Page 1 of 2
#1
I'm seeing all these different kinds of fingerstyle on youtube. Everyone looks great and such. But one fingerstyle that I see the least is the one with all fingers. Why is the pinky neglected in fingerstyle?

What is the best approach to fingerstyle? Wouldn't having all fingers on the strings be best? Letting the thumb handle the Low E and A strings?

How do you play? What do you think of this?
#2
I've almost never even needed four fingers, let alone all five. But years of banjo and steel playing tends to do that to you.
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
#3
There have been many great players that utilize just the standard PIMA (thumb and first three fingers) technique, as well as many great players who utilize either less or more.

Flamenco players are the most known for incorporating the pinky finger into their playing.

Phil Keaggy is a world renowned fingerstyle player and doesn't use his middle finger.

You really have to just find out what works for you. The pinky for most people is more or less useless and more trouble than it's worth.
My God, it's full of stars!
#5
Check this out. One of the most well known fingerpicking tunes from two of the greatest country fingerpickers ever. Chet used his thumb, index, and middle and Jerry uses his thumb, middle, and ring finger.

http://youtu.be/Ni8KBhnebwE
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
#8
It's basically up to you. Experiment with different finger combinations and see which you like best.

I use the "classical" style most of the time. That is: thumb for playing the bass strings (6th, 5th, 4th) and 1st, 2nd and 3rd fingers for playing the 3rd, 2nd and 1st strings respectively. I tend to keep to that finger/string configuration whatever picking pattern I use.
#9
Quote by Oddly_Phrygian
I'm seeing all these different kinds of fingerstyle on youtube. Everyone looks great and such. But one fingerstyle that I see the least is the one with all fingers. Why is the pinky neglected in fingerstyle?

What is the best approach to fingerstyle? Wouldn't having all fingers on the strings be best? Letting the thumb handle the Low E and A strings?

How do you play? What do you think of this?


I would strongly suggest learning the basic classical grip and technique first. Once you have that mastered to a point, you can vary it to your liking. The pinky is basically unnecessary for nearly any song, with the exception of some flamenco techniques etc. Focus on thumb, index, ring, and middle fingers. Learn some basic classical arpeggio exercises and ensure that you are using the proper grip at the start. From there the sky is the limit as far as how you want to approach things.
#10
In my case, I play a hybrid style where I sometimes play with a floating classical grip and sometimes anchor my pinky to palm mute or dampen( this is important for dampening on electric guitar, but not technically "proper" on classical). You can't really use a traditional classical approach on electric if you use overdrive or distortion, because you need to be able to palm mute and dampen the strings properly ( and use a whammy bar). I also play quite hard sometimes and the angle I get from anchoring the pinky provides a better and more aggressive tone for certain phrases, in spite of it being considered a "bad habit". I also often use the Jeff Beck approach of playing while balancing the whammy bar in my open picking hand as well, which slightly changes the angle.
#11
I always anchor my pinky and usually my ring finger as well unless I'm using it to pick since, unlike guitar, that is considered proper technique on banjo.
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
#12
I use thumb, index, middle, and ring. It offers the most flexibility and a good idea to try learning using these 3 fingers rather than just 1 or 2.
#14
Quote by Oddly_Phrygian
I'm seeing all these different kinds of fingerstyle on youtube. Everyone looks great and such. But one fingerstyle that I see the least is the one with all fingers. Why is the pinky neglected in fingerstyle?

What is the best approach to fingerstyle? Wouldn't having all fingers on the strings be best? Letting the thumb handle the Low E and A strings?

How do you play? What do you think of this?


There are lots of different styles of fingerstyle. I use all 5 of my fingers on both hands.

I think what you would want to do is take it step by step, and as you learn new things you will learn new techniques to accomplish those.

A lot of the time, on YouTube, you will be watching someone that only really focuses on one sort of style. Some guys will really know a number of techniques like Tommy Emmanuel.


I think I tend to loosely use my thumb for the bottom 2 strings, but I think probably the only finger I would never use on them from my strumming hand, is my pinky. All the other ones probably would find their way down there every once in a while. I think that the only time I ever really use my pinky is on the high E.

The pinky does take a little more work and effort to get used to it. Every finger takes some work to get really proficient with it, so unless you need to, there's not much point on spending time getting better with it. I have not found much of a good reason to really practice getting more use out of my pinky yet.

I use all of my other fingers a lot. One thing that changed as I got better, was that I use my index a lot less than I used to.

Quote by gweddle.nz
I use thumb, index, middle, and ring. It offers the most flexibility and a good idea to try learning using these 3 fingers rather than just 1 or 2.


