Fingerstyle guitar is the technique of playing the guitar by plucking
the strings directly with the fingertips, fingernails, or picks
attached to fingers, as opposed to flatpicking (plucking individual
notes with a single plectrum, commonly called a "pick"). The term
"fingerstyle" is something of a misnomer, since it is present in
several different genres and styles of music—but mostly, because it
involves a completely different technique, not just a "style" of
playing, especially for the guitarist's picking/plucking hand. The
term is often used synonymously with fingerpicking, although
fingerpicking can also refer to a specific tradition of folk, blues
and country guitar playing in the US. See below.
Music arranged for fingerstyle playing can include chords, arpeggios
(the notes of a chord played one after the other, as opposed to
simultaneously) and other elements such as artificial harmonics,
hammering on and pulling off notes with the fretting hand, using the
body of the guitar percussively (by tapping rhythms on the body), and
many other techniques. Often, the guitarist will play the melody
notes, interspersed with the melody's accompanying chords and the deep
bassline (or bass notes) simultaneously. Some fingerpicking guitarists
also intersperse percussive tapping along with the melody, chords and
bassline. This enables a single guitarist to provide all of these
important song elements. This enables singer-guitarists to accompany
themselves, and it enables smaller groups which have only a single
guitarist to use one guitarist to provide all of these musical
Fingerpicking is a standard technique on the classical or
nylon string guitar, but is considered more of a specialized technique
on steel string guitars.
Fingerpicking is less common on electric
guitars, except in the heavy metal music virtuoso style of lead guitar
playing known as shred guitar.
2 Advantages and disadvantages
3 Nylon string guitar styles
Classical guitar fingerstyle
3.1.3 Tone production
Flamenco guitar fingerstyle
3.3 Bossa nova
4 North American tradition
Carter Family picking
4.3 Travis picking
Clawhammer and frailing
4.5 American primitive guitar
5 Other acoustic styles
5.1 Folk baroque
5.2 "New Age" approach
5.3 Percussive approach
5.4 Funky approaches
5.5 African fingerstyle
6 Slide, steel and slack-key guitar
6.1 Slide guitar
6.2 Slack-key guitar
7 Electric guitar
7.1 Fingerstyle jazz guitar
7.2 Electric blues and rock
Because individual digits play notes on the guitar rather than the
hand working as a single unit (which is the case when a guitarist is
holding a single pick), a guitarist playing fingerstyle can perform
several musical elements simultaneously. One definition of the
technique has been put forward by the Toronto (Canada) Fingerstyle
Physically, "Fingerstyle" refers to using each of the right hand
fingers independently to play the multiple parts of a musical
arrangement that would normally be played by several band members.
Deep bass notes, harmonic accompaniment (the chord progression),
melody, and percussion can all be played simultaneously when playing
Many fingerstyle guitarists have adopted a combination of acrylic
nails and a thumbpick to improve tone and decrease nail wear and
chance of breaking or chipping. Notable guitarists to adopt this
Doyle Dykes and Canadian guitarist Don Ross.
Advantages and disadvantages
Players do not have to carry a plectrum; but fingernails may have to
be maintained at the right length and in good condition.
It is possible to play multiple non-adjacent strings at exactly the
same time. This enables the guitarist to play a very low bass note
and a high treble note at the same time. This enables the guitarist to
play double stops, such as an octave, a fifth, a sixth, or other
intervals that suit the harmony.
It is more suitable for playing polyphonically, with separate,
independent musical lines, or separate melody, harmony and bass parts,
and therefore more suitable to unaccompanied solo playing, or to very
small ensembles, like duos in which a guitarist accompanies a singer.
Fingerstyle players have up to four (or five) surfaces (fingernails or
picks) striking the strings and/or other parts of the guitar
independently; that does not equate to four plectrums, since plectrums
can strike strings on both up and a downstroke easily, while fingers
can only achieve alternation with hard practice. (an exception to
this may be found in the flamenco technique of rasgueado.
It is easy to play arpeggios; but the techniques for tremolo (rapid
repetition of a note) and melody playing are more complex than with
It is possible to play chords without any arpeggiation, because up to
five strings can be plucked simultaneously.
