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I'm learning to fingerpick


Kramer Ferrington III.

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But I sort of wanted to ask a few questions.

 

Will it ever sound like a proper pick? The sound is not as sharp or as clean. So far.

 

A problem is that, except for Knopfler, I'm not sure who I would know that plays electric with their fingers. And Knopfler likes those out of phase sounds anyway so it's hard to be sure how much is fingers and how much is p/up. Anyone else use their fingers to good effect on an electric?

 

What about strumming? Don't your nails take a real beating? I notice that Knopfler doesn't really do a lot of strumming, at least he didn't use to. Would I have to buy those false nails? Is there a problem with having your middle fingers do most of the strumming?

 

Is there anything I should know (as in "don't do such and such, you'll wreck your tendons" and so on? )

 

How many fingers do you guys use? At the moment I can do PIM and occasionally PIMA but I've never managed to use my pinkie. Fingerpicks anybody? I'm sure I'll think of some more questions later! :D

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Originally posted by Vince C.:

But I sort of wanted to ask a few questions.

 

Will it ever sound like a proper pick? The sound is not as sharp or as clean. So far.

 

A problem is that, except for Knopfler, I'm not sure who I would know that plays electric with their fingers. And Knopfler likes those out of phase sounds anyway so it's hard to be sure how much is fingers and how much is p/up. Anyone else use their fingers to good effect on an electric?

 

What about strumming? Don't your nails take a real beating? I notice that Knopfler doesn't really do a lot of strumming, at least he didn't use to. Would I have to buy those false nails? Is there a problem with having your middle fingers do most of the strumming?

 

Is there anything I should know (as in "don't do such and such, you'll wreck your tendons" and so on? )

 

How many fingers do you guys use? At the moment I can do PIM and occasionally PIMA but I've never managed to use my pinkie. Fingerpicks anybody? I'm sure I'll think of some more questions later! :D

Steel strings will just destroy your nails in short order. Most people that play steel string fingerstyle use the flesh of the fingers and thumb or finger picks. I really good example of a steel string finger style player is Doyle Dykes. He uses thumbpicks and fingerpicks.

 

If you want to use nails, I would suggest getting a nylon string guitar.

 

Yes, it will sound cleaner, clearer and better the more you practice. As far as position, just find comfortable hand/wrist positions that allow free movement. I usually anchor my pinkie on the pickguard when I'm playing fingerstyle steel string. When I'm playing classical I use all four fingers and my thumb on my right hand, so I use a different position, but the guitar is smaller than my Dreadnaught and Jumbo steel string guitars, so I don't have to reach as far.

"And so I definitely, when I have a daughter, I have a lot of good advice for her."

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Originally posted by Sasquatch51:

Yes, it will sound cleaner, clearer and better the more you practice.

Whew... :)

 

 

Originally posted by Sasquatch51:

I usually anchor my pinkie on the pickguard when I'm playing fingerstyle steel string.

Yeah? I tend to do that too. I always thought it was a bad habit, but I could never shake it. I've even toyed with making a sort of glove or mitten that would keep the pinkie out of the way, would you believe. Great news! :) Thanks for that!
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I've always switched between playing classical style, where the hand is arched and hovers above strings, and a technique similar to that described by Sasquatch for playing steel string; pinky usually planted down near the bridge and often the palm is sitting right on the bridge. Mostly for steel string it's thumb and two fingers.

Playing a lead part, that I used to play with a pick is now often thumb,index, middle repeated over, or just index middle repeated over. Using thumb and two fingers for playing rhythm opens up lots of possibilities. I'm simplifying things of course, there's about a thousand other things going one when you play with fingers.

I haven't had to play any electric for about a year, but haven't found using fingers too much of a problem in the past.

Obviously you're always worried about breaking a nail, so if playing somewhere, I have a pick close by, just in case.

If you happen to have *GP May 1977 just sitting around, as I do, there's a lot of useful info about caring for nails and other fingerpicking topics. I'm sure it mentions in there somewhere about how Hendrix and others used to hold their pick in their palm when they needed to fingerpick.

 

*Re; May'77 GP - This has Bonnie Raitt on the cover and is one GP that I often have within reach.Something of a favourite, probably the best GP cover ever!

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Oh, I LOVE playing electric guitar with just my fingers aqnd nails, so much so that I never use a pick!

 

Jeff beck- in his later period- is another well known exponent of ridin' bareback, as I like to call it. I don't know if he uses a pick sometimes, much of the time, or even never nowadays; I do know that he got into fingerstyle/pickless largely because of his love for Gene Vincent's lead guitarist, Cliff Gallup (he did a tribute album called Crazy Legs where he did everything as faithfully to '50s vintage recording and playing techniques and gear as humanly possible). Gallup aparently used some fingerpicks, but I think that Beck only confirmed this after he recorded Crazy Legs; I believe that Beck played completey fingerstyle/bare-fingered on the album.

