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Old 02-09-2013, 06:02 AM   #1
Justin L Franks
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Learn how to use a pick or stick with fingerstyle?

I've been a musician for my entire life. My older sister by 5 years began piano lessons at age 8 (I was 3 at the time). I would watch her practice, then copied what she was playing without any trouble. I started with piano lessons of my own at age 4, and progressed extremely quickly, being able to play pieces far beyond typical for my age. I continued with formal lessons for 15 years until I went to college in the fall of 1999.

In college, I decided to teach myself guitar and bought an entry-level acoustic. I taught myself the basics -- chords, some simple scales, and so forth -- and never used a pick. I was satisfied just knowing enough to play some songs and noodle around.

I kept the acoustic guitar, but my main focus was of course piano and keyboards, so my level of ability with guitar stayed stagnant for several years. Fast forward to about 2 years ago, when I dropped my guitar onto a hard surface and it was broken beyond repair.

A few months ago, I decided to buy a new guitar and work on bridging the gap between my piano/keyboard skills and my abilities with a guitar. This time, I wanted an electric guitar, and I ended up buying a new Epiphone Nighthawk Custom Reissue (in the Fireburst finish). For an amp, I was going to buy a new Fender Mustang 1, but after seeing a used VOX VT20+ for the same price and playing the two side-by-side, I found the VOX to have a nicer and richer tone than the Mustang. So I ended up buying the VOX VT20+.

I tried using a pick but found it extremely awkward since I had only played fingerstyle acoustic in the past. And it is very frustrating, because I can play quite a few songs, improvise some basic to intermediate leads (mostly pentatonic scale stuff over some blues backing tracks) very easily with my fingers, but put a pick in my hand and I can't do squat.

I want to play classic rock, modern rock, heavy rock (but not metal), and blues.

Is it worthwhile to "bite the bullet" and go back to the very basics while using a pick, or continue to improve my abilities using the much more comfortable (to me) fingerstyle techniques?

I'm going to be putting in the time for proper practice either way. I'm leaning towards just forgetting about using a pick, but I am afraid that I might inadvertently hold myself back by doing this.

Thank you in advance for any help or suggestions you can give.

Last edited by Justin L Franks : 02-12-2013 at 07:00 PM. Reason: Clarification
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Old 02-09-2013, 09:27 AM   #2
Zaphod_Beeblebr
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Well the reality is that by going fingerstyle only, as long as you learn the right way, you won't actually be stopping yourself from playing anything particularly. That said, pickstyle is a very different tone from fingerstyle in just about every way; everything from the attack to the way the notes decay is a little different.

I would say stick with learning pickstyle, never forget that technique is all about having as many options as possible to get the sounds you hear in your head out on the guitar, if you don't learn it you're just cutting off that section of sounds from what you have access to.
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Old 02-09-2013, 09:56 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Zaphod_Beeblebr
(...) never forget that technique is all about having as many options as possible to get the sounds you hear in your head out on the guitar, if you don't learn it you're just cutting off that section of sounds from what you have access to.


Exactly what I was about to say.
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Old 02-09-2013, 10:08 AM   #4
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Those two guys beat me to it. ^^^

There's no reason you can't learn to use a pick as well as continue to use your fingers.
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Old 02-09-2013, 10:19 AM   #5
Battery Chicken
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As the above have said, it's all about what sound you want to make. I'm actually at the opposite end of the spectrum, I've really only ever lightly touched on fingerstyle and mainly used a pick. Now I'm getting into becoming more compentent using my fingers as I really love the tones your able to get using your fingers.
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Old 02-09-2013, 10:51 AM   #6
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The first rock/country/blues artist that comes to mind for me in this situation is Mark Knopfler. He's played fingerstyle his entire life and its given him his unique sound, tone and feel despite not being overcomplicated with his playing. And he's not short on a decent amount of speed either.

Bottom line is, if that's how you feel comfortable playing, pursue it. There may be songs that are traditionally played with a pick that you can adapt into fingerstyle. If you have doubts about that, please go and watch another fingerstyle guitar virtuoso named Igor Presnyakov on Youtube who can play absolutely any song of nearly every style to the highest quality with a classical finger picking technique
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Old 02-09-2013, 11:55 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boz6491
If you have doubts about that, please go and watch another fingerstyle guitar virtuoso named Igor Presnyakov on Youtube who can play absolutely any song of nearly every style to the highest quality with a classical finger picking technique


The thing about that is... he's not playing every style. Not even close. He's taking songs of any style he wants and covering them in his own style which is completely different. He's good but not that good.
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Old 02-09-2013, 01:51 PM   #8
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Playing with a pick isn't really that difficult to be honest. Just make sure that you're holding the pick correctly, there are millions of youtube clips and internet sites that will give tips and advice on this. Then muck about with the pick, and it will become second nature in no time.