There is less need for fretting hand damping (muting) in playing
chords, since only the strings that are required can be plucked.
A greater variation in strokes is possible, allowing greater
expressiveness in timbre and dynamics.
A wide variety of strums and rasgueados are possible.
Less energy is generally imparted to strings than with plectrum
playing, leading to lower volume when playing acoustically.
Playing on heavier gauge strings can damage nails: fingerstyle is more
suited to nylon strings or lighter gauge steel strings (but this does
not apply to fingerpicks, or when the flesh of the fingers is used
rather than the nail, as is the case with the lute.)
Nylon string guitar styles
Nylon string guitars are most frequently played fingerstyle[dubious
– discuss].
Classical guitar fingerstyle
Classical guitar technique
The term "
Classical guitar music" can refer to any kind of art music
played on a nylon string guitar, or more narrowly to music of the
classical period, as opposed to baroque or romantic music. The major
feature of classical fingerstyle technique is that it enables solo
rendition of harmony and polyphonic music in much the same manner as
the piano can. The technique is intended to maximise the degree of
control over the musical dynamics, texture, volume and timbral
characteristics of the guitar. Careful attention is paid to the
physical posture of the player. Thumb, index, middle and ring fingers
are all employed for plucking. Chords are often plucked, with strums
being reserved for emphasis. The repertoire varies in terms of keys,
modes, rhythms and cultural influences. Altered tunings are rarely
employed, with the exception of dropped D.
Fingerings for both hands are often given in detail in classical
guitar music notation, although players are also free to add to or
depart from them as part of their own interpretation. Fretting hand
fingers are given as numbers, plucking hand fingers are given as
c or x or e
In guitar scores, the five fingers of the right-hand (which pluck the
strings) are designated by the first letter of their Spanish names
namely p = thumb (pulgar), i = index finger (índice), m = major
finger (mayor), a = ring finger (anular), c = little finger or pinky
The four fingers of the left hand (which stop the strings) are
designated 1 = index, 2 = major, 3 = ring finger, 4 = little finger; 0
designates an open string, that is a string that is not stopped by a
finger of the left hand and whose full length thus vibrates when
plucked. On the classical guitar thumb of the left hand is never used
to stop strings from above (as is done on the electric guitar): the
neck of a classical guitar is too wide and the normal position of the
thumb used in classical guitar technique do not make that possible.
Scores (contrary to tablatures) do not systematically indicate the
string to be plucked (although in most cases the choice is obvious).
When an indication of the string is required the strings are
designated 1 to 6 (from the 1st the high E to the 6th the low E) with
figures 1 to 6 inside circles.
The positions (that is where on the fretboard the first finger of the
left hand is placed) are also not systematically indicated, but when
they are (mostly in the case of the execution of barrés) these are
indicated with Roman numerals from the position I (index finger of the
left hand placed on the 1st fret: F–B♭–E♭–A♭–C–F) to
the position XII (the index finger of the left hand placed on the 12th
fret: E–A–D–G–B–E; the 12th fret is placed where the body
begins) or higher up to position XIX (the classical guitar most often
having 19 frets, with the 19th fret being most often split and not
being usable to fret the 3rd and 4th strings).
To achieve tremolo effects and rapid, fluent scale passages, and
varied arpeggios the player must practice alternation, that is, never
plucking a string with the same finger twice. Common alternation
i–m–i–m: Basic melody line on the treble strings. Has the
appearance of "walking along the strings".
Tremolo pattern with a triplet feel (i.e. the
same note is repeated three times)
p–a–m–i–p–a–m–i: Another tremolo pattern.
p–m–p–m: A way of playing a melody line on the lower strings.
Classical guitarists have a lot of freedom within the mechanics of
playing the instrument. Often these decisions with influence on tone
and timbre – factors include:
At what position along the string the finger plucks the string (This
is changed by guitarists throughout a song, since it is an effective
way of changing the sound (timbre) from "soft" (dolce) plucking the
string near its middle, to "hard" (ponticelo) plucking the string near
Use of the nail or not: Modern classical guitar playing uses a
technique in which both the nail and the fingertip contact the string
during normal playing. (
Andrés Segovia is often credited with
popularizing this technique.) Playing with either fingertips alone
(dita punta) or fingernails alone (dita unghis) are considered special
techniques for timbral variation.
