you pedal chain (or just turn the volume up on your amp like you currently are).

    If consistency of attack is a problem consider adding a compressor pedal.
     
    JustABluesGuy and Gurn like this.
  3. Jim Soloway

    Jim Soloway Member

    Messages:
    13,575
    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2003
    Location:
    On the road in Mexico
    Lower your pickups so they're a bit less sensitive. Be consistent in your picking hand position. Maintain your nails to consistent lengths. Lighten up your touch and be consistent with the force of your attack. Learn additional finger based techniques. Focus on improving control and trust the guitar to do more of the work for you than you would with an acoustic.

    Practice and be patient, it takes time but like a lot of things, it can be learned if you care enough to put in some effort.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2017
  4. Gurn

    Gurn Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    390
    Joined:
    May 18, 2012
    Location:
    Either Gulf Coast or SE Asia
    Thanks. A boost-pedal is something I had not thought of. I'm sort of new to the world of pedals.
    I have three good hardware compressors, but no compressor pedals.

    Good advice. You're right. It seems more nuanced than finger-picking an acoustic.
     
    Tommy Biggs likes this.
  5. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Member

    Messages:
    8,307
    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2005
    Location:
    we eat a lot of cheese and drink a lot of beer

    Yes, but you loose the nuance. The trick is to have plenty of volume available, so all that nuance doesn't get lost. That might mean you'll need to adjust your touch when you really dig in, or any other aspect of technique that might create an unwanted sound (like touching a pickup), but that's simply an aspect of going from acoustic to electric regardless.
     
    sabby, Phletch, Beagle1 and 3 others like this.
  6. splatt

    splatt david torn / splattercell Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    20,699
    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2008
    Location:
    you might find me somewhere.
    i just play, and practise.
    you will likely find yourself re-tweaking your amp settings, and maybe some settings on pedals where touch is pertinent.
    i back my pickups down; but unlike jim, my feeling is that this makes the instrument more sensitive (up to a point), as dynamics & brightness are increased: less steady compression from the pickups & lower magnetic interference.

    cristo's lettuce?
    nah! just my observations.
     
  7. Jim Soloway

    Jim Soloway Member

    Messages:
    13,575
    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2003
    Location:
    On the road in Mexico
    The way you describe it, I actually agree with you David. I was really thinking in terms of output goes down. I would probably describe what you're talking about as "more expressive" rather than "more sensitive" but I came to believe long ago that you do a much better job than I do at putting these things into words. Thanks for chiming in.
     
    Gurn, splatt and kludge like this.
  8. kludge

    kludge The droid you're looking for Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    5,972
    Joined:
    May 15, 2007
    Location:
    mpls
    Make sure you use sufficiently heavy strings, too - the kind of gauges you'd use on acoustic guitar. Fingerpicking on a flimsy .009 or .010 set is a lot harder, at least for me. Bigger strings, more control.
     
    Gurn and splatt like this.
  9. Jim Soloway

    Jim Soloway Member

    Messages:
    13,575
    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2003
    Location:
    On the road in Mexico
    You definitely don't want to play my guitar then :). I just keep getting lighter and looser. These days I'm playing flat wound 10's tuned down a full step to D-standard. It's a set up that definitely demands a gentle touch and a lot of restraint.
     
    Tommy Biggs, Lucidology and Gurn like this.
  10. stark

    stark Supporting Member

    Messages:
    2,570
    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2002
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    I’ve never had a problem with volume or tone, but finding the most comfortable string tension will make a big difference. I always recommend, when getting started, work up your thumb only technique, a la Wes, to build confidence.
     
