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Fingerstyle Guitar

Updated on June 4, 2016

A typical acoustic guitar, perfect for some fingerstyle practise

What is Fingerstyle Guitar?

Fingerstyle Guitar is a style that can be adopted to both acoustic and electric guitar players (predominantly acoustic though).

The style uses 'plucking' and classical techniques to form the end result which incorporates both the base line or melody and the singer's notes from a song. This gives a very melodolistic and band like sound which you would not expect from just the one instrument.

The technique is extremely complicated and rarely mastered except by the truly talented professionals. It is however, becoming more and more popular with the likes of Ed Sheeran regularly using this style to form his melodies.

Every finger on the 'strumming' hand is utilised so each of the six guitar strings can be plucked indivually or simultaneously without the need for strumming. The fretboard hand requires extreme flexibility for some of the more complicated patterns but this does come with a great deal of practise. The beauty of fingerstyle, is the depth that can created when merging chords, arpeggios and melodies all into one. Hammering onto the string with the fretting hand is very common as is 'pulling off' from the string and plucking.

I have played guitar for nearly 20 years now but only recently have I started with the fingerstyle technique and even as an accomplished guitarist I can assure you this will take time to master.

The very best fingerstyle guitarists are now making a living through social media such as Youtube by airing thier latest performances. Most come in the form of an interpretation of a modern song so as to connect with the current audience.

A few of my personal favourite artists are Peter Geregly, Kelly Valleau and Gareth Evens. These guys are truly talented and such an inspiration to work towards.

Learning Fingerstyle Guitar

Most guitarists will either learn rythym guitar (strumming of chords to keep time) or leadguitar (the intro and solo sections of a song). Fingerstyle basically involves both rythym and lead guitar together as well as the notes of the singer on any given track so as you would expect, can be very tricky. Sound of the best fingerstyle players also incorporate the drum section of a track by tapping the guitar with the palm of the strumming hand to help keep time and give a drum effect. All this from just one instrument and one musician!

You only have to type in the words 'fingerstyle guitar' into Youtube's search box to bring up numerous examples and tutorials.

The easiest way to learn a fingerstyle arrangement is with 'tab' (short for tabliture) due to the numerous notes needed. Practising scales is also a great way to improve your flexibility in the fingers but the most important factor when learning this technique is time and patience. It will not happen overnight and can be a very long process storing the tab to memory as there is so much to take in. That being said, it is an extremely relaxing way to play guitar and (in my opinion) by far the best way to showcase a musicians skills to an audience.

Most tabs can be found on the Internet but I have started using a handy little app on my smartphone called 'Singsterr'. This app is fantastic, one can find almost all guitar tabliture on here no matter what type of music genre your into. There is tab for rythym, lead, acoustic and also fingerstyle guitar (many of Peter Geregly's interpretations too).

These tabs scroll through as you play them so there is no need to keep turning a page or stopping to swipe your phone screen. The tempo can also be adjusted so if your just learning a song, try playing it at 50% speed and then as you get used to it, up the tempo until you can play the song at 100%.

You can also highlight small sections of tab for example, if you wanted to concentrate on just one 'riff' thiS can be highlighted and the app will keep playing this section over and over (a great way to learn your favourite intros or solos).

Peter Geregly's fingerstyle interpretation of a John Legend classic.

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Kelly Valleau Fingerstyle version of Hit the road Jack.


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