Concert guitarists must keep their fingernails smoothly filed and
carefully shaped to employ this technique, which produces a
better-controlled sound than either nails or fingertips alone. Playing
Which finger to use
What angle of attack to hold the wrist and fingers at with respect to
Rest-stroke apoyando; the finger that plucks a string rests on the
next string—traditionally used in single melody lines—versus
free-stroke tirando (plucking the string without coming to a rest on
the next string).
Flamenco guitar fingerstyle
Flamenco technique is related to classical technique, but with more
emphasis on rhythmic drive and volume, and less on dynamic contrast
and tone production.
Flamenco guitarists prefer keys such as A and E
that allow the use of open strings, and typically employ capos where a
departure is required. They often strengthen their fingernails
Some specialized techniques include:
Picado: Single-line scale passages performed apoyando but with more
attack and articulation.
Rasgueado: Strumming frequently done by bunching all the right hand
fingers and then flicking them out in quick succession to get four
superimposed strums (although there are a great many variations on
this). The rasgueado or "rolling" strum is particularly characteristic
of the genre.
Alzapua: A thumb technique with roots in oud plectrum technique. The
right hand thumb is used for both single-line notes and strummed
across a number of strings. Both are combined in quick succession to
give it a unique sound.
Tremolo: Done somewhat differently from the conventional classical
guitar tremolo, it is very commonly played with the right hand pattern
Bossa nova is most commonly performed on the nylon-string classical
guitar, played with the fingers rather than with a pick. Its purest
form could be considered unaccompanied guitar with vocals, as
exemplified by João Gilberto. Even in larger, jazz-like arrangements
for groups, there is almost always a guitar that plays the underlying
rhythm. Gilberto basically took one of the several rhythmic layers
from a samba ensemble, specifically the tamborim, and applied it to
the picking hand.
North American tradition
Lindsey Buckingham playing an amplified acoustic guitar
using fingerpicking technique
Mark Knopfler, performing with his band
Dire Straits in 1981,
demonstrates his fingerpicking style on a Fender Stratocaster
Fingerpicking (also called thumb picking, alternating bass, or pattern
picking) is both a playing style and a genre of music. It falls under
the "fingerstyle" heading because it is plucked by the fingers, but it
is generally used to play a specific type of folk, country-jazz and/or
blues music. In this technique, the thumb maintains a steady rhythm,
usually playing "alternating bass" patterns on the lower three
strings, while the index, or index and middle fingers pick out melody
and fill-in notes on the high strings. The style originated in the
late 19th and early 20th centuries, as southern blues guitarists tried
to imitate the popular ragtime piano music of the day, with the
guitarist's thumb functioning as the pianist's left hand, and the
other fingers functioning as the right hand. The first recorded
examples were by players such as Blind Blake, Big Bill Broonzy,
Memphis Minnie and Mississippi John Hurt. Some early blues players
Blind Willie Johnson
Blind Willie Johnson and
Tampa Red added slide guitar
Fingerpicking was soon taken up by country and Western artists such as
Ike Everly (father of The Everly Brothers), Merle Travis
and "Thumbs" Carllile. Later
Chet Atkins further developed the style
and in modern music musicians such as Jose Gonzalez, Eddie Vedder (on
his song Guaranteed) and David Knowles have utilized the style.
