#1
Hey guys, I have a dilemma here, so I'd like to hear some opinions. I plan to get myself an electric guitar, and start a classic hard rock band with my childhood mate. Here's the catch. I used to be classically taught in a school, where we had to grow fingernails. Now, my mentioned mate is self taught and can only play with the pick, and he says that there's simply no way I'll be able to play faster solos with fingers, and that pick is mandatory.

So? Learn how to play with a pick and you're set.

I know, but I'm lazy. :p I've been playing like this for almost 17 years (that is insanely over exaggerated considering I haven't actually played seriously for years now), but I'd like to hear what people think, and if there's a guru here that can nail Annihilator or Steve Vai's shredding solos using finger picking that could give an advice or two, or if I should just swallow it, lock myself in a basement with a healthy supply of picks and get to work.
#2
A pick is not necessary, Wilko Johnson of Dr. Feelgood uses his fingernails and he rips off some pretty gnarly solos, like Milk and Alcohol.
#3
I play steel guitar and banjo. Tell your mate I shred circles around him fingerpicking. Jeff Beck, Mark Knopfler, Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed, etc could all play circles around plenty of flatpickers, and more than fast enough for playing hard rock solos. For hundreds of years guys have been killing it on other fingerpicked instruments like balalaika, bağlama, dombra, pipa, shamisen, etc no problem.

Honestly that shouldn't be your big concern. From "I plan to get myself an electric guitar" it certainly sounds like you are implying that you have little to no experience with electric guitar, and that is a huge concern.

Electrics handle very differently than acoustics, especially when comparing distored electrics and nylon string classical guitars, so that could be a huge concern for you. It's like the difference between a motorcycle and a bicycle. Even if you were a very accomplished acoustic flatpicker, say bluegrass or gypsy jazz or whatever, it would still be a huge concern.

Adapting to the highly contrasting nuances of electric is a much bigger deal than pick versus fingers. That is what you should consider, and if you are experienced with an electric, you're really all set to go.

Although I would say that a pick would be more of a necessity for playing metal or modern hard rock, but not at all because of speed and rather because the precise palm muting needed for rhythm guitar playing would be next to impossible.
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
#4
I agree with Thegonia777 above.

I would add that you could probably play most classic rock fingerstyle ( Zeppelin, Cream, Hendrix etc.) because they don't tend to pick very fast - but Steve Vai and Annihilator are not classic rock - they're high gain 80's shred - for that you need a pick and you need to play with a lot of distortion - which is a skillset unto itself.
#5
^ Just called me Kristen instead of goofing up my silly username.

I should also mention that plenty of metal and shred bass players get away playing with their fingers no problem. Even though it's not guitar, it shows that playing at that speed in that type of music with fingers is certainly possible. Here are a couple to check out:



Now, I'd like to point out that Linus of Hollywood is playing bass with a pick, but on the original recording Juan Alderete (though he went my John back then) played with his fingers. There just don't seem to be any good videos of him playing the song. Here is the audio if you want to listen though:



In tech death, the bass players tend to match the guitarists note-for-note, sweeps, tremolo picking, and everything. The bass is borderline inaudible here, but Mike Flores is going note-for-note:



Guys like Jeff Hughell from Brain Drill and Jaron Evil from Archspire do pretty much the same. Actually, here is a nice compilation:



So I mean, even the most complex metal stuff can be played with fingers no problem. Though again, I would like to emphasise that adding distortion and palm muting into the equation would make that kind of stuff almost impossible, so that is really your concern.

But there is no reason why you can't do rock solos fingerpicking. I do plenty of high gain solos (though I use a plastic thumbpick and metal fingerpicks when fingerpicking on guitar since I'm a banjo and steel player and so that's what I'm used to rather than fingernails.

You could also always consider giving fingerpicks or fake fingernails like those used to play guzheng as an option. It would require minimal change in technique, but it would allow some tonal variation due to the harder surface. Though I do miss that snap that I get when doing country hybrid picking.
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
Last edited by theogonia777 at Jan 5, 2016,
#6
Fingers are entirely sufficient, and any well rounded guitarist can play decently with or without a pick. Listen to some country players and you'll hear very fast lines flatpicked and fingerpicked.

Johnny Hiland, Brent Mason, Jerry Reed, Chet Atkins, Brad Paisley, Albert Lee, Vince Gill, Keith Urban... all fantastic players that use more than a pick (good left hand legato helps, too). For rock, you can refer to Mark Knopfler and Steve Morse, among others.

Fingernails, however, are probably a non-starter. Metal strings will rip them right off, if you're trying to play like a classical guitarist. You need to use the actual fleshy part of the finger.
Last edited by cdgraves at Jan 5, 2016,
#7
I agree with all of that except for the part about Keith Urban being a fantastic player.
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
#8
Hm, well, for starters I guess I'll learn a bit about using the pick and see where that goes, and nurture finger picking as well.