 

Derek Trucks gets a killer sound without any picks of any kind, too.

 

I just try to keep my nails in good shape- not too long, just long enough- do a search here for "fingernails", "fingerstyle", etc., there's been a lot posted over the last few years, a lot of it hot air blown by your's truly here.

 

(For those who don't know- I know, you know- picking-hand fingers are notated as p = thumb, i = index, m = middle, a = anular/"ring", and c = "little"; I'm afraid I honestly can't remember what specific word "c" stands for there...)

 

I often use my index-finger's nail similarly to a flatpick. Most anything that I'd want to do with a pick, I can do as well or even better with that nail. I use the nails, the fleshy pad of the fingertips, or a sort of a combination of both; I personally dislike fingerpicks, or even artificial nails (tried 'em, hated 'em!). "YMMV". :cool:

 

I use the sides of the fingers at times, or I may lightly brush across the strings, all manner of things.

 

For a classic "Brit-Blues" tone, use bare-finger or nail upstrokes, almost a breathy brushing, on single-string/lead passages; when you get it right, the notes actually sound bigger, fuller, fatter, rounder than if you used a pick, and/or picked hard. Notes seem to blossom and bloom this way.

 

I generally use p/i/m the most, often p/i/m/a, but I do also often use all five when plucking for a more piano-like attack on chords, where notes are sounded simultaneously, instead of strummed in a blurred arpeggiated manner as a pick is resigned to. I sometimes wish I had a sixth finger for this! I don't use a lot of standard fingerstyle picking-pattern technique, though, just my own bastardized classical/banjo/bass thievery...

 

I don't happen to anchor any figers anywhere, either; I often lightly rest the heel of my palm on the bridge and/or strings, though. It's automatically moving around as a part of my muting and damping.

 

Yeah, it will get better with practice; and rather than souning the same as a pick, it will eventually sound good enough in its own right; I prefer my fingers to any picks for anything I play, really! I can't sound quite right with a pick now, I'm so used to not using one.

 

The new degree of control through damping and muting afforded by having all of your fingers free is wonderful. Much of what I do, I could not do right with a pick alone; and even with a hybrid pick-and-fingers approach, the pick can get in the way.

 

Man, I wish you could just stop by the house some time; it's so much easier to show someone than to try to properly describe this typing with a keyboard! :rolleyes::D

 

Blah blah blah blah blah... b'blah-b'blah... hope some of this was at least a little helpful, and that none of it was harmful! Here's to you and your five little friends! :D:thu:

Ask yourself- What Would Ren and Stimpy Do?

 

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Just a thought...

 

You don't probably have to do one or the other...you can do both. I heard an amazing kid (I say kid, he was probably 25 or 30) here in KC that was playing amazing Pat Martino-style jazz runs using his thumb and index finger.

"Cisco Kid, was a friend of mine"
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Originally posted by Philemec:

If you happen to have *GP May 1977 just sitting around, as I do...

You'll never believe it, but **tsk** I JUST lent that particular number out to a friend who was shot down over the south china sea. They gave him a Zero and he couldn't fly it. No, seriously, I'm not that much of a collector! :D

 

I'm not worried about the points of the nails, they just grow back. I'm much more oncerned about the bit that goes over the finger.

 

Originally posted by Philemec:

I'm sure it mentions in there somewhere about how Hendrix and others used to hold their pick in their palm when they needed to fingerpick.

How did they do that? With their middle finger?
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Good questions Vince.

 

Will fingers ever sound just like a pick? No, but thats part of the point, it is a different sound. But it will it sound clear and articulate with practice.

 

Besides Mark Knopfler, there are many electric players that use fingers. Chet Atkins, Lindsey Buckingham, Jeff Beck, and Eric Johnson are some examples. Strumming steel strings will most likely tear up your nails, but there is no reason to use fingers exclusively. Jeff Beck will use a pick for strumming sometimes. Eric Johnson will use a pick and fingers, as quite a few people do.

 

As far as wrecking your tendons and technique, I think common sense should prevail. A relaxed hand and wrist is always something to be concerned about. I have always tried to adjust my hand position so that my wrists are flat (not bent). This is the natural position of your hands and affords the most strength and flexability. Obviously you will have some passages where you have to twist some. If you have tendancy to get tendonitis, its probably a combination of a non-relaxed position and just plain practicing to much. There is only so much that the human body can take.