Most fingerpickers use acoustic guitars, but some, including Merle
Travis played on hollow-body electric guitars, while some modern
rock musicians, such as
Derek Trucks and Mark Knopfler, employ
traditional North American fingerpicking techniques on solid-body
electric guitars such as the
Gibson Les Paul
Gibson Les Paul or the Fender
As mentioned above, fingerpicking has similar roots to and may have
been inspired by ragtime piano. An early master of
ragtime guitar was Blind Blake, a popular recording artist of the late
1920s and early 1930s. In the 1960s, a new generation of guitarists
returned to these roots and began to transcribe piano tunes for solo
guitar. One of the best known and most talented of these players was
Dave Van Ronk, who arranged St. Louis Tickle for solo guitar. In 1971,
guitarists David Laibman and
Eric Schoenberg arranged and recorded
Scott Joplin rags and other complex piano arrangements for the LP The
Guitar on Folkways Records. This was followed by a Stefan
Grossman method book with the same title. A year later Grossman and ED
Denson founded Kicking Mule Records, a company that recorded scores of
LPs of solo ragtime guitar by artists including Grossman, Ton van
Bergeyk, Leo Wijnkamp, Duck Baker, Peter Finger, Lasse Johansson, Tom
Ball and Dale Miller. Meanwhile,
Reverend Gary Davis
Reverend Gary Davis was active in New
York City, where he mentored many aspiring finger-pickers. He has
subsequently influenced numerous other artists in the United States
Carter Family picking
Carter Family picking, also known as "'thumb brush' technique or the
'Carter lick,' and also the 'church lick' and the 'Carter
scratch'", is a style of fingerstyle guitar named for Maybelle
Carter of the Carter Family's distinctive style of rhythm guitar in
which the melody is played on the bass strings, usually low E, A, and
D while rhythm strumming continues above, on the treble strings, G, B,
and high E. This often occurs during the break.
This style is commonly played on steel string acoustic guitars.
Pattern picking is the use of "preset right-hand pattern[s]" while
fingerpicking, with the left hand fingering standard chords. The
most common pattern, sometimes broadly (and incorrectly[citation
needed]) referred to as
Travis picking after Merle Travis, and
popularized by Chet Atkins, Marcel Dadi, James Taylor and Tommy
Emmanuel, is as follows:
Middle X X - X X -
Index X X - X X -
Thumb X X X X - X X X X -
The thumb (T) alternates between bass notes, often on two different
strings, while the index (I) and middle (M) fingers alternate between
two treble notes, usually on two different strings, most often the
second and first. Using this pattern on a C major chord is as follows
in notation and tablature:
Travis picking. Play (help·info)
However, Travis' own playing was often much more complicated than this
example. He often referred to his style of playing as "thumb picking",
possibly because the only pick he used when playing was a banjo thumb
pick, or "Muhlenberg picking", after his native Muhlenberg County,
Kentucky, where he learned this approach to playing from Mose Rager
and Ike Everly. Travis' style did not involve a defined, alternating
bass string pattern; it was more of an alternating "bass strum"
pattern, resulting in an accompanying rhythm reminiscent of ragtime
Clawhammer and frailing
Clawhammer and frailing are primarily banjo techniques that are
sometimes applied to the guitar.
Jody Stecher and Alec Stone Sweet
are exponents of guitar clawhammer. Fingerstyle guitarist Steve
Baughman distinguishes between frailing and clawhammer as follows. In
frailing, the index fingertip is used for up-picking melody, and the
middle fingernail is used for rhythmic downward brushing. In
clawhammer, only downstrokes are used, and they are typically played
with one fingernail as is the usual technique on the banjo.
American primitive guitar
Main article: American primitive guitar
American primitive guitar is a subset of fingerstyle guitar. It
originated with John Fahey, whose recordings from the late 1950s to
the mid 1960s inspired many guitarists such as Leo Kottke, who made
his debut recording of
6- and 12-String Guitar
6- and 12-String Guitar on Fahey's Takoma label
American primitive guitar can be characterized by the use of
folk music or folk-like material, driving alternating-bass
fingerpicking with a good deal of ostinato patterns, and the use of
alternative tunings (scordatura) such as open D, open G, drop D and
open C. The application or "cross-contamination" of traditional forms
of music within the style of
American primitive guitar is also very
common. Examples of traditions that John Fahey and
Robbie Basho would
employ in their compositions include, but are not limited to, the
Raga of Indian classical music, the Japanese Koto, and the
early ragtime-based country blues music of
Mississippi John Hurt
Mississippi John Hurt or
Other acoustic styles
Main article: Folk baroque
A distinctive style to emerge from Britain in the early 1960s, which
combined elements of American folk, blues, jazz and ragtime with
British traditional music, was what became known as 'folk baroque'.
