I’ve been saying I’ll get to this so now here we are. Consider, for an example, the Gordon Lightfoot song Early Morning Rain. It is truly a classic song. That is the song that got Lightfoot’s career off the ground. It’s popularity has made for many arrangements by many artists. When Lightfoot first recorded Early Morning Rain, he strummed it on his12 string guitar. Now please understand that one of the things that Lightfoot is known for is his very smooth and talented strumming abilities. His early recording of Early Morning Rain is an excellent example of his skill in that area. In my opinion, though, it is not Lightfoot’s strumming but his finger picking style that makes his guitar work stand out above the crowd. Of course, I would never go so far as to say that his finger picking is what made him what he is, because that simply isn’t true. Just like any artist, it is a combination of things that makes them what they are. Lightfoot is first and foremost an outstanding song writer, as well as a performer. He is also an award winning vocalist. My only point is that it is his finger picking that helps expand his appeal on the acoustic guitar work. That is, finger picking adds “size” or “dimension” to his overall musical sound. Finger picking also raises him up above the general flood of “folk singers, and songwriters” in this world who do not finger pick their guitar. That’s something any professional artist should be interested in doing, including YOU!
Although Lightfoot was the writer and had an excellent original strumming version of the song Early Morning Rain, it was Peter, Paul & Mary’s version that made that song popular, not Gordon Lightfoot’s. Peter, Paul & Mary’s arrangement was one of beautiful finger picking guitar work as well as outstanding vocal harmonies. This style of playing and singing is true of many of Peter, Paul and Mary’s masterful arrangements. Check out this video of one of Peter, Paul and Mary’s performances of Early Morning Rain in the year 1966.
In this video both Peter and Paul are using Travis Style finger picking which is one style of patterns I will be teaching you on this site. Compare this to Gordon Lightfoot’s original strumming version of this great song in 1979
Here Lightfoot explains that Peter Paul and Mary’s arrangement of this song catapulted his career into the ‘next level of show business’ or “gave him a hand up the ladder”. In Lightfoot’s video you can see there is a lot going on in his song. Gordon is using his talented strumming techniques on his 12 string and his back up is using only a flat pick on a 6 string. No one is finger picking except the steel guitarists which gives this song its country flavor. I simply love this song and I love this arrangement too! But it was Peter Paul and Mary’s version that got the public’s attention and approval as it was a hit song for them.
Peter Paul and Mary’s arrangement of Early Morning Rain was very simple in comparison to Lightfoot’s original song. Their finger picking was quiet, relaxing, and peaceful with no attempt to be grand, showy, or pretentious. Although soft and simple, their arrangement was very clear and powerfully moving as many of Lightfoot’s songs are. The fact is that Peter Paul and Mary made many other artists songs popular with their style. It has been said that they were the “Model” that many other “folk singers” would attempt to imitate for years and years to come.
At this point I suppose I could show you a video of my attempt on my 12 string to do a finger picking arrangement of Early Morning Rain. Before doing this I contacted Gordon Lightfoot and he was very gracious and give me permission to make a few small changes in the lyrics. They are just small minor things. But I wasn’t comfortable singing about them. Gordon felt that anyone doing a cover of one of his song was doing him a favor. He said I could make any changes I would like. You may like to compare! Please leave a YouTube rating or better yet … a comment is welcomed!
Gordon Lightfoot’s first big hit was – Read My Mind – it too was a finger picking song. See this video of Lighfoot doing this hit song, Read My Mind.
There are many other examples like this. Jim Croce’s is one of my favorite artists and first hits, Time In A Bottle, and Operator were both finger style guitar. I originally had a video on my web site of these songs being done live by Jim Croce so you could see and hear his finger picking. However, because of third party copyright infringment those videos were removed from YouTube. Evidently because of that abuse, I couldn’t find any more either. So videos for these songs are no longer available. Sorry about that! But these were both songs that were know for their finger picking guitar work.