    Gurn likes this.
  11. Tony Done

    Tony Done Member

    Messages:
    339
    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2017
    Location:
    Toowoomba, Australia
    I'm strictly a fingerpicker, and I muck about on electrics. I use a compressor, my favourite being a Boss LMB-3 out of the ones I've tried, to even out the volume, and also get some "squish" for added interest. My main failing is inadequate string damping technique, through not having to be rigorous about it on acoustic.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2017
    Lucidology and Gurn like this.
  12. splatt

    splatt david torn / splattercell Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    20,699
    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2008
    Location:
    you might find me somewhere.
    i use .011's, tuned to either D-standard or C#-standard. might move up a notch on string sizes, though.....
     
    Gurn likes this.
  13. Gurn

    Gurn Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    390
    Joined:
    May 18, 2012
    Location:
    Either Gulf Coast or SE Asia
    .09-.46 on my Les Pauls. .10 - .46 on my Jazzmaster. Wound G's.
    No string or bridge problems yet. But we'll see.
     
  14. Jim Soloway

    Jim Soloway Member

    Messages:
    13,575
    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2003
    Location:
    On the road in Mexico
    Put in enough hours and I think you can get used to just about anything. I've been playing fingers only since about 1977, mostly on electrics. I think it's worth the effort.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2017
    Tommy Biggs and Gurn like this.
  15. Jim Soloway

    Jim Soloway Member

    Messages:
    13,575
    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2003
    Location:
    On the road in Mexico
    Chris Forshage built me one of his headless guitars with the wider finger-style spacing that we were offering for the last few years that we were building. It's amazing how well this guitar plays. I think you'd approve.
     
    pima1234, Gurn and splatt like this.
  16. Paul Reed

    Paul Reed Member

    Messages:
    3
    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2017
    Whenever I think about finger-style on an electric guitar, I visualize Mark Knopfler :) I was always a guitar pick player, and I envied people that can play electric guitar solos without a pick. I think it gives the solo a unique sound. However, I was always interested in how you guys do a pitch harmonic with a finger? I saw bass players do it too, but I never got a good look to understand it...
     
    adauria and Gurn like this.
  17. Jim Soloway

    Jim Soloway Member

    Messages:
    13,575
    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2003
    Location:
    On the road in Mexico
    With the inner corner of my index nail. It also makes octave harmonics much easier and cascading harmonics (Chet/Lenny style) possible.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2017
    Gurn and Paul Reed like this.
  18. sahhas

    sahhas Member

    Messages:
    6,993
    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2007
    Location:
    middle usa somewhere
    when i had my parker nitefly, if you set it on the piezo setting it worked perfect!
    i had a friend who had a parker fly classic, and she thought the fly was really perfect for finger style guitar, she didn't like the sound of the guitar straight up as an electric. she thought it was too "weeny" sounding. I will have to say that i disagree w/ her, i played her guitar about 20 years ago, and through my old rat pedal and my yamaha delay into my old (now dead and long gone) cheap 50 watt amp, it sounded AWESOME....but it was her guitar....

    if you play with a clean amp setting, you can usually do some pretty good fingerstyle stuff on most electrics i've found, but the piezo on my old parker nitefly was the best i thought.
     
    Gurn likes this.
  19. cram

    cram Member

    Messages:
    13,116
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2006
    Location:
    Southern NH
    I have to work on my attack quite a bit and find myself -

    - adjusting to pick closer to the bridge while simultaneously singing or doing too much where I may come in heavy-thumbed or whatever.
    - constantly work on lighter touch (this is well before playing with my fingers - this is all playing)
    - i hate fingernails so I'm down to the nub.

    I do still get an inconsistent tone on my short scale guitars because the strings aren't strung as stiff as a longer scale.
     
  20. Bartimaeus

    Bartimaeus Member

    Messages:
    1,108
    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2011
    Location:
    Well that isn't very punk, is it?
    One trick you might want to try is using a compressor to bring out the transients when you pluck. You'd basically use the same setting as you would for percussive sounds. Not all comp pedals let you set the attack right for this, but there should be some out there. CP-1X or Cali76 perhaps? A bonus is that you can also use them for a bit of a volume boost too.
     

Share This Page