Pioneered by musicians of the Second British folk revival began their
careers in the short-lived skiffle craze of the later 1950s and often
used American blues, folk and jazz styles, occasionally using open D
and G tunings. However, performers like
Davy Graham and Martin
Carthy attempted to apply these styles to the playing of traditional
English modal music. They were soon followed by artists such as Bert
Jansch and John Renbourn, who further defined the style. The style
these artists developed was particularly notable for the adoption of
D–A–D–G–A–D (from lowest to highest), which gave a form of
suspended-fourth D chord, neither major nor minor, which could be
employed as the basis for modal based folk songs. This was
combined with a fingerstyle based on
Travis picking and a focus on
melody, that made it suitable as an accompaniment. Denselow, who
coined the phrase 'folk baroque,' singled out Graham's recording of
traditional English folk song 'Seven Gypsys' on Folk,
Blues and Beyond
(1964) as the beginning of the style. Graham mixed this with
Indian, African, American, Celtic, and modern and traditional American
influences, while Carthy in particular used the tuning to replicate
the drone common in medieval and folk music played by the thumb on the
two lowest strings. The style was further developed by Jansch, who
brought a more forceful style of picking and, indirectly, influences
Jazz and Ragtime, leading particularly to more complex basslines.
Renbourn built on all these trends and was the artist whose repertoire
was most influenced by medieval music.
In the early 1970s the next generation of British artists added new
tunings and techniques, reflected in the work of artists like Nick
Tim Buckley and particularly John Martyn, whose Solid Air
(1972) set the bar for subsequent British acoustic guitarists.
Perhaps the most prominent exponent of recent years has been Martin
Simpson, whose complex mix of traditional English and American
material, together with innovative arrangements and techniques like
the use of guitar slides, represents a deliberate attempt to create a
unique and personal style.
Martin Carthy passed on his guitar
style to French guitarist Pierre Bensusan. It was taken up in
Scotland by Dick Gaughan, and by Irish musicians like Paul Brady,
Dónal Lunny and Mick Moloney. Carthy also influenced Paul Simon,
particularly evident on Scarborough Fair, which he probably taught to
Simon, and a recording of Davy's Anji that appears on Sounds of
Silence, and as a result was copied by many subsequent folk
guitarists. By the 1970s Americans such as
Duck Baker and Eric
Schoenberg were arranging solo guitar versions of Celtic dance tunes,
slow airs, bagpipe music, and harp pieces by
Turlough O'Carolan and
earlier harper-composers. Renbourn and Jansch's complex sounds were
also highly influential on Mike Oldfield's early music. The style
also had an impact within British folk rock, where particularly
Richard Thompson, used the D–A–D–G–A–D tuning, though with a
hybrid picking style to produce a similar but distinctive effect.
"New Age" approach
William Ackerman started Windham Hill Records, which carried
on the Takoma tradition of original compositions on solo steel string
guitar. However, instead of the folk and blues oriented music of
Takoma, including Fahey's American primitive guitar, the early Windham
Hill artists (and others influenced by them) abandoned the steady
alternating or monotonic bass in favor of sweet flowing arpeggios and
flamenco-inspired percussive techniques. The label's best selling
George Winston and others used a similar approach on piano.
This music was generally pacific, accessible and expressionistic.
Eventually, this music acquired the label of "New Age", given its
widespread use as background music at bookstores, spas and other New
Age businesses. The designation has stuck, though it wasn't a term
coined by the company itself.
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"Percussive picking" is a term for a style incorporating sharp attacks
on the strings, as well as hitting the strings and guitar top with the
hand for percussive effect.
Flamenco guitarists have been using these
techniques for years but the greater resistance of steel strings made
a similar approach difficult in fingerstyle until the use of pickups
on acoustic guitars became common in the early 1970s. Michael Hedges
began to use percussive techniques in the early 1980s.
"Funky fingerstyle" emerged in the mid 2000s, as a style in which the
sounds of a full funk or R&B ensemble are emulated on one guitar.
