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#1
For the fingerpickers out there...how many fingers do you use on your picking hand?

I use thumb, index, and middle finger, occasionally using the ring finger for arpeggios. So I guess for me the answer is 2 fingers and a thumb. Guys who only use the index finger and thumb to pick (like Doc Watson or Merle Travis) amaze me. I read somewhere that Chet Atkins learned his picking style ASSUMING that Merle Travis used 2 fingers and thumb (like me) and learned after the fact Merle only used his index finger and thumb. Chet assumed nobody could be playing that many notes that quickly with only thumb and 1 finger.

So, how many you guys use?
#3
Can't help ya. I'm a flat picker. (Not claimin' to be a good one mind you). That said, I do "hybrid pick" from time to time, using the middle and/or ring finger(s), depending on my state of mind, and whichever happens to be on top of the note I want to play.

FWIW, pure classical style uses the thumb on strings E-6. A-5, & D-4, the index on G-3, the middle on B-2, and the ring on e-1. The pinky....., "need not apply.."
#4
Awesome that you pick with the same fingers I do Tony!

At Cranky: Nothing wrong with some good flatpicking. I wish I could do it. Very interesting info on classical guitar. I had no idea they "assigned" fingers to strings like that. It makes sense though. The thumb on the 3 fat strings...I do that when picking, but I'm more freewheeling on the treble end
Last edited by TobusRex at May 17, 2016,
#6
Most of the time I'm either using just my thumb and index, or thumb index middle and ring. I've found usually if I need my middle I'll need my ring to support it (boy am I glad I stopped using a ring anchor). I almost never use my pinky unless Im going for a specific rolling chord sound. I can't hybrid pick either, I always drop the pick, so I use a thumb pick if I need a stronger sound (which is almost exclusively for when I play Blues and Slide and such). I can flatpick too but even on electric I've noticed I like my sound better fingerpicking. Even solos, I skip strings a lot more cleanly and can jump right from runs on the B or E to the A or E with no delay. The only problem there is I cant pick fast, but I can't go much faster with a flatpick so ¯\_(ツ_/¯
Last edited by teleobrien at May 17, 2016,
#7
Quote by Tony Done
I think that hybrid picking is the best of both worlds. - IMO every flatpicker should learn to do it, and every fingerpicker should elarn to flatpick. I can't, and regret it.


When I think of "hybrid" players Doc Watson jumps to mind immediately. I think he was mostly a flatpicker, but the guy was amazing without a pick as well.
#8
Quote by teleobrien
Most of the time I'm either using just my thumb and index, or thumb index middle and ring. I've found usually if I need my middle I'll need my ring to support it (boy am I glad I stopped using a ring anchor). I almost never use my pinky unless Im going for a specific rolling chord sound. I can't hybrid pick either, I always drop the pick, so I use a thumb pick if I need a stronger sound (which is almost exclusively for when I play Blues and Slide and such). I can flatpick too but even on electric I've noticed I like my sound better fingerpicking. Even solos, I skip strings a lot more cleanly and can jump right from runs on the B or E to the A or E with no delay. The only problem there is I cant pick fast, but I can't go much faster with a flatpick so ¯\_(ツ_/¯


I'm having a problem with thumb and fingerpicks. The thumb picks come off after about 3 notes and the fingerpicks don't hardly stay on at all. Is there a trick to using those damn things?

I've found I'm using the flesh of my fingers and thumb more than before. Any contact of the nail is almost incidental now. I think that is a positive sign that my technique is improving a little?
#9
I use my thumb for the bass strings - 6th, 5th and 4th; 1st finger (index) for 3rd string; 2nd (middle) for 2nd string and 3rd (ring) for 1st string. I tend to use those fingers on those strings whatever picking pattern I use.
#10
I use all 5 on my picking hand.
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#11
Quote by Most_Triumphant
I use all 5 on my picking hand.


Is that you Ricky Skaggs?

I'd like to watch you pick sometime. Love seeing the variety of picking styles.
Last edited by TobusRex at May 17, 2016,
#12
It's definitely situational to be honest, i tend to use thumb index middle pinky for just about everything and only really bring in the ring finger when needed. If i'm doing like a big chord hit i'll typically use my ring finger as the finger that strikes them all

Outside of classic playing I tend to use my pinky finger a lot more than what is 'standard', so no surprise it bleeds over into classical as well!
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#13
Im still a novice but I do lean more towards finger picking than strumming and (as ashamed as I am to admit this) I don't know what flat picking is.
Due to quite a severe pinky injury i don't have the articulation to pick with it so I use it as my rest, ring middle and index play e, b and g respectively and thumb for E A and D although some songs I use my index on the D.
Last edited by Thom1989 at May 17, 2016,
#14
Broadly speaking, it is the use of a plectrum rather than thumb and fingers, though to many it might conjure up pictures of bluegrass technique, rather than, say, eectric guitar.

