Rockabilly Fingerpicking - Pure Fingerpicking vs Nashville Claw vs B. Setzer trick


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03-05-2010, 11:29 AM
Hello people,

i'm getting more and more into rockabilly techniques, especially the fingerpicking but also the one-line stuff as well. A lot of rockabilly requires you to switch quickly and sometimes constantly between Travis/Atkins-Style fingerpicking (for which i grew my nails long for) and the lead riffs/solos you normally do with a flat pick.

So, as i see it, i have 3 options:
1- Fingerpick the lead as well: works fine if i'm constantly switching strings and i do "pseudo-alternate picking" with alternating index and middle fingers, although i'm not sure if you can achieve the same speed. Doesn't work as well on one string because of the awkward angle (for example chromatic stuff), plus it doesn't have the twang of a flat pick.

2- Do the so called "Nashville Claw", where you hold your flat pick as usual and hybrid pick, alternating bass with the pick and the other strings with middle, ring and pinky. Since i want to learn "pure" Atkins fingerpicking as well, i'm afraid that fingerpicking without my index is gonna mess it up. Plus, the other fingers take kind of an awkward position.

3- Do the Brian Setzer trick, where he plays the lead normally with the flat-pick, and curls his index back to retrieve the pick and hold it in his hand while he fingerpicks with thumb, middle, ring and pinky. Not so easy to pull off, plus the middle, ring and pinky go into a tense position that's even more awkward than with the claw.

So how do you guys see it/what do you do? I guess i'll have to learn how to put the pick in my mouth and retrieve it back quickly into the right position...

03-06-2010, 04:04 PM
I think you've got all the options sussed and you just need to choose for yourself - bear in mind that all of these styles support each other and you won't be wasting your time in any of them.

The only thing I can think of that you may have missed is that you could use a thumbpick. Whatchu think of that?

(I personally hybrid pick with a flatpick, but not in anything approaching a rockabilly style)

10-26-2010, 01:05 PM
Sorry this is so late after you've posted this, hopefully anything I say can be of use to you.

I myself use the Brian Setzer technique. In a couple lessons I've seen, one from the man himself and another "in the style of," it was said that it's really what works for you. You could play with the pick upside down when straight flatpicking, who's to tell you it's not right? Hendrix used his thumb to play the sixth string when forming chords, a technique I've also acquired through habit. It's obviously not a widely used technique, especially in jazz, which I'm majoring in right now. Both of my instructors have said that it's not really a proper technique, but it works.

However, even if you focus on one technique in particular, it's great to be able to do it all. I find myself in a pattern where I tend to use my middle and ring fingers to finger pick due to what I'm used to, but it's not technically a detriment. The point is, learn the way you're most comfortable, but know that taking in the Chet Atkins/Merle Travis approach to Travis picking.

Have a good time with it!

10-26-2010, 02:38 PM
Why not learn all three? I find myself going between all these styles depending on what the song calls for. The worst you could do by learning all three is make yourself versatile.

10-26-2010, 09:04 PM
Option 1. has been used by quite a few well known Guitarists who have been successful at it. Lindsey Buckingham(Fleetwood Mac), James Mankey(Concrete Blonde), and Mark Knopfler(Dire Straits).

I use Fingerstyle on the electric 99% of the time...that 1% is when i use an Ebow lol. i started out with a pick, but i went through an acoustic only phase for a year and during that year i just went crazy with fingerstyle and when i started using the electrics again i found out i couldnt pick as fluent...instead of correcting the errors i just decided to stick to fingers...

the alternating fingers thing gets easier the more you do it, some finger calluses help too on the picking and add some brightness to it. but i dont go for speed much with the fingerstyle...ended up falling in love with alot of bends, vibrato, and double stops more than the fast licks.

for regular rhythm picking i use the index finger, and sometimes both thumb and Knopfler do the rhythm stuff with his index finger and sometimes all his damn fingers, be careful though as it can be easy to hurt your fingers if ya dig in hard on a downstroke!

i also use 11s too so that adds some thickness to the tone.

just my input, sorry for writing a book here.

10-28-2010, 07:42 AM
Hey guys, thanks for your input.

After trying several things, i decided on the Herco Flat-Thumbpick heavy/extra-heavy. With it i can switch smoothly between fingerpicking and flatpicking. I simply hate the fact that i can't use my index finger when hybrid-picking or doing what Setzer does.

However, the Herco needs to be filed and shaped so that it sticks out of your thumb like a regular flat pick, otherwise you can't alternate pick reasonably. I also had to smoothen the edge with sand paper to get the tone i wanted.

As delivered, they are huge and pretty useless, but i imagine they're ment to be shaped by the player.