Uncommon sounds are being discovered thanks to the technical
possibilities of various pick-ups, microphones and octave division
Adam Rafferty uses a technique of hip-hop vocal
percussion called "human beat box", along with body percussion, while
playing contrapuntal fingerstyle pieces. Petteri Sariola has several
mics on board his guitar and is able to run up to 6 lines from his
guitar to a mixing desk, providing a full "band sound" – bass drum,
snare, bass, guitar – as an accompaniment to his vocals.
Lionel Loueke, playing a skeleton guitar.
The six string guitar was brought to Africa by traders and
missionaries (although there are indigenous guitar-like instruments
such as the ngoni and the gimbri or sintir of Gnawa music). Its uptake
varies considerably between regions, and there is therefore no single
African acoustic guitar style. In some cases, the styles and
techniques of other instruments have been applied to the guitar; for
instance, a technique where the strings are plucked with the thumb and
one finger imitates the two-thumbed plucking of the kora and mbira.
The pioneer of Congolese fingerstyle acoustic guitar music was Jean
Bosco Mwenda, also known as Mwenda wa Bayeke (1930–1990). His song
"Masanga" was particularly influential, because of its complex and
varied guitar part. His influences included traditional music of
Zambia and the Eastern Congo, Cuban groups like the Trio Matamoros,
and cowboy movies. His style used the thumb and index finger only, to
produce bass, melody and accompaniment. Congolese guitarists Losta
Edouard Masengo played in a similar style.
Herbert Misango and
George Mukabi were fingerstyle guitarists from
Ali Farka Toure
Ali Farka Toure (d. 2006) was a guitarist from Mali, whose
music has been called the "DNA of the blues". He was also often
compared to John Lee Hooker. His son
Vieux Farka Toure
Vieux Farka Toure continues to
play in the same style.
Djelimady Tounkara is another Malian
S. E. Rogie and
Koo Nimo play acoustic fingerstyle in
the lilting, calypso-influenced palm wine music tradition. Benin-born
Lionel Loueke uses fingerstyle in an approach that
combines jazz harmonies and complex rhythms. He is now based in
Tony Cox (b. 1954) is a Zimbabwean guitarist and composer based in
Cape Town, South Africa. A master of the
Fingerpicking style of guitar
playing, he has won the SAMA (South African
Music Awards) for best
instrumental album twice. His music incorporates many different styles
including classical, blues, rock and jazz, while keeping an African
flavour. Tinderwet is a versatile guitarist of the three and sometimes
four fingers playing style (thumb, index, middle and ring); he plays
several different African styles, including soukous or West African
music. He often flavours his playing with jazzy improvisations,
regular fingerpicking patterns and chord melody sequences.
Slide, steel and slack-key guitar
Even when the guitar is tuned in a manner that helps the guitarist to
perform a certain type of chord, it is often undesirable for all six
strings to sound. When strumming with a plectrum, a guitarist must
"damp" (mute) unwanted strings with the fretting hand; when a slide or
steel is employed, this fretting hand damping is no longer possible,
so it becomes necessary to replace plectrum strumming with plucking of
individual strings. For this reason, slide guitar and steel guitar
playing are very often fingerstyle.
Main article: Slide guitar
Example of a bottleneck, with fingerpicks and resonator guitar.
Slide guitar or bottleneck guitar is a particular method or technique
for playing the guitar. The term slide refers to the motion of the
slide against the strings, while bottleneck refers to the original
material of choice for such slides: the necks of glass bottles.
Instead of altering the pitch of the strings in the normal manner (by
pressing the string against frets), a slide is placed on the string to
vary its vibrating length, and pitch. This slide can then be moved
along the string without lifting, creating continuous transitions in
Slide guitar is most often played (assuming a right-handed player and
with the guitar in the normal position, using a slide called a
bottleneck on one of the fingers of the left hand; this is known as
with the guitar held horizontally, with the belly uppermost and the
bass strings toward the player, and using a slide called a steel held
in the left hand; this is known as lap steel guitar.
Main article: Slack-key guitar
Slack-key guitar is a fingerpicked style that originated in Hawaii.