 

Taking up some classical on a nylon string would be a great way to go about learning the technique. Many pieces and exersizes are written that help develop the right hand. You can apply some of this technique to electric. The hardest thing on electric steel string is that you really have to have a light touch to keep the strings from ringing to much. You have to really work on damping also.

 

I have always fingerpicked some since my first days of playing guitar. I tend to do alot with fingers on electric, even though I always have pick in hand, even if it is palmed. There are all kinds of things you can do that you just can't do with a pick only.

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Oh, yeah- this goes for either hand, fingerstyle or pick or whatever- a big thing to look out for is any positioning that forces your wrist to be unnaturally, excessively bent in either direction. That is a prime contributor to tendonitis, carpal tunnel, etc. (Sp?)

Ask yourself- What Would Ren and Stimpy Do?

 

~ Caevan James-Michael Miller-O'Shite ~

_ ___ _ Leprechaun, Esquire _ ___ _

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Originally posted by CaevanO'Shite:

Oh, yeah- this goes for either hand, fingerstyle or pick or whatever- a big thing to look out for is any positioning that forces your wrist to be unnaturally, excessively bent in either direction. That is a prime contributor to tendonitis, carpal tunnel, etc. (Sp?)

Yes. Your hand, wrist and arm will tell you if something is wrong. If you cramp up, or ache, there's something wrong. Stop and check out your forma nd position. Pain is a warning.

"And so I definitely, when I have a daughter, I have a lot of good advice for her."

~Paris Hilton

 

BWAAAHAAAHAAHAAA!!!

 

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Actual modern classical playing advocates for the wrist to be relaxed AND straight. Move fingers i, m, a into the hand, not outward (flexing as opposed to extending), from the knuckles, minimizing movement in the other joints. Movement from the knuckles requires less effort, usually provides better sound, and allows more finger independence. Move the thumb (p) outward and downward, being careful you stay out of the index finger's way. Not sure if you'd like this for the electric, since many electric players actually want to SNAP & POP the strings most of the time when they play fingerstyle--especially country and blues guys.

 

Electric guitarists using their fingers? Robben Ford does it every once in a while, I think Steve Lukather does, too. The only video of Jeff Beck's I've ever seen has him laying w. the fingers. I like this sound but I have long nails and hate to play electric w/ them. I use the flesh of my thumb quite often for jazzy strummed sounds.

 

It's "rasgueado", by the way.

"Without music, life would be a mistake."

--from 'Beyond Good and Evil', by Friedrich Nietzsche

 

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Your nails will toughen up a bit as you use them. The better you keep them filed and the edges buffed the less you will get snags and rip them. Another problem if you do a look of physical work with your hands is bending them back, once that happens they weaken where they bent and will eventually break in most cases. They don't have to be long at all for a good tone and attack, and if anything too long just makes for worse tone and increased problems like bending when doing work.

 

I really like the little Mauro Giuliani Opus 1 "A" 120 finger picking arpeggios. Scott Tennant's books "Pumping Nylon" are really good. In one of them he takes the 120 exercises and groups them in a "better" way than just running through them 1-120. Not that I'm saying Tennant's way of grouping them is better or definative (jumping around them might also be good), but if you were to get that Tennant book you'd be getting a lot more than just the 120 exercises. Villa Lobo's Etude #1 is a great fingerpicking work out.

 

Good posture and attention to technical details will go a long towards improving attack. Practice rest strokes and free strokes. For example, one could approach Villa Lobos etude #1 playing all free strokes, but it is also useful to practice it all rest strokes. I actually like the sound of playing the first string struck by the "a" finger as a rest stroke and worked out the tune that way all freestrokes except for that first string. The same could be done for the B string, or any note or group of notes in the pattern.

 

Rasguados are a lot of fun and worth the work.

 

They are no real cause for concern with respect to tendons or anything. No more than anything else we do. If anything, because you're using the "back motion" from finger picking you're balancing the hand muscles in a sense so that is a good thing helping to avoid carpel tunnel problems.

 

For any concerns about tendinitis, I really recommend a few simple forearm and arm exercises with light weights and high reps and good stretching when warmed up. Hold the stretches for much longer than you'd expect to, like thirty seconds and do at least ten each hand.

 

As for it sounding like a pick or not, well if you work hard enough at it you can get a good attack with any finger but a pick to me sounds different. I think you can finger pick far more complicated patterns more easily and with less prep time or prep work than with a pick, but that may be more me than as a general rule. I used to work the "120" exercises pretty hard, using my own fingerings and really working the "a" finger and getting good independence and so for a while my fingerpicking was pretty good. I think for me to get a pick to duplicate some of the patterns I used to just come up with on the fly would take a lot more work than it ever did when finger picking. I'm speculating because when push comes to shove I'll use my fingers rather than try to get a pick to do a "fingerpicking" job. but again, that might be more "me" than a pick vs fingers thing.