Quote by cdgraves
Fingers are entirely sufficient, and any well rounded guitarist can play decently with or without a pick. Listen to some country players and you'll hear very fast lines flatpicked and fingerpicked.

Johnny Hiland, Brent Mason, Jerry Reed, Chet Atkins, Brad Paisley, Albert Lee, Vince Gill, Keith Urban... all fantastic players that use more than a pick (good left hand legato helps, too). For rock, you can refer to Mark Knopfler and Steve Morse, among others.

Fingernails, however, are probably a non-starter. Metal strings will rip them right off, if you're trying to play like a classical guitarist. You need to use the actual fleshy part of the finger.


I play acoustic with metal strings and a bass, nails are fine (add daily dish washing, keyboard typing, and nose picking to that, if that doesn't break them nothing will). And if I ever get serious about it acrylic nails are not entirely out of options.
#9
Also consider fingerpicks.
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
#10
I think Chris Zoupa uses his fingernail like you would a pick. Not sure if you have to alter the shape vs. traditional classical nail shape though.
#11
I would definitely learn to play with a pick, it's not that you have to but you will just have one more option available to you.
#12
I have some suggestions.

I've met classical guitarists who play exclusively with the nail and others who first make contact with the flesh of the fingertip and follow through with the nail. The former requires longer nails, the former requires somewhat shorter nails.

If you choose to play an electric guitar with your fingers, I would advise against picking exclusively with the fingernails. Picking with only the nail can sound quite harsh on an electric guitar, and making contact with the flesh first will help to soften the sound.

Also, steel stings are under a lot more tension than the nylon strings on a classical guitar. If your fingernails are not perfectly filed and buffed, there is a chance that the thinner strings may catch on the nail. This is much more likely with a lighter string (as is typical on an electric guitar) than a heavier string (as you might use on an acoustic guitar).

When I was younger, I experimented with growing my nails long for electric playing. A fingernail caught on the high E string an was nearly completely torn off.

If you're lucky enough to avoid getting your fingernails caught, it's worth mentioning that the steel strings will wear them much faster to the detriment of your classical playing. If your interested in continuing to play the classical guitar, it might be worth learning to play the electric guitar with a plectrum to help preserve your fingernails for playing classical.

If you're thinking of using a plectrum, look into hybrid picking, which uses both the plectrum and picking hand fingers.

Long fingernails will also hinder your ability to tap with the fingers of your picking hand. You mentioned Steve Vai, who uses tapping frequently, so I feel this is worth mentioning.

It's also crucial to understand that classical technique and electric technique differ in several important ways. On a classical guitar, it is not usually necessary to dampen the strings you are not playing, unless a string is ringing sympathetically. As a result of this, most classical players do not usually dampen the strings they are not playing. The classical positions for the fretting and picking hand reflect this.

On a distorted electric guitar, the slightest vibrations on the strings you are not playing will be very audible, and may cause feedback at high volumes. When playing electric guitar, you should always dampen every string you are not playing. This is done with both the fretting and picking hands.

Also, while you can certainly play "fast enough" with fingerpicking (whatever that means), when it comes to picking on a single string, I just don't believe it's possible to pick as fast with your fingers as with a plectrum. There are plenty of fast fingerpickers, but picking with a plectrum is faster still. Even the fastest tremolo in classical or flamenco just isn't as fast the fastest tremolo with a plectrum.

Across strings, the difference is much less. Some fingerpickers can do rolls faster than most flatpickers can sweep (though the elite flatpickings are just as fast if not faster).
My name is Tom, feel free to use it.
#13
thumbpicks are great, you are able to get the best of both worlds, being able to use the thumbpick to tremolo pick or sweep pick. But also having the fingers able to tap or finger pick when needed.
#14
Quote by Prophet of Page
I have some suggestions.

I've met classical guitarists who play exclusively with the nail and others who first make contact with the flesh of the fingertip and follow through with the nail. The former requires longer nails, the former requires somewhat shorter nails.

If you choose to play an electric guitar with your fingers, I would advise against picking exclusively with the fingernails. Picking with only the nail can sound quite harsh on an electric guitar, and making contact with the flesh first will help to soften the sound.

Also, steel stings are under a lot more tension than the nylon strings on a classical guitar. If your fingernails are not perfectly filed and buffed, there is a chance that the thinner strings may catch on the nail. This is much more likely with a lighter string (as is typical on an electric guitar) than a heavier string (as you might use on an acoustic guitar).

When I was younger, I experimented with growing my nails long for electric playing. A fingernail caught on the high E string an was nearly completely torn off.

If you're lucky enough to avoid getting your fingernails caught, it's worth mentioning that the steel strings will wear them much faster to the detriment of your classical playing. If your interested in continuing to play the classical guitar, it might be worth learning to play the electric guitar with a plectrum to help preserve your fingernails for playing classical.