Apart from tone, there are some techniques which are better suited for the pick then finger style, pinch harmonics come to mind, as does palm muting and anything fast. Which are quite common in heavier rock genre's.

And how do you strum? Do you pinch you index finger and thumb together and use the protruding nail as a plectrum? My friend does this, because "he always loses his picks", and the his tone sounds horrible. It sounds scratchy at times, and sometimes the flesh of his finger mutes the strings, so often a chord is missing a note, or his solos fall flat due to notes missing in the phrasing.

Get a pick.
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Old 02-09-2013, 01:54 PM   #9
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You could try hybrid picking, holding a pick with two fingers and fingerpicking with the others.
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Old 02-09-2013, 02:06 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MellowDeath
My friend does this, because "he always loses his picks", and the his tone sounds horrible. It sounds scratchy at times, and sometimes the flesh of his finger mutes the strings, so often a chord is missing a note, or his solos fall flat due to notes missing in the phrasing.


That's because he's not very good at it, not because the technique is flawed.

Also watch this: I really don't enjoy the song but the guy who fingerpicks the whole thing undeniably proves that you can make fingerpicking work in quite technical metal.
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Old 02-09-2013, 02:09 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MellowDeath
Playing with a pick isn't really that difficult to be honest. Just make sure that you're holding the pick correctly, there are millions of youtube clips and internet sites that will give tips and advice on this. Then muck about with the pick, and it will become second nature in no time.

Apart from tone, there are some techniques which are better suited for the pick then finger style, pinch harmonics come to mind, as does palm muting and anything fast. Which are quite common in heavier rock genre's.

And how do you strum? Do you pinch you index finger and thumb together and use the protruding nail as a plectrum? My friend does this, because "he always loses his picks", and the his tone sounds horrible. It sounds scratchy at times, and sometimes the flesh of his finger mutes the strings, so often a chord is missing a note, or his solos fall flat due to notes missing in the phrasing.

Get a pick.




1. It is if you've went your whole playing life without using one.


2. The problem is with your friend's technique, not with the technique itself.


3. You're right that he should get a pick and try it but you're talking as if that's the only correct option for him, when really there is no correct option for him, much like there's no incorrect option for him.
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Old 02-09-2013, 02:41 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by derek8520
1. It is if you've went your whole playing life without using one.


I was a beginner once, but I picked it up eventually. Likewise I started and remained almost entirely using a pick for much of my playing life, and now I'm learning finger style, it hasn't been that difficult (albeit playing bass may have helped a little).

I still say it's relatively easy to pick up. Just dedicate time to it and it'll feel natural in no time.

And "just 'cause I ain' don' it before" is not a good excuse to remain in the dark, especially with something that really opens the door to a whole new tonal variety.

Quote:
Originally Posted by derek8520
2. The problem is with your friend's technique, not with the technique itself.


Who is to say that this is not the case with the OP? Learning how to properly use a pick will certainly give a more consistant tone then finger "nail-pick", plus no one is too poor for a pick so you don't really lose anything.

Quote:
Originally Posted by derek8520
3. You're right that he should get a pick and try it but you're talking as if that's the only correct option for him, when really there is no correct option for him, much like there's no incorrect option for him.


This is just the way I see it mate. There are a lot of benefits to a pick, and very few draw backs in the context of those genre's, so for me it's just not that big of a deal to get the hang of using one. Plus I play the same genre's as the guy wants to play, and for me I can't imagine not using a pick to play those tunes. And of course I'm biased :P
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Old 02-09-2013, 02:48 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zaphod_Beeblebr
That's because he's not very good at it, not because the technique is flawed.

Also watch this: I really don't enjoy the song but the guy who fingerpicks the whole thing undeniably proves that you can make fingerpicking work in quite technical metal.


Opeth uses fingerstyle from time to time. And animals as leaders is almost purely fingerstyle.

That being said, maybe these are the exceptions to the rules? I mean stack the numbers of fingerstyle bands to those of pick users, and the numbers are dismal at best.

