Finger picked guitar or fingerstyle guitar is a method of playing guitar, where the fingers are directly used to pluck the strings rather than using a pick. The guitar strings in a finger-picked guitar are plucked with fingertips, fingernails, or picks attached to the fingers. This technique is opposite of the flat-picking guitar style, where a pick or plectrum is used to pluck the notes and strings. 

When using finger-picked guitar technique, the guitarist includes the following in their music: artificial harmonics, hammering on, pulling off notes with the fretting hand, and tapping rhythm on the guitar body. They may also include chords and arpeggios (arpeggios are the notes of the chord played in a sequence, one after the other). 

Other techniques that the guitarist may also include in the finger-picked guitar technique are playing melody notes along with melody accompanying chords in between. In addition, bass notes or deep bassline notes are also played simultaneously. 

Percussive tapping, as mentioned above, is also used by some guitarists in the finger-picked guitar technique, where the guitar body is tapped with rhythm along with playing melody, chords, and bassline notes. 

What Is the Finger Picked Guitar Technique? 

In the finger-picked guitar technique, the individual digits or fingers play the notes on the guitar’s strings, rather than hand working as one unit (which is the technique in case of using the pluck or pick method). Therefore, the guitarist can play many musical elements together on the guitar when using the finger-picking pattern.  

With the finger-picked guitar technique, the guitarist can play bass notes that are deep, harmonic accompaniment (the chord progression), melody notes, and percussion sound. While playing the finger-picked guitar technique, many guitarists use a combination of acrylic nails and thumb-attached picks, along with other digits. It gives the added advantage of better tone of the melody produced and decreases nail wear, or chipping, breaking of the nails.  

How Are the Fingers Named in the Finger Picked Guitar Technique?

In the finger-picked guitar technique, fretting hand fingers are given numbers, and plucking hand fingers are abbreviated as letters. 

The following images will give a better idea of the above statement, where the left hand shown is the fretting hand, and the right hand in the picture is the plucking hand.

  • The images below explain the strings that are plucked by the fingers of the plucking hand in the finger-picked guitar technique. 
  • Thumb (p) plays the low E, A, and D (6th, 5th, and 4th) strings.
  • Index finger (i) plays the G (3rd) string.
  • The middle finger (m) plays the B (2nd) string.
  • Ring finger (a) plays the E (1st) string. 

The thumb plays in the downstroke fashion on the 6th, 5th, and 4th strings. The index, middle and ring finger play in the upstroke in the finger picked guitar technique. 

Correct Hand Position in the Finger Picked Guitar Technique

In the fingerstyle guitar pattern, the fingers are placed perpendicular to the strings that are played by the particular finger for ease of string playing. For example, the thumb is placed over the 5th and 6th strings, as the thumb plays the 4th, 5th, and 6th strings. 

The thumb in this technique is placed in front of the fingers. It is the standard hand positioning followed for various fingerstyle guitar patterns. 

The Three Basic Patterns of the Finger Picked Guitar Technique

Finger Picked Guitar

Let us explain to you the three basic guitar picking patterns in the finger picked guitar that will help beginners develop the correct technique and agility and help them play their favorite songs with much ease. 

Pattern 1- This is a  guitar fingerpicking pattern is a simple roll, as rolling is vital in different guitar patterns and is the basis of any fingerpicked guitar pattern. It is also essential to learn and develop the finger muscle strength to play different fingerstyle guitar patterns. The rolling pattern is also beneficial when a guitarist is playing with a band of musicians. You must begin with going slow with the practice to gradually build up the skill. 

This fingerpicking guitar pattern can be divided into- rolling up and rolling down practices. 

a) Rolling up fingerpicking pattern is when the guitarist uses the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and ring finger to roll up the guitar strings. 

b) Rolling down the guitar fingerpicking pattern is the same pattern in the opposite direction but is said to be a little more challenging. You should go about it slowly and gradually build up the speed while playing along with the metronome.

Once you get a hang of rolling up and rolling down, then you can use this rolling pattern of finger picked guitar to play any chord. You will be needed to play different chords and strings.

 B. Pattern 2- The second fingerpicking pattern is a little more challenging and is a 4-step fingerpicking guitar pattern. This pattern needs the guitarist to have a bit more finger independence as there are four motions to play the entire practice. 

This fingerpicking guitar pattern learning can be divided into two exercises- 

a. Simplified way where the guitarist need not alternate the strings with the thumb.

b. This is the next level where the guitarist adds another bass string. In this pattern, the guitarist needs to alternate back and forth with the thumb. Once the guitarist gets the hang of it, a person can move to the level of playing metronome with this pattern.

This finger-picking pattern of a guitar can also be applied to any chord. However, you need to make specific arrangements and adjustments to pick the correct strings while playing a chord. 

Once the guitarist is accustomed to the above two patterns of finger-picked guitar, they can apply these patterns to play a whole chord progression. 

C. Pattern 3- This is also known as Travis picking pattern. This can be further broken down into four following steps, which make the grasp in the finger-picking guitar pattern easier. The steps are-

  1. The first step is playing the quarter notes using the thumb.
  2. The second step is to alternate bass notes with the thumb by altering between A and D strings. 
  3. The third step is to add a melody note to the alternating fingerpicking guitar pattern. 

For example- If the guitarist is playing the C chord, a C melody note is added on the B string. 

Since this step takes time and practice, learn this step slowly and build muscle and finger coordination. 

4. The final step in this pattern of finger picked guitar is to add melody notes on top of the bass notes being used alternatively. This pattern is a little more complex. The guitarist must go through note by note, and also one measure at a time. Gradually, you’ll get a better grip of it, and then using this pattern of finger picked guitar playing, you can start playing the whole thing using a metronome, and start picking up the speed.

Guitar Picking Patterns to Know

Similar to the above two patterns, once the guitarist gets the hang of the 3rd pattern of finger-picked guitar, this can be applied to the other chords as well.You need to make slight modifications to use this pattern to different chords. Keep experimenting and finding the right notes to play and pick on each chord you learn.. 

Once the guitarist is ready, they can apply this pattern of finger-picked guitar on a whole chord progression and different styles of music, types of chords, etc. 

With the added advantage of not carrying a pluck to play, the finger-picked guitar technique gives the guitarist the flexibility to play non-adjacent strings in multiples simultaneously. This also allows the guitarist to play meager bass notes and very high treble notes simultaneously. The guitarist might even play double stops like octave, a fifth, a sixth, etc., to get a suitable harmony. 

Apart from this, there is less need for muting or damping the fretting hand chords while playing since only the required strings are strummed in the fingerstyle guitar patterns. Check out the music courses for children and adults offered by BYJU’S FutureSchool, and for more guitar resources be sure to read more on the blog.

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