Until recently I used to mostly confine the thumb to the lower three string, but recently I've got more interested in trying to emulate bluegrass-style flatpicking techniques. This involves using the thumb on all strings, alternating with finger upstrokes and/or downstrokes, often on the same string.
#15
Quote by TobusRex
I'm having a problem with thumb and fingerpicks. The thumb picks come off after about 3 notes and the fingerpicks don't hardly stay on at all. Is there a trick to using those damn things?

I've found I'm using the flesh of my fingers and thumb more than before. Any contact of the nail is almost incidental now. I think that is a positive sign that my technique is improving a little?

Are you using metal or plastic? My plastic fingerpicks are crazy tight so they don't budge. I've had thumbpicks fly off too, I just tried playing a little softer and they stayed on. I much prefer plastic to metal, the metal ones hurt my fingers and don't stay on me as well
And from what I've read you're SUPPOSED to use your nails to pick. I actually used to wear fake nails just to play, but they came off easier than picks (superglue my ass). But my fingernails grow slow as shit and I've been biting them since I was little, so I just use my flesh. I like the tone better anyway, it's more warm and round. It's like Red Wine vs Cheap Whiskey. Sure ones faster and harder, but the other is easier to enjoy. That's how I see it at least, maybe I'm just making excuses for my shitty playing, lol
#16
Thumb and index only.

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#18
e----------7------____--------7-----7---____-----7---7---
b--------8---8----____-----8-----8------____---8---8-----
g------9----------____---9-----9--------____--------------


If the above patterns are repeating, than for the first and second I'd use three fingers, and for the last I'd use two.

I usually use my thumb for any bass notes, and will very rarely use my pinky, but might if I think it makes sense too for whatever reason.

Basically, it's all situational, and I'll use however many fingers I think will make what I'm playing easiest
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#19
I can use my thumb and index, middle, and ring fingers.
What I actually use depends on the song and who composed the piece.
If I want to play a Doc Watson tune and sound like Doc, I'll use my thumb and index finger.
For John Fahey pieces, thumb and two fingers.
For Leo tunes, thumb and three fingers.
It might be my imagination, but I think I can sound more like the players if I use the same tools they do (did).

Fun facts to know and tell: Rev. Gary Davis played with thumb and index finger.
#20
Quote by teleobrien
Are you using metal or plastic? My plastic fingerpicks are crazy tight so they don't budge. I've had thumbpicks fly off too, I just tried playing a little softer and they stayed on. I much prefer plastic to metal, the metal ones hurt my fingers and don't stay on me as well
And from what I've read you're SUPPOSED to use your nails to pick. I actually used to wear fake nails just to play, but they came off easier than picks (superglue my ass). But my fingernails grow slow as shit and I've been biting them since I was little, so I just use my flesh. I like the tone better anyway, it's more warm and round. It's like Red Wine vs Cheap Whiskey. Sure ones faster and harder, but the other is easier to enjoy. That's how I see it at least, maybe I'm just making excuses for my shitty playing, lol


The thumbpick is plastic and the fingerpicks are all metal. The thumbpick is tight, like you said, but it squeezes too much and starts sliding towards the tip almost immediately. Anyway....it's very hard to play with the control that my fingertips have even when the picks don't come off. In fact, I sound like shit when I try to use those picks. The only time I try to use them is when I have damaged my fingernails (and since the picks suck I'm usually stuck trying to flatpick for a few days while the nails grow back).

I've considered fake nails. Did you consider going to a manicurist for that? I bet they are used to dealing with fingerpickers and could maybe set me up.
Last edited by TobusRex at May 18, 2016,
#21
Quote by TobusRex
The thumbpick is plastic and the fingerpicks are all metal. The thumbpick is tight, like you said, but it squeezes too much and starts sliding towards the tip almost immediately. Anyway....it's very hard to play with the control that my fingertips have even when the picks don't come off. In fact, I sound like shit when I try to use those picks. The only time I try to use them is when I have damaged my fingernails (and since the picks suck I'm usually stuck trying to flatpick for a few days while the nails grow back).

I've considered fake nails. Did you consider going to a manicurist for that? I bet they are used to dealing with fingerpickers and could maybe set me up.

A manicurist can definitely help you if you tell them. I opted for dollar store nails and filed them down myself, it sounded good but the nail glue just popped right off. Professional nails would definitely stay though, especially if you tell them it's for guitar. I just didn't like the sound enough to invest all the money in a salon, and then have to walk around my high school with one gross hand and one manicured hand. I'd definitely get my balls busted for that
As for the thumbpick, it might be that it's too tight and that's causing it to slide off. Kinda counterintuitive to what I was saying earlier, but you never know. You gotta rule out all the possibilities. Could even just be a sweaty thumb, lol.
#23
Quote by Captaincranky
FWIW, pure classical style uses the thumb on strings E-6. A-5, & D-4, the index on G-3, the middle on B-2, and the ring on e-1. The pinky....., "need not apply.."