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Originally posted by MadStrum:

I been listening to Don Ross and Tommy Emmanuel recently, how do they do it? They're like a one-man band! Don Ross is a bit more to the funky side, Tommy Emmanuel is more chet atkins influenced.

 

Pier.

If Don Ross is anything like Tommy Emmanuel, that would make them a six-man band at the very least.

quote:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Originally posted by Philemec:

If you happen to have *GP May 1977 just sitting around, as I do...

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

You'll never believe it, but **tsk** I JUST lent that particular number out to a friend who was shot down over the south china sea. They gave him a Zero and he couldn't fly it. No, seriously, I'm not that much of a collector!

 

------------------------------------------------

 

That explains the note that I found attached to it when the bottle it was in drifted ashore on Bondi beach two months ago........it's hard to make out, but I think it reads "Looks like i'm a goner....fingerpick 4 me Vince......."

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The bluegrass figerpicking guys, particularly banjo players, use metal fingerpicks(used to be Nationals, now it's Dunlops) and swear by them, along with a big plastic thumbpick. It is a good way to get more volume out of an acoustic when you're fingerpicking, but the tone is thinner, I think. On electric, Johnnie Winter uses a thumbpick and fingers to great effect. When he's doing fast stuff, he alternates between his thumb and first finger or first two fingers. Apparently, he is also quite adept at playing Chet Atkins-style. Who knew?

Segovia maintained that using anything but your nails in classical guitar playing was unredeemably stupid. I guess he knew a thing or two, but he could have put it a little nicer...

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I can't say I'm learning to fingerpick in the sence that there's a proper way to do it but I'm tossing the pick far more frequently.

 

It's proving to be a significant departure from my narrow and slowly progressing style.

After reading comments from Jeff Beck and others who use their fingers I decided to try... if it works that well for them it can't do anything but help me.

 

We should all find some degree of comfort with both our fingers and picks and not be intimidated by any "correct" method but simply try it out.

I still think guitars are like shoes, but louder.

 

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Here's another strong opinion: Andrés Segovia was an arrogant asshole. For example, in a famous anecdote, he returned Villa-Lobos the manuscripts for the 12 Etudes stating they were unplayable and musically bad. After a while he saw Villa-Lobos playing his own Etudes at somebody's house and asked what was that. The composer said it was the Etudes Segovia had rejected. After that, Segovia agreed to play them.

 

Another anecdote: He never played the Aranjuez b/c it wasn't dedicated to him, but to Regino Sainz de la Maza. After Segovia's indignation Rodrigo tied to calm Andrés' injured huge ego and composed the Fantasía para un Gentilhombre (Fantasy for a Noble Man-that 'noble' dude being Segovia) for him, based on the Suite Española by Gaspar Sanz (almost a very simple arrangement/orchestration at parts). The fantasía is way simpler technically speaking than the Aranjuez. I'm not even sure Segovia would have been able to play the Aranjuez at the tempos that are marked, and I believe Rodrigo had the same suspicions, hence this "easy" concerto-like thing.

"Without music, life would be a mistake."

--from 'Beyond Good and Evil', by Friedrich Nietzsche

 

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Originally posted by Bluesape:

Segovia was great, but annoyingly opinionated. He also never acknowledged electric guitars as valid instruments, stating that they removed the "poetry" from the music...

I never met Andre Segovia, but from what I've heard about him over the years, he was a bit of a tyrant to his students. I've heard stories of him requiring students to play a piece they had (the previous day)been assigned at the beginning of a class and if they didn't perform it perfectly he was allegedly known to kick them out of his class for "Daring to come to class unprepared". Of course, stories like this have a way of materializing from very little truth....you just never know if it's true or even if there's a grain of truth to it.

 

What I do know is that he was one hell of a classical guitar player and teacher. If you want to hear playing very, very reminiscent of Segovia, give a listen to Christopher Parkening (a Segovia student).

"And so I definitely, when I have a daughter, I have a lot of good advice for her."

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Sorry but this comment is off topic.

 

the tag line from MILLO ...

"Without music, life would be a mistake"

--from 'Beyond Good and Evil', by Friedrich Nietzsche

 

Is very interesting given I've never read or heard it... and in comparison to my tag line...

 

"You should own enough music to enhance any mood because it goes that well with life. Explore music and know yourself better."