The English term is a translation of the Hawaiian kī hō‘alu, which
means "loosen the [tuning] key". Slack key is nearly always played in
open or altered tunings—the most common tuning is G-major
(D–G–D–G–B–D), called "taropatch", though there is a family
of major-seventh tunings called "wahine" (Hawaiian for "woman"), as
well as tunings designed to get particular effects. Basic slack-key
style, like mainland folk-based fingerstyle, establishes an
alternating bass pattern with the thumb and plays the melody line with
the fingers on the higher strings. The repertory is rooted in
traditional, post-Contact Hawaiian song and dance, but since 1946
(when the first commercial slack key recordings were made) the style
has expanded, and some contemporary compositions have a distinctly
new-age sound. Slack key's older generation included Gabby Pahinui,
Sonny Chillingworth and Raymond Kāne. Prominent
contemporary players include Keola Beamer, Moses Kahumoku, Ledward
Kaapana, Dennis Kamakahi, John Keawe,
Ozzie Kotani and Peter Moon and
Fingerstyle jazz guitar
The unaccompanied guitar in jazz is often played in chord-melody
style, where the guitarist plays a series of chords with the melody
line on top. Fingerstyle, plectrum, or hybrid picking are equally
suited to this style. Some players alternate between fingerstyle and
plectrum playing, "palming" the plectrum when it is not in use. Early
blues and ragtime guitarists often used fingerstyle. True fingerstyle
jazz guitar dates back to early swing era acoustic players like Eddie
Lang (1902–1933) Lonnie Johnson (1899–1970) and Carl Kress
Dick McDonough (1904–1938) and the
Django Reinhardt (1910–1953) used a
classical/flamenco technique on unaccompanied pieces such as his
Fingerstyle jazz on the electric guitar was pioneered by George van
Eps (1913–1998) who was respected for his polyphonic approach,
sometimes using a seven string guitar.
Wes Montgomery (1925–1968)
was known for using the fleshy part of his thumb to provide the bass
line while strumming chordal or melodic motives with his fingers. This
style, while unorthodox, was widely regarded as an innovative method
for enhancing the warm tone associated with jazz guitar. Montgomery's
influence extends to modern polyphonic jazz improvisational methods.
Joe Pass (1929–1994) switched to fingerstyle mid career,making the
Virtuoso series of albums. Little known to the general public Ted
Greene (1946–2005) was admired by fellow musicians for his harmonic
Lenny Breau (1941–1984) went one better than van Eps by
playing virtuosic fingerstyle on an eight string guitar. Tommy Crook
replaced the lower two strings on his Gibson switchmaster with bass
strings, allowing him to create the impression of playing bass and
Chet Atkins (1924–2001) sometimes applied his
formidable right-hand technique to jazz standards, with
Duck Baker (b.
1949), Richard Smith (b. 1971),
Woody Mann and
Tommy Emmanuel (b.
1955), among others, following in his footsteps. They use the
fingerpicking technique of
Merle Travis and others to play wide
variety of material including jazz. This style is distinguished by
having a steadier and "busier" (several beats to the bar) bass line
than the chord melody approach of Montgomery and Pass making it suited
to up-tempo material.
Fingerstyle has always been predominant in Latin American guitar
Laurindo Almeida (1917–1995) and Charlie Byrd
(1925–1999) brought to a wider audience in the 1950s. Fingerstyle
jazz guitar has several proponents: the pianistic
Jeff Linsky (b.
1952), freely improvises polyphonically while employing a classical
Earl Klugh (b. 1953) and
Tuck Andress have also
performed fingerstyle jazz on the solo guitar. Briton Martin Taylor
(b. 1956), a former
Stephane Grappelli sideman, switched to
fingerstyle on relaunching his career as a soloist. His predecessor in
John Etheridge (b. 1948) is also an occasional
Electric blues and rock
The solid-body electric guitar is rarely played fingerstyle, although
it presents no major technical challenges. Slide guitarists often
employ fingerstyle, which applies equally to the electric guitar, for
Duane Allman and Ry Cooder.