Those fingers are actually allowed to move about depending on the tone one is looking for, but it is often used as a starting point so the player's hand and fingers can get accustomed to a very practical distance between the fingers and this projects to an economic use of the fingers and hand.

So the index and middle fingers can certainly venture to those lower territory's is so wished. The pinky has also been used on occasion, Heitor Villa-Lobos being a noteworthy example. It is true that this happens very rarely, though most often that has to do with tone rather than practicality.

As for flamenco the same rule applies, but is most commonly seen going the other way around, meaning that some melodies are entirely played with the thumb even on the treble strings. Many of these cases are down to tone, as you can see.

Personally, I don't use my pinky much because of the aforementioned reasons. Maybe if I'd learned to do it a bit more when I was young, but right now I don't see much gain in doing so. For rasgueo's I do use it, and it's the reason that particular nail is quite a bit longer than the others, to compensate that finger being that much shorter.
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#24
For me it depends on the style of music I'm playing. For anything rock or blues based I usually use my thumb, index, and middle finger. On occasion, usually when playing folk or country(ish) stuff I'll need my ring finger too. On very rare occasion, usually for jazz, I'll actually use all 5 finger. I don't give it much thought when I'm playing I just do whatever feels comfortable at the time.
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#25
I use all of my fingers to fingerpick, but I have several different sort of techniques I use at whatever time. It depends if I'm doing runs, or playing chords, which strings I' playing, what tone I want, etcetera.

Sometimes I only use my thumb doing upstrokes and downstrokes for multiple notes int a row. Sometimes I use only thumb and index, I use several different finger combinations from time to time, but I do use all of them. I only really ever use my pinky for the high E, either for chords to pluck 4 strings at once, at certain times for runs or melodic play as well, but it does depend on the phrasing which finger I use. What I played, and what I plan to play.
#26
I hybrid Pick most of the time sense I do a a lot of Flat picking as well as Finger Picking, so for that, it is just Pick plus 2 fingers. When I am Just fingerpicking(usually for softer sounds) I use all the fingers except for pinky. Now for Bluegrassy type stuff fingerpicked, its mainly just thumb, index, and middle finger.
#28
Quote by Tony Done
Do any of you make much use of finger backstrokes in combination with the thumb to get that "bum titty"sound? - Thumb down, fingers down, fingers up? I've started working on it quite recently.


I do, allows me to be more percussive in my playing, Honestly there are so many awesome sounds to get from fingers. Lindsey Buckingham is an inspiration for me, he rarely uses picks even for electrics.
#29
Quote by Tony Done
Do any of you make much use of finger backstrokes in combination with the thumb to get that "bum titty"sound? - Thumb down, fingers down, fingers up? I've started working on it quite recently.


That one I dont think I use. If I wanted that rhythm, id probably go down on thumb, up on index, and then maybe down on index or probably up on middle, but that would change the tone, from what youre doing.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at May 19, 2016,
#30
Quote by Tony Done
Do any of you make much use of finger backstrokes in combination with the thumb to get that "bum titty"sound? - Thumb down, fingers down, fingers up? I've started working on it quite recently.


Do you have any videos on youtube where I could see that in action Tony?
#32
Mostly its thumb plus pointer and middle. Ring occasionally/accidentally :P Pinky never.
Never liked the feel of my nails hitting the string so i avoid it. If i am in the mood and wanted to go loud on the downstrokes, its mostly the nail on my pointer i can use.

and yes, i am not really a good player.
#34
I tend to play scruggs style. Occasionally ring finger but my talents are considerably lacking in that area.
#36
I use all of them. You have to if you do sweeps and staccatoes like I do.
#37
Quote by NHRoccodog
I use all of them. You have to if you do sweeps and staccatoes like I do.


Youd be surprised what guys like Django Reinhardt (probably butchered that spelling, sorry) and wes montgomery can do with fewer fingers.

Im like you, I like using them all, but what those guys can do is impressive. Staccatos and sweeps, for sure. Maybe what you're doig specifically might be a bit different, but what they manage with fewer fingers, is definitely impressive for sure.
#39
Quote by Tony Done
Django only had two good working fingers on his left hand, and he was a flatpicker. Amazing how he could achieve so much with so little, one of my heroes.


Oh, ooops, I must have been confused then. I remember he was missing fingers and was impressive because of that. I guess I got the hands wrong.

Anyway, wes montgomery is still a good example of being able to do a lot fingerpicking with fewer fingers in play.
#40
I use thumb and three fingers. Don't use a pick any more even on electrics.

I know the general concept is considered to be the thumb used on the top three strings but I use the thumb to play the bass line (which may include the third or even the second) and the other fingers the melody even if it's played on the bass strings.
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Last edited by Bellcose at May 24, 2016,
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