So my band broke up a couple months ago. I was singing and playing rhythm guitar on an Ovation acoustic-electric. When the band broke up, I got together with the bass player and drummer with the intent of starting a trio, but the acoustic just isn't cutting it. So I've been putting myself through electric guitar boot camp. I keep trying to play the electric (it's a cheap, used Ibanez S-type, but I'll get something nicer for gigging eventually) with a pick, but I keep putting the pick down and going back to just my fingers. It's mostly a matter of comfort; the way I've been holding the pick on an acoustic for the last 17 years just isn't comfortable on the electric and I think I'm in too deep to change now. I play a lot of fingerstyle on the acoustic, so I'm happy playing with my fingers, but my strumming isn't great and the fingerstyle hand position isn't the best for damping strings.

I've been watching a lot of videos of guys like Browen Lollar and Michael Kiwanuka (also some Knopfler, of course, but he just seems to be in an entirely different, unapproachable league).

So, who here plays electric with just the soft tips of their fingers? How do you strum? Who do you watch/listen to for inspiration? What kind of guitar do you play and have you found one that works better for finger playing than another? Any other pointers?
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See also Jeff Beck and Andy's demos for ProGuitarShop.com.

When I play electric fingerstyle, i use the edge of my thumb and/or the backs of my fingers- as in, the nails.
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I don't do much strumming because it wears out the backs of my nails, but I do basic strumming just using my index and middle fingers in an up and down brush. More often I use my thumb for the melodic emphasis, to emulate bluegrass flatpicking as in "bum titty" - thumb down, fingers down, fingers up.
I use a pick and fingers.Hybrid style.Pick mainly but then add the fingers in for a different sound if i need.It is quite hard getting pinky and next finger up strong enough though.Takes alot of practice,patience and frustration.
Personally, I use fingers mainly to help in varying dynamics; I generally use a pick but if I'm going to really soft notes I'll tuck it under my index finger and play with the pads of my thumb and middle and ring fingers. I don't strum like that, but especially with jazz chords I quite often pick bass notes with my thumb and block chords with my free fingers, especially when I need to accentuate the bass notes to follow a melody or something. A tricky but particularly fun fingerpicking technique is playing four note arpeggios in a manner akin to a banjo roll; they can be staccato or legato in the sound but it's a really nice vibe once you get it down.
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Last edited by K33nbl4d3 at Aug 25, 2016,
Knopfler is my favorite fingerstyle electric player who does it with rock music. The real trick to his sound is left hand legato.

There are also any number of Nashville players like Vince Gill and Brent Mason who are top notch hybrid pickers, which is my personal favorite technique for anything that calls for a twangy, punchy tone.
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If you want a band without those, these girls are as good as any:

And BTW, how could y'all forget Lindsey Buckingham as one of rock's premier finger pickers?
Last edited by Captaincranky at Aug 26, 2016,
I finger pick a lot, both electric and acoustic. I use thumb and two fingers usually, never could get the ring finger to cooperate well, so I just use index and middle fingers. Picking leads is no problem, I switch to finger picking a lot just for fun.

Strumming is a little different, but possible. You can do a lot of rhythm parts by using the thumb to pick downward, as usual, and the fingers to pull upwards on the strings. It's like grabbing and pulling them.

You can also strum with the back, nail side of the fingers, either by flicking them across the strings, like closing your hand and opening it quick, or hold the thumb and two fingers as if you're holding a pick and strum that way. Using one finger, usually index, works too.

It takes practice, but becomes easier as you go, and after doing it since the 70's it's second nature now. I started learning because I didn't like having to go back to the amp and grab a pick if I dropped one, and I was lost without it. I knew a little finger picking for acoustic songs, but not much. So I started practicing without a pick so if I dropped one onstage, I could just keep playing and not worry about it. Pick holders attached to a mic stand didn't exist, on top of the amp or in a pocket were the only options.
Hmmm...I wonder what this button does...
Last edited by Paleo Pete at Aug 26, 2016,