Blues guitarists have long used
fingerstyle: some exponents include Jorma Kaukonen, Hubert Sumlin,
Albert King, Albert Collins, John Lee Hooker, Derek Trucks, Joe
Bonamassa, and Buckethead. Exponents of fingerstyle rock guitar
include: Mark Knopfler,
Jeff Beck (after years of pick playing),
Bruce Cockburn (exclusively), Robby Krieger, Lindsey
Buckingham, Mike Oldfield, Patrick Simmons, Wilko Johnson, J.J. Cale,
Robbie Robertson, Hillel Slovak, Annie Clark, Kurt Vile, David
Longstreth and Richie Kotzen.
J. J. Cale
Guitar Lessons: Fingerstyle". GuitarTricks.com. Retrieved 3
^ "Learn How To Travis Pick". Howtotuneguitar.org. Retrieved 2 October
^ "WebCite query result". Webcitation.org. Archived from the original
on October 26, 2009. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
^ The little finger whose use is not completely standardized in
classical guitar technique can also be found designated by e or x.
There are several words in Spanish for the little finger: dedo
meñique, dedo auricular, dedo pequeño, but their initials conflict
with the initials of the other fingers; c is said to be the initial of
dedo chiquito, which is not the most common name for the little
finger; e and x are not initials but letters that were picked, either
with its own rationale, by people who didn't know what else to pick
^ Tennant, Scott (1996). Pumping Nylon. Alfred pub. co.
^ "David Knowles UK Musician, Singer-Songwriter". Davidknowles.biz.
Music Lessons from". Homespuntapes.com. Archived from the original
on 2007-12-31. Retrieved 2010-03-01.
^ Russell, Tony (1997). The
Blues – From Robert Johnson to Robert
Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 105.
^ Sid Griffin and Eric Thompson (2006). Bluegrass Guitar: Know the
Players, Play the Music, p.22. ISBN 0-87930-870-2.
^ Traum, Happy (1974). Bluegrass Guitar, p.23.
^ Traum, Happy (1974).
Fingerpicking Styles For Guitar. Oak
Publications. ISBN 0-8256-0005-7.
^ Herbst, Peter (1979-09-06). "cover story features James Taylor".
Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
^ Traum, Happy (1974).
Fingerpicking Styles For Guitar, p.12. Oak
Publications. ISBN 0-8256-0005-7. Hardcover (2005):
^ "Basics of
Clawhammer Guitar". Angelfire.com. Retrieved 2 October
^  Archived January 12, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
^ M. Brocken, The British Folk Revival 1944-2002 (Ashgate, Aldershot,
2003), p. 114.
^ B. Swears, Electric Folk: The Changing Face of English Traditional
Music (Oxford University Press, 2005) p. 184-9.
^ a b c V. Coelho, The Cambridge Companion to the
University Press, 2003), p. 39.
^ D. Laing, K. Dallas, R. Denselow and R. Shelton, The Electric Muse
(Methuen, 1975), p. 145.
^ B. Swears, Electric Folk: The Changing Face of English Traditional
Music (Oxford University Press, 2005) pp. 184-9.
^ P. Buckley, The Rough Guide to Rock: the definitive guide to more
than 1200 artists and bands (Rough Guides, 2003), pp. 145, 211-12,
^ R. Weissman, Which Side are You On?: An Inside History of the Folk
Music Revival in America (Continuum, 2005), p. 274.
^ V. Coelho, 'The Cambridge Companion to the Guitar' (Cambridge
University Press, 2003), p. 39.
^ a b J. Henigan, Dadgad Tuning: Traditional Irish and Original Tunes
and Songs (Mel Bay, 1999), p. 4.
^ J. DeRogatis, Turn on Your Mind: Four Decades of Great Psychedelic
Rock (Hal Leonard, 2003), p. 173.
^ "Elijah Wald". Elijahwald.com. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
Lionel Loueke on Canvas (YouTube)". YouTube. Retrieved 2 October
^ "Michael Horowitz: The Unaccompanied Django". DjangoBooks.com.
Retrieved 2 October 2014.
Robert Fripp interviews John McLaughlin". Elephant-talk.com.
Retrieved 2 October 2014.
^  Archived January 31, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
Blues Guitar". 12bar.de. Retrieved 2010-03-01.
Pearson, Wyn (2008). Hybrid Picking. Mel Bay Publications Inc.
ISBN 978-0-7866-7607-1. Archived from the original on
Carter Family picking