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What Is Finger Picking

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Defining Finger Picking

First, let me define, what type of guitar playing it is that I’m talking about and what I’m going to be teaching you.  It is known as “Finger picking” or it’s sometime called “finger style” guitar.  The articles (or should I say “book”) in the pages of this site will be discussing RIGHT HAND SKILLS of guitar playing. (Assuming that you are right handed.  If you’re left handed of course you can still learn these skills too, but obviously  it will be with the other hand – so in your case it will be LEFT HAND SKILLS.) When I say “finger picking guitar,” I’m talking about using the individual fingers and the thumb of your right hand to pluck or “pick” the different strings of the guitar.  Finger picking (according to my computer is sometimes misspelled “fingerpicking” is also sometimes referred to as finger style guitar playing. 

I should let you know that technically speaking there are those who do make a distinction between the terms “finger picking” and “finger style” guitar.  The difference is said to be that “finger picking” is primarily done using repeated picking patterns whereas “finger style” guitar incorporates fewer picking patterns if any at all.  For example; one may say a Classical guitarist plays “finger style guitar” while a Contemporary guitarist is “finger picking” his guitar.  As a rule, Classical guitar is even more difficult to learn and takes even more discipline to master then finger picking guitar. Some have dedicated their entire life to the pursuit of mastering Classical guitar. I will tell you… my hat is of to those people! Despite this technical difference however, in many places on this web site I will be using these terms (finger style and finger picking) interchangeably. I do this only because in the minds of many people they mean the same thing. For those of you who truly are “finger Style” guitarist, please let me apologize for this “general” use of these terms. I don’t mean to be offensive to you nor do I intend to take away from your art form.  

To just use the word “pick” or “picking” can also refer to using a flat pick. With some styles of guitar music like Blue Grass for example, when someone says “picking and grinning” they are not talking about “finger picking” or “finger style” guitar playing like I’ll be teaching you.  Traditionally, Blue Grass is done with a flat pick.  Generally speaking, when used by me on these pages, I will be referring to finger picking guitar or finger style guitar playing when I say “pick” or “picking.”  This is the style I will be teaching you.  However, to help you understand why I teach this style of finger picking I will be talking about other styles of guitar playing as well.  This will help you to compare and allow you see some of the advantages of finger picking over other styles of guitar playing.

The Way I Teach Finger Picking

When I teach students, and they are just starting to learn finger picking, I encourage them to begin using plastic finger picks right from the start.  I personally believe that finger picking an acoustic guitar with plastic finger picks is the BEST way to learn (BUT certainly not the easiest).  I will discuss the reasons for this later on other pages.

So if you don’t have plastic finger picks… PLEASE… I recommend that you get them.  There are many types of finger picks to choose from these days.  I’ve tried just about all of them.  I’m not about selling picks nor am I promoting any particular brand or type of pick either. I believe it’s basically a matter of preference and to a large degree it’s a matter of what a person gets used to using.  So in the end, as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t really matter what style finger pick you choose to use.  However, you will need to get PLASTIC finger picks, not metal.  Later I will discuss the reasons for this too.

If you can’t find plastic finger picks at your local music store you can get some Dunlop finger picks here at this web site.  That is the only kind of picks I sell because that is the kind I personally prefer.  You can also check them out at Dunlop finger and thumb picks.  I buy these picks in bags of 12 picks each and then I make them available on this site as sets.  Each set I sell has three finger picks and one thumb pick. I sell them this way because that’s how how I play, and that’s the way I teach my students to finger pick. 

Custom Finger Picks

If you’re just beginning to learn finger picking, I would highly recommend that you get my Custom Finger Picks because as I’ll explain later, they are especially helpful to new students.  You CAN NOT get these “custom” finger picks anywhere else.  This is because I personally customize them myself, and I make them available only here off this site.  I do this because I want to help new ones in there effort to learn finger picking guitar.  This customizing is something that I learned and developed for myself many years ago.  The changes I made in the picks helped me with my playing. Now I’ve found that the modifications I had made to the picks has also helped others to play better!  So I’m passing on this “trade secret” in these custom finger picks.  Now these picks have helped hundreds of my new students.

When to Begin Finger Picking

These pages will help you learn how to finger pick your guitar.  The instructions here are not really intended for  people just beginning to play guitar. It is best to learn to finger picking your guitar after you already have some “left hand skills.”  If guitar is your instrument of choice (as it is mine), and you have already committed yourself to it by learning some basic left hand skills (like making different chord progressions, perhaps some melody lines and/or different scales) and you’re comfortable with playing some songs, then I can help you learn how to finger pick guitar. This will help your guitar playing to take on new heights and dimensions.  It will enhance your over all sound tremendously!  So please remember that  I will be assuming that you already have some basic guitar skills. 

Please don’t misunderstand me.  This DOES NOT mean that you have to be an advanced guitarist to learn finger picking guitar. Finger style guitar can be learned very early on in your guitar playing.  Nor does it depend on your age.  This video shows an exceptional young man that is ALREADY very accomplished with finger style guitar.

Please note how this young man is using plastic finger picks not metal.

If you can play even a few chords and you feel comfortable with your changes and YOU FEEL like it’s time to start learning some right hand skills, then THIS is THE web site for you to start.  It’s really up to you. But to learn finger picking is going to take determination and a lot of effort. If you’re not really “into guitar” you likely will give up on learning finger picking. But if you have the right mind set you can start very early.  It’s your call… but please don’t start something you won’t finish! DO NOT give up on finger picking.

The purpose of the information this web site is to get you started with the basics of finger picking.  I’m not intended to teach you everything there is to know about finger picking guitar. That would simply be impossible! I began  to learn finger picking in the late 1960’s and I certainly don’t know everything there is to know about it either.  Actually, I’m not even going to attempt to teach you everything that I know about finger picking.  What I hope to do, is to teach you enough about finger picking to get you “hooked” on this beautiful art form of guitar playing.  I would like YOU to be so “hooked” to the point that you will stay with it the rest of your guitar playing life. That’s what I have done!

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