I've played guitar for 40+ years, but I'm a complete newbie to fingerstyle and this is my recent experience.
After many, many years as just a simple strummer, I recently became determined to learn to play fingerstyle. It took a couple of months of concentrated effort, but I have finally mastered the most rudimentary "Travis Picking" patterns and I can now play them instinctively rather than having to concentrate on each chord change.
This has been an epiphany of sorts for me.
I have found that all I want to do now when I pick up my guitar is just to take off and wander through the various chord progressions casually "Travis Picking." Often, I don't even have a particular song in mind ... it's addictive! And it's therapeutic as well. It relaxes me and I can do it for hours!
I wish I'd gone this route years ago, because I was always envious of those guitarists who played fingerstyle, but it just all seemed way too complicated.
Like most skills that are worthwhile, it wasn't easy at first. It was sort of like patting your head with one hand while rubbing your stomach with the other. But, the more I did it, the easier it became and I feel like I'm getting better every day. I don't particularly aspire to be an instrumentalist in the style of Tommy Emmanuel, but I do want to be able to incorporate fingerstyle to my vocal arrangements when appropriate.
I'm still a novice for sure, but I took my newly acquired skills on stage at open mic the other night and did a Townes Van Zandt number fingerstyle that I'd always strummed before. It went well and it felt good!
Anyway, just wanted to say hello and to hear some of your stories.
Sounds like you got off to a strong start! Having absolutely no muscial training of any kind, practically everything I try to master has been a challenge. I love a challenge though! My earliest influences were a book of simple folk songsand chords like Clementine and Red River Valley, LOL.
Jud, I'm 50 and I started playing guitar 4 years ago. For the first 3 years I took lessons from a local instructor. Classical background, but he played everything, so I started off using my fingers. Got hooked on country blues when he taught me the melody to Freight train and I wrote a crude fingerstyle arrangement. Last year I started working on some of stefan grossman's DVDs and using my thumb and forefinger almost exclusively. As a musician, the last year has been amazing. I've grown so much as a guitar player and I love fingerstyle playing. The process was slow in the beginning, but it gets better and better every day. Picking is great! Congrats on your progress and keep on truckin.
In Portuguese folk music, guitars are usually played with bare hands. Flat picks are for mandolins. I learned a few chords from my father in 1963, and he also taught me the basic Fado picking. But I was interested in playing the instrumentals by The Ventures and The Shadows, so I started using a pick... until 1966, when I got the Folk craze, and learned some PP&M, Donovan, Paul Simon and Baez songs - and I turned to fingerpicking. But, when I was given the chance to listen to some Segovia and Yepes records, I realized classical guitarists are the best and most complete fingerpickers of all. Nevertheless, I learned some American patterns, like the steady thumb of blues guitarists and the alternate thumbpicking of bluegrass guitar, and use them regularly. I also learned some basic Brazilian "batidas", which have a lot in common with Portuguese traditional playing.
Portuguese guitar has its own fingerpicking techniques: the index nail acts as a flatpick, playing both downstrokes and upstrokes, including arpeggios. Once you master this, it's more or less the same thing as using a flatpick - with the important difference that it leaves your thumb free (you don't need it to hold the "pick") so, you can use it to play as well. One of the specific P-guitar techniques, the trinado, sounds very similar to the classic tremolo but, thanks to the use of the index both in up- and downstrokes, it is performed using only the thumb and the index. I am particularly fond of the redobro tecnique, wich gives you the possibility of playing a melody and, simultaneously, a harmony voice, in a distant string, thus creating the ilusion that there are two guitars, furthermore, with a slight tremolo effect.
Since I basically play with my nails, I never developped great skills in the use of flatpicks. Some friends of mine are real artists with the pick, and I envy them. Maybe some day I can learn to play some decent cross-picking styles (I love to hear that) ... but, for the moment being I can only consider it a level to work to!
I just converted to the acoustic guitar last month. It's like I knew I should have done it much earlier. I listen to some finger picked folk & jazz in the 80's but it took until now to realize that's what I'm interested in. I'm an "experienced" beginner because I played some TAB's back in the 80's (mostly Rush) and picked it up again last fall.
I used to be able to play most of Dust In The Wind, the finger picked pattern is still nearly automatic unless I think about it.
I've been working on Fleetwood Mac's Landslide this week. I sort of have the pattern down, but I'm inconsistent. The intro chords are easy. The hard part is changing the chords at the right time without loosing the pattern. Even with only 15 minutes practice per day, I'm improving every day. The hard part will be the single notes here and there, I'm not good with them. I prefer chords.
I've been saying I'm going to order Mark Hanson's Beyond Basics Fingerstyle Guitar book. I've read it's a very good book for learning fingerstyle.
"Landslide" is a great fingerstyle song! "Let it Be" and "Leaving on a Jetplane" are less difficult, and good initial songs to start with for fingerstyle, IMHO...
Complete newbie to fingerstyle.
Our group of peculiar folk that gather with their guitars whenever we can started gravitating to old folk songs and Neil Young type stuff that seems to sound better finger picked than flat picked.
I'm at the point of having major troubles engaging both hands at same time, then try to engage mouth and the whole thing stalls and falls apart.
Teach me to try to learn something new at 60 8-).
Just do whatever feels comfortable and natural to you Peter...the rest will take care of itself, in time....most of all...don't TRY so hard...just have fun!...:)
I know what you mean ... It took me a month to get the picking pattern, the chord changes, and the vocal phrasing down on "Pancho & Lefty" ... gradually it all came together.
...I would have to say that the reason I enjoy fingerpicking is due solely to my appreciation of James Taylor and his music. Unfortunately, I am a habitual nail biter...so I rely (when I'm not using a pick) on the fleshy part of my fingertips! While this doesnt' provide the same "attack" of the strings and projection of the notes that I would like, it does provide a nice warm feel, with a certain originality to the sound. Also, it's much more interesting for me anyway, to pick a chord than to just strum it. I like to use my guitars as not only a musical instrument, but also as a rhythmic instrument, by a series of light taps, and sudden stops on the strings, producing audible percussive sounds...all in all...just generally having fun and getting the most out of them.....(GENTLY!)
Yep, I've had to bite my lip to avoid biting my nails lately as I've let them develop a bit to accommodate finger picking. When I did it bare flesh, it sounded fine for myself, but even amplified I was practically inaudible in front of an audience.
Pluck, more than brush, with the fingertips...