Plus the amount of time he'll have to invest in learning the proper finger based techniques can probably be spent learning to just use a pick. I also hold that picks will be easier to learn, and nails get trimmed, damaged, or filled which affect tone in a very real way, if this happens to a pick you simple get a new one.
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Old 02-09-2013, 02:52 PM   #14
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MellowDeath, you've actually justified your first post quite well.



TS, it will come down to a matter of preference. It's not unheard of for a rock guitarist to play without a pick (Lindsey Buckingham, Mark Knopfler, Jeff Beck, etc.). If you're comfortable with playing without a pick then continue, but it wouldn't hurt to try with a pick. When it comes to playing guitar, versatility is very important.
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Old 02-09-2013, 03:01 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MellowDeath
And animals as leaders is almost purely fingerstyle.


No it isn't. Watch any actual video of Tosin Abasi and you'll see he uses a pick for the vast majority of the time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MellowDeath
That being said, maybe these are the exceptions to the rules? I mean stack the numbers of fingerstyle bands to those of pick users, and the numbers are dismal at best.


Because the perception is that using fingerstyle only cuts off a lot of sounds... which it doesn't. They end up having a different tone because of the fingers but they still sound how they're supposed to for the most part.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MellowDeath
Plus the amount of time he'll have to invest in learning the proper finger based techniques can probably be spent learning to just use a pick. I also hold that picks will be easier to learn, and nails get trimmed, damaged, or filled which affect tone in a very real way, if this happens to a pick you simple get a new one.


At no point did I say that TS shouldn't learn to pick, just that your reasons for using one are flawed. It is more than possible to get harmonics, good sounding palm mutes and some blistering fast runs with fingerstyle.

Also, see classical guitarists; they just maintain their nails or use fake ones rather than relying on chance with their tone.


Again, not saying that TS shouldn't learn to use a pick, I definitely think he should, but there are better reasons than the ones you've given.
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Old 02-09-2013, 03:10 PM   #16
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You can do both AND combine the two.

You're going to be playing guitar for years, so you've got the time. Prioritise whichever you feel is most relevant for the music you're playing.
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Old 02-09-2013, 03:43 PM   #17
MellowDeath
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zaphod_Beeblebr
No it isn't. Watch any actual video of Tosin Abasi and you'll see he uses a pick for the vast majority of the time.


Yeh I'm wrong my bad. But this further supports the popularity/importance of a pick.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zaphod_Beeblebr
Because the perception is that using fingerstyle only cuts off a lot of sounds... which it doesn't. They end up having a different tone because of the fingers but they still sound how they're supposed to for the most part.


Hmmm, I don't agree TBH. A pick gives a bright tone, and is, at least in my experience, louder then finger style. So there is definatly a difference. I just can imagine a Zakk Wylde solo in fingerstlye tone, it'd sound like tosh.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zaphod_Beeblebr
At no point did I say that TS shouldn't learn to pick, just that your reasons for using one are flawed. It is more than possible to get harmonics, good sounding palm mutes and some blistering fast runs with fingerstyle.


Well I apologize for a differing opinion.

I personally think that you just over complicate things by trying to go fingerstyle when the pick really isn't that difficult to learn. It'd be much easier to progress with a pick than to develop your own style just by the simple observation that there is a crazy amount of literature dedicated to playing with a pick in these respective genres. Also it'd be silly for the reasons other people purposed.

If you want to emulate a pick player, use a pick. Likewise for fingerstyle. That's my true opinion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zaphod_Beeblebr
Also, see classical guitarists; they just maintain their nails or use fake ones rather than relying on chance with their tone.


Well does the TS, a keyboardist/pianist want to be sporting long nails?
I'm glad no one suggested finger picks, that's a whole other monster.
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Old 02-10-2013, 06:57 AM   #18
Justin L Franks
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Thanks for the insight everyone; I really appreciate your thoughts regarding this.

I think that I will learn how to use a pick until my picking skills are in parity with my fingerstyle skills (which isn't a whole lot of skill anyways). I'm in this for the long haul, so what's a few months to a year concentrating on using a pick?

From that point onwards I'll work on both forms.

I sort of like the fact that the vast majority of players use only a pick. Fingerstyle on an electric definitely has its own tone, so being able to play both with and without a pick can only be an advantage in helping me find my own unique sound.

By the way....Zaphod, I'm assuming the forum cut off the full name of Zaphod_Beeblebrox? And if your location ("Somewhere... but not here") is a Porcupine Tree reference, I like your taste in both music and literature.

Last edited by Justin L Franks : 02-10-2013 at 07:02 AM. Reason: grammar
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