If you're thinking of using a plectrum, look into hybrid picking, which uses both the plectrum and picking hand fingers.

Long fingernails will also hinder your ability to tap with the fingers of your picking hand. You mentioned Steve Vai, who uses tapping frequently, so I feel this is worth mentioning.

It's also crucial to understand that classical technique and electric technique differ in several important ways. On a classical guitar, it is not usually necessary to dampen the strings you are not playing, unless a string is ringing sympathetically. As a result of this, most classical players do not usually dampen the strings they are not playing. The classical positions for the fretting and picking hand reflect this.

On a distorted electric guitar, the slightest vibrations on the strings you are not playing will be very audible, and may cause feedback at high volumes. When playing electric guitar, you should always dampen every string you are not playing. This is done with both the fretting and picking hands.

Also, while you can certainly play "fast enough" with fingerpicking (whatever that means), when it comes to picking on a single string, I just don't believe it's possible to pick as fast with your fingers as with a plectrum. There are plenty of fast fingerpickers, but picking with a plectrum is faster still. Even the fastest tremolo in classical or flamenco just isn't as fast the fastest tremolo with a plectrum.

Across strings, the difference is much less. Some fingerpickers can do rolls faster than most flatpickers can sweep (though the elite flatpickings are just as fast if not faster).


A lot of useful info, thanks! I didn't have problems with steel strings so far (and besides, I played acoustic with still strings as well, for several years). I don't have those really long nails though, mine are just barely over the tip of the finger.

I had some time to grab the guitar and practice playing with picks, and as you've mentioned, came across several problems I wasn't used to, one of them being resonance of unmuted strings. In classics I would have put my free finger on the string if possible, and sometimes it was even desirable to leave the string "sing" on, but I realized I have to constantly use the palm to mute the strings I'm not currently picking, as theogonia777 mentioned I'll have to, which is fairly impossible to do with finger picking position.

And well, I also currently have issues with hand position, but I'll keep working on that. Most youtube teachers say something different about how to hold your hand and how to hold your pick, but majority of them keep the hand sitting on the bridge, and since I currently have a friend's guitar, which has the tremolo system without locks, when I want to play something a bit faster I realized I have a bad habit where I press my hand slightly against the bridge, which results in bending and then everything goes out of tune. :p

Yeah, sorry for my bad wording from time to time, I'm not a native speaker.
#15
Tom...you said..

"..Also, while you can certainly play "fast enough" with fingerpicking (whatever that means), when it comes to picking on a single string, I just don't believe it's possible to pick as fast with your fingers as with a plectrum. There are plenty of fast fingerpickers, but picking with a plectrum is faster still. Even the fastest tremolo in classical or flamenco just isn't as fast the fastest tremolo with a plectrum."

the trio of McLaughlin Di Meola and De Lucia would give you pause Im sure ..if your not familiar with them check them out ..
play well

wolf
#16
Quote by wolflen
the trio of McLaughlin Di Meola and De Lucia would give you pause Im sure ..if your not familiar with them check them out ..


I've seen videos of them playing live together, which is probably what you're talking about, and it really wasn't that fast. As far as speed goes, it's true that you have more strokes potentially with fingers than with a flat pick, it being 5 finger strokes vs 2 pick strokes. However, there there are a couple of factors to consider.

1. You can realistically get as many fingers on each string on an electric as you can on a classical due to closer string spacing. Other than the high E where you can easily get all five fingers going, you realistically can only get two fingers or maybe three at most on each string at high speeds before you start to accidentally hit other strings.

2. Your wrist moves faster than your fingers do, which is to say that you can make an up stroke and a down stroke faster than you can two finger strokes. The difference is enough that you simply can't tremolo pick as fast with two fingers as a flat pick and it's still pretty even with three fingers. But since it is already hard enough to get three fingers on one string at high speeds, such as the 12+ nps range, you're limited to two fingers per string mostly.

The thing to consider with that though is that it is picking every note and at least three notes per string. If you start adding legato, two notes per string, rolls, and long descending licks played entirely on the high E string, you then have the ability to at just as fast with finger picking as with flat picking.

This still doesn't account for the problem of muting when finger picking, or rather the inability to do so. One thing I would advice looking into is steel guitar blocking, specifically pick blocking and perhaps palm blocking to a lesser extent. These are techniques used for killing notes when finger picking and I personally incorporate them frequently in my finger picking and hybrid picking licks, especially with distortion.
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
#17
Quote by theogonia777

This still doesn't account for the problem of muting when finger picking, or rather the inability to do so. One thing I would advice looking into is steel guitar blocking, specifically pick blocking and perhaps palm blocking to a lesser extent. These are techniques used for killing notes when finger picking and I personally incorporate them frequently in my finger picking and hybrid picking licks, especially with distortion.


You can RH mute while finger picking on electric, it's just not the best positioning.