I found that necessary for playing fast runs. And the middle and ring needed to be powerful for playing certain things at speed as well. That's why I got better with those, and then once I did, I found I preferred them over the index and middle in many cases.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Aug 11, 2015,
#15
I made some enquiries about the use of the pinky in the hardcore classical group an Useneta few weeks ago. It has apparently declined over a long period in classical and flamenco, though some pieces still demand its use.

I playwith more or less a classical-style picking hand, pima, but almost all pim except for arpeggios. I don't anchor unless playing lap style, I think it creates a lot of unnecessary stress, at least in my case. - I think players like Tommy Emmanuel do well in spite of their techniques, not because of them. .

As noted by reverb66, that technique does work so well on electrics, so I use a thumbpick so that I can rotate my palm close to the strings for damping.
#16
Quote by Tony Done


I think players like Tommy Emmanuel do well in spite of their techniques, not because of them. .



Why would you say that?
#18
Quote by Tony Done
^^^^ He plays with an anchored pinky.


I am noticing now that sometimes he does, but not always. But you know what? I just checked it out, and if I were to play with a pick, or a thumb pick, so would I, lol.

I find it gives great stability for picking, so nice control and precision. My hand is usually never in a position where it would make sense to anchor my pinky like that, since I play bare handed, but I am almost always anchored somewhere. often times on the strings themselves, muting the strings I don't want to ring out, or palm on the bridge or what have you. Lots of different ways. Never really thought about it that way before.

Tommy Emmanuel is a beast though, in my mind, afaik, he and guthrie govan are the best guitarists alive right now. So, for me, whatever technique he is using, given all of the diverse techniques he knows, and given the speeds at which he can play, for what he is doing, I think basically by definition that's good technique.

Because if it's not, then whoever is using different technique, is playing worse, not musically, or artistically, but.. technically for lack of a better word, which means his technique is superior, and should therefore become the new standard then.

But again, there are lots of styles. He is playing with a thumb pick, most of the time, and he does that old school chet atkins and classic fingerstyle technique with that alternating bassline. Classical players play different guitars and different styles.

I don't play that alternate bass style, and I don't use a thumb pick, so I don't anchor with my pinky. But his method allows him to play faster runs than mine does. i still don't like the idea of a thumb pick though
#19
A lot of people play anchored, but as fingerpikingood states, it doesn't always have to be in the same spot. Anchoring on unused strings tends to be easier for me than anchoring on the top by the sound hole. Most of the time I don't anchor at all.
#20
Quote by gweddle.nz
A lot of people play anchored, but as fingerpikingood states, it doesn't always have to be in the same spot. Anchoring on unused strings tends to be easier for me than anchoring on the top by the sound hole. Most of the time I don't anchor at all.


I have found that it is not only easier, but often actually necessary, in order to keep all that unwanted noise away for a nice clean sound.

But, that might have something to do with my style as well. I suppose if I had longer fingernails, and played with a thumb pick, or something like that, it might not be as much of an issue, idk. But for me, muting the unwanted strings, is definitely a key part of the whole process, and I do that in many ways, sometimes the thumb resting on the the strings, my palm, my left hand, and probably stuff I don't even really realize.
#21
Quote by fingrpikingood
I have found that it is not only easier, but often actually necessary, in order to keep all that unwanted noise away for a nice clean sound.

But, that might have something to do with my style as well. I suppose if I had longer fingernails, and played with a thumb pick, or something like that, it might not be as much of an issue, idk. But for me, muting the unwanted strings, is definitely a key part of the whole process, and I do that in many ways, sometimes the thumb resting on the the strings, my palm, my left hand, and probably stuff I don't even really realize.


Right, but you can mute with the left hand too.
#23
The reason why anchoring on the soundboard is not advised on the classical guitar is because it affects the tone. Since the soundboard is the most important piece of the body when it comes to amplifying the sound of the guitar, anything you do to stop it from vibrating will affect the tone. It also puts more strain on the right hand when a person ancors.
#24
Quote by GoldenGuitar
The reason why anchoring on the soundboard is not advised on the classical guitar is because it affects the tone. Since the soundboard is the most important piece of the body when it comes to amplifying the sound of the guitar, anything you do to stop it from vibrating will affect the tone. It also puts more strain on the right hand when a person ancors.


Hmmmmm. I'm afraid I don't agree with this. The act of placing your little finger at one small spot on the guitar top is going to have a very very minimal effect on the sound.

