Today there are as many popular styles of guitar playing as there are brands of guitars. And unless you are satisfied with focusing on just a few styles such as metal or acid rock, you’re could be limited as a player if you play only using a guitar pick. And, there are four or five decades of musical styles out there still floating over the airways and iPods that you are missing out on as a player. In truth, finger style playing can actually be as easy or easier than pick style. Ask any professional guitarist or guitar teacher what he or she uses when playing at home for their own enjoyment. Many will say “Fingers.” A good example of a modern rock guitarist that uses his fingers would be Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits.
Stringed instruments, whether guitars, cellos, violins or harps, produce vibrations that we can hear and feel when we pluck the strings. Holding the guitar against your chest and plucking the strings with your fingers is a more organic and natural experience. You feel closer and more intimate with your instrument. Plus, correct finger style hand position is a far more comfortable way to play guitar.
However playing with a pick has its advantages too. Sweep picking, harmonics, speed runs and other techniques are only available to the player using a flat pick. Percussive rhythm playing is accomplished easily using a pick. Bluegrass practically demands it as does shred, metal and many classic rock styles.
Most qualified guitar instructors are only happy to demonstrate pick technique and proper finger style techniques. A variety of right hand techniques will make you a more versatile guitar player and you will find that entire worlds of playing open up for you.
Let me begin by saying that back in the days of rock’s founding fathers (like Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly) most players were satisfied using just a guitar pick. Finger style playing was thought to be something reserved for classical or flamenco artists like Andres Segovia or Carlos Montoya. And to some degree, this was true. Music stores rarely had a nylon stringed guitar hanging on the wall, and flat-topped steel string guitars were designed for “flat picking.” However, people like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Leo Kottke (to mention just a few) changed things forever. Lots of these folk guitarists also played banjo and so were comfortable using their fingers. Several actually used their metal banjo picks on multiple fingers.
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