James Taylor’s first hits, Sweet Baby James and Fire And Rain, both incorporate his unique finger style of guitar work. Again, copyright infringment prevents me from showing YouTube videos of him doing these songs. It’s a pitty too because James Taylor is loved for his style of playing the guitar. Many try to imitate his style exactly! Why? Because they love it so much. One of James Taylor’s biggest hits was You’ve Got A Friend. This song was not actually written by James Taylor but it was written by Carol King. However, acording to the sales the general public preferred his arrangement over hers. Why? Could it be the finger style guitar work? Yes! I believe it had something to do with it. In fact I believe James Taylor’s most outstanding appeal to his music is his finger style guitar work.
These are just a few examples. There are many, many more. I’m sure you can think of some yourself. What I’m getting to is this > It’s not just my personal opinion about finger picking! There is something about finger style guitar that is very attractive to people in general.
This is not to say that if you learn to finger pick a song then it will have a better chance of having a hit! That isn’t my point at all. Neither am I suggesting that finger picking is just for folk music, acoustical or classical guitar. That’s not the case either. Folk music happens to be one type of music I like to play and sing. Eric Clapton is certainly not a “folk singer” but one of the finest “Rock” and “Blues” musicians there has ever been. He is a master at outstanding guitar work with a flat pick! Some consider him one of the BEST in the world! It’s not surprising that some of his most beloved songs employ finger style guitar. Note that in this video he is playing an electric guitar and not an acoustic in this Blues number. Finger style is not just for acoustic guitar!
See this example of with Eric Clapton and some jamming Blues with finger picking style guitar.
Chet Atkins is another outstanding example. He is otherwise known as “Mr. Guitar”. He is a master at his art! He developed finger picking style of guitar playing that has become known as his signiture. Well known in the world of “Country” music, Chet Atkins it considered one of the best. Many, many artists still love to imitate his finger style guitar because of it’s appeal.
Below he does a beautiful finger style instrumental of Don McLean’s song – Vincent.
Bonnie Rait is another outstanding “Blues” artist who sometimes uses finger picks in her unique finger picking guitar arrangements. Check out this video of this blues song she does. As the camera zooms in, it’s difficult to see but if you look close you will see she is wearing a Clear Thumb pick and clear finger picks …. you might not have noticed this if someone didn’t point it out to you.
There are many, many examples of those who use finger picking guitar in their composition of songs. Here is the thing I’m driving at – they do finger picking not because they are “folk” singers, or classical guitarists. They do this because of the “appeal” that finger picking guitar brings to their music. By employing finger style guitar, these professionals and masters have added that extra “dimension,” that I’ve been talking about. They have done it with good taste and good results!!! That is why they use finger picking and that is just another reason WHY YOU should learn finger picking too. There are more reasons so please keep reading!
Personally, I think it’s a crying shame how many artists playing the guitar today have limited themselves solely to a flat pick. It’s understandable in Blue Grass music because that is a style that traditionally uses only a flat pick. However, in Blue Grass there is usually any number of others in a group of musicians. They are all playing together and the overall sound is filled with lots of individual parts. When done skillfully Blue Grass can be some of the greatest music that can be produced. This too, is some of my most favorite music personally. But when it’s just one person performing and he is only using a flat pick and mostly if not always strumming their guitar… that is a totally different story. It seems to me that this has been a dominating trend for many years. Not that strumming doesn’t take talent, because it does! However, it’s a talent that many artists have. This is another reason why I’m offering finger picking lessons free of charge to help YOU learn how to finger pick your guitar. I would very much like to see and hear more young, up-coming artists incorporate finger picking guitar work into their music.
If you’re already an accomplished guitarist and/or a professional guitarist of many years, and you still don’t do finger picking and do it well, then please LISTEN UP to what I’m about to tell you.
Your musical expressions are limited and it says something about your talent!
I’m not trying to offend you or hurt your feelings. I’m trying to WAKE YOU UP! Why not broaden out your talents? I suggest that you add this appealing “dimension” of finger style guitar work to your many already accomplished guitar skills. I’m certain that if you do learn how to finger pick guitar and incorporate it with your already unique style of playing, you will have a positive response from your audience and devoted fans. Others have! So will you!!!
I GUARANTEE THAT!