The soundboard doesn't actually amplify the sound - the sound of an acoustic guitar is produced by plucking the strings and no additional energy is added to the system. The energy of the vibrating string is just transferred to the top of the guitar via the saddle which causes the molecules in the guitar top to vibrate in sympathy thus presenting a greater surface area to excite air molecules (more air molecules are caused to vibrate than would be the case if the string alone was vibrating) which then carry the sound to the ear.

Placing a finger at one small spot on the top will just prevent the top molecules exciting air molecules in that particular area - a very small effect.

The study of surviving plucked stringed instruments - guitars, lutes, mandolins, etc - shows from soundboard wear that anchoring with the little finger was common practice until around the time when the Torres designed guitars began to make headway. The practice probably stopped because it was felt that anchoring limited the dexterity of the plucking hand. This was probably so when the strings began to be plucked at different points - near the fretboard, near the bridge, etc - to achieve different tones. Prior to that time plucking close to the bridge was favoured - again evidenced from soundboard wear.
#25
Quote by GoldenGuitar
The reason why anchoring on the soundboard is not advised on the classical guitar is because it affects the tone. Since the soundboard is the most important piece of the body when it comes to amplifying the sound of the guitar, anything you do to stop it from vibrating will affect the tone. It also puts more strain on the right hand when a person ancors.


It's not a functional thing to do if you are strictly fingerpicking either. It probably makes a small difference to the soundboard, but really not a big deal, imo. If it let me play better, I would gladly trade off a tiny bit less tone for more playability. But it doesn't. I also can't tell the difference in tone, personally.

I think most of the time it is my thumb that is the anchor on my strings, and sometimes its my fingers. When bring a pick into it, or use some other techniques, then it makes a lot more sense to plant your fingers on the body.

I actually use my pinky to play quite a lot. I can't have it stuck on my guitar body.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Aug 16, 2015,
#26
Doc Watson only ever used thumb and index finger, which I found quite remarkable when you listen to him.

I use thumb and three fingers and the pinky only ever comes into play when doing a downward top of the fingernails strum.

I should note that I favor thumb index and ring fingers, because the nail on my middle finger grows badly and is not as strong. I do however use the middle finger whenever required.

One thing I see as a problem with many players is the thumb stroke. The thumb should never bend at the first joint from the tip or the second joint from the tip, but should move from the very first joint near the heel of your hand.
Last edited by The Backslider at Aug 23, 2015,
#27
Quote by The Backslider
Doc Watson only ever used thumb and index finger, which I found quite remarkable when you listen to him.

I use thumb and three fingers and the pinky only ever comes into play when doing a downward top of the fingernails strum.

I should note that I favor thumb index and ring fingers, because the nail on my middle finger grows badly and is not as strong. I do however use the middle finger whenever required.

One thing I see as a problem with many players is the thumb stroke. The thumb should never bend at the first joint from the tip or the second joint from the tip, but should move from the very first joint near the heel of your hand.


Didn't know that about Doc, it is amazing.

I use thumb for alternating bass and pick with the index, middle, and ring finger.
#29
Lol, wow, it looks like he is alternate picking with his index. I sometimes sort of pick with the top side of my fingers, but I never thought of taking it to this level. I'm gonna experiment a little with that. It might be useful for me and maybe not. Imagine doing that with 3 fingers. Would that be crazy? useful? I don't know, but I'm gonna try.
#30
^^^^^ That's an extraordinary performance when you consider that he mostly flatpicked, and AFAIK, only ever played a couple of fingerpicked tunes. It's mostly alternating bass, but the way he dodges around the chords is wonderful. I've tried playing it, and those chords changes using his timing aren't easy.

He isn't flashy, but I think he set the standard for bluegrass and country timing.
Last edited by Tony Done at Aug 24, 2015,
#31
Quote by fingrpikingood
Lol, wow, it looks like he is alternate picking with his index. I sometimes sort of pick with the top side of my fingers, but I never thought of taking it to this level. I'm gonna experiment a little with that. It might be useful for me and maybe not. Imagine doing that with 3 fingers. Would that be crazy? useful? I don't know, but I'm gonna try.


In my first couple of years before I learned to finger pick "properly" I did a trailing up stroke with my index finger which would generally play two strings successively and thumb playing bass. It was kinda cool, but I don't do it at all these days.

I also knew a guy (Mullumbimbie hippie, Australia - 1970's) who used to play just with his thumb and index finger held together (phantom pick), not fingerpicking. He had a kind of boom cha (two downstrokes) followed by an upstroke. It also was cool, particularly when he did it fast.... kinda boom cha cha, boom cha cha sound.

Both styles had a similar triplet feel.
Last edited by The Backslider at Aug 24, 2015,
#32
Quote by Tony Done
^^^^^ That's an extraordinary performance when you consider that he mostly flatpicked, and AFAIK, only ever played a couple of fingerpicked tunes.