 

and the fact that Friedrich Nietzsche and I were born on the same day. Different year... but same day.

 

I now send you back to the original topic.

I still think guitars are like shoes, but louder.

 

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A genius or a great artist can be an asshole, too... just look at Richard Wagner. Maybe you think I am one because of what I said (I'm no genius or great artist, I assume you can guess that ;) ). Segovia disrespected and insulted many people in the course of his career, only for the sake of keeping himself afloat, and because of his incredible arrogance, too. We're all entitled to be geniuses (even assholes), just like we're all entitled to be assholes (even geniuses!).

 

And going back to the original topic: I like the electric when played w/ the fingers and slight overdrive. I think the contrast of fingers vs. pick is great and very effective when used in the same piece of music.

"Without music, life would be a mistake."

--from 'Beyond Good and Evil', by Friedrich Nietzsche

 

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Hey Philemec, I don't know. I was going to quote the Segovia/asshole line and put a laughing face after it. It is a really strong statement but it seems not to be that far off.

 

My impression was that he spoke for effect often, that he'd offer strong opinions and say things that were not really true just get reactions and such.

 

I'm not surprised about the Etudes. As for Aranjuez (or "Orange Juice") concerto, I'd not be surprised if he never played it (and I didn't realize he never played) not because of a perceived insult but because it is supposed to actually be unplayable and that every guitarists makes their own edits to it in order to pull it off. That is what I was told by two teachers anyway. I'm sure the percieved insult would have played better "politically" than giving people a chance to see how he tackled the piece and thus making him comparable to other guitarists.

 

He was a very complicated person. He did great things for Ponce when noone else in the world would, and he got people like Ponce and Tedesco to write for the guitar. He transcribed a lot of music for guitar, but did it because at least when he was younger he was unaware of just how much had been written for guitar and had been "lost". He apparently sabotaged the careers of any competition he could so that the reason he appears to be the lone classical guitarist for so long (I guess until Bream came along) was that he screwed people over.

 

He helped a lot of younger guitarists, Parkening being perhaps the most known. His surliness towards students was partially his way, I think. I know he would conduct many master classes (part of why so many people claim to have been Segovia students) where if he hated your performance he'd thank you for playing and move on to the next student. If he liked the next student, he'd rip everything he could about it. The point was that he saw no point in addressing someone that wasn't going to do the work (in his mind anyway, or hadn't done the work) and he figured the student with potential would take all the ripping and make the changes and get better. I'm not saying that makes him a bad guy, but that is how master classes are apparently done. (never did one myself).

 

As for his dissing electric guitars and picks, well that would be probably be "him in character" as much as what he really thinks.

 

Stravinski asked Segovia why Segovia had never asked him to compose anything for guitar. Segovia told Stravinski that he'd never want to insult him by not playing it.

 

I'm just saying that we have to take Segovia in context of his competitive nature and that he was "in character" for most of his life.

 

I listen to his early recordings often (repackaged and released not so long ago) and his Ponce Sonata disc. I have a great respect for him, but his legacy is double edged. One of my teachers got to know him, so much of what I say above comes (second hand here) from her.

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I've spent most of the last 30 years fingerpicking and strumming solely with my fingers.

 

I taught myself to play with all five fingers. In fact, one of my early epiphanies in fingerstyle involved learning Travis picking from a transcription of Dust In The Wind, which itself was written by Kerry Livgren not as a song, but as a Travis picking excercise. Problem was, I didn't read the performance notes and proceeded to learn Travis picking PIMA rather than PIM with alternating thumb-bass. It was years later before I began playing alternating thumb bass.

 

Contrary to what's been said here, strumming hasn't ever been damaging to my nails. It's individual fingerpicking that is damaging.

 

I also "flatpick" with my thumb and index finger. Occasionally I'll pull out a pick, and recently I made it a goal to learn proper flatpicking with a pick. I tried fingerpicks but could never get used to them. I've always had low blood pressure and it seems that thumbpicks and fingerpicks were either too loose and fell off, or too tight and cut off circulation in my fingertips.

 

I've heard that many guys in Nashville who like using their nails go to salons for strong, faux nails. They can be shaped appropriately, are far stronger than most people's natural nails, and can be removed if you don't want long nails for any reason. I've never tried it, though.

 

Let's not forget there are tons of country pickers who do double stops with a standard pick held between their thumb and forefinger while simultaneously picking with their third, and sometimes third and fourth, fingers.

 

As for players, I should point out that lots of guys play through strats in the in-between positions, but don't sound at all like Mark Knopfler. This is a perfect example of how his fingers direct the tonal parameters available using the gear and settings he chooses.

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