Finger pickin good

Guitarists lose guitar picks faster than Lindsay Lohan loses her dignity. In most cases, it renders them completely incapable of playing anything exciting. For me though, this has become quite a blessing.

At first, I played really simple things when sans pick, but over time as I did it more, I found a bit of a style developing. I attacked the guitar differently. Because of the limits of my fingers, I was forced to play in a unique way. Over time, I noticed that I was able to play faster and more complex lines. I also started using several fingers at once, which resulted in even more interesting lines.

I know to country pickers, this is old news. Their fingers can do things that seem to defy logic. But, for a rock dude, this has been an exciting adventure. I haven’t gone to chicken pickin’ territory quite yet, but I’m definitely starting to get more twang and country goodness into my playing. And, to my ears, that’s a great thing.

Some of my favorite rock finger pickers are Jeff Beck and Mark Knopfler. I’ve always done a poor job at trying to emulate some of their licks, but now I’m starting to finally get how they got that smooth sound.

For some of my leads, I turn my guitar volume to about 7 on a overdriven sound. This seems to be the sweet spot for finger picking that produces some magical tones, soft and voice like. For rhythms, I’ve been getting some interesting patterns, where I pluck the low strings hard with my thumb and use my index and middle finger to pluck some of the other strings of the chord (At some point, I’ll add some audio or video examples).

Anyways, I recommend to all guitar players to intentionally lose the pick once in a while. Force yourself to develop some finger skills. You never know, you might come up with a new hybrid style.

I once took a guitar lesson from a master flamenco player. He asked me, “Why do you use a pick? God gave you fingers for a reason. You should never use a pick. You’ve been playing the guitar wrong.”

I never came back to him again. I shrugged his words off as flamenco guitar master snobbery, but now, I kind of see some wisdom in those words.


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