He in fact did miles of fingerpicking. My favourites are Deep River Blues, Sittin' On Top Of The World and Gambler's Yodel - Tuxguitar tabs here (the way I play them, not note for note transcriptions of Doc): http://www.mattiressler.com/category/my_music/
#33
Quote by The Backslider
He in fact did miles of fingerpicking. My favourites are Deep River Blues, Sittin' On Top Of The World and Gambler's Yodel - Tuxguitar tabs here (the way I play them, not note for note transcriptions of Doc): http://www.mattiressler.com/category/my_music/


OK thanks. I enquired about this many years ago on usenet, and didn't get much response.

I remember "Sittin....'', I used to play it in more or less Doc's style, but "Gamblers... " seems pretty obscure, only about 800 views on Youtube.
Last edited by Tony Done at Aug 24, 2015,
#34
Quote by The Backslider
In my first couple of years before I learned to finger pick "properly" I did a trailing up stroke with my index finger which would generally play two strings successively and thumb playing bass. It was kinda cool, but I don't do it at all these days.

I also knew a guy (Mullumbimbie hippie, Australia - 1970's) who used to play just with his thumb and index finger held together (phantom pick), not fingerpicking. He had a kind of boom cha (two downstrokes) followed by an upstroke. It also was cool, particularly when he did it fast.... kinda boom cha cha, boom cha cha sound.

Both styles had a similar triplet feel.



I "recently" developed kind of an odd technique myself. On the A and D strings, I will often "alternate pick" using my thumb for downstroke, and index for up stroke, and I also alternate pick with my thumb on the low E. You can actually alternate pick really fast with your thumb. I prefer that to using my fingers on the low E, most of the time at least. I may use my fingers sometimes also, idk.

Looking back now it's kind of funny how I developed that way. It was just how I evolved to play, slowly over time, and thinking of it now, it is actually quite unusual.

I haven't been able to find an advantage to Doc's style yet, or alternate picking like that with other fingers, so I don't think I'll end up putting any effort into it. But I'll keep an eye for if I could see an opportunity where it could be useful.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Aug 24, 2015,
#35
Quote by fingrpikingood

I haven't been able to find an advantage to Doc's style yet, or alternate picking like that with other fingers, so I don't think I'll end up putting any effort into it. But I'll keep an eye for if I could see an opportunity where it could be useful.


There is no advantage, it is quite difficult (but can be done of course!) I find it far easier to play Doc's music with thumb and three fingers.

Doc is only playing up strokes with his index finger, except when he does a downward smash with the tops of his fingers (he does that quite a bit, as do I)

I have been tempted at times to have another go at that old trailing style I did, but have just never got around to it as there are so many other things I want to play!
#36
Just has a look at the vid. Doc is a thumb-index picker, IIRC Gary Davis and fred Mcdowell were the same, and doubtless a lot of others. I play that style as thumb-index-middle, which I'm guessing is the more common option.

I've also been working recently on techniques that involve using the thumb and fingers on the same string, and finger brush down-strokes. I'm trying to emulate Tony Rice's flatpicking. Some hope.
#37
Quote by Tony Done
but "Gamblers... " seems pretty obscure, only about 800 views on Youtube.


I guess you need to be a Doc fan and have a bunch of his recordings as I do. He put out heaps that I doubt you would find on Youtube. More people are into flatpicking, so you will find more of those.
#38
Yeah, while I'm a great admirer of Doc, I not really into his style of music, and my info comes mostly from the days when the information superhighway carried a lot less traffic than it does now. As you say, his flatpicking gets much more attention.

Which part of Oz are you?
Last edited by Tony Done at Aug 24, 2015,
#39
Quote by Tony Done


I've also been working recently on techniques that involve using the thumb and fingers on the same string, and finger brush down-strokes. I'm trying to emulate Tony Rice's flatpicking. Some hope.


Ya, that's what I was talking about I do. I find you can get nice fast action that way. I don't explicitly know what other advantages there are, but I definitely prefer playing that way.

I also use finger brush down strokes, to get more of a strum/pick sound, with my nails.

Idk who Tony Rice is though.
#40
Quote by Tony Done


Which part of Oz are you?


My family migrated to Australia from Finland when I was four years old. I grew up in Canberra but have lived in Mullumbimby - New South Wales (70's hippie!), Maroochydore in Queensland, Goondiwindi - Queensland, Lighning Ridge - Far North West New South Wales (I was an opal miner in the 90's) and last lived in Sydney for four years.

I then lived for eight years in Perú and have now returned to Finland.
Page 1 of 2