When it comes to playing a string instrument, you may have heard of fingerpicking before. It is a fantastic technique to learn when you are comfortable playing chords and strumming. It is the natural progression that will allow you to get the most out of your instrument.
While fingerpicking is most commonly associated with guitars, you can also fingerpick other stringed instruments, such as the violin, viola, cello, and ukulele too. If the instrument is part of the strings section, you can use the fingerpicking technique.
In this article, we will be talking you through the basics of how to fingerpick an instrument. While practice makes perfect, if you begin with these steps, you will have every chance of success.
What Is Finger Picking?
As we have already touched upon, fingerpicking is a specific style you can use to play a string instrument. It can also be referred to as fingerstyle. Fingerpicking involves picking the strings of your instrument instead of strumming or using a pick.
It creates a much softer sound, and allows each of the strings to be heard individually. Some songs will use a mixture of fingerpicking and strumming, while others will only use one of these techniques.
Fingerpicking is particularly common in the jazz, blues, and folk genres, and is most commonly used with guitars, and banjos.
How To Finger Pick
When you are first learning how to fingerpick, it can seem quite daunting. While it is more difficult than strumming an instrument, or using a bow.
However, when it comes to fingerpicking, the technique you use is important. Once you have gotten to grips with the technique, the fingerpicking will be far easier to achieve.
Before you begin, you will want to feel comfortable plucking the strings individually, rather than accidentally hitting another string. In addition to this, you will want to get your hand used to the picking motion.
Once you are comfortable with the motion of handpicking instead of strumming, the first thing you will need to do is position your hand correctly. This will make your picking more precise, and the process more comfortable.
You will want to place your hand in a cupped shape, rather than straight. This will help you to reach the strings. The hand will need to be in a position where it does not need to move when plucking, only your fingers will need to move.
When it comes to which fingers you need to use, there are different names associated with the finger, the Spanish language is used. Here is a useful table to break this down for you:
|English (Spanish)||Abbreviation||Strings To Be Plucked|
|Thumb (Pulgaar)||P||D (4), A (5), E (6)|
|Index (Indice)||I||G (3)|
|Middle (Medio)||M||B (2)|
|Ring (Anular)||A||E (1)|
|Pinky (Extremo)||E or C||Not used|
As you will be using your thumb to pluck three strings, you will want to place your hand slightly lower down the strings, to reach these easily.
Once you know which fingers you need to use for each string, next you will need to use the correct technique. When plucking the strings, you will want to avoid pulling at the strings. This will create a harsh sound that is incorrect.
Instead, you will want to pluck at the strings firmly, but not harshly. Some people will choose to brush the strings rather than plucking them if they want to create a softer sound.
When plucking the strings, the angle you use is important. You will want to maintain a 90-degree angle with your hand where possible. If your hand is tilted, this will make playing more difficult. When doing this, your thumb will be placed at a 45-degree angle.
One you have the correct angles, you will want to start practicing picking each string individually. At this stage, you do not need to worry about making any chords with your left hand, just focus on the picking technique.
As you begin to gain confidence, you will want to start increasing your speed, and combine your picking to use more than one finger at once. Once you are comfortable with this, you can then create chords with your left hand, and combine the both together.
When fingerpicking for the first time, it will be painful. Just as it is painful on the tips of your fingers when pressing down chords for the first time, you will need to get your fingers used to this technique.
However, you do not want to be disheartened by this. It is perfectly normal, and the more you practice this technique, the more comfortable your fingers will be doing this.
Different styles of fingerpicking
There are three main types of fingerpicking that we have already touched upon. However, here is some further information for each:
This is the style we have already discussed, and is the best option for beginners. This is when you play each note in the chord separately, focusing on one string at a time.
Brushing is when you brush your fingers across more than one string at once. It creates a sound that is the most similar to strumming, but you can still hear all the strings separately. The sound is not harsh, but soft.
This technique is similar to the arpeggio, but instead of playing all the strings in a chord separately, you will play them all at the same time. This does take some practice.
We hope you have found this article helpful. As you can see, fingerpicking is not too difficult. However, it does require practice. The more you practice fingerpicking, the easier it will become.
Once you are comfortable with the basic fingerpicking techniques, you can then combine the chords together, and also practice the brushing technique. While your fingers will hurt initially, this will stop once you have practiced and fingerpick often. Remember that your technique is important